Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory
and, when successful, finds none.
Thomas Kuhn, 1962
Mindy and Lovejoy arrived together. Her strawberry blond hair pulled tightly into a bundle, she moved with dignity, quietly up the steps to the brightly lit front porch. She had a long burgundy shawl and looked stunning to Lovejoy, who was admittedly a bit scruffy. He appreciated his days off and the opportunity to appear less doctorly.
A very relaxed and gracious gentleman introduced himself to Lovejoy as Howard. Howard was tall, gray-bearded with fair skin and dark hair. His unsmiling countenance was nevertheless welcoming. He kissed Mindy on the cheek and led them up a narrow stairway to the second floor apartment. Once inside Lovejoy felt something familiar. There was a density to the air, but there was no smoke, heat or humidity. He looked around at various artifacts and paintings from cultures around the world. At first he thought of an anthropologist's collection. But these items were not randomly displayed. Each held a portion of the room in its order. Buddhas and crucifixes coexisted easily here. African statues and sacred texts worked together. And there were many volumes. Each unused corner was custom fitted with some contraption of a cabinet to hold books, maps and even scrolls. Howard was evidently a believer in the written word, among other things.
In a small front room off the living room and hallway, perhaps meant to be a bedroom, was a casual affair of booked shelves, wall hangings and firm leather pillows around a lower than average coffee table. Lovejoy didn't know if he was in an updated hippie home or an Ethiopian restaurant.
He was introduced to Sidney and Maria. Sidney was serious; thin, almost gaunt, with straight blondish gray hair, and didn't bother getting up from her vertical, apparently yogic posture. Maria was quite the opposite; very warm and gregarious. She shamed the others in making him feel welcome. Her motherliness was palpable. A bit rotund, she seemed very centered on her relatively small pillow.
"There's one more coming, though he'll be late." Maria said. "I believe you know him."
Lovejoy, a bit skeptical, simply said, "Oh?" He couldn't think of anyone he knew in Boston besides Mindy, other than the people he'd interviewed with yesterday. "Who?'
"We thought we'd surprise you; unless you really must know."
"Have it your way. I am here at your pleasure. Mindy has told me wonderful things about you all. Although now that I think of it, I am not exactly clear on your purpose as a group."
"We call ourselves the E-group." Sidney started suddenly. "'E' for epistemology. We try to go beyond the limited ideas of any single religion or philosophy, to understand if possible, what lessons we can draw about how we come to know what you know."
Voices were quiet for a moment. Lovejoy didn't know if people were pausing in deference to Sidney or just trying to figure out what she said; as he was.
Thankfully, Maria bubbled in. "How do you know anything?"
"Everybody thinks they know all sorts of facts about the world, about themselves, and about others." Howard said. "And people must know something, because we do make progress. We can pick out a goal and accomplish it sometimes. But how do we succeed? Do we really learn some truth about how the world works, or do we merely replay trial and error scenarios with slight variations each time? Do you know?"
Lovejoy was unprepared. He loved the question. He had asked himself the same thing a hundred times in different ways. But he hadn't gathered his thoughts for this evening. "No. Not really. I'm not sure anyone does. I mean some people reason things out, but there are usually several ways of analyzing a situation. Some people just feel they know the truth in their gut or heart or whatever. And others just repeat what they've been taught."
"Mindy has told us that you are a man who's walked, actually lived, in two worlds; that of science with it's logic, and religion steeped in magical thinking. How would you contrast the two?" Howard continued.
"That's a huge topic!" Lovejoy blurted out, a bit intimidated. "First of all, I'm not so sure that science has exclusive rights on logic. If you believe in God, then is it illogical to pray for help? The question is, 'Is belief in God illogical?' I don't think we can prove or disprove God. So there may be a difference in starting premises, but given those, religious people may act logically."
Impatient, Mindy interrupted. "Surely you recognize some differences between the scientific and religious life."
"I do. I do. And I'll be glad to tell you my thoughts. But I am just one person. Perhaps my views are full of preconceptions and distortions."
"Please don't take this the wrong way," said Sidney, "but we have no intention of taking your impressions as gospel. We are just here to listen and perhaps soak up some of your experience."
"Well, it will be difficult to give you that experience. Immersing yourself for fourteen years in a way of life is different than hearing me talk about it. A life full of magic was, and is still sometimes, profound. Every moment is full of meaning. You've heard, I presume, of the 'Will for sex' and the 'Will to power'. Well I think Viktor Frankl got it right when he talked of the "Will to meaning". Everyone wants meaning in their lives. Religious beliefs give you that. Every sneeze, every cloud and stubbed toe has a meaning. You're never alone because God and his..."
"Or her." Mindy interjected.
"...or her angels are with you always. Every decision has an implication. Even what you decide to cast your attention upon in the next few moments may change worldwide events.
"For me, living in a monastery is like spending all of your waking hours in an entranced state. All the world is a beautiful mystery and you hold some of the keys. Everything has purpose and everything you do has importance. Not just for you, but ultimately for the entire universe."
"Sounds a bit like a grand ego trip." Mindy remarked.
"It may be, but I certainly didn't go into it realizing this. I was enthralled by being a part of something so large, so powerful, that I thought I was feeling humble."
Maria broke in. "Can't you feel connected that way in a secular world? Isn't it possible to be a part of a neighborhood community that raises kids well or creates a place for elders to live into their old age? Can't you do research and discover things of great benefit to many?"
"Somehow the magnitude of awe is different." Lovejoy responded. "When I perform a political or neighborly good deed, I know most of its bits and pieces; all the mechanisms of its ramifications. It's finite no matter how large it is. When I do my part in an infinite spiritual hierarchy, I feel unending. My actions, and those of which I am a part, are bounded only by my imagination and my faith. Even while performing my daily work, I know of my place in a grand scheme." Lovejoy expounded.
"That could be religion's social strength you know. I mean, what other reason do we have to behave ourselves if there's not some purpose in our lives?" Howard pointed out.
"People find purpose in many ways." Maria said.
"Yes, but even the poor and disenfranchised can have a purpose with religion. After all, it's free." Howard replied.
"I'm not so sure it's free. Is it really fair to keep the poor and disenfranchised on the bottom rung by drugging them with the 'opiate of the masses'?" Mindy asked.
"Mindy! That is sooo old!" Howard resounded. "Is it really fair to withhold a source of consolation from people just because your science can't prove it to be true?"
"Or false." Sidney added.
"What?" Howard asked.
Sidney was quick to respond. "Science cannot prove religious precepts to be false either. In fact, I consider science just as much a religion as any of the traditional ones, only with different starting points." A pregnant pause anticipated her elaboration. "First, as Lovejoy mentioned, some people believe that only science uses logic. But religious people use logic as well. For example, if you believe 1) that there is life after death and 2) that the quality of life after death depends at least in part upon the way in which we live this life, then it is logical to be careful about what we do in this life. We hope to obtain a better afterlife by acting properly."
Howard spoke up. "If we believe that Christ was God incarnate and that in God there is only truth, then it would be logical to believe that everything Christ said was true."
"Exactly." Sidney agreed. "Logic is a processing system for ideas. It takes you from a set of givens, or assumptions, to a set of conclusions. Logic does not provide the preliminary set of assumptions."
"Garbage in, garbage out." Mindy retorted.
"Right, well that goes for science too. That brings me to 'facts and faith'. People tend to think that science relies upon provable facts, not assumptions; and that religion uses unprovable assumptions that must be relied upon by faith.
"Yet, I would say that science's facts, are really assumptions, or even more often, derived from other assumptions via interpretations of experiments. Now this is a long way from fact. But it's OK. Science is very useful. The problem comes when some scientists, who purport to be objective, do not even realize the nature and extent of the assumptions that they rely upon."
"Some people who call themselves scientists are more like technicians, carrying out elaborations on other people's experiments." Lovejoy joined in. "The real scientists are the ones who understand the philosophy behind science and its origins."
"Can you think of some of science's underlying assumptions?" Sidney asked.
"We used to think that light went through an ether like waves in the ocean. Then we found out there was no ether." Maria answered.
"We used to think that energy was either in the form of a wave or a particle, until we learned that all energy has both aspects. In fact, waveness and particleness may reflect more about how our brain thinks than about nature itself." Lovejoy said.
Howard said. "And we used to think that we could make measurements with infinite accuracy limited only by our technology. Now we know that there's a theoretical barrier beyond which our measurements can't go. It's like God telling us that we can only understand a certain region of the Universe around our scale of sizes and energies."
"These are all old assumptions that scientists used to think were true but no longer do." Sidney agreed. "However they do bring up some good points. First of all, what you said Lovejoy, 'How do we know that the laws of science, which we say we discover rather than create, don't reflect more about our brain and its organizing principles than they do about some external reality?'
"And for you Maria and Howard, if our previous widely held beliefs about ether and measuring accuracy have turned out to be false, how do we know which of our current beliefs will be proven false someday?
"But what I really want to know is, can you think of any assumptions that science still makes, that it relies upon for its entire way of thinking." Sidney redirected.
"Like what?" Mindy asked.
"If we still assume something, it's easy to overlook it." Lovejoy observed.
Sidney responded. "How about the idea that there even is an external world, beyond our personal mind, which exists and can be discovered. It's an age-old philosophical question with no provable answer. We may prefer to say that it's obvious that there's an external world. But that's really choosing sides in an unprovable debate. That's making an assumption."
"How about that this external world has governing principles?" asked Howard.
"Or that we can interact with this world." said Maria.
"Do we know that through interaction we can come to learn its governing principles?" Lovejoy asked.
"These are all very small distinctions." Mindy pointed out.
"But perhaps fundamental to how we approach knowledge. What do you suppose science's manner of interaction is?" Sidney prodded.
Lovejoy reacted, "We experiment."
"We measure. We measure what happens." Mindy sounded authoritative.
"Ah! Measurement. Question for you, Mindy." Sidney took charge again. "In science, can we learn anything about the world unless we measure it?"
"Absolutely not! That's its beauty. Science pins down its claims. Without measuring , there is no knowledge possible."
"There's an assumption if I ever heard one!" Howard exclaimed. "How do we know that the measuring process, upon which we base all of our scientific method, will give a complete picture of that hypothetical external world?"
Mindy asserted, "If something can influence our world, we can measure it. We have measurement units for everything; height, weight, length, energy, acceleration, all sorts of things."
"What about measuring happiness or suffering, or consciousness, since that's what you're researching? Aren't those important aspects of life?" Sidney lead her.
"Those are very complex notions. Perhaps someday we will measure them. But science simplifies situations, to just a few measurable factors. Otherwise it can't study them."
"Well, isn't that an assumption; that simplifying experiments, for the purposes of making them easier to study doesn't somehow skew our understanding of the world?" Sidney asked.
"I'm sorry, but we take the multifactorial nature of the universe into account when we interpret experiments. Any scientist worth her salt knows they are only studying one aspect." Mindy countered.
"They may understand the truth that no situation is affected by just one factor, in theory. But the experimentation process is still lopsided. You can only do a decent experiment by limiting confounding factors. You never have the opposite; where you do a great experiment by making certain all possible influences are active simultaneously." Sidney persisted.
"And there may be influences that we're just not aware of." Howard added.
Lovejoy remembered God's description of the open door for them to work through, the quantum uncertainty gap and the amplification of these quantum events by 'sensitive dependence upon initial conditions'. Before he could verbalize his thoughts Sidney started.
"Let's talk about all those physical measurements. They all boil down to putting the length of one thing up against the length of another and seeing which one is longer. How interesting a world can we describe with this simplistic a process?"
"I'm not sure I understand. Length is just one type of thing we measure. What about watts, amperage, velocity, time?" Maria asked.
"These are all ideas. In fact, they are interpretations of experiments. We all agree they exist. We give them a definition. But when it comes down to the process of measuring one of those units, the experimenter ends up with a dial moving over numbers, or the stretch of a spring, for example, measured in units of length. For example, amps measure some concept we have about electricity. Amps are the concept. What's the hard data? A dial moving through space powered by some force which pulls the dial against a 'known', i.e. previously measured, force, such as a spring. The amps are an interpretation of that experimental setup. Even the concept of force is an interpretation of what makes all this happen. The hard data is the needle on the dial turning. Or perhaps we see a tracing of a spiral in a photographic emulsion after a nuclear reaction. We measure the curvature of the spiral and how quickly it changes. This is using length in two dimensions instead of one. From this, based upon our other assumed knowledge of what the experimental setup means, we make an interpretation of the experiment. We build on previous experiments, assume the conclusion of the last one, and we interpret all sorts of qualities such as charm or strangeness in a quark. Everything goes back to the three dimensional world we envision ourselves in, by using three sets of length. Then there's time.
"Time is different. But how do we access the concept? By using some process that repeats itself cyclically, and we define the length of each cycle as a unit of time. To some extent this is a circular definition. The only way we can compare one unit of time is with all the other processes in the world which seem to be repeating themselves. Ultimately, we chose to use the heavens as our guide. Then we decided this was not perfectly accurate so we used the vibrations of a crystal under specific conditions. Again vibrations are a cyclic variation in length. Ultimately everything is based upon length; sticking one ruler along side another." Sidney reiterated.
Mindy couldn't contain herself. "That's ridiculous! We make measurements in biology all the time, not of length but how many times things happen, like a rat pressing a lever, or a human voting."
Sidney nodded and slowly responded. "This is even much less fundamental than what I've been talking about. All these you would admit occur in space and time. The rat has to move the lever a certain length to trigger the count. And the humans have to get up and do a specific act, utilizing movement through a distance or length to convey their vote."
"But everything happens in space and time. You can't say that just because an event occurs in space and time it is dependent upon length."
"Mindy," Sidney answered, "I am surprised at you. This is the 'E' group you know. If we say something occurs in space and time we are using science's description. If we start off accepting all of science's assumptions, how can we get beyond this one paradigm. We have to try to become conscious of as many assumptions that we make in our thinking as possible. Assumptions are part of science's faith. We believe in space and time as much as Europeans in 1200 AD believed in God. Neither group could talk about the world without reverting to its assumptions."
"So you think that space and time and measurement don't exist?" Mindy asked incredulously.
"Not at all. First of all I'd be considered heretical if I did. I might not admit it any more than an atheist in 1200 AD would dare admit their disbelief in God. But why does space have to be Euclidean, nice and flat and square. What about convex space or Lobaschevskian space which is concave and convoluted?" Sidney questioned.
Lovejoy pointed out. "These are acceptable. In fact science uses many counterintuitive mathematical concepts to do calculations in general relativity and quantum mechanics. More than four dimensional universes and imaginary numbers are not only allowed, they're required, in order to do the math."
"What's an imaginary number?" Maria asked.
Mindy answered. "A regular number times the square root of negative one."
"How can you get the square root of negative one?" Maria followed up.
"That's why it's called 'imaginary'" Lovejoy concluded.
Sidney joined back in. "This is my point exactly. Imaginary numbers, strange and charmed quarks, multidimensional universes, entropy, the uni-directionality of time, the barrier of the speed of light, even the principles of cause and effect; these are all theories. They result from interpretations of experiments. To call these irrefutable facts is the same as a medieval priest stating that angels and demons are facts. We're really relying on a definition of reality made by consensus, no more, no less.
"It's not that I don't 'believe' in space and time, it's just that science has faith in its beginning assumptions, as religion does. So the difference between science and religion is neither in the use of logic nor in faith."
Mindy leveled with the E-group. "What I can't stomach about religion is its reliance upon the indefinable concept of God. Whenever we can't sort out some issue, the religious person always says something like, 'It's God's will' or 'Who can fathom the ways of God.' That's not an explanation. It's a cop out. I want a system of explanation you can hold accountable."
"How do you feel about chance?" Sidney calmly asked.
"What?" Mindy was confused.
"Chance, randomness, probability. When science reaches the ends of its explanatory capability, it states that the process in question is caused by 'random' processes, the very antithesis of explanation. When quantum physics reaches the limits of its measuring accuracy; the rest is based upon a 'probabilistic' process. Chaos theory says that when there are three or more independent influences in a process, it becomes random."
"What sorts of processes are we talking about?" Maria asked.
"Things that are very important to us. Weather, the stock market, the combinations of parents' genes to make their children. Lady luck is no more of an explanatory system than an 'undefinable concept of God'."
"Well, I happen to prefer science." Mindy stated.
"That's obvious." Sidney persisted. "But this is the 'My God is better than your God' syndrome. Judaism places its faith in the word of God through the prophets, Christianity in Christ the Lord and Savior, and Buddhism in its eightfold path. The scientific method rests upon measurement. They all have their strong points. I think we should find ways to combine their strengths."
Still strong, Mindy asserted, "Science has brought us out of the mire. With it we have been able to build appliances for the house, design pharmaceuticals and go to the moon."
"Not to mention explode atomic bombs, denude tropical forests and cause the fifth greatest planetwide extinction in Earth's history." Lovejoy mused.
Sidney asked. "What do you think Howard?"
"Well it doesn't seem to address the philosophical question. If both science and religion both use logic and faith, then they are just competing systems of organizing our sense data."
"What do you think Maria?"
"I'm not sure that our ability to build technology has reflected any increase in wisdom. I want to choose a system of thought that doesn't just increase our power over the physical world. I want a system that increases our wisdom and happiness. It occurs to me Sidney, that if you're right about every measurement being based upon length, then science is limited only to discovering information about what we call the physical world."
"What do you think Lovejoy?"
"Sometimes I think what we do with our experiments is just replay a process over and over and over in slight variations. And then when it comes around to predicting, it has less to do with which theory we use, and more to do with 'What we did before will happen again if we do it again the same way.'"
"What do you think Mindy?"
"I don't think I can buy Lovejoy's account of trial and error completely. For all its technicians, occasionally there have been insightful scientists who saw something new in their experiments. Their work has led to elegant demonstrations of new discoveries. Copernicus, Newton, Mendel, Einstein and the entire group of scientists who brought about the Quantum revolution, all 'saw' something new. These were breakthroughs in thinking, not just complicated replays. Even if there is just one percent of prediction that occurs through theory then it is important to know how that could happen."
"How can we make a theory about the world and have it true unless there really is an external world with its own rules of operation to discover." Lovejoy asked. "Now it may be that there are other theories which also describe the world and predict successfully. Instead of electrons and protons we could postulate little blue demons and little green demons that do all the work. But then you get to Occam's razor. We prefer to pick the simplest explanation that can account for all your findings.
Sidney weighed in again. "I have two problems with Occam's razor, or at least the way people think they are using it. The first is that it might be aesthetically pleasing to use the simplest solution to a given problem. But somebody has to tell Nature that. Nature has its own way of contriving fantastic connections between things."
"Truth is stranger than theory." Maria interjected.
"Something like that. And perhaps that's because Nature can't afford to isolate things. Whatever it does must be done in all possible greater contexts, which brings me to the second point. What is 'the simplest' answer? If you set up an experiment, isolate it from other processes in the world, one answer might be the most simple. But as you add more facts to be explained, an answer that originally seemed complicated becomes the simpler one."
"Examples, examples, I want examples." Mindy demanded.
Sidney replied, "What about the sun rising and setting? Simplest answer; it rotates around the earth. But when you have to account for all the movements of those tiny little dots in the sky which we now call planets, it's simpler to have them and us rotate around the sun.
"Each advancement in scientific thought is really this kind of a shift. And maybe when we have to add in understanding of motivation, happiness and intuition, it will be simpler to use some of the constructs from religious philosophy than to use an extremely complex neurobiological systems analysis of psychological principles."
"It might be simple but less true." Mindy stated.
"Ho, ho! Just a moment ago you were arguing for science's truth based upon its effectiveness. After all of the analysis of the brain is said and done, maybe you'll be able to explain a lot, but in order to influence people you'll still have to resort to psychological techniques that have been borrowed from centuries of religious traditions. One way or another, we need to help people get inspired, learn to accept bad news and find contentment."
"You know Mindy, I think he's right." Lovejoy jumped in. "When we worked together in 'the Ring', when we felt we had meaning to our hard efforts, we'd happily stay up twenty out of twenty-four hours for months on end, getting phenomenal projects accomplished. We could reach ecstatic heights in our meditation as a result of our beliefs. It didn't matter that it turned out to be a sham."
"I can reach ecstasy in a Zen meditation without believing in God." Sidney countered.
"Are you saying that science and Zen Buddhism are alike?" Lovejoy asked.
"In some ways, yes. I think they both place a value on cutting away unnecessary elements. I happen to think Zen does a better job."
"I think that when I can fully describe the mind to you in scientific terms, the religious inspiration will be unnecessary." Mindy asserted.
"Perhaps the hardwired organization of the brain is more conducive to traditional religious techniques. After all, these ideas did evolve over thousands of years." Lovejoy pondered.
"Right. As we discussed in the cathedral, the awesome power ascribed to parents is transferred to an untouchable God." Mindy concluded.
"Why can't we switch that power to the value of ethics? Ethics with a full understanding of Mindy's description of consciousness in mind." Maria suggested hopefully.
"That will only work for people who can grasp your entire theory, hold it in their minds at one time and see their decisions in that context." Sidney proclaimed. "Most people need a straightforward, less intellectual way of coping with life."
"I'm a little concerned about those simple ones. If they ever get hold of your 'revelation' that science is just another religion, then we're back to the Scopes monkey trial, arguing for the right to teach science in the classroom." Mindy pointed out.
"Bible thumpers will claim they can eliminate evolution from the classroom and teach us that the whole world began 4004 years before Christ." Lovejoy joined Mindy's concern about this unintended consequence of their pursuit of the truth.
Sidney added. "Sounds like a political answer to a philosophical question."
"You know, Sidney" Lovejoy began, "I agree with you logically about science and religion both being based upon assumptions, and so forth. But when all the world was just competing religions, it was just one guru's words against the next guy's prophet. And people always used God to justify them killing off the heretic. In the Ring, the monastery I mentioned, the leaders inspired us; yes. Then they became tyrants. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the twist was that we psychologically tortured ourselves every time we started to realize how corrupted the leaders were getting, in order to make ourselves believe we were doing the right thing. At least with science there's a sort of democracy. Science as a paradigm allows for new ideas. And if you have a good idea and better reasoning, then you will be heard."
There was a knock on the door. Maria said, "I think your friend is here." Howard escorted a pleasant looking gentleman in. Lovejoy immediately recognized him as his airplane acquaintance from the flight north.
"Will Lovejoy, I would like to introduce you to Victor, though I understand you two have already met."
"Yes, we talked about the body electric."
"And related things." Victor added.
"I had no idea who you meant when you said there was someone else coming that I knew." Lovejoy said.
Maria cautioned, "Well, we haven't quite got to that part yet."
"I thought'" Lovejoy trailed off as he noticed Howard going over to turn down the lights.
Victor sat on some pillows and seemed to tune out. Maria motioned to Lovejoy to be quiet with her finger to her lips. Lovejoy started to feel like he was in a seance. Victor stiffened, his eyes rolled up before they shut. When he started to speak, it was with a different voice than Lovejoy had come to know.
"Greetings to all here present now. We come here tonight to congratulate you on your work so far. And we come to illustrate a point. Which point will hopefully be clear before the evening passes. In the meantime we offer ourselves as a genie in the bottle to you - one inquiry for each. You may begin."
Lovejoy looked around to see if the others knew what was going on. Mindy rolled her eyes too, with an entirely different intention. Howard appeared reverent. Sidney was in her usual yogic posture. And Maria began.
"How do we come to know things?"
"There is the consciousness of the heart and the consciousness of the mind. We have sent you many prophets for both ways of knowing. Real knowing only comes when the heart and mind talk to each other."
There was silence for awhile. Lovejoy thought if he really could ask any question he wanted he should think carefully. But first he wanted to know who he was addressing.
"Who are you?" He broke the silence.
"We are who we are. We are also those with whom you, Mr. Lovejoy, have been in contact recently."
"But what's your name? What's your full name?" Lovejoy was thinking of his metaphysical training and the dictum that if you could get the name of an entity, you could command it.
"Our full name is as long and complicated as your Universe. The speaking of it is your Universe's history."
Frustrated, Lovejoy spelled out what he really meant, "But how do I know you are real?"
Howard gasped at the question.
"Who we are doesn't matter. The value of our answers is what's important."
Having had multiple questions already, Lovejoy rested.
Mindy asked, "Will my paper be accepted for publication at my journal of choice?"
As if knowing her heart, the answer came. "You might have picked something more complex than a fifty percent chance if you wished to test us."
"Who says I'm trying to test you? Maybe I really want to know."
"The minds are not yet made up. If we answer, it will seal the matter."
"That sounds like a cop-out to me."
"We can make a choice for you if you wish."
"Yes. Stick your neck out!"
Lovejoy pondered whether or not they had necks.
"It will be rejected."
"But why? It's an excellent paper."
"Too many personal conflicts on the part of the referees."
Mindy was dejected.
Howard cleared his throat. He seemed anxious. "Are we enlightened via the big path with long hard work, or are we saved suddenly through grace?"
Lovejoy recognized Howard's choice of the central riddle of at least two of the world's great religious traditions in the careful wording of his question.
"These questions are a false structure. Open your being to a Godly consciousness and you will be Godly as long as you sustain it. Sustain it continuously, and you join us."
A light went off in Lovejoy's head. He couldn't resist another question. "Would that be the Garden of Eden; our state of mind before we ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?"
"There is no Karma when there are no barriers in you aura."
Lovejoy wasn't quite ready for this one. No Karma! He thought. How could one get past Karma? While Lovejoy puzzled, Sidney's turn was last.
Sidney's brow was no longer furrowed. She looked relaxed. Mindy, impatient for this to end, leaned over to her. "Well'.Do you have a question or not?"
"If I have to be the judge of all their answers, why should I ask them any questions?" Sidney replied.
"See what you've done." Howard said angrily. "Now they're gone."
"It's no loss." Sidney said dryly.
"No loss! We could discover anything in the world, and you insult them."
"So why didn't you ask about the next rising star on the stock market? If you're so sure they're real."
"Oh, they're real all right." Howard said fervently. "You were talking to beings that surpass our known universe."
"How can you know that?" Mindy said. "It's just Victor talking. Whether it's him consciously speaking or coming from some deep subconscious place I don't know, but'"
Victor seeming to be waking up, picked up half the conversation. "I definitely wasn't conscious, believe me."
"Victor, where do you think those words came from?" Maria asked.
Sidney jumped in. "He doesn't know. He just woke up."
Victor finally got to answer. "I believe some other being uses me, uses my voicebox to speak to you."
Mindy said, "But how do you know that?"
"I just feel it deep down." Victor answered. "I know it internally."
"So you believe it with your heart." Maria said.
"I feel it in my gut, my heart, my mind; whatever. I just know it. I have lived this all my adult life."
"But it's not verifiable!" Mindy said, her voice getting louder.
"It's verified to me. Over and over people have told me that the information which came through, helped them with relationships, jobs, illness, whatever.
"Maybe it's just good advice from your subconscious." Mindy was calming herself.
"Well, even if Victor is tapping into his subconscious, that's valuable and even remarkable." Maria said.
"Fine. But there's no new information there. How can he call it 'other beings' if it's just his subconscious." Mindy hammered away. "I mean why should we listen to his subconscious for questions about the world?"
Lovejoy started slowly. "Well, first there's the point about the subconscious being able to put information together in ways that the linear logical mind cannot. Sometimes it can give us a more informed answer with a greater context.
"But now I'm thinking about another possibility. Mindy, you and I have already talked about telepathy. If telepathy is happening, and we are processing that information subconsciously, then listening to the subconscious may create access to much more data than we suspected. It would be kind of like an internet that's been going on since humans became humans, with the other 97 percent of our brains."
Mindy retorted. "If he's tapping into our subconscious minds telepathically, who's to say he's not just drawing answers from us? Just giving us what we want to hear."
Lovejoy thought out loud, "Could be, but wouldn't that still be useful if we don't have easy access to our own subconscious?"
"That's still different from beings out there, 'greater than the universe', talking through him."
"I wonder. I have been thinking about this equivalency principle. The idea that any supernatural concept can be reshaped as a psychological process, and vice versa." Lovejoy said.
"Come again." Maria requested.
"It's the idea that if we stick to talking about results, there aren't any really provable differences between science and religion. It's just a question of how you word it. If you allow, within the scientific paradigm, processes such as energy fields of human bodies, which we know exist anyhow, and the psychology of left and right brain thinking, is there really any process in religion which we couldn't account for?" Lovejoy tried to explain.
"That's my point exactly. Science is sufficient to explain all things that occur in the natural world including what happens in our minds." Mindy spoke up.
"What I'm saying, Mindy, is that it goes both ways. Religion is also capable of explaining all things in the world. One system can't prove the other wrong or right. You just have to find the right translation."
"Give me an example." Mindy demanded.
"OK. A mom, sitting at home, feels a pain in her back, gets very anxious and calls her daughter. Her daughter's not there, she's just been in a car accident and hurt her back.
"I believe many scientists think extra-sensory perception, or telepathy if you like, is possible as an energy field projected out from one person and received by another. In fact now that we're discussing it I'm remembering some studies by Dr. Puharich correlating the telepathic sender state with that of sympathetic, fight or flight arousal, and the receptor state with the parasympathetic, or relaxed state. Teleologically this makes perfect sense. The one in trouble, would be aroused and would need to call for help. Those who are relaxed and not otherwise occupied would be in the best position to help out."
Howard started up. "I'm confused. So is this science or religion?"
"Well it's just an event. People can use a religious analysis and call it a miracle carried out by God and his agents or we can use science's description as we were just doing." Lovejoy said.
"Well, what about people's souls? What saves them from Hell in your scientific description." Howard challenged.
"Howard, I'm talking about outcomes. What we see, feel and smell. And I'm talking about more than measuring. Because we can feel anguish and say we feel like we're in Hell. I can accept that, but after death. All we know about is a dead body." Lovejoy explained.
"What if the spirit talks to us. Tells us things only the dead person could have known." Victor asked.
"If there are energy fields surrounding us, energy from our thoughts emanates out into space. Information from any given thought or action is never lost. It's just a question of accessing it." Sidney asserted.
"So you're saying the channelor is tapping into a band of information that radiated out into space during the dead person's lifetime." Victor surmised.
"There's another possibility." Lovejoy added. "That the energy in and around a human persists after the body dies."
"You mean the soul lives on and the channelor really is chanelling." Victor surmised again.
Mindy asked, "How could that be? Isn't the energy you're talking about generated by the body?"
"Yes." Lovejoy answered.
"Well then, once the body dies, it stops generating the energy field." Mindy concluded.
"Actually, once generated, the field will continue unless it deteriorates. If the field feeds back into itself, in a closed pattern, it may deteriorate slowly. This is how the electron survives going around the nucleus of an atom. If the electron can feed back into itself in phase it won't degrade. That's why they can only exist in certain orbits. In fact, that's why we have just a certain number of atomic elements in the world. If the brain and body generate a field that is cohesive enough, maybe it can persist after death." Lovejoy explained.
"Then could we get information from the field?" Howard asked.
"All I'm saying is science doesn't make that impossible. We can even think up a way it might work. Nature is certainly more complicated than our most outlandish imaginations."
Maria asked, "So is that a scientific justification of a religious idea?"
"That's saying it from the scientific paradigm's point of view. A religious person might say that's a lot of hoop jumping for science to describe what we've known all along; that there is a soul which lives on after the body dies. It's simpler to say." Lovejoy answered.
"What about psychokinesis, clairvoyance, transmutation, precipitation of matter? In one form or another, these are all processes that various religions and metaphysical systems of thought claim can happen. Are you saying that science is compatible with them?" Howard asked.
"First of all, these are science's terms. A Christian doesn't usually say, 'I am eating bread and wine that has been transmuted into the body and blood of Christ.' But to answer your question, once you posit an energy field emanating from the body, it's just a question of its strength, and the ability to direct it, which could make psychokinesis possible. I call psychokinesis, EMA, to make an analogy with ESP, extra-sensory perception." Lovejoy said. "EMA stands for Extra-Muscular Action. Psychokinesis is the movement of an object at a distance without any apparent cause.
"Transmutation is extra-muscular action, sort of a microscopic psychokinesis, modifying molecular structure so one substance turns into another. And precipitation of matter would need only draw energy from the radiative realm and form it into the particular patterns of electrons, protons and neutrons to create matter where none was before. The theoretical barrier is bridged no matter how difficult you think the particulars are."
"What about precognition, prophecy if you will?" Victor asked
"Even the definition of precognition is subject to some interpretation." Lovejoy said.
"I thought it meant knowing what will happen in the future." Maria questioned.
"Well, we all know what will happen if I drop this book. It will hit the floor. There's nothing magical about that. Precognition typically is used to refer to future events we assume could not normally be predicted. But that all depends on how much information you have at your disposal. What's predictable to one person may not be to another."
Mindy joined the conversation. "Certainly science has made many more things predictable than before. We can predict solar eclipses, and even predict the results of our own endeavors to send people to the moon."
"Help me with weather, the stock market and happiness." demanded Sidney.
"What do you mean?" Mindy asked
"According to chaos theory, any process with three or more independent factors has the potential for being completely scientifically unpredictable."
"So does a 'psychic' do any better?" Mindy asked.
Lovejoy answered. "Of course they don't always do better. But at times there are cases where they seem to. Now is that because they are coincidentally guessing right or are there other mechanisms involved?"
Victor joined. "If people can tune into some aggregate knowledge from many people, like you said, an internet of subconscious information that's been processing since the beginning of human minds; that would be a source of information placing the psychic, who could tap into it, way ahead in the predictive process."
Maria joined. "What about info from other beings. Non-physical beings. You said you thought it was theoretically possible for humans to create a forcefield that could persist after death. Why couldn't there be other beings, forcefields that were able to stay strong without a body from other times and places, perhaps from the start of the universe?"
Howard joined. "Why don't you guys just accept that there is a God? That there are angels and demons? Why do you presume to have discovered everything in the universe with your little tools?"
"That's what we're talking about Howard." Sidney answered impatiently. "We're saying that science cannot rule out the possibility that such things exist."
Victor asked. "And if they do, they would represent another source of information to explain episodes of precognition."
"You know there's another aspect to this precognition thing, we haven't touched upon yet." Lovejoy added. "Knowing what happens in the future is only remarkable because time only goes in one direction."
"What do you mean?" Maria said.
"Well, if our universe, in all its different time states exists, then precognition is just walking over to some future date to see what's there. Our other three physical dimensions go both ways, left-right, up-down, forward-back. If time also goes two ways, then knowing the future is no more remarkable than knowing the past, or the present."
Mindy asked, "So you think time goes both ways?"
"Nothing in the math of physics says it can't. The idea that time's arrow is unidirectional is really an observation. But maybe that observation is incorrect."
Mindy objected. "What about Entropy? That's time's unidirectional arrow."
"Entropy works well with a nice flat Euclidean spacetime. We don't know how it works with parallel, and only loosely linked, universes. It also only deals with observed energy. But there's much energy which is not observed. There's the huge amount of apparent missing matter in the universe. Some calculations put it as much as ten times the amount of observed matter.
Lovejoy continued. "And then there's the issue of cosmic places where the laws of physics as we know them may not apply, like the perimeter of black holes. There may be organizing forces at work on the other side of black holes, at sub-elementary particle levels or at places we can't conceive of. The very existence of apparent laws of physics and mathematics is evidence of a powerful and underlying organizing force."
"Like God?" Howard asked.
"Essentially. Human searching for universal, unchanging laws of Nature is much like a search for Eternal, Omnipotent God." Lovejoy offered. "An impersonal God it may seem ' but the best mystics have always tried to follow God's lead rather than the other way around."
"I don't get how what's going on in a black hole at some far away place can affect right here and now." Maria questioned.
"Ahh. I can answer that." Sidney volunteered. "I've just reviewed a paper regarding black holes. The crucial factor in creating one is the density of energy, not the overall size. So there may be many black holes around. The paper describes the beginning of our universe as just another waxing and waning energy field in some grander, super universe. All you need to create a black hole is an energy density of, I think it was, ten to the ninety fourth gram per centimeter cubed to have a situation where every quanta of energy is a black hole. Like any black hole, no light, no energy can go beyond this field.
"However, particles and waves of energy outside the perimeter of the black hole can be pulled towards it. We see this in the skies. A large amount of matter, left over from a supernova explosion spiraling inward towards an invisible black center.
"The tiny black holes may have a surrounding halo of self organizing matter as well. The author of this paper finished with the provocative thought that within each human brain, there may be a micro black hole. A kernel around which the subtle energy fields of the body, and of the brain, swirl."
"Sounds far out, but why are you telling us this." Maria asked.
"Well, Mindy wanted to know why access to other dimensions via blackholes related to us, here and now, in our struggle to understand precognition. Maybe our minds each have their own black hole. Maybe precognition can come from learning to access information right at the light perimeter of an inner tear in the space time continuum."
"This is Wacko!" Mindy reacted. "I can handle extra-sensory perception and maybe even what Victor called 'extra-muscular action'. But personal black holes? And time travel is as much voodoo as God and 'His' demons."
"I don't think you have to go that far to imagine ways for the human brain to pick up information beyond the normal scientific barriers." Lovejoy took up another path. "We all know the Uncertainty Principle. At some level of energy, things are so tiny we can't measure them. Supposedly this is more than just a technical barrier. But evolution and our brain may have found a way around it. If you have a rock, delicately balanced upon another rock, you know eventually it will fall over. The exact moment is uncertain and seemingly unknowable. It may be due to some slight puff of wind or a tremor of the earth. Well if you set up a thousand, or a billion of such delicately balanced piggyback rocks, then you can have an early warning system for your particular rock, as an invisible waft of wind or ever-so-slight ground tremor comes along. By doing this, you're creating a system for getting information about very subtle energies that normally you wouldn't have access to.
"The nerve cells in the brain are set up with all sorts of delicately balanced threshold processes which could act like our rock arrangement. Nerve cells don't fire until they receive a sufficient level of stimulation from their dendritic ends. There are billions of nerves in the brain and trillions of nerve to nerve connections. If you analyzed only one connection at a time with regard to quantum processes you'd end up with the standard probabilistic answer. But an entire system of nerves could be influenced in a systematic way by energies which are beyond the uncertainty principle. So our brains may be sensitive instruments for detecting energy fluxes beyond the normal ability to measure."
Mindy challenged. "I thought the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Physics says there is nothing beyond the Uncertainty Principle's ability to measure."
"That's a practical statement. If you theoretically, fundamentally will never have a way of measuring it, then for all practical purposes, scientifically it is believed that we should say it doesn't exist. But finding a system that can retrieve information from that forbidden zone changes everything."
Mindy was silent. She was thinking.
They were all thinking.
Lovejoy's visit had brought them a few thoughts they had never entertained in their attempt to understand how humans 'know' things.
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.