TOPAZ Issue 1 / 2001
Welcome
An insight into Stress
Garden of Remedy and Easement
New Science Eyes
Hildegard von Bingen
Pioneering youth project
Film Review: The Unbreakable
Sustainable Development

New Science Eyes

Modern science often claims that reality is what the instruments measure - not what we as a living instrument can measure. But is this really the case? Are we willing to dismiss and discount our own experience in this way?

As you begin to read this, take a few seconds to look around you. See how many things you notice that are a product of modern science and technology. If you are indoors there may well be a television, a radio, the telephone, a microwave cooker, the spectacles you are wearing, the electrical wiring in your house, the synthetic material in your clothes, the chemicals in the paint and varnish that we use to cover everything.

Maybe you took an aspirin for a headache this morning, or you took vitamin pills; even the water in the tap is chemically treated. The list is enormous. Whilst some of these products of modern science have clearly benefited us, at the same time we are well aware of the destructive consequences of the application of science, whether it be in weaponry of all kinds, the chemical pollution of the environment or the concerns about genetic engineering.

Many of the examples listed above began with a simple invention or by a chance observation. The development of the initial discovery often then involved the growing edifice of modern science to turn a simple idea into a highly effective piece of modern technology. This article explores the range of validity of the modern scientific approach.

The objects of investigation in modern physical science are mostly not the direct registrations of our senses. This has been long recognised. The notion of primary and secondary qualities has evolved over many centuries to affirm this point. Primary qualities are defined as those which can be objectively measured - such as length, time elapsed, weight, temperature etc. Secondary qualities are our human response to these; sensations such as warmth or cold, bright or dull, loud or soft - all of which are termed as inherently subjective. Modern science deals in the domain of primary qualities. Through the eyes of modern science they are seen to be the true reality. All secondary qualities are then seen as the internal human response to these primary conditions and have, in themselves, no external reality.

A few examples will help to clarify this notion which is at the heart of much of modern science. We have all experienced a situation where two people are in the same room and one feels warm and the other cold. The temperature in the room, as measured by a thermometer, is the same for both. The measured temperature is scientifically a primary quality, feeling warm or cold can be subjective and is therefore seen to be secondary from the scientific viewpoint. Of course, for the person themselves it is the subjective sensation that matters most, for them to be told the fact that it is 20 degrees Centigrade is irrelevant.
The human as an integrated part of a purposeful universe The same distinction can be made for the brightness of lighting in the room, the volume of music being played, or whether a weight is heavy or light. In each case there is a primary reality and then a subjective experience. The examples are multiple. The objectivity of modern science in this comes from the impersonal nature of the primary qualities.

The separation between primary and secondary qualities was one of the fundamentalisms to emerge from the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. It has led today to a science that is often cut off from our direct feeling registration of the world and the great importance of that.

So what does the world of primary qualities, the world of modern science that is, look like? Image yourself in the following way. You have a ruler, a clock, a pair of weighing scales, a thermometer... in fact you might have any physical instrument you wish to use. You can even have a microscope to look into the smallest detail, a telescope to see things that are some distance away.

In addition you can have tools of all kinds to break things apart to investigate what they are made of. You measure everything and orderly note down the measurements. Your feelings don’t come into this, the rule is measure, classify and find relationships between measurements and classes.

Well, the world you end up with is a mostly abstract world of classifications, numbers, relationships and formulas. It is abstract because it does not relate directly to the experience of our senses and feelings - it is a world of so-called primary, not secondary, qualities. As already said, it is a way of looking at the world that is successful within the limits of its own framework. To many people it is a strange world, full of jargon and technical concepts often at distance from their own actual experience.

It should be clear that modern science can describe in great detail just a limited part of our experience of the world. Over time, increasing numbers of people have sought to claim the framework of modern science as the only true reality and that all else must be explained within this framework. The internal feelings and registrations that we all have, and which are the actual moment-to-moment experience of our lives, are often seen as highly subjective secondary emergent phenomena, to be explained by complex biochemical interactions of primary quantities in our brains and nervous systems. Modern science often claims that reality is what the instruments measure - not what we as a living instrument can measure. But is this really the case? Are we willing to dismiss and discount our own experience in this way?

At this point, maybe pause for a moment to look at this in a very different way. Deliberately stop and listen to the sounds around you. What can you hear? Perhaps there is traffic noise or the drone of a machine; perhaps people’s voices or music playing; maybe natural sounds such as birds singing. Is the sound loud or soft? Harmonious or discordant? Maybe look around from where you are sitting. What colours do you see? Are the colours ‘warming’ or ‘cooling’? Are they ‘light’ or ‘heavy’? Become aware of your posture and the tensions in the body. How do you feel? Tense or relaxed? Internally running fast with a sense of ‘must get on with things’, or slow with the opportunity to be at peace for a moment? We experience the world in multiple ways. Consider for a moment the richness of our inner experience of the world. For ourselves, these things are the ‘primary’ reality and, in fact, the most natural starting place.

Are not many of the important things in life of this inner nature? Qualities such as honesty, respect, justice, trust, the spirit of discovery, a warm smile, care for other people - these certainly cannot be measured with a ruler or a clock, and yet they are of fundamental importance throughout our lives. It is sometimes suggested that science and this realm of human qualities are totally separate and should not be considered together. This separation has been at the root of the often-strained historical relationship between religion and science. But is this separation really valid? We are after all one being.

Modern science looks at nature through the ‘window’ of its measuring instruments. It often reduces nature to number. It is these human instruments that explore life directly and which we can develop through actual experience - if we develop and trust them. From these human faculties the arts and skills of science originally grew, but much of modern science has become alienated from human experience and values and the innate human skills of sensitivity, detection and measurement. In its competitive drive for what it terms progress, a harsh technological world has emerged which often destroys the very qualities and standards that make us human.

So yes, science has benefited us greatly in multiple ways and its insights into the workings of the physical universe are fascinating and profound. But if we look at the incredible engineering and natural science of our own human design, it is absolutely breath-taking in every respect - from the micro-world of each of the millions of cells that work for us, to the extraordinary functioning of the human heart, and the incredible ‘technology’ that is involved in you being able to read and understand the writing on this page.This should lead us to a certain humility, carefulness and responsibility in all scientific approach and methodology; in which we should be taking the lead from the natural order and sensitivity that is a human being and the natural order of this planet and the universe we live in...

There is nothing in modern technology that can even remotely approach the range of capability and faculties that we ourselves possess. Often the fact of this we treat with familiarity, as we dismiss the incredible machinery that is ourselves. Is it really sensible to reduce our appreciation of ourselves, and of the universe, to that which can be measured with the comparatively crude instruments of our own construction? No instrument can measure respect or love - but we can.

This is not simply a philosophical consideration, for this issue is of increasing importance to us all. It has been a subject of much debate over the last few centuries and is increasingly becoming so today for definite reasons. Scientific evidence confirms that we are on the edge of the next mass extinction of animal and plant species due to our continual abuse of the environment; that the earth’s climate is changing rapidly due to pollution; that ozone layer depletion is causing increasing skin cancers; that there is an increasing re-emergence of infectious disease. The number of such issues continues to grow almost daily. Science has much to say about all of this, although the public seems to have an increasing distrust of experts regarding these issues. Often in the scientific world there is a view that if only the public were better scientifically informed, all their fears about these issues would melt away. But is it just a fear of the unknown? Maybe the public caution is something that is not that personal, but rather an urging from a very real instinct. Is it, in fact, a deeper human instinct that measures far more accurately than any machine?

It is time to re-assert the importances that come out from the very core features of what it means to be human. New science eyes are needed that can incorporate the best of existing scientific and technological advancement into a science that takes into account the fullest experience of ourselves and all life. We need a science that looks at feeling and knowing in unison and that can move beyond the dichotomy of an objective external or subjective internal appreciation of the world.
We need a science that is the natural spirit of discovery and enquiry into the purposes and workings of life, so as to respect, as well as to understand, the sanctity and workings of all living things.

So, the building of this new world-view of science needs to begin in ourselves with the extraordinary living design that we are. We see the world through the same eyes with which we see ourselves. All can be in agreement about the physical measurements of science, but when it comes to being skilled in the science of human sensitivity, this is a very different matter.
This requires training and personal development within many realms that are totally unfamiliar to science as it is today. We are all born with the latent capability of an unbiased sensitivity. However, for this to be accurate and useful it needs to be trained and refined as part of a personal development journey. The starting point is not simply the gathering of sensory registrations; it is rather the living appreciation of the natural ordering throughout all life and the expression of this within the human systems and faculties. The reality of this ordering is not a question of theoretical debate but rather a matter of actual experience from which scientific evidence naturally arises.

We need to begin to look at the world and, most importantly of all at ourselves, through different eyes. New fields of knowledge are needed, such as: the science of feeling, the science of value, the science of instinct and the science of thinking. All of these arising out from the natural scientific instrumentation that we actually have inside ourselves. These new sciences will take fully into account the factual observations of modern science but, in themselves, will not be theoretical in their construction. They will arise out from the living experience and the natural training of these human faculties - with accomplishment being measured in terms of throughout personal development, merit and humanity. Is this not the purpose of our living?

Dr Chris Gordon.

Dr Gordon obtained his PhD in theoretical physics and has been involved in scientific research for the last twenty years. He is currently undertaking research relating to global environment issues.

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