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New Science, New Vision

F. David Peat

A text only version of this essay is available to download.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Creative Confusion
    1. Introduction
    2. Science and the Nature of its Method
  3. Critique of Science
    1. Introduction
    2. Quantum Theory and Beyond
    3. The Social Order of Science
    4. Social discontent over Science
  4. Towards a New Science
    1. Introduction
    2. New Content
      1. Quantum theory
      2. Chaos theory and non-linear systems
      3. Biological sciences
      4. Healing/Psychology/Parapsychology
    3. Methods and Paradigms
    4. A New social order
  5. New Visions
    1. Introduction
    2. Experiment and Law
    3. Theory and Explanations
  6. Implications
    1. Introduction
    2. Physics and Biology
    3. Medicine
  7. Policy
    1. Introduction
    2. What Windows of Opportunity Will be Fostered in the New Sciences
    3. How can this new approach be fostered?
    4. Funding
    5. The Funding Agency
  8. Conclusions

A. Introduction

Our world is suffering change as never before and the rate of this change is continuing to accelerate. Our technology has taken us from the inner structure of the elementary particles to the outer planets. We are able to probe into the secrets of the genetic code, watch the human brain metabolizing its neurochemicals as it thinks and establish ultra high speed data links all across the globe.

Yes, we are able to do all this and, within the decades to come our technology will have advanced to stages that we cannot now imagine. Yet, at the same time, we all feel so stressed by modern life; society within our inner cities seem to be disintegrating and violence, despair, anger and famine across the face of the globe. While we may be able to transplant body organs and operate on the unborn we still fall victim to degenerative disorders, cancer and heart disease. While super computers far exceed the capabilities of the human brain in certain areas of performance so many members of our society are plagued by depression and alcholism, and our teenagers flirt with drugs and suicide. While our radio telescopes may be able to look back towards the Big Bang origin of the universe, our technological garbage is found on the Moon and in the deepest ocean trenches and every day we place an even greater strain our the earth's sensitive ecosystems. No wonder, therefore, that some thinkers as asking if our whole society is seriously out of balance and that something radically different, a new spirit perhaps, is called for.

And if our world is truly out of balance then what would be required to restore harmony and create a new social order? It is profoundly difficult to speculate about what this could be. However, at least it should be clear that a truly radical transformation in human nature and in the whole order of society can only arise out of new perceptions on the very nature of reality, thought and action. The great transformations during past centuries have all come about as the perception of the world, and our position in it, began to shift.

And is a further shift possible today? The problem is that Western Science has come to play such a dominant and prescriptive role within the world's cultures. The writer and astronomer Carl Sagan has proudly claimed, for example, that, for the first time in the history of humanity, the story of creation is no longer a myth but a reality - the reality in question being the scientific account of the big bang. ( See Guy Sorman (ed) "Les Vrais Penseurs de Notre Temps", Livre de Poche, Libairie Artheme Fayard, Paris 1989)

Others have taken pride in pointing out that children all over the world are now being taught the same truths - the truths of science it goes without saying. And so, as science advances across the globe the songs, ceremonies and sacred stories of other peoples, which express the meanings whereby their societies are connected to history and to the landscape, are being demoted from deep truths into myths and legends. In the face of such a dominant world view on the nature of material reality it is difficult to see how real radical change would come about.

But, in fact, the noble truth that sweeps across planet and whose associated technology has changed its face, is relatively new- barely three hundred years old. Before that time Europeans preferred to trace their intellectual culture to the Church Fathers, to the ancient Greeks and to that long history of debate and discussion about questions of knowledge, ethics, morals and action that is called philosophy. And, generally speaking, within Europe itself philosophy was not seen as a dominating force which sought to establish the absolute truth for all peoples. Rather it was an enquiry across the ages, one in which great minds felt themselves each free to present their own particular ideas and opinions. In this debate no one would think of placing Wittgenstein above Aristotle, or Kant above Plato - for rather than ascending the ladder of truth each thinker added spice and variety to the eternal enquiry, each fostered the enrichment of human thought and no one really believed that an end to questioning would ever arrive.

It is true that we have since been forced to realize the biases within that great march of the intellect, to see how tied it was to national and political power, how paternalistic and Euro-centered. how willing to impose its values and ethics upon the peoples it encountered. Nevertheless, within its limits, philosophy, and its infant natural philosophy, were admirable enterprises, seeking enrichment rather than the simple accumulation of ever more knowledge. Set against this backdrop of ongoing enquiry stands modern science, a study of the structure and dynamics of inanimate matter that emerged with Galileo and Newton out of a matrix of alchemy and chemistry, astrology and astronomy, the arts of the artisan and the disciplines of the thinker.

The method of science is profoundly different from that of philosophy. It climbs, it mounts, it evolves, it progresses towards what it perceives as ultimate truth and for this reason it is inclined to be less tolerant of deviation. Yesterday's ideas are not set beside today's for dialogue and comparison, rather they must be falsified and discarded if science is to take what it considers to be a step forward.

Science also clings to that Victorian image of a hierarchy in which physics reigns as Queen of the Sciences and is taken as the foundation for chemistry with, in turn, chemistry as the foundation for biology. Today even such "impure" subjects as psychology, and social sciences have been added to the pyramid, whilst yet others have been successfully "purified". Biology, for example, has been rendered more respectable through the inclusion of the disciplines of biophysics while psychology has something of a foundation in neurochemistry. Indeed, if "all arts aspire to the condition of music" then all sciences aspire to the condition and methodology of physics.

There was even a time when the discipline of natural philosophy (physics) became the yardstick for philosophy, and John Locke could write that "it is ambition enough to be employed as an under-labourer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge". An under-labourer, that is, to the "incomparable Mr. Newton" (Locke's Epistle to the Reader that proceeds his An Essay concerning Human Understanding.

And what of physics, the aspiration of the sciences? Its goal lies in moving to ever more fundamental levels of matter and seeking ever deeper laws. And here "fundamental" has come to mean those levels that exist and smaller at smaller scales of space and at higher and higher energies. And so molecules are explained in terms of atoms, and atoms in terms of electrons, protons and neutrons and these particles in terms of hypothetically more elementary entities such as quarks or superstrings. And is there an end to this process, a most fundamental and absolute law, a most elementary particle perhaps? A number of very reputable physicists believe that there is indeed an end to physics and that this could well be achieved within the next few decades. From the ultimate, primeval equation of matter would be derived not only all the properties of the material universe but also the mechanisms of its Big Bang creation.

This is the program that dominates the world, the 'one true account' of reality that his swept everything before it into the garbage can of mythology, legend and fairy story. At its highest points, with its Maxwells, Rutherfords, Plancks, Einsteins, Bohrs and Heisenbergs science has brought us some of the most magnificent intellectual creations of the human race. But I belive that today the winds of change are blowing and we are being forced to ask: Do we really want science to continue in its present vein? Its its perception of reality truly complete, rounded and satisfying for us? Is it working in our modern world? Is it a reliable base for action? Does it add to our appreciation of the sacred and the mystery of nature? Does it deepen our lives? Or could it be that the whole enterprise has been oversold? Are there perhaps other routes to knowledge, other ways of understanding and coming into relationship with reality, other sorts of questions that can be asked?

To anticipate the arguments of this essay let me say that I believe that change is possible and that alternatives can be brought into existence. I believe that there can well be a new science, a disciplined and coherent investigation of reality, yet one that is based upon value, compassion and quality, one that does not crave absolute objectivity and allows a place for subjectivity and human relationship, one that seeks balance and harmony within society and the natural world rather than endless exploitation, manipulation and progress. One that can place natural law and creative enquiry side by side with a sense of infinite subtlety and unbounded mystery.

And if this new science should come about, and let me say that I believe that, as an embryo, it already exists and is being practiced, then it should be clear that the implications of its ethics will spread out and temper our present desire for ever more control and exploitation. The new science, for example, will have profound effects in fields such as medicine and psychiatry, offering novel insights into healing and the relationship between mind and body, society and environment. It will also have its impact on the environmental sciences. And, as our views of reality and our position within the scheme of things changes, then a moral and social change may permeate across the planet, a change in which other cultures, beliefs and systems are allowed to flower and add their richness to the human family.

B. Creative Confusion

1. Introduction

When I speak about the need for a new science let me say that I think that it already in the process of being born; indeed that for the past several decades we have been in the midst of the first stages of a revolution in human thought. But being participants in what Arthur Koestler once called a period of "creative confusion" makes it difficult to sense one's direction and have a clear vision of the final outcome. This essay will therefore have to content itself by offering reflections, speculations, deductions and meditations on the theme of a New Science, what it may look like, what it would feel like to work, what would be its values and ethical issues and what would be the implications for the individual and society.

2. Science and the Nature of its Method

Science ranges far and wide today and its technology permeates every aspect of our lives. And within that range of disciplines that bear the name of science it is generally agreed that our basic conception of what we mean by reality comes from physics. Physics claims to be able to explicate reality by reaching into the heart of matter. Its methods are those of theory and experimentation, experiments that aim at total objectivity by eliminating as far as possible the subjective judgements of quality and value. A good experiment is exactly repeatable and eliminates, or controls, all extraneous phenomena. Through investigations of this kind nature is compelled to show its essential face without evasion or dissimulation.

Hand in hand with this attitude towards experiment goes theory, which must be rational and logically consistent so that all its deductions follow inevitably and elegantly from a set of fundamental propositions. And, to serve a quantitative science and a logically consistent theory, what could more natural than the language of mathematics - a system of strict reasoning that admits of no ambiguity or paradox and deals not in quality and value but in number and measure?

The mutual reflectability between theory and experiment is truly remarkable for, until the early part of this century at least, each element within the theory, each mathematical expression if you like, corresponded to something quite definite and observable in the natural world. Moreover, the deductions that could logically and mathematically be made from a theory, no matter how far fetched, correspond exactly to predictions about the behavior of the material world. In this way, by pushing a theory as far as possible, it becomes possible both to apply practical tests to the validity of knowledge and gain a measure of control over the workings of nature. For it is a short step between making accurate quantitative predictions about some natural phenomenon, or the exact cause of a given effect, to seeking to control and manipulate that process for our own ends.

Of course there is more to the metaphysics of physics than this alone. There is also an abiding belief in the nature of causality, in uniformity, in the absolute reality of matter and in the categories of space and time, (or more generally space-time). There is also the question of the remarkable effectiveness of mathematics both as a tool and as a means to an end - It often turns out, for example, that the most beautiful or elegant mathematical argument corresponds most exactly to the workings of nature. So seeking elegance in mathematics can be a guiding force in doing physics. Indeed it was Heisenberg who suggested that the truth about reality lies not in our theories and intellectual concepts but in the mathematics itself, and the astronomer Sir James Jeans who claimed that "God is a mathematician".

Another particular important belief is that one can arrive at a deeper understanding of any physical process, structure or level through a process of analysis. That is, by physically breaking matter apart into every smaller pieces and levels. In harmony with this empirical approach is the notion that the logical foundation of any physical theory can be discovered my mental analysis and will reveal a more fundamental and logically prior level. Most remarkable of all, the correspondence between thought and matter persists, for this logically more fundamental theory generally now provides an exact understanding of the material level that is more fundamental, ie that exists at a smaller scale of space.

And so physics is approaching an ever more fundamental level of truth, by seeking ever smaller levels of space and time, ever more fundamental and smaller particles and ever more fundamental theories. In this way, physics attempts to grasp the ultimate law of nature, the most fundamental expression of reality from which all the richness of the natural world can be logical deduced. Indeed,there is something approaching a moral imperative to all this. For the search for scientific truth it believed to have the highest value so that to conceal, suppress, delay or somehow distort truth, no matter what might be the implications of this truth for the social order, is a moral crime of the highest order. Accompanying this belief is the notion that any attempt to direct or steer the course of this search for truth through political or religious intervention must be resisted at all costs, for scientific truth is objective and its nature lies beyond any moral or ethical order.

In summary, therefore, through its methods of experimentation and theory, physics seeks certainty, logical consistency, completeness of explanation and absolute objectivity. The structure of its knowledge is hierarchical, being based on the most fundamental laws and the most elementary aspects of matter. In this way elementary particle physics opens into atomic and molecular physics, which in turn provides explanations for the structures of matter in the larger scale - including chemistry and biology. The chemical and biological sciences give explanations for the functioning, amongst other things, of the human body and mind. The logical conclusion of this hierarchy would be a complete an objective description of human society and behavior. Hand in hand with these triumphs of explanation and prediction come sophisticated technological ways of controlling and manipulating nature.

And all of this in just three hundred years! No wonder the power of science has swept across the globe and, along with it, a supreme confidence in the powers of human reason to understand and control the world. What is good today has become what is "scientific" and rational, what is most desired is that which is technological, advanced and "up to date". And if some global problems happen to exist then science, reason and technology will ultimately solve them.

The problem is, however, does all this really work? Is it true? Has it markedly increased the sum total of human happiness or, more to the point, has it significantly reduced the suffering of all sentient creatures? Or could it be that this magnificent facade conceals some defects? And if so then are we simply going to throw away the whole thing, or is there something new, something more creative that could emerge - something that balances and harmonizes what is best within the scientific enterprise? In the next section I will explore some of the concerns that are causing people to question the appropriateness and adequacy of modern science. Then, in the sections that follow I will make some extrapolations and speculations on what that a new science could be.

C. Critique of Science

1. Introduction

It is my feeling that, under the pressure of both internal confusions and inconsistencies, the authoritarian approach of science is beginning to break down and give way to something new. Let us look at these critiques in turn.

2. Quantum Theory and Beyond

Science has received a number of serious shocks in this century. On the one hand advances in the study of formal logic and the foundation of mathematics cast doubt upon the inherent completeness and consistency of all deductive and axiomatic systems. (Godel's Theorem). In addition, Ludwig Wittgeinstein showed that many of the traditional debates within philosophy were really confusions about the nature and use of language. It also turns out in fact that human language is vastly more powerful and versatile than are the more "rigorous" and formal languages of mathematics and symbolic logic. Roger Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind is just one book that explores the implications of these limitations and questions the goal of, for example, ever duplicating true human intelligence using computers.

On the other hand, quantum theory has forced us to ask some very serious questions about the nature of scientific observation and explanation. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and Neils Bohr's many essays suggest that rather than rather than science objectively uncovering the intrinsic properties of matter, the disposition to make a observation actually plays a role in determining what is seen. Or, to put it another way, the indivisibility of the quantum of action means that observer and observed are irreducibly and unanalysably linked within the act of observation. In this sense the whole notion of a quantum systems "intrinsic" properties becomes ambiguous.

Neils Bohr also showed that we can not expect our models of reality to work down to the atomic level or assume a clear and unambiguous correspondence between the model and reality. Concepts at the quantum level turn out to be subtly different and, while the program of seeking a most elementary particle or level continues unabated, the whole nature of matter has begun to change. There is genuine confusion at the heart of physics and the ongoing debate about the interpretation of the quantum theory shows no signs of abating. Indeed, there are today many different interpretations of the quantum theory, each with its own adherents who claim to be the sole possessors of the truth. Possibly one of these may be correct but, more likely, something radically different is needed. Clearly, at the heart of physics, at this supposedly most fundamental level of reality, there is a total lack of clarity and agreement as what the theory actually means.

Quantum theory has brought us face to face with problems of interpretation and with the possibility of new meanings for such ideas as space, time, causality and matter. In addition there is a major difficulty in unifying this theory with relativity. Both stand as the foundations stones of modern physics and neither can do without the other. (For example, on the one hand the space-time notions of relativity are established using accurate clocks and measuring rods which are ultimately quantum mechanical in origin. On the other hand quantum observations can only be defined using "large scale" apparatus, which therefore fall within the domain of relativity.) Yet inconsistencies exist between them over, for example, the role of space and time, and such fundamental concepts as signal and rigid body.

And physics is not only facing challenges at the submicroscopic level and the relativistic levels, for the new studies of chaos theory and non-linear systems also deal with systems that are so infinitely sensitive that any attempt at observation irreversibly disturbs their dynamics. Since such systems would require an infinite amount of information to specify a single state at just one instant of time, they are beyond any possibility of practical prediction. Moreover, this enormous complexity and sensitivity is not the exception in nature but appears to include some of the most interesting and important systems in the human body, nature and society.

These few examples indicate how, from within, science has come to discover its own limits and how it is now facing a crisis of interpretation. And if science in a state of flux at its very foundations, at the supposedly most fundamental level of reality then what is the position of the other sciences, medicine and the human studies?

3. The Social Order of Science

In addition to the problem of the consistency and logical foundations of mathematics and other axiomatic systems, and the very meaning of reality at the quantum level, there is also a sense of unrest in the social practice of science itself. Science today has become a big business. In some areas, such as the space race or the Japanese Fifth generation computer project, it is also a source of national pride.

Science has become highly competitive and is moving at an ever faster pace. The result is that individual researchers come under considerable stress. ( The majority of examples that follow are known to me personally, others have been discussed in scientific journals.) For physicists at least, it is necessary to spend a significant portion of each year engaged in making grant applications. This means that research must be portrayed in the very best light and reflect both the current scientific fashions and the goals and aspirations of the particular granting agency. The individual researcher also makes ever effort to have a good number of his or her papers cited within Science Citation Index - a factor which is generally taken as a reliable measure of the scientific relevance of particular work. A useful subterfuge is to have informal agreements with colleagues to site their works in return for being sited oneself. When talking at a conference at which representatives of granting agencies may be present it is helpful to have a friend planted in the audience who asks the sort of questions that show your research in the best light. It may also be a wise tactic to present work already completed, but not yet published, as being a projected research project. In this way during the following years you will be able triumphantly to confirm your own earlier research speculations and granting agencies will be able to justify their initial investment!

From time to time you will be called upon to referee a paper for a learned journal. This may prove an opportunity to delay the paper for several months until your own results are published. In cases where you strongly object to a particular school of thought or approach then an informal telephone call from a very senior scientist to the editors of leading journals may result in reports and results being successfully ignored or considerably delayed. [ In this context the story of Oppenheimer's reaction to David Bohm's papers of the 1950s on hidden variables in quantum theory is highly revealing. Believing Bohm's arguments to be incorrect Oppenheimer arranged colloquia to discuss the topic of hidden variables. In the end, when no error could be discovered in Bohm's papers, Oppenheimer concluded "Well, if we can't find anything wrong with it then we must agree to ignore it" . (This remark was reported at an American Physical Society seminar on the history of theories in science, by one of the physicists who participated in the Oppenheimer seminars.)

There is also the question of pressures within particular fields of research themselves. Physics is highly fashion conscious with literally thousands, or even tens of thousands of researchers, swimming from one approach to another like fish in a school. A notable change in fashion occurred when the field of Grand Unification was abandoned in favour of superstrings. One researcher complained to me that he was being forced by his students to switch fields. The reputation of his university demanded that graduate students and research fellows should go on to positions in some of the best universities. But that meant that they must have experience in Superstring research if they were going to be successfully recruited by a top research group. The result was that the professor had to switch some of his own research into the field of superstrings. And with thousands of physicists all over the world engaged in the same general field what chance would he have of doing anything fundamental or even interesting?

In the same period Roger Penrose, however, was carrying out some very important work on twistor theory at Oxford University. As far as I know, he had only one other full time staff member in his group, the rest were on fellowships or graduate students. Likewise David Bohm's group at Birkbeck college contained only one other staff colleague - Basil Hiley.

There are also cases in which the hierarchical and authoritative nature of science has successfully conspired to have certain unfashionable ideas neglected or ignored. And here I am speaking about critical notions that come out of the main stream physics itself and not speculations from some lunatic fringe. We have already heard of the case of Bohm's 1950s work on hidden variables, two other examples are known to me; in one case a senior professor at a US university had written a book containing a critique of a fundamental theory and presenting a possible alternative. He told me, and I have no reason to believe that he was distorting the truth, that he was asked to meet some highly respected scientists who asked him to withdraw his book before things went too far- the word "recant" was actually used. In another instance a noted physicist, an invited speaker at a well-known university, presented a critique of quantum theory. During the dinner that evening the head of the department complained that such a talk should not have been given in front of undergraduates as "it weakens our authority".

(Footnote: In the past couple of weeks since beginning this essay I have also heard of three cases in which students, coming from cultures whose traditions do not share in our current scientific paradigms, experienced considerable difficulties in having their theses accepted. From an informal discussion it seemed to me that these were all talented students who fully understood the nature of proof and scientific method yet who had also wished to introduce, in a modest way, some elements of their own ways of knowing. Our universities have generally passed beyond the stage of believing that what can be judged as literature can only be written from within a European tradition. The same liberal sense does not, however, appear to apply when it comes to philosophy and the sciences.)

In other cases what is ostensibly free debate may be politically motivated, for scientists are very jealous of their professional reputations and of the schools they represent. (A interesting undercurrent to the debate over "Cold Fusion" was that it was not simply about the interpretation and validity of certain experimental results but also about a perceived challenge to the authority of the major Eastern universities.) Maybe things always been this way, Issac Newton was willing to use The Royal Society as a tool in his battle against Leibnitz, claiming priority in inventing the calculus. Newton and his colleagues were similarly forthright in silencing the opponents to the new principles of natural philosophy.

So where does this leave the average scientist today? Someone who entered the field in response to a sense of wonder and magic at the world and a desire to seek the truth about nature? Instead of free and open enquiry he or she is rapidly embroiled in a race to publish, to gain promotion, to seek favours from those in power and to endorse the great edifice of knowledge.

How much pleasanter it would be to feel free to speculate, To seek some gentle backwater where one could carry out research at leisure: To train students to think for themselves and to foster their budding spirit of enquiry: To be free to think what one thinks and to engage in a friendly debate with one's colleagues: To respect the ideas of others, even when they may not be in agreement with your own, and be willing to offer a helping hand to younger colleagues: To feel each day a sense of eagerness and creativity at the back board and laboratory: To know that one is engaging nature in a open and respectful quest; To experience exhilaration and ongoing creativity. This, I hope, would be the atmosphere within the new science. And I believe that already, even from within mainstream physics, there is a strong desire for such a change.

4. Social Discontent over Science

This questioning of the role and nature of science does not only come from within the scientific community itself, there have been social changes within Europe and North America that also impact upon the future of science. Feminist thinkers, for example, have been particularly critical of what they see as a paternalistic attitude towards nature. To take one example, Susan Griffin's Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her uses the writings of scientists and others to draw remarkable parallels between the subjugation of women and our dominance and control of the natural world.

Over the last decades a variety of other interest groups have also come forward to claim their right to speak for their particular attitudes and ways of life. In such an atmosphere, society is less likely to accept the claims of science to have an exclusive monopoly of truth, or on ways to knowledge. Recently, for example, the First Nations of North America have made their case for the validity of their own, Native Science.

Not only is the political structure of Western science being challenged but also its results and the impact it has made on our lives. The various Green and environmental groups, for example, are questioning the need for continued progress and productivity and for the ability of science alone to solve the problems of environmental stress.

An area of particular concern to many people is the whole field of medicine and healing. Modern medicine in the West is "scientific", its human diagnoses being assisted by highly sophisticated electronic devices. It deals in genetic structure of viruses and the body's biochemistry and its holds the promise of computer based Expert Systems for diagnosis and even electronic doctors who will automatically answer a patient's call and offer advice and possibly treatment. Medicine demands a technical back-up which sometimes makes the patient feel like the object of an experimental investigation. Indeed, one complaint about modern medicine is that its dehumanizing quality dilutes the most basic doctor patient relationship.

There is also concern about what this technical medicine is doing to the body, these wide ranges of drugs, for example. In this context many people are turning to a variety of alternative medicines that claim to be more gentle and less invasive. Certainly, alternative medicine offers a more personal form of care but the problem is that it is sometimes difficult to weed out the good from the bad, the gifted healer from the quack. And to whom can the patient turn for an objective judgement when the medical profession is generally hostile to what it perceives as the unorthodox?

And, while technological medicine may be fine for injuries, trauma and infections how good is it for degenerative disorders? Does it really address the whole question of how to foster the patient's natural healing processes? Can it deal with mind and body as a whole, or must the patient be split asunder? How well can the profession as a whole deal with the many crises of everyday life, the depressions and anxieties that assault us? And can Western medicine truly come to terms with the inevitable processes of decay and death?

To all this I would add an ambiguity towards science that is felt by many ordinary people. On the one hand people are drawn to the creative and imaginative aspects of science, to the vast distances of astronomy with its black holes, clusters of galaxies and the possibility of reaching back to the instant of creation; to physics with its fractals, chaos theory, quarks, superstrings and multiple dimensional spaces; to dreams of artificial intelligence; to the unfolding of the genetic code and to a host of other novel concepts. They are also aware of the interesting philosophical problems that quantum physics poses about the nature of reality and the role of the observer. Those who have read the current popularizations of science are in a position to acknowledge the considerable edifice to human reason that it represent. In one sense modern science represents one of the great triumphs of the human physics- a symphony of logic and mathematics.

People also recognize the visionary and almost mystical sense that is present in the greatest physicists. Einstein, for many, represents one of the great figures of human history, a man whose face expresses compassion and serenity and whose eyes have seen into the central mysteries of reality. So there is that recognition that a handful of truly great scientists are part of that common brotherhood and sisterhood of seekers after truth that stretch down through the ages.

Yet, at the same time, people sense a remoteness to modern science. They realize that the deepest nature of its insights are forever hidden for all but a chosen few, for its language is that of advanced mathematics so that only years of careful apprenticeship would bring us face to face with its mysteries. Now, in a sense, it has always been the case that in all societies a few elders, priests or wise people have acted as keepers of mystery for the whole group. But these people have been acknowledged not only for their great knowledge but also for their wisdom, compassion and humility. Is the same really the case for modern physics, or is there sometimes a certain arrogance about its claims, and does the average university professor appear that wise and compassionate?

In short, while many ordinary people do gather from science some sense of connection with the mysteries of nature, a sense of wonder, and a feeling of sacredness, they also realize that they are distanced from this science of the Twentieth Century. They ask themselves if science is truly connecting their society to the deep heart of nature, is it enriching their understanding, is it providing a deep field of meaning, a modern myth perhaps, or is our society is simply left with a few gaudy crums from the table of the chosen?

D. Towards a New Science

1. Introduction

Given that there is a new spirit abroad and a call for a new science, just what could that new science be? I think that it is possible to think of several levels, or degrees of depth with which a new science could be practiced, namely:- as new content, new methodology, a radical paradigm shift, and finally as one aspect within a totally new order to society. Let us look at each one in turn.

2. New Content

Much of what is sometimes called the New Science is concerned with exploring certain novel and radically different ideas. In physics, for example these include

(a) Quantum Theory

  • the role of the observer,

  • collapse of the wave function,

  • alternative approaches to quantum theory, for example, looking for a deeper theory out of which will emerge space-time, matter and quantum theory

  • new types of experiments that explore the global and non-local structure of the vacuum state, or distributed energy, rather than focussing on smaller and smaller regions of space-time

  • questioning the nature of causality and time

  • examining the implications of non-local correlations (Bell's theorem)

  • active information and subtle energies

  • the meaning of quantum wholeness

(b) Chaos Theory and Non-linear Systems

  • order out of chaos and chaos out of order

  • infinitely sensitive systems

  • internal dynamics and self organization

  • fractal structures

  • applications in ecology, economics, psychology, sociology, etc.

(c) Biological Sciences

  • the study of subtle energies,

  • the role that coherent light may play in communication between cells,

  • collective states in organic systems,

  • long range biological communication,

  • coherence in biological systems,

  • alternatives to conventional neo-Darwinian evolution,

  • morphic resonance, etc.

(d) Healing/ Psychology/ Parapsychology

  • The whole question of mind-body and matter

  • mind which includes such diverse fields as parapsychology, nature of the immune system and its relationship to states of mind, personality, the overall meaning of a person's life and the meaning within society

  • the possibility of active levels of information in the universe,

  • hypothetical connections between consciousness and quantum collapse,

  • new and subtle forms of energy and matter

  • alternative medicine and alternative approaches to psychology

Clearly this represents a wide variety of topics that range from straightforward extrapolations of present science into more "far-out" areas and themes which would be considered "flakey" by the main stream scientific population.

At present the practitioners of the "New Sciences" consist of a few scientists working in isolation, small groups, or through informal connections within somewhat dissociated fields such as physics, biology and medicine as well as scientists who may be privately associated with a range of other activities such as meditation groups, alternative medicine, ecology organizations and so on. It is difficult, at present, to predict what may grow and develop from these nuclei. Indeed the critique of these New Sciences is that they sometimes appear "flakey" and ill-defined, for the overall field lacks any cohesion. In other words, there is no coherent metaphysics associated with the whole range of the new sciences. Perhaps for this reason some of the more extreme views within the New Science lack credibility, for they do not seem tied to any serious body of work or to a well thought out world view. In addition, some of the "new scientists" who defend their views with passion or fanaticism or, alternatively. who feel themselves placed in the polarized position of "us against them". None of this makes for good communication or understanding with the mainstream of science.

An important point to make, at this junction is that all these areas of research could be carried from within the mainstream structure of science using its conventional methods. That is, while the content of science may change its overall face could well remain the same.

3. Methods and Paradigms

The critiques that could be leveled against the New Sciences is of their lack of coherence and failure of provide an overall integration between the many different approaches or to evoke a cohesive metaphysics. What may be called for is a deeper approach in which the very methods of science would begin to change. In other words, the new science would be characterized by its particular theoretical and experimental approaches, and by its overall metaphysics, rather than by the particular nature of its contents.

In this sense, the science of the 21st Century may be more concerned with a new vision of reality, new notions of the relationship between observer and observed and a new sense of openness and compassion towards the natural world, than with the particularities of its objects of study. In this approach, to speak of the molecular structure of hydrogen or the nature of a rain cloud may turn out to be as profound and subtle as to speak of the mind/body connection or subtle matter.

This new science would therefore involve what is sometimes inadequately called a "paradigm shift". But I think that what I am talking about goes much deeper than what is popularly meant by a paradigm. It involves the introduction of totally new values and totally new orders of questioning within science. It leads to questions about the whole meaning of scientific reasoning and experimentation, theory and explanation, the ultimate nature of objectivity and reductionism, the role and nature of consciousness in all of nature, the role of causality, and it even speaks of spirit, compassion and basic need to celebrate our connectedness to all of existence.

4. A New Social Order

Clearly the very existence of the science described in the previous section would require a radically different structure and way of working within universities and research laboratories. While it may be possible to incorporate some novel topics, such as the effect of mind on healing, within existing institutions a more radical change in the very nature and practice of science would require a different scientific community. In turn it becomes clear that such a science could only flower in a society with radically different values and goals.

It seems probable that the evolution of a new scientific vision of reality would go hand in hand with the appearance of a new order to society. Recall, that the great social changes of the past have been associated with transformation in world views and values. The most discussed, of course, has been the Renaissance in which the Copernican revolution and the rise of the new sciences with Galileo went hand in hand with a new vision of humanity, the claim that "Man is the Measure of All Things", the idea that "Knowledge is Power", revolutions in the arts, and changes in social, political and national structures. To a lesser extent the French and American revolutions were also accompanied by changes in world views and values.

In the world's many Aboriginal societies the whole field of meaning of the society and even the language they speak is intimately tied to their vision of reality and the way they acknowledge and celebrate its powers. When that vision is supplanted and replaced then the very cohesion of the society breaks apart into despair, violence, sickness and alcohol and drug abuse; dreams and visions are no longer given to the people and the sacred herbs and healing ceremonies loose their power.

The whole nature of a society and its inner cohesive meaning goes hand in hand with its truths about the nature of reality. In this essay I am asking what will happen when our own perception of reality changes in a deep way. It is clear that neither science nor society can move without the other, and neither can be the prime cause for the other's transformation. It is my view that transformation begins with spirit, a spirit that enters into both science and society so that each is set free to aid in a common and mutual transformation.

E. New Visions

1. Introduction

Clearly the best we can do at the present moment is to develop a feel for this new spirit, for this new and subtle movement of transformation. In the context of this essay, this means to seek out what may be the first flowering of a new science. As I see it, this new spirt can be characterized by:

  • compassion

  • value driven

  • the importance of harmony and balance

  • awareness of individual and of social implications

  • a new respect for the natural world for atom to galaxy, from cell to society

  • a sense of the world as Inscape, as being alive, subtle and inexhaustible

  • a new approach to experimentation and observation involving a movement between objectivity and subjectivity

  • an understanding of the subtle human instruments of understanding, intuition and value that provides a balance to the more mechanical instruments of science

  • a new scientific reasoning in which logic is balanced by complementarity, objectivity by subjectivity, truth by harmony and logical consistency by coherence.

  • mathematics is given its place and does not always become the driving force and final arbiter to reason

  • the quantitative approach is balanced by quality

The implications of these new approaches and values are discussed in the two following sections.

2. Experiment and Law

One implication of a new spirit in science is to see the meaning and nature of an experiment in a new light. Will experiments remain objective ways of wrestling the secrets from nature, special sets of circumstances which seek to bind and control nature's contingencies so as to manifest only reproducible effects? Or will they take the form of cooperative ventures with nature, that is, participatory investigations in which one seeks to listen, in a sensitive way, to what the world is telling us?

There is a particular strand in Western thinking that stretches back far beyond the birth of modern science, and views nature as being inherently chaotic, lawless and without any inherent order. One speaks of "animal nature", "base nature", "brute nature", "going back to nature", "nature red in tooth and claw", "survival of the fittest", and if there is any order then it can only be "the law of the jungle". Indeed, Francis Bacon went so far to suggest that, just as a prisoner is put to the rack in order to extract the truth, so too, nature should be examined and forced to reveal her secrets.

Imposed upon this chaotic, brute nature is law - a legislation that regulates the movements of all bodies and constrains their motion. In a certain sense these "laws of Nature" act as constraints that restrict from the potential of chaos only those motions and processes that are orderly. One thread of law that stretches from the Renaissance speculations of Leonardo da Vinci right up to the triumphs of the Age of Reason is today known to physicists as the principle of Least Action. This notion of how nature choses the best path for motion and change later entered into philosophy and was parodied by Voltaire in Candide where, despite so many disasters to the contrary, the philosopher Pangloss believes that he lives in "the best of all possible worlds".

The idea pf Least Action is that, in its motions, changes and transformations, matter has available to it the potential of all possible and conceivable orders of change. However, natural law confines the actual or realized motion to that which follows the most efficient of all possible paths. A ray of light, for example, choses the path between two points that takes the least time, a falling body is confined to the path that minimizes a physical quantity called its "Action", while in general relativity a body moves through a curved space time on a minimal path called its geodesic. Even in that most modern of theories, Superstrings, the elementary entity of matter-energy in a multidimensional space-time is confined to take its form and process out of some best of all possible worlds.

So on the one hand nature is perceived as having a potential for chaos and disorder yet, on the other, certain laws are imposed that ensure "Tout es pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possible" (Voltaire Candide, Livre de Poche, Paris, 1983). In this way one is aware of the sense in which the laws of nature somehow exist outside matter and are imposed externally. For example, it is believed that the ultimate law that applies to the most elementary level of matter should also explain the Big Bang origin of the universe. In other words, law exists not only prior to matter but also before the very categories of space and time come into existence. In this sense law itself would seem to be the generative principle out of which time, and all that exists within its compass, is created.

Again we note a curious ambiguity towards nature, this sense that chaos, disorder and everything that our society envisions as being negative are lurking in the shadows, waiting to break through and overwhelm the fabric of our world, only being held at bay by the imposition of law.

It is curious too how this world "law" was coopted into science for, since the 11th Century in England it had meant that constraint which society places upon its members to ensure continued harmony. Indeed this idea of the power of law to contain is well expressed by the words the dramatist Robert Bolt places in the mouth of Thomas More, Chancellor of England in the troubled times of Henry VIII, More's friends argue with him that one Richard Rich is dangerous and must be arrested. More replies that he is free to go and "go he should if he was the devil himself until he broke the law".

ALICE:

So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE:

Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?

ROPER:

I'd cut down every law in England to do that.

MORE:

And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws being all flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - Man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

So law is seen as both a shield and constraint that will protects us from the inevitable chaos inherent in society and, by implication, within the natural world.

It turns out that notion of law in its scientific sense only appeared in the middle of the 17th century and, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it : "The 'laws of nature', by those who first used the term in this sense, were viewed as commands imposed by the Deity upon matter, and even writers who do no accept this view often speak of them as being 'obeyed' by the phenomena, or as agents whereby the phenomena are produced".

A science that is born out of this world view will necessarily see nature as inherently deceptive and prone to chaos, a natural world that must be tamed by discovering the fundamental legislations that bind its unlawful potential. It also makes a dislocation between on the one hand matter, which is the basic stuff of the universe including the Earth and our bodies, and on the other objective law, which in a curious sense stands outside the domain of matter and is accessible to the rational, analytical intellect. It is almost as if our world-view arises out of an unbalanced psyche which seeks to impose an intellectual order upon all the chaos and uncertainty of life.

This view could be set against something quite different, the vision that has long been expressed by the Indigenous scientists of North America in which we are participators in the universe, creatures of matter, mind and spirit, two legged amongst the four legged. Clearly something of the spirit of this Indigenous vision is implied in what I am calling the New Science. In this new view nature would no longer be experienced as hostile and chaotic but as a compassionate, inexhaustible mystery. It will be clear that, giving such a vision, the whole nature of what an experiment means would change in a radical way.

By way of an analogy compare different attitudes towards experiment with that of an anthropologist who encounters a hitherto unknown group. The conventional scientist may maintain objectivity and keep a distance from the object of study in order to describe the structure and behavior of the group. An alternative approach would be to drop all pretense at objectivity, throw away the intellectual tools of research and attempt to join the group as an equal member.

Both of these are extremes, in one the richness and mystery of the world is distanced and impoverished through objectivity in favour of a fixed and limited range of intellectual and experimental strategies. In the other, one abandons all pretense at objectivity and, in the process, perhaps denies the authenticity of one's own personality and background in an attempt to merge with a mysterious other.

And is there a middle path? One that lies between absolute objectivity and absolute subjectivity? One that does not seek to distance, reduce and analyze, one that is not limited and rigid yet at the same time acknowledges one's own position in the world and seeks to integrate each new experience and give it an authentic cohesion? Within this middle road neither the power of the human intellect, nor that of human love and compassion would be denied.

And what is true of a "lost people" is, I believe, also true of another human being, a tree, a rock or an atom. Each partakes of the sacred and is, in its essence, unlimited. The problem arises when we attempt to distance the essential mystery of the world, or when we loose ourselves within it. The resolution is to learn a new, highly sensitive and creative movement which allows us to dwell within the sacred yet, at the same time, find a symbolic expression that acknowledges our own individuality.

The new attitude towards observation would be based on ideas of compassion and openness. It would recognize, through a form of active listening, both the inexhaustible mystery of nature and a sense of partnership with the natural world. Just as anthropologists now speak of moving towards participatory research in which a group or tribe suggests the values, methods and approaches that should be used, so too Natural Philosophy may engage nature in a more participatory mode.

To be more specific, an experimental science of this nature would be guided by requirements of harmony and right action. Rather than being always concerned with reproducibility and the elimination, or control, of external influences (boundary conditions) it would recognize the importance of contexts so that what is normally viewed as troublesome contingencies may now be seen as a necessary concomitant to the phenomena in itself. Rather than relying exclusively upon analysis and the isolation of repeatable elements, the interconnected wholeness of each phenomena would be taken into consideration, and explanations would display a correspondingly increased level of subtlety.

Another image that conveys the sense of this new approach is to see the world as a work of art, for example, a poem or painting in which there is never one single, exhaustive reading that replaces all others. A work of art is inexhaustible and each person brings to it a fresh creativity, while each reading enriches our understanding and the meaning of earlier readings.

The implications, at a practical level, of such a new approach may range from the dramatic to the subtle. One would be concerned not only with detailed investigation and analysis but also with seeing the whole pattern and its many interconnections. One thinks, for example, of Eastern medicine which seeks the overall meaning and gesture of a person's life, or of homeopathy which views each patient as unique and each pattern of symptoms as telling a new story. In a similar way it may be possible to view the natural world as unfolding particular stories of great depth and subtly. In these stories one seeks not only the richness that lies in their detail but the simplicity and elegance that integrates their common order. In the fall of an apple one not only celebrates the richness of this unique natural event but also its underlying connection to the motion of the moon around the earth or the space-time singularity of a black hole.

A new order to experiment would also involve ethical and moral values. One would be concerned with the inherent uniqueness of all creation and with maintaining the balance between the rights of a human, animal, tree, lake or rock against our own particular needs and requirements. It may well be, for example, that our need to rethink experimental procedure from an ethical point of view would apply not only to experiments involving animals but also to what is normally considered to be inanimate.

3. Theory and Explanations

Theory stands as the basis of scientific explanations within the realm of matter. To understand the composition of an atom, the structure of a metal, the turbulence of a river, or the role of a neurotransmitter, one turns to a corresponding theory. This theory of, say, atomic structure, electronic plasma oscillations, molecular diffusion and so on is itself expected to be both internally consistent and based upon certain well defined premises. As an example, to understand how certain forms of energy are transmitted through metals one turns to what is called the theory of phonons which, in turn, is based upon a theory about the way atoms interact together. If one wanted to go further and understand the basis for these interactions one would be forced to look into the theory of atomic structure, and beyond this into quantum field theory for its (quantum electrodynamics) explanation of the nature of the electromagnetic interaction. And if we want to discover the foundation of quantum electrodynamics then we would turn to the various theories of Grand Unification or even beyond this into the more speculative approaches of Superstrings or even Roger Penrose's Twistor Theory.

In short, each theory has a rigid internal logical consistency and all deductions within its domain of applicability follow in a rationally connected manner. The logical foundations of this theory are themselves conclusions deduced from some deeper and even more fundamental theory. In all cases ever element and every conceivable statement within the theory must have a strict logical connectivity to other statements and, ultimately, to fundamental axioms. Scientific theories therefore aim to be both complete and consistent. In order to operate in this way they employ mathematics, sometimes at a fairly sophisticated level. As was noted earlier in this essay this logical and hierarchical structure within scientific theories is also supposed to mirror the way in which the material world is structured at different scales of space, time and energy.

It turns out that the above analysis of the logical structure of theories is quite different from the way scientists actually work. Insights are often made through a process of hunches, guesswork and intuition. One "feels around" for a novel idea, tries something out for the hell of it, or an alternative conclusion simply "pops into the mind." There are a wide variety of anecdotes concerning the way exceptionally gifted theoretical scientists work, generally they run along the following lines :- "I couldn't believe it when X told me. I read through the first draft of the paper and it was amazing. The conclusion was staggering and totally unexpected. The only problem was that the mathematics was wrong and there were all sorts of slips in the argument. It took me several days to work out the correct deduction but in the end my results were identical with the final expression in the paper! However, could anyone have arrived at that result using the wrong methods?"

So the way science is actually carried out and new theories are generated does not always match the idealized logical consistency and connectivity of what is taken as the final scientific proof. In so many cases intuition, inspiration and the search for elegance and beauty are the generative forces that lead to new ideas, yet science sets as its standards strict logical connectivity and consistency.

What would happen, I wonder, if science was willing to relax certain of its requirements and move towards a more intuitive expression of how matter and process are to be understood and described. In fact I want to suggest that the idea that all scientific theories and descriptions must be logically complete and consistent is over-limiting. Indeed, it may be fruitful to balance the more rigid ideas of mathematical and logical consistency with new approaches involving coherence and integration.

In this and other essays I have argued that it is, after all, an assumption that the nature of reality is best understood through a process of ever finer analytical observation leading to a hierarchy of theories, each logically founded upon a level that is supposedly more fundamental. Suppose, instead, that experiences take the form of Inscapes that open into an inexhaustible richness and unlimited subtly. It may well be that any experience can never be reduced to a single level of explanation, or to a most fundamental material reality. Rather, like a poem, it may demand an infinity of complementary readings, each enriching the other yet never reaching closure.

It may be the case that a theory of matter that is both complete and consistent will never be discovered. And, even more critically, that as the nature of science changes and new values are introduced it may not always be possible to bend each new fact or concept so that it fits consistently within the same theory. Let me explain this in terms of the image of perspective. In order to portray a landscape from a single viewpoint in a logically consistent way the device of perspective demands that every object be deformed in order to fit to the demands of the perspective grid. In this way perspective is made consistent through deformation. A totally different approach would be to attempt to portray each object through its own authenticity. Yet this could result in a painting composed of separate images having no relationship to each other.

The middle way lies in a system of painting that acknowledges the authenticity of each object yet tries, at the same time, to achieve a sense of integration. Rather than each object being determined by the whole, or the whole being totally determined by each object, one would have an order beyond both in which each object (out of its authenticity) contributes to the whole and the whole, in turn, exerts an effect on the way each object is selected and portrayed, yet without denying its inner validity.

To return to scientific theory, one would be looking for new and highly creative ways of ensuring integration and cohesion which, at the same time, do not deny the inscape and authentic voice of each experience. Clearly the traditional demands of hierarchical theories and formal logical connectivity are too narrow and a new science calls for a different logic and order to thought, one which would, for example, be able to accommodate notions such as ambiguity and paradox. Human thought and language is, of course, already well able to do this. The whole notion of metaphor is a case in point, for it is a way of bringing two different things together while at the same time acknowledging their total independence and authenticity. Dreams do the same thing and, as director Eisenstein first recognized, so does the cinematographic system of montage, or editing, whereby separate images, each allowed its own voice are integrated in such a way as to create a much richer impression.

(Footnote: In the late 1940s the French philosopher Stephane Lupasco developed what he called "le principe d'antagonisme", in effect a logic of contradiction and complementarity. The idea for this logical system arose in part through his contact with Louis de Brogie and quantum theory. Interest in Lupasco's approach appears to be reviving in France and his major (1951) work, "Le principle d'antogonisme et la logique de l'energie' is now available in an 1989 edition from the publisher Le Rocher.)

It is my belief that something similar to the flexibility and multiple reading acknowledged in the arts is needed for the new science. But this is not to deny the importance of logic and mathematics, or to propose that one should throw reason over-board and lapse into total chaos, magic or superstition. No, science, no matter whether it is done in a modern laboratory or within a Blackfoot medicine wheel has always involved a highly disciplined and rational approach to phenomena. What I am now questioning is whether there may be a need to accommodate notions such as complementarity, contradiction, paradox, different levels of ambiguity and metaphor in order to enter more fully into the inscape of nature.

What is required is a new form of integration, a cohesion that admits both traditional forms of logic and mathematics along with more subtle forms of connectivity. Since it is difficult, at this junction, to point to what this cohesion may mean in science one can only proceed through analogies. One could perhaps think of the cohesion of a piece of music or a poem. One criterion of a good sonnet, for example, is given by seeing what happens when one tries to substitute one word for another. Inevitably, like a crack in the sidewalk, the substitution stands out and causes one to trip as one reads aloud. In is in this fashion that one begins to see how each word within a poem works like a fine scientific tool, and how each phrase, each metaphor, each allusion, coheres into a singe piece. It may be, for example, that the world breaks one of the basic (logical) rules of poetry, that it does not rhyme or scan properly. But more generally the substitute word fails to work at so many levels, it may not have the right shade of meaning, the correct allusions, the right sound, in short it simply does not "feel" right.

As always, that sense of "feeling" the correctness of a word or image comes first and is later justified by a logical analysis in terms of various rules and readings. In other words, the integration and cohesion of the sonnet, its very organic existence, works at a much deeper level than that of explicit laws. Structure and cohesion are organic, living things whose appreciation demands sensitivity, training and long experience. Even though it cannot always be put into words, nor expressed in one single, complete and consistent description, the integration and cohesion of a poem remains an objective reality. Something similar, I am suggesting, may well evolve in science, evolve, moreover, hand in hand with a new metaphysics and a new approach to experimentation.

Just a traditional forms of logic make rigorous causal connections between propositions, sentences and other elements of thought so too classical physics has pictured the world as similarly connected. Every cause produces an effect and, in turn, that effect will act on the processes and material constellations that surround it and give rise to yet another effect. In this way just as the effect of a proposition in logic will propagate down a deductive chain, so too a cause in the physical world will propagate its effects through time and space. Both a logical system and a classical universe become a web or network of causal chains and connections. It is perhaps no accident that reason and perception exist in such an accord for the classical image of the material universe may be as much an act of mental projection as it is of dispassionate observation.

But we are speaking of the need to seek a new form of connection in thought, a new approach to theorizing and making deductions. Perhaps yet another analogy can be discovered, this time from the world of modern physics. As was pointed out above, the classical world pictures all processes as being the direct outcomes of chains of causes and effects. By logically tracing along train of cause and effect one can arrive at the process in question, or conversely that process can be described in terms of a causal (logical) chain. In quantum theory, however, something remarkable occurs for this causal chain, by itself, is insufficient to describe the system. For, in addition to the pushes and pulls of matter, the fields and forces, it is also necessary to specify the form or symmetry of the wave function.

In this way the overall description of a quantum system involves not only the specification of forces and fields but also the overall form of the wave function. In other words, the nature of quantum process arises in an essentially holistic fashion from the existence of a global symmetry or form. One can think, for example, of coherent processes such as superconductivity, superfluidity, coherence in biological systems and of the plasma states in a metal, all are expressions of the overall form of the wave function.

Of course, since the wave function is itself a descriptive device one should perhaps say that quantum theory goes beyond piecewise logical connectivity and involves something that is holistic and non-local in nature. There is indeed an essential non-locality within a quantum system for, as John Bell has shown, when two parts of a quantum system are separated they continue to show a degree of correlation that can never be explained in terms of "classical" connections, forces or fields. This non-local connection is, in fact, a direct result of the overall form of the wave function of a quantum system.

Just as the cohesion of a quantum system arises, in part, out of the holistic nature of an overall form or non-local connectivity so too, I am suggesting, the ordering of thought must discover a way that lies beyond the restrictions of direct linear connectivity. To illustrate this let me draw on yet another image, this time one that may be familiar to those who have been reading about the new theory of deterministic chaos. The behavior of many systems is governed by what is called an "attractor". This name is used because even when the system is interfered with it will eventually settle back to its original motion. In other words, this regular motion "attracts" the system. The behavior of such systems is very regular, mechanical and entirely predictable. The purpose of the present image is to compare such systems to theories that are founded on strict rules of logic and deduction.

The opposite of such systems would be something that is totally chaotic, without any order and regularity and, therefore, no attractors. It turns out, however, that nature provides a more subtle order between absolute chaos, on the one hand, and a rigid mechanical order on the other. This is generated by what are called "strange attractors" - that is, attractors which are best pictured as having a fractal structure. Such systems exhibit behavior that is infinitely complex and, within a certain range, chaotic so that even the slightest external disturbance will push the system in totally different directions.

However, the interesting point about a strange attractor is that it acts to contain chaos. While within the domain of the attractor the system is from instant to instant totally chaotic and unpredictable, yet the range of this chaos is contained, always being pulled back within the general domain of the attractor. In other words, the system has discovered its own highly sensitive form of integration which allows itself infinitely subtle and detailed internal behavior while at the same time containing the overall range of that behavior.

Clearly the image I am groping for is that of an ordering to thought, intuition, observation and deduction that is able to sustain an internal cohesion while at the same time remaining free and open.

Let me approach this question of logic and structure in nature and thought by yet another route. Alan Turing, the first theoretician of Artificial Intelligence, proposed a test for the existence of genuine intelligence in a computer. Suppose, he said, you engage in a keyboard conversation with another entity, the problem is to discover if that being is human, or a machine that has been created to simulate the responses of a human being. It has been the dream of artificial intelligence researchers that one day a computer will truly pass the Turing test and generate answers that, during an extended conversation, are indistinguishable from those of a human.

There do exist computer programs that are able to generate sensible replies to human questions. But it is generally not to difficult to discover the underlying strategy by which they operate and, in this way, expose the mechanical nature of their "intelligence". Some researchers argue that as programs go on improving it will simply be a matter of time before a true artificial intelligence is constructed. Others, like Roger Penrose believe there are fundamental reasons why a computer can never become truly intelligence. In his book The Emperor's New Mind Penrose points out the essential limitations to all deductive (programmable) systems. He argues that in mathematics there exist truths that can never be arrived at by a series of logical steps. Human minds, however, are able to escape from the constraints of logic and fixed rules in order to arrive at these theorems directly.

This image of limitations on deductive and logical systems is the same sort of thing I am groping towards in this section. Or, to put it another way, the capacities of the human mind extend beyond the potential of any programmable, deductive, iterative or stepwise connected system. Moreover, there are good arguments for suggesting that at the quantum level, nature cannot be finally reduced to an algorithmic system. And here I would go even further and suggest that this applies not only below the level of the atom, but rather that all phenomena are essentially of this nature. Therefore, any approach that is based upon a set of fixed rules, strategies or fixed rational forms can never fully come to terms with nature's unlimited richness.

At the risk of belaboring the point, I want to emphasize yet again that the thrust of the above discussions is not that logic and mathematics should be rejected out of hand. Far from it, for by studying the motion of the moon, the fall and an apple and the rise of the tides, thought will still go beyond the particular to a deep underlying connection, a connection that will still be expressed in mathematical terms. Yet it may also be the case that science will now see something unique in the fall of the apple itself, something special and inexhaustible within each event and, in addition, the complex interconnected whole in which these different phenomena have their manifestation.

F. Implications

1. Introduction

What would be the implications of this new spirit in science, this sense of nature as Inscape and of ourselves as participators, that understanding is more important than the accumulation of knowledge, that nature is essentially alive and can never be fully predicted and controlled?

To see nature as living and infinitely rich and subtle would generate a new sense of respect and responsibility for all our actions. Nature would no longer be an object, a resource to be modified, controlled, used or discarded. This may also lead us to recognize the moral obligations and ethical limits to science. Not only would we recognize the rights and requirements of animals used in research but also the lakes, rivers, mountains and possible the atoms and molecules that have traditionally been the objects of study.

Aboriginal societies have always stressed the wholeness of life and the way in which a particular aspect of life, such as justice or science, emerges out of a whole interconnected process. In a similar sense it may well be that limits or restraints arise in science and that the right to new knowledge must be balanced by the harmony of society or the rights of organisms and systems to their own autonomy and modes of expression.

The evolution of this new vision in science may therefore take the form of a restoration of balance and harmony. The traditional values of science would still be recognized - the importance of careful and controlled observation, the openness and honesty of enquiry, the requirement that all claims be checked and tested, that theories and deductions are based on reason, that rationality and notions of mathematical elegance and economy must are powerful guides in constructing theories. Yet, on the other hand, these traditional values must be brought into balance so that the activity of science becomes an expression of a much greater whole, involving nature, society and the individual. The approach of experiment and observation will be tempered by respect for the autonomy of natural systems; the powers of logic and reason balanced by the other functions of thought such as metaphor, paradox and ambiguity; the accumulation of knowledge by the harmony of society; and the advance of technology by a reverence for nature.

Again and again the emphasis will be upon harmony and balance and on avoiding, on the one hand, hyper rationality and obsessive detachment from nature or, on the other, a lack of mental integration and discipline or a refusal to acknowledge the value of observation.

2. Physics and Biology

I have already discussed how the new sciences may make their impact within physics. A transformation of the "paradigm" of physics would have an enormous impact that would propagate throughout the sciences and act to transform the particular world view that has long dominated the West.

In the biological and ecological fields it may result in a new ethical and procedural approach to experimentation, in a deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of organisms, systems and processes and in the utilization of new forms of coherence and integration in the construction of theories and descriptions. It may also be the case that the whole nature of biological research is seen in a wider context whereby social, ethical and ecological considerations each play a role. In essence, science will no longer be abstracted from other human activities and the notion of a progression towards truth seen as the highest social good.

3. Medicine

A field that may be most readily transformed by new ideas is that of medicine where the skills of healer have always represented an uneasy alliance between art and science. On the one hand medicine has taken upon it all the theories, methodologies and technologies of modern science yet, in its essence, the notion of healing remains a mystery and, in that very personal relationship between doctor and patient, an art. One aim of this new vision would be to transform compromise into partnership and restore the balance between art and science, between objective and subjective, between technology and mystery.

On the one hand, the scientific side of medicine deals in the quantitative and objective, in what is amenable to rational, testable theory, in notions of causality, reproducibility and predictable effect. On the other hand, its art deals in quality, in subtle diagnostic gestalts, in intuitions and subliminal feelings, in acknowledgement of a patient's autonomy and will to health. Rather than categorizing diseases and causes it may tend to see each person's sickness as being a unique and highly personal story that involves their whole life, history, pattern of relationships and social and environmental context. In the movement towards health the amelioration of a particular symptom may be less important than a creative change within this whole pattern or story.

Clearly a new medicine will not only act to heal that division between mind and body but also between the individual and family, friends and society, and between society and nature. It will be concerned with harmony and balance between body and mind, individual and environment. It will recognize the Inscape within each individual and the autonomy of each life. It will be shed new light upon the many ethical questions posed by modern medicine and understand how ethical contexts may act to moderate what could otherwise become an unrestrained medical technology.

G. Policy

1. Introduction

Given this overall image of a new science, a number of practical questions suggest themselves. Questions which would be of particular interest to the Fetzer Institute. Several of these are dealt with below.

2. What Windows of Opportunity Will Arise in the New Sciences?

Several areas present themselves, for example those fields in which the conventional approach is not presently giving an adequate explanation. And, given that the present scientific endeavor is highly fashion conscious, there is always a chance that scientists working in what are currently viewed as backwaters may come up with something unexpected.

In physics these fields include:

  • complex non-linear systems,

  • the processes of order out of chaos and chaos out of order.

  • questions over the meaning and interpretation of quantum theory,

  • understanding the nature of space and time,

  • the search for deeper theories that may go beyond quantum theory and relativity and lead to an ultimate unification of physics.

In the biological and medical sciences fundamental new ideas may lie just around the corner:

  • the role of subtle energy and subtle matter

  • new notions on causality and connection

  • a deeper understanding of the nature and role of coherence

  • the way cells, organs and biological systems communicate,

  • questions of morphology and growth,

  • degenerative disorders, neuoimmunology,

  • the nature of wellness and healing,

  • the study and applications of alternative medicine

  • the role of meaning in health

  • the nature of "altered states of consciousness"

  • loss of spirit in illness

  • the role of meaning within society as a whole

In the last analysis, however, it is not so much the content that matters but the imagination, honesty, sensitivity, intelligence, intuition, experience, conviction and courage of the individual scientist. What is really required is a new sense of openness and the ability to tolerate diversity and new ideas. Rather than ideas and individuals always being in competition would it be possible, for example, for different ideas and approaches to co-exist in a creative and mutually supportive tension?

3. How Can This New Approach be Fostered?

  1. There is need for a more creative form of training. Young minds should be fostered in their questioning and creativity and not turned off by the orthodox and authoritarian complexion of the scientific establishment.

  2. b. Researchers working in new fields, or employing unorthodox approaches and methods, often feel isolated and lack support. It is highly important that distributed groups should be established, and different forms of contact encouraged so that individual researchers and small groups can offer exch other mutual support.

Not only should researchers be encouraged to come together to talk shop but, more importantly, to discuss their general metaphysics and offer mutual encouragement. It would be important to organize these events in such a way that participants could speak openly and without fear; proceedings would be confidential with the emphasis on openness and mutual encouragement. True to the spirit of David Bohm's "dialogue" one would attempt to reach an "order between and beyond" by holding all the different viewpoint in a creative tension.

There are few centers where this can be done today, beyond the Fetzer Institute and at some of the seminars that have been held by Temple University's Center for Frontier Sciences. I would therefore suggest that these efforts be encouraged and expanded. This means organizing seminars where scientists would meet to discuss their particular fields and those in which researchers from very different disciplines come together to talk about metaphysics and the social structures of science. The emphasis within the latter would focus more on approach and values than on particular content.

I therefore propose that the Fetzer Foundation fosters a series of seminars on the metaphysics and sociology of the new science and takes an active role in fostering a sense of connectedness amongst those exploring the frontiers of knowledge and understanding.

4. Funding

Funding has always been considered important in the sciences, and clearly individual scientists and small groups in unfashionable fields are very much in need of financial support. But rather than simply increasing spending in these areas I suggest that a whole new philosophy of funding first needs to be thought out. The present model rewards those who fit into the main stream and can confidently establish an going programs involving large groups, and those who can make reliable assessments of goals, projections. It relies heavily upon referees who work in the same field and have similar points of view.

While innovative foundations do not follow this conventional approach, nevertheless, the whole scientific milieu is heavily influenced by the dominant model. It seems important to look carefully at how one is going to encourage speculation and approaches whose outcome cannot always be successfully predicted. Indeed, rather than looking to proposals and the projected spin-offs, one should perhaps be funding individuals and groups, people with creativity and talent sometimes need to buy a little time in order to speculate, trust their instincts, take a leap into the unknown, disagree with the conventional wisdom and otherwise engage in behavior that cannot be justified in terms of dollars and cents. There will be what appears to be a high failure rate in fostering such an activity nevertheless, the overall effect will be very positive in that it will encourage new thought and create a new atmosphere for research.

Both the Nobel Prize and the MacArthur awards have no strings attached, but the former is often given to those who are past their creative prime and the latter represents a large sum given to just a few people. Possibly some relatively modest funding distributed more widely may act as a catalyst to change.

5. The Funding Agency

A new approach to funding and catalyzing research requires a different kind of funding agency, one that must be equally bold and creative. Its goal would not lie in immediate scientific results but on the more subtle areas of fostering, catalyzing and encouraging. Indeed, the nature of the organization would become a model of the new science itself.

Its operations would have to be a little like what I have termed "Gentle Action", ie rather than injecting funding into one or two chosen areas the organization would encourage, foster and support in a highly active way, constantly seeking feed-back, constantly adjusting, constantly seeking new ways of operating. These may include, for example, new ways of putting people together and encouraging communication, (ie giving conferences, bringing two or three researchers together for a few days, acting as an exchange for information, circulating results.) The organization would constantly seek to respond to an ever changing atmosphere, call on those it respects for advice, leave its program and goals relatively open and allow a high measure of discretion in the spending of funds. It may, for example, give each of its senior associates a small discretionary funds to give out to a group or individual, to foster a particular piece of work, to focus an idea, explore and to amplify and write up a remark.

The organization would also give constant attention to its own nature and structure, guarding itself against becoming fixed in ideas or approach. All in all, the quest for a new science would have to begin at many levels with the organization, its officers, its staff and the individual researchers, each having an open and free exchange of the nature and meaning of what they would be doing.

H. Conclusions

The thrust of this paper has been to the effect that a new spirit is being felt within the scientific community and a science is being born. What this science will be is difficult to say. However, it is my belief that it will go beyond being simply a selection of new topics of research, rather it may include new methods of thinking and observing, new criteria of what is scientific and new ethics and values within science itself. Indeed, what I have been writing about is more in the nature of what has been called a "paradigm shift" or cultural revolution, a change that involves the whole society and which may gives us a different attitude towards technology, notions of progress and change and our position within the environment.

It is difficult to be specific about this new change in science. However, I have tried to suggest that it may take the form of a coming to balance and harmony, of balancing rationality and logic with metaphor and ambiguity, of subjectivity tempering objectivity, of Inscape balancing an analytical landscape, of a sense of infinite mystery balancing the dream of an ultimate law, and of compassion for all living things balancing the demand for absolute truth.

And finally let me point out that this essay is meant by way of being a catalyst for dialogue. The questions and ideas I have raised above are purely personal, speculations and reactions that reflect more of my own position than any claim to have a panoramic view of the field. Some of them will probably be incorrect, some nieve, some annoying to other thinkers. But I trust that this essay will provoke discussion and reactions for I know that many other people are questioning the present state of science and are seeking a transformation of what presently exists in science and society. My hope is that in some way we will all be able to debate together and support each other in our quest for a more harmonious and more compassionate science.

Can a new science flower within the existing social world view?

To what extent would a new scientific vision act to transform society?

And to what extent would new social and ethical values push science in a radically new direction?

Questions for the New Science

  • What will be the nature of a new approach based on ethics, values and relationships?

  • How would it feel to be a researcher in this environment?

  • What different outcomes would be expected from a new science

  • What are early windows of opportunity where this new science might be encouraged?

  • How must institutions and granting agencies respond to the new science?

  • Are we currently working in the New Science?

  • Does my work truly interest me?

  • Do I feel creative?

  • Does my research accord with my life, ethics, values, lifestyle

  • Do I feel engaged in nature when I am doing it?

  • Is my work widening out, am I connecting to other contexts and areas

  • Is there a sense in which my work and the questions I ask relate to a wider context?

  • Am I deepened by the work I do? Is my work fostering my sensitivity and intuition?

  • How does my research fit into what I believe about society and nature?

  • Is the work I do potentially harmful to nature or society?

  • Are there new ways of communicating my work, is insights and its values to others -both other scientists and the general public?

  • I need financial support can I obtain this in a way that is honest and does not conflict with my humanity, society and my own ethics and belief?

  • Is there room within my research for me to be both an healthy and harmonious individual and a responsible member of a scientific group?

  • Is my research acting to balance and render more harmonious the work of others?

  • How does the in which I am engaged express its sense of the sacredness of nature and all living things?

Related Pages:
Logic | Science | Spirit



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