Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation.
Metaphysics: the branch of philosophy concerned with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being and knowing.
Concise Oxford Dictionary
When Professor Stephen Hawking met with Pope John Paul II the Pope said that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the bang itself because that was the moment of creation and therefore the work of God.[i]
Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. Sir Isaac Newton a fierce opponent of the Catholic Church held this chair in the past.
The Big Bang Theory, which Hawking helped to develop, holds that the Universe arose from a single point creating with it space-time with similar properties to a collapsed star where the known and normal rules of nature cannot be applied.
Hawking was born on the anniversary of Galileo’s death exactly 500 years later. Galileo also was warned by a Pope not to inquire too deeply into the nature of God’s creation. Using a telescope, which he had constructed, Galileo had been able to convince himself by observation that Copernicus had concluded correctly that the earth orbits the sun, and not the opposite as had been assumed during the dark ages.
But the Church had difficulty in accepting pluralism in Galileo’s time. In 1542 Pope Paul III created The Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition. This institution was authorised to interrogate, if necessary by torture, and prosecute people for heresy. Galileo was never tortured, but in 1633 he was shown the instruments of torture twice.[ii]
As a result of his treatment Galileo recanted his support for Copernicus, and so avoided such torture on the rack, which, no doubt, have disconnected his mind and brain from a body wracked with pain. He was allowed to retire to his villa where he died a virtual prisoner in 1642. Sir Isaac Newton was born on Christmas Day the same year.
The trial and conviction of Galileo sent a warning to scholars across Europe. It was unsafe to study the handiwork of God by direct observation, and doubly unsafe to draw inferences from such observations.
Against this background René Descartes, a contemporary of Galileo, developed the philosophy of dualism. This opened a path for Newton and others to investigate the fabric of nature without reference to the handiwork of God. Dualism is the basis of modern science. When Galileo was put on trial Descartes fled Catholic France, and eventually settled in Lutheran Sweden.[iii]
Descartes separated the body from the mind. When he says, ‘I am angry’, he is referring to his mind as the bearer of his anger. His body by contrast is something like an ‘automaton’ that he owns. So each of us identifies with a mind and possesses a body.[iv]
Whilst the body and mind are mutually dependent, for example the mind must find ways to obtain food and drink to sustain the body, a body is needed as an apparently local space in which to locate the mind. Such a separation of body from mind made possible the scientific paradigm that separates spirit from matter, enabling a study of matter, (science), without reference to a study of spirit, (metaphysics).[v]
The brilliant, irascible and vindictive mathematician Sir Isaac Newton became a model for scientific thought for generations. Safe in England from the interference of the Inquisition this radical scholar pursued scientific method with rigour. His work on optics and gravitation continue to be applied, indeed NASA calculates the trajectories through space according to Newton’s laws, when sending men to the moon, rather than Einstein’s later and more precise theories of relativity.[vi] Incredibly in private Newton practiced alchemy and wrote extensively on the Biblical messages of The Book of Revelations.[vii]
Most of us have been educated to consider spirit and matter as separate. We believe our bodies to be similar to machines and separate from our minds. Importantly we hold that what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell are true representations of an objective world that is ever present and external to us.
We cannot practise science, as it has been commonly understood, unless we can believe this.
But Newton’s objective universe began to get slippery when in 1881 Albert Michelson an American scientist discovered the speed of light is constant even when its source and recipient are moving toward or away from each other. This finding makes it impossible for Newton’s clockwork universe to be an accurate way of understanding. Space and time are relative; the speed of light is the sole constant. Incredibly from his meditations upon the uniformity of the speed of light in 1905 Einstein concluded that energy and mass are equivalent. In doing so he presaged atomic power, and hinted at the wave/particle problem, as well as non-local consciousness, or non-duality.
A wave may be considered as energy, and a particle as something possessed of mass. We are constantly surrounded by and penetrated by radio waves, some of them transmitted from broadcast stations, others the result of stellar activity. Some of these waves can harm us if we are overexposed to them, for example X rays, sunlight, ultraviolet light and gamma radiation. This damage arises as a result of the effect of the specific wavelength of the energy upon our cellular tissues.
Waves and particles may best be understood as wavicles.[xviii] Until they are detected through either a wave detector, or particle detector, and this detection has been observed by a sentient being we cannot determine in which mode they will precipitate into the reality of an apparent space/time universe.
Einstein held that no physical effect might be transmitted with a velocity faster than light. This means that all physical effects must decrease as the distance between the source of an effect and an observer increases. He also believed that an objective reality exists whether or not it is observed. In 1935 together with Podolsky and Rosen he set out to show that the branch of science known as quantum mechanics is incomplete because it cannot describe a reality that is both local and definite.[viii]
Newton conceived the idea of gravitation by reasoning that the moon was like a ball that had been thrown very hard and is falling toward earth. The ball keeps missing it and goes around, because the earth is round. Einstein was able to intuit the General and Special Theories of Relativity from his thought experiment of riding upon a beam of light.[xi]
But what thought experiment might adequately describe transcending the speed of light, or non-locality as physicists refer to it?
Penzias and Wilson discovered evidence supporting the Big Bang Theory in 1965. They detected radiation from the Big Bang using special equipment at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. Pope John-Paul II refers to the Big Bang as the moment of creation. To attempt to examine what occurs within the quantum singularity from which the Big Bang occurred must have seemed to the Pope the equivalent of looking inside God’s undergarments.
He need not have worried about this because within a singularity mathematical models are impossible because the numbers become infinite.[xii] Also within a singularity we are dealing with very small objects so we cannot make calculations based upon Newton’s, or Einstein’s laws of gravity. We must consider quantum mechanics. Currently no coherent theory of quantum gravity exists. It has been suggested that the universe has no finite beginning, but instead arcs back upon itself. This idea relies on the mathematics of imaginary numbers that may be used to create imaginary space-time.
An imaginary number is the square root of a negative number. It is like calculating the square root of your bank overdraft. An imaginary number is created by multiplying any number by the square root of –1. Muslim scholars and later Descartes were aware that imaginary numbers must theoretically exist, but dismissed them as impractical or nonsensical.[xiii]
Imaginary numbers are used as one component in the computer generation of fractal geometry. Fractals are beautiful constructions wherein irregular shapes are self-similar, meaning that any subsystem of a fractal system is equivalent to the whole system.[xiv]
We may live in a Fractal Universe. The Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann assumed in 1922 that the Universe looks identical in whatever direction we look, and that this would also be true if we were looking from any other location.[xv] Whilst on a small scale this is nonsense, or our familiar night sky would look geometrically uniform, on a large scale it seems that Friedmann’s predication is accurate.[xvi]
If time curves back upon itself in the way that a fractal pattern is repetitive, then it can have no beginning. It follows then that the past is a product of perception and so we can take the present as a reference point from which to calculate the beginning of creation.
Scientists, to explain our experience of the universe, sometimes invoke the anthropic principle. Hawking describes the principle thus: “We see the universe the way it is, at least in part, because we exist. It is a perspective that is diametrically opposed to the dream of a fully predictive unified theory in which the laws of nature are complete and the world is the way it is because it could not be otherwise.
“The principle holds that the universe must be suitable for intelligent life: if atoms weren’t stable, we wouldn’t be here to observe the universe and ask why it appears as it does”. [xvii]
Observation is necessary in order that the universe, including what you are reading precipitates into being. Until this article, or the universe is observed it exists only as a probability ‘within the mind of God’.
Years ago the C17 idealist philosopher Bishop Berkeley pondered, ‘If a tree falls and no one sees or hears it, what has happened’. Berkeley concluded, ‘The tree fell in the mind of God’. But according to physicist Amit Goswami this is inaccurate, because objects in the mind of God are transcendent, archetypal, probability forms. An event occurs not because we do something to a ‘real’ object as a result of observing it, but because a choice is made and we recognise the result of that choice.[xviii]
The choice is made not by us, as the individual perceivers of creation[xix] [xx] [xxi] with whom we identify our mind, which seems to possess of our bodies, but by the non-local consciousness that quantum theory identifies ultimately as reality.[xxii] [xxiii] [xxiv]
At the beginning of the 20th Century many scientists thought that most of the scientific problems of the world had been solved, or would shortly be solved. David Hilbert a German mathematician argued in 1900 that every mathematical problem has a solution.[xxv]
But Relativity and Quantum Theories overturned the certainties of physics, and in 1931 Kurt Gödel proved that mathematics is incomplete. There are some true statements that cannot be proved within any logical system.[xxvi]
An essential axiom of mathematics is: “Whatever involves all of a collection must not be one of the collection”.[xxvii] On this basis it is possible to establish that you have at least two heads.
For if we assume that the world you see is objective, in the sense that there something outside of you that is represented within your perception[xxviii] [xxix] [xxx][xxxi], it follows that you can see your world, including your body, but not your head. But what you see is a coded representation of what is actually present and this representation is occurring inside of your head. Since we may infer that your head is connected to your body, the head from which you perceive yourself as looking out upon the objective world is not the true head that is connected to your shoulders, but its representation within the ‘real’ head, which contains your body and the material universe.[xxxii] It follows that each of us has two heads.
Of course this is nonsense. It is simpler to take Douglas Harding’s view that we have no heads.[xxxiii] What Harding really claims is that we are awareness within consciousness that identifies with itself as a life from moment to moment. There appears to be duality: me and you, us vs them, life opposed to death, static vs circular. These, however, are illusions both within consciousness and composed of it.
Most of us identify ourselves with our minds, and our bodies, rather than our true nature, which is non-local and non temporal.
In such a model our body-mind experiences perception as local, but the images that we make in our brains and within which we live are non-local. Whilst such a proposition may seem incredible, brain processes involve the exchange of information at particle level. There is speculation that the brain operates as a quantum-mechanical organ.[xxxiv] [xxxv]
In a recent lecture during the Dirac centennial celebration at the University of Cambridge Stephen Hawking stated: “We and our models are both part of the Universe we are describing, we are not angels who view the universe from outside”.[xxxvi]
If this is the case then an ‘objective’ universe cannot exist, and without such objectivity ‘science’ as we have been trained to appreciate it, is dead. The study of non-objective first causes is a study of ‘metaphysics’.
The thought experiment that describes non-locality is our every day life. It is an experiment without a doer. Non-local consciousness misidentifies with a local point of observation giving rise to immediate awareness, which in turn seems to generate personal self-hood, an ego, with an apparent story and history.
Science has come full circle. This story began with a man who in pursuing understanding of the natural world infuriated a pope and only avoided the forced separation of his body from his head by recantation of the evidence of his senses. Since then many great scientists and thinkers have added to the story. It ends with a statement from the man who lost the use of his body through disease, but continues to find God in his head using the telescope of science. Through his quest, and with the help of other great scientists we may discover that God, the universe, the actors in this story, the story itself, the writer, and you dear reader, are all self-reflections of a non-local consciousness ;-))
[i] Hawking S., and Stone G., (1992) A Brief History of Time Readers’s Companion. London: Bantam Press.
[ii] Bronowski J., (1973) The Ascent of Man. London: BBC.
[iv] Dilman I., (1999) Free Will. London: Routledge.
[v] Mindell A., (2000) Quantum Mind, The Edge Between Physics and Psychology. Oregon: LaoTse Press
[vi] Stamp H., (2000) Review of The Visionary Window by Amit Goswami in: Science Within Consciousness www.swcp.com/swc/Essays/swift-bkrev.htm
[vii] Bronowski (op. cit.)
[viii] Einstein A., Podolsky B., and Rosen N., (1935) Can quantum mechanical descriptions of physical reality be considered complete? Physical Review 47:777-780
[ix] Aspect A, Dalibrand P., and Roger G., (1982) Physics Review 49:1804 (letter).
[x] Wheeler J., (1982) The Computer and the Universe. International Journal of Theoretical Physics 21: 557-92
[xi] Bronowski (op. cit.)
[xii] Hawking S., (1988) A Brief History of Time. London: Guild Publishing
[xiii] Sardar Z., Ravetz J., Van Loon B., (1999) Introducing Mathematics. Cambridge: Icon Books.
[xv] Hawking S., (1988) A Brief History of Time. London: Guild Publishing
[xvii] Hawking S., (2001) The Universe in a Nutshell. London: Bantam Press.
[xviii] Goswami A., Reed R., Goswami M., (1993) The Self Aware Universe. New York: Tarcher Putnam
[xix] Schrödinger E., (1969) What is Life? And Mind and Matter. London: Cambridge University Press
[xx] Wigner E., (1962) Symmetries and Reflections. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
[xxi] Goswami et. al. (1993) Ibid.
[xxii] Aspect et. al., op. cit.
[xxiii] Wheeler op. cit.
[xxiv] Goswami et. al. (1993) Ibid.
[xxv] Brooks M., (2003) The Impossibel Puzzle. New Scientist 5th April p. 34-35
[xxvi] Gödel K., (1962) On Formally Undecidable Proposition: (A translation of Gödel’s 1931 paper, together with some discussion). New York. Basic Books
[xxvii] Whitehead A., Russell B., (1910-13) Principia Mathematica 2nd Ed. 3 vol. Cambridge University Press.
[xxviii] Checkland P., (1981) Systems Thinking: Systems Practice. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons
[xxix] Dilts R., Grinder J., Bandler R., and DeLozier J., (1980) Neuro-linguistic Programming Volume 1. Capertino: Meta Publications.
[xxx] Trevarther C., (1989) Development of Early Social Interactions and Affective Regulation of Brain Growth; in Eds. Von Eníer C., Forsberg H., and Lagercrantz H., Neurobiology in Early Infant Behaviour. London: Macmillan
[xxxi] Denkel A., (1995) Reality and Meaning. Istanbul: Bosphorus University
[xxxii] Wilson R. (1990) Quantum Psychology. Tempe: New Falcon Publications
[xxxiii] Harding D., and Lang D., (2000) Face to No Face. Carlsbad: Inner Directions Publishing
[xxxiv] Fröhlich H., (1980) Coherent Excitations in Active Biological Systems, in Gutman F. and Keyzer H. (eds), Modern Bioelectrochemistry. New York: Plenium Press
[xxxv] Popp F-A., (1986) On the Coherence of Ultra-Weak Photo-emission from Living Tissue, in Kilmister C. (ed.) Disequilibrium and Self-Organization. Reidel Publishing Company
[xxxvi] Brooks M., op. cit.
Footnote: A version of this article appeared in Nurturing Potential Journal Volume 2 – No. 4 – 2003, under the title: The Death of Science.