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Science

To take a one week course with David Peat

A variety of essays below explore various aspects of science, from reflections upon the general scientific enterprise and its future, to technical issues concerned with quantum theory and non-locality.

For a workshop with David Peat on New Science/New Paradigms, May 4-11, 2004

Technical issues:
Active Information, Meaning and Form
Non-Linear Dynamics (Chaos Theory) and its Implications for Policy Planning
Towards a process Theory of Healing: Energy, Acticity and Global Form

General science:
Cosmos and Inscape
Meaning and Structure in Biology and Physics: Some Outstanding Questions

Reflections on the scientific enterprise:
Alchemical Transformation: Consciousness and Matter, Form and Information
Blackfoot Physics and European Minds
Chaos: The Geometrization of Thought
Mathematics and the Language of Nature
Non-Locality in Nature and Cognition
The Role of Language in Science
A Science of Harmony and Gentle Action
Space and the Body
Unfolding the Subtle: Matter and Consciousness

The New Science

"The New Physics" and "The New Sciences" are terms used more by those outside the domain of science than by professionals themselves. Indeed, few physicists would be at all conscious of the fact that they are doing something called "the New Physics" as opposed, presumably, to "the old, dull, non-economy size Physics without super-additives"!

Yet physicists may not always be the best people to ask about the future directions of their topic; indeed many of them, while technically brilliant, still think in quite old-fashioned ways. As the physicist Basil Hiley puts it, "physicists come to praise Bohr and decry Einstein, but end up paying only lip service to Bohr and thinking like Einstein." (i.e. their understanding of the full implications of quantum theory is vague and in their everyday science they still cling to classical ways of thinking.

Some commentators believe that the New Science will grow up and replace present ways of doing science. I don't believe that this is going to happen; rather the mainstream, the majority of scientists, will continue to work in the same ways they have always done and with more or less the same traditional carving up topics into a variety of compartments.

However, I do believe that an alternative is possible and is already beginning to surface as a tiny side stream which is exerting a certain attraction because it is new and challenging. It is possible that young people, near the start of their scientific careers, will be attracted to this stream - the excitement could be great and the intellectual rewards risky but inviting. On the other hand, because the promise of career advancement by working in this area is either limited or negative, it will probably only attract at first those working in small colleges or semi-independently. (Rupert Sheldrake has pointed out that most of the major advances of the 19th century were made by amateurs or those working outside mainstream organizations. Maybe something similar will occur in the next century.)

In time this stream will grow, somewhat independent of the mainstream of science. Certainly if it is to mean anything at all it must exhibit its own particular rigor, rationality and be always open to creative criticism. As it continues it will attract more people and develop its own approaches and systems of values, ethics and truth. It may be a science that exhibits a degree of compassion and responsibility for the natural world, that acknowledges our role as participators, the limits of objective knowledge, analysis and control. Thus, in my opinion, it will not be so much that science itself changes or transforms, but rather that some new plant will spring up alongside it, gathering strength and, in the end, complementing mainstream science.

Maybe such a science will not serve the same old masters. But its continued survival must ultimately rest on how it is perceived by society as a whole, including the way it resonates with society's changing values, needs and meanings, and the ways in which images of the cosmos and ourselves are reflected in this alternative stream.

Essays:
New Science, New Vision
Space and the Body



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