Skip to comments."Integrative Science”: The Death-Knell of Scientific Materialism?
Posted on 07/05/2003 4:20:08 PM PDT by betty boop
Integrative Science: The Death-Knell of Scientific Materialism?
A Meditation Excerpting from:
Toward an Integrative Science, Menas Kefatos and Mihai Drãgãnescu;
The Fundamental Principles of the Universe and the Origin of Physical Laws, Attila Grandpierre;
The Dynamics of Time and Timelessness: Philosophy, Physics and Prospects for Our Life, Attila Grandpierre.
Kafatos is University Professor of Interdisciplinary Science, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA.
Drãgãnescu is affiliated with the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania.
Grandpierre is chief research assistant of the Konkoly Observatory of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary.
BEFORE WE EMBARK ON THIS MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, we need some clarifications:
RE: Scientific Materialism: Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin (a Marxist, as Grandpierre takes pains to point out) writes:
|We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute .|
In other words, matter in its motions is assumed to be (against all reason, if need be) the ultimate basis of Reality. The corollary to this is that nothing can exist that is not explainable on the basis of purely material causes arising within normal space-time. All phenomena of life can be explained by physical laws governing electromagnetism, gravity, chemistry, and quantum fields. Anything not explicable on that basis is held a priori not to exist. Consciousness is not any kind of natural principle in its own right, but is merely the epiphenomenon of the electrochemical activity of a (more or less random) succession of brain states.
RE: Integrative Science: According to Kefatos and Drãgãnescu (et al.), consciousness is the last great frontier of science. The integrative science of which they speak is both structural (Standard Model quantum mechanics; i.e., quantum theory as renormalized for Einsteinian Relativity) and phenomenological (having to do with qualia; i.e., subjective experience, sensations, feelings, thoughts that is, with consciousness itself). It also involves information science and mathematics, particularly set theory and, given discoverable symmetries at all levels of nature, geometry. The newly-perceived urgency of the consciousness problem is to some extent a by-product of the measurement problem of quantum mechanics; that is, the problem of the observer.
Kefatos and Drãgãnescu write:
|The non-locality of quantum processes in the universe is a strong argument for an underlying deep reality out of space and time (Kafatos, Nadeau, 1990, 1999, Kafatos 1998, Kafatos 1999):
Quantum theory states that whatever is meant by the word reality, it has to be non-local and counter to the view of local, realistic classical theories. The experimental evidence is revealed by the Aspect and Gisin experiments [...] and imply a non-local, undivided reality which reveals itself in the physical universe through non-local correlations and which can be studied through complementary constructs or views of the universe. Quantum theory and its implications open, therefore, the door for the thesis that the universe itself may be conscious (although this statement cannot be proven by the usual scientific method which separates object from subject or the observed from the observer). Kafatos (1999).
It is evident that the structural science has arrived at the frontier of a deep reality, which is outside of space and time (Drãgãnescu, 1979, 1985), and has opened the doors of a realm of reality in which phenomenological processes become predominant. This level of reality is the source of all that is phenomenological, and also is the source of the deep energy used and formed by phenomenological information into strings, membranes or elementary particles.
The structural science that remained purely structural (with its prequantum or classical domain, then with the quantum domain of the Standard Theory and followed with the quantum domain of Supersymmetry and Strings) until it reached the frontiers of deep reality, will be transformed entirely into a structural-phenomenological science because of a gnoseological wave, produced by some knowledge of deep reality. The phenomenological is always present in all reality of the universe either in a closed or an intro-open way.
When it is closed (the structural is hiding the phenomenological), in a very good first approximation, the reality may be treated as structural, but in a second approximation the phenomenological has to be taken into account. The classical physics, in a second approximation will admit phenomenological processes, because these are always present in the substrate of all things in a holistic way.
When it is intro-open (the phenomenological is directly available through the structural), the structural approximation is not anymore possible, and this, we believe, is the case for trying to understand mind and consciousness.
The important forms of consciousness that Kefatos and Drãgãnescu want to take into consideration are, broadly speaking, the following:
(1) natural human consciousness (related to mind and life);
(2) artificial, supposedly human-like consciousness (to be eventually obtained if some structures of hardware develop quantum phenomena similar to those of the human mind); and
(3) Fundamental Consciousness of existence (I kid you not: That prospect ought to give Richard Lewontin the heeby-jeebies, but probably wont, since apparently he is determined to rule it out on a priori grounds).
More practically speaking, the phenomena of mind and consciousness are seen by these men as relating to:
(1) understanding the foundations of quantum physics;
(2) the explanation of biological evolution and life in general;
(3) the existence of intelligent robots and the possibility of conscious robots;
(4) the cosmology of the universe and the sense that it, perhaps, is related to the Fundamental Consciousness;
(5) the underlying deep reality as a basis for the Fundamental Consciousness and as a source for minds and consciousness in the universe.
They go on to say:
|The structural-phenomenological theories consider the phenomenal experience as a fundamental phenomenon, which cannot be explained by contemporary physics, either classical or quantum. These theories may be: b1) dualistic, considering that the phenomenal experience is transcendental; b2) intrinsic, considering that the phenomenological properties are inherent in the nature of quantum phenomena, for instance, at the level of the quantum wave function; b3) extrinsic, considering that an extra-ingredient, outside all the physical ingredients known today, is necessary for explaining phenomenal experience....
Dualistic theories (b1) cannot be retained in modern-day science. Such theories are showing that important aspects of mind and consciousness cannot be explained by contemporary science.
Some structural-phenomenological theories consider that quantum processes in the brain inherently involve experience phenomena, whereas others propose a quantum physics rooted in the deepest layer of existence where the source (the extra-ingredient) of the phenomenological senses may be found....
The existence of such a deep source was proposed many years ago by Bohm (1980, 1985) see also Bohm & Hiley (1993), Peat (1999) and Drãgãnescu (1979, 1985). David Bohm named active information, the deep information, considered by him not to be of the digital form, but related to the nature of senses. Today, a great number of scientists from domains like physics, chemistry and information science are recognizing not only mental experience as a scientific truth, but they consider that such a manifestation is a general phenomenon of existence.....
In their own environment (informatter) the generation of phenomenological senses cannot be described formally, it is a non-formal process, although a general frame of tendencies for such phenomena are perhaps present. This process of non-formal processing might explain the phenomena of intuition and [creativity] of the mind and consciousness.
Continuing the explication of Kefatos and Drãgãnescu, quote:
THE COMPETITION OF TWO PRINCIPLES
There are two contrary principles today that are haunting the community of scientists:
A) The structural science is sufficient to explain all nature,... life, mind and consciousness.
B) The structural science is not sufficient, and is incomplete for explaining all existence,... life, mind and consciousness....
The inertia of structural science is very great, and many scientists are declaring in an open way that they believe firmly in principle A [e.g., Lewontin, Dawkins, Pinker, Dennett, et al.]. They hope, for instance, that the living cell or the brain will be completely modeled in the frame of the structural science on digital computers, because physical law is amenable to computer simulation and biological structures are derived from physical law....
We predict that science will renounce principle A for principle B due primarily to the difficulties enountered in the explanation of mind and consciousness.... The problem of consciousness leads...not only to the last frontier, mostly unexplored, of science, but also to perhaps the most important frontier for mankind in the 21st century....
Kefatos and Drãgãnescu note that integrative science would bring new ways of doing science:
-- based on foundational principles that cut across different levels;
-- able to address the phenomenological realms;
-- start from the whole to study the parts;
-- to find connections from all fields of human experience (e.g., perennial philosophies, metaphysics, etc.) to explore and enlarge scientific frontiers (as expressed in foundational principles);
-- returning to structural approaches to make concrete suggestions for new theories, which are based on phenomenological realms but in turn provide structural solutions;
-- prescribing general approaches from where current structural theories can be derived (e.g., category theory of mathematics as the common underlying language of physical/mental/deep reality realms);
-- it will not insist on separating object from subject.
The cross-disciplinary approach of integrative science is also evident in the work of Attila Grandpierre. A specialist in solar physics, he asks the pregnant question: Is biology reducible to physics? And answers with a resounding: NO! On Grandpierres speculation, the foundational universal laws boil down to three categories: the physical, the biological (psychological) and the noetic (logic [mathematics], reason).
As his speculative conjecture goes, the latter two cannot be derived from the first of these. And the reason for that is the most basic law of physics is the principle of least action more familiarly known to philosophers as the Law of Parsimony. Following Ervin Bauer, who Grandpierre identifies as the greatest biological thinker of our era, he says that there is a fundamental principle of biological life that exists as a countering force against the laws of physics, and that the two types of law express in tension:
|By my evaluation, the most thorough, systematic, insightful foundational work of theoretical biology, which is at the same time also explicitly articulated in mathematical formulations is that of Ervin Bauer (1920, 1935/1967). It is hard to evaluate the real significance of his work, and its marginal influence to the present-day science seems to be rooted largely in historical circumstances and in the ignorance of dominant materialism. Ervin Bauer was born (1890) and educated in Hungary. He ha[d] been working in the most productive period of his life (19251937) in Soviet Union, in Moscow and Leningrad. He became arrested and jailed in prison in 1937 and died as a victim of Stalins massacres in 1942 (Tokin, 1963/1965, 1126).
In his main work Theoretical Biology (1935/1967) he formulated the key requirements of living systems. The first requirement is that the living system is able to change in a constant environment, it has potential energies available to work. His second requirement tells that a living system acts against the physical and chemical laws and modifies its inner conditions. His third, all-inclusive requirement of living systems tells that The work made by the living system, within any environmental conditions, acts against the realisation of that equilibrium which would set up on the basis of the initial conditions of the system in the given environment by the physical and chemical laws (Bauer, 1967, 44). This third requirement does not contradict to the laws of physics since the living system has some internal equipment, the use of which may modify the final state reached from the same initial state in the same environment. The fundamental and general law of the living systems is the work made against the equilibrium, a work made on the constituents of the system itself (ibid., 48).
...Bauer formulates the universal law of biology in the following form: The living and only the living systems are never in equilibrium, and, supported by their free energy reservoir, they are continuously invest[ing] work against the realisation of the equilibrium which should occur within the given outer conditions on the basis of the physical and chemical laws (ibid., 51).
One of the most spectacular and substantial difference[s] between machines and living systems is that in the case of machines the source of the work is not related to any significant structural changes. The systemic forces of machines ... work only if the constituents of the machine are taken into motion by energy sources which are outer to these constituents. The inner states of the constituents of a machine remain practically constant. The task of the constituents of a machine is to convert some kind of energy into work. In contrast, in the living systems the energy of the internal build-up, of the structure of the living matter is transformed into work. The energy of the food is not transformed into work, but to the maintenance and renewal of their internal structure and inner states. Therefore, the living systems are not power machines (ibid., 64). The fundamental principle of biology acts against the changes which would set up in the system on the basis of the Le Chatelier-Braun principle (ibid., 59). The Bauer-principle recognises the problem of the forces acting at the internal boundary surfaces as the central problem of biology....
Now Definition 2 and 3 is very useful when evaluating the level of biology if it represents or not an autonomous ontological level irreducible to the physical principle. If new threats emerge on the development or complexification of a system, these emergent characteristics may still belong to the realm of physics. Emergent materialism is a monist ontology based on the belief that physical principles may trigger processes that determine the development of emergent processes, including the living processes, too. With the use of Definitions 1, 2 and 3 I show here that the concept of emergent materialism in the biological context is based on a false belief. The material behaviour (Definition 2) tends towards the physical equilibrium. The biological behaviour is governed by the life-principle (Definition 3) which acts just against the material behaviour. It can do this only by a proper modification of the boundary conditions of the physical laws. The biological modification of the (internal) boundary conditions of (living) organism is behind the realm of physics. The biological activity acts on the degrees of freedom that are not active in the material behaviour. Therefore, we found a gap between the realms of physics and biology. If the biological principle is active, because the conditions of its activity (a certain amount of complexity, suitable material structures, energies etc.) are present, it realises a thorough and systematic modification of internal boundary conditions of living organisms. In comparison, in an abstracted organism in which the biological principle is not active, the same internal boundary conditions would be not modified, and so the organism should fall towards physical equilibrium [i.e., physical death from the standpoint of the organism]. In principle, it would be possible to fill the gap with processes in which the biological modification is not realised in a rate necessary to govern the physical processes. In practice, such intermediate processes are strongly localised in space and time, and the ontological gap is maintained by the continuous and separate actions of the physical and biological principles. This formulation offers us an unprecedented insight into the ultimate constituent of reality. Using the newly found formulation of the ultimate principle of matter, our Definition 1 may be formulated in a more exact manner:
Definition 1': any existent is regarded as an ultimate reality, if it is based on a universal and ontologically irreducible ultimate principle.
The essential novelty of the biological phenomenon therefore consists in following a different principle, which is able to govern the biological phenomena even when the physical principles keep their universal validity. Until a process leads to a result that is highly improbable by the laws of physics, it may be still a physical process. But when many such extremely improbable random process is elicited, and these extremely improbable events are co-ordinated in a way that together they follow a different ultimate principle which makes these processes a stable, long lifetime, lawful process, then we met with a substantial novelty which cannot be reduced to a lower level principle.
An analogy may serve to shed light to the way of how biology acts when compared to physics. It is like Aikido: while preserving the will of the attacker and modifying it using only the least possible energy, we get a result that is directly the opposite of the will of the attacking opponent. It is clear that the ever-conspicuous difference between living beings and seemingly inanimate entities lies in the ability of the former to be spontaneously active, to alter their inner physical conditions according to a higher organising principle in such a way that the physical laws will launch processes in them with an opposite direction to that of the death direction of the equilibrium which is valid for physical systems. This is the Aikido principle of life. A fighter practising the art of Aikido does not strive after defending himself by raw physical force, instead he uses his skill and intelligence to add a small power impulse, from the right position, to the impetus of his opponents attack, thus making the impetus of the attacker miss its mark. Instead of using his strength in trying to stop a hand coming at him, he makes its motion faster by applying some little technique: he pulls on it. Thus, applying little force, he is able to suddenly upset the balance of the attack, to change it, and with this to create a situation advantageous for him.
The Aikido principle of life is similar to the art of yachting. There, too, great changes can be achieved by investing small forces. As the yachtsman, standing on board the little ship, makes a minute move to shift his weight from one foot to the other, the ship sensitively changes its course. Shifting ones weight requires little energy, yet its effect is amplified by the shift occurring in the balance of the hull. Control is not exerted on the direct surface physical level, but on the level of balance; it is achieved via altering balance in a favourable direction that against much larger forces, the effect of very small forces prevails. However, being able to alter balance in a favourable direction presupposes a profound (explicit or implicit) knowledge of contributing factors, also the attitude and ability to rise above direct physical relations, as well as the ability to independently bring about the desired change. If life is capable of maintaining another equilibrium of life, by a process the direction of which is contrary to the one pointing towards the physical equilibrium, then the precondition of life is the ability to survey, to analyse, and to spontaneously, independently and appropriately control all the relevant physical and biological states. Thus, indeed, life cannot be traced back to the general effect of the death magnet of physical equilibrium and mere blind chance that are the organisation factors available for physics. The principle of life has to be acknowledged as an ultimate principle which is at least as important as the basic physical principle, and which involves just the same extent of objectivity as the physical principle. If it is a basic feature of life that it is capable of displaying Aikido-effects, then life has to be essentially different from the inanimateness of physics, just as the principle of the behaviour of the self-defending Aikido disciple is different from the attackers one. Thus in the relationship of the laws of life and those of physics, two different parties are engaged in combat, and the domain of phenomena of two essentially different basic principles are connected. Practising the art of Aikido is possible only when someone recognise[s] and learn[s] the principle and practice of Aikido. Now regarding the origin of the principle of Aikido, it results from the study of the art of fight. Regarding the origin of the principle of biology, it cannot result from the physical laws by a physical principle, since the ultimate principle of physics acts just the contrary to the life principle. Therefore, the life principle shows up as an independent ultimate principle above the realm of physics. [Boldface added]
In his paper on Time easily the most challenging of the three papers cited here for the intelligent non-specialist, but worth engaging all the same [and which was presented at a NATO science conference in 2002] Grandpierre speculates on Soul as a first principle:
Analysing the concept of soul it is found ... that in some ancient high culture the soul is conceptualised as the ultimate driving factor of life. The Dictionary of Hungarian Language ... determines the concept of the soul as the following: 1. <By a primitive> concept the soul is the hypothesised, more-or-less material ultimate carrier of life phenomena, which departs the body at the moment of death. At the same time, a closer scrutiny reveals that this allegedly primitive conceptualisation is related to the deepest scientific concept of mankind, which is the concept of first principles. Eisler ... stated that soul appeared as a (first) principle at the special kind of animism of ancient Greek philosophers.
Scientific research attempts to reveal facts and deeper relations. Science begins when we search the laws behind the phenomena. Now laws may be regarded as deeper level relations behind the immediate, brute facts. Although laws help us to explain and predict phenomena, they may be regarded as being only the first steps on the way to find the most clear and most transparent truth possible, which is the ultimate aim of science. Therefore, the real basis of science is related to the laws behind the laws, and to find the ultimate law which is able to explain all the laws intermediate between empirical facts and mental understanding. Now the concept that developed the notion of ultimate and universal laws, the first principles, may be regarded as the highest point of scientific conceptualisation. Therefore, soul as a universal first principle, as an ontological principle is a scientifically remarkable concept from which one can expect fundamental insights into ... Nature. [Boldface added]
I'll spill the beans on Grandpierre, though youll have to read his paper(s) to follow the scientific basis and reasoning for his solar/soul-ar hypothesis: In the end, this solar physicist speculates that the final cause of our universe and all life in it is extra-cosmic completely outside of space and time. This is the same Fundamental Consciousness about which both Kefatos and Drãgãnescu also speculate.
This is a new kind of science, indeed. May it prosper!
I'm kinda still working on the names here (Menas Kefatos, Mihai Drãgãnescu, Attila Grandpierre) but sure, why not?
The names of baseball players, Hollywood actors, talent show singers, reality tv performers, and American politicians are easier, though....
I believe in strict causality, at least in the macro world, at least in realms accessible to human perception.
The tension between strict causality and free will is well known.
When someone claims to have free will, he or she is saying [my translation] "My outputs are not functions of my inputs." Very well, the question fairly leaps out: What are they functions of?
Heisenberg uncertainty does not rescue free will: a random robot is still a robot.
So I believe(d) in "strong AI", in other words that we could eventually construct an intelligent machine. If the world is reducible to physics, strong AI sort of follows.
Of late I have been reading widely in Buddhism (no worries; a 52-year-old Jew is not going to convert to Buddhism) and also on the nature of Time. Having convinced myself (on grounds other than his) that Julian Barbour is correct and that the passage of time is an illusion (a phenomenon, a perception...not 'really' real), and mixed up with all the Buddhism I've absorbed...I have come around to the ideas expressed here that "structural science has arrived at the frontier of a deep reality, which is outside of space and time (Drãgãnescu, 1979, 1985), and has opened the doors of a realm of reality in which phenomenological processes become predominant."
Not to say I understand all of this, but it "integrates" much of my reading into a semi-coherent whole.
I am still deeply confused (who is not?) about the nature of time. And why does causality appear regnant at our level?
I was trained as a scientist and engineer; these conclusions represent a difficult and painful journey.
Buddhism (among many other things) tells us to cease our constant conceptualizing; the world cannot be understood via concepts. But my JOB is to do little more than fancy conceptualizing....the outcome of which (among other things) is Neil Armstrong's bootprints on the Moon, rather undeniable.
So conceptualizing works (in a limited regime). But does it lead us anywhere that is not ultimately sterile?
And, BTW, it is fascinating that modern theories of the origin of the Universe can be boiled down (oversimplified) to "LET THERE BE LIGHT!"...
Oddly enough, we see this same pseudo-science slit-filtering process taking place on a daily basis right here in these threads. This guy just defined his religion/god, not science.
boris, causality is "implied," once one starts talking about a "Fundamental Consciousness." IMHO at least.
We run to Buddhism when we've "given up" on getting answers from Reason. Perhaps ultimate answers cannot be gotten from Reason. But the moment we say that, the entire course of Western science, and maybe Western civilization itself, is DEAD.
My own view is that man is perfectly capable of exploring the truth of our universe by Reason -- and experience: His Creator equipped him that way. The amazing thing to me is these three thinkers, coming out of a regime of Soviet "thought repression" that some of their peers had to die for (cf Ervin Bauer) are the ones pointing the way.... That must mean something, in the great scale of things. JMHO FWIW.
Thanks so much for writing!
That would seem to be the entire point, Cicero. At least to my way of thinking which -- God knows -- ain't "perfect."
So what do you suppose is Thomas Nagel's problem? WHY the self-censorship?
Maybe consciousness is the "carrier wave" of all existence, based on how it was all created.
THAT point seems abundantly clear to me, ALS. Thanks for "the reality check!"
All I hope is that I live long enough to see quantum mechanics thrown into the trash heap of ridiculous physics theories. It will happen.
"Nonlocal" is a deceptive way of saying "instantaneous action at a distance" (IAD). Any dynamic physical theory that requires or predicts IAD is bogus. The theory may be bogus because it is fundamentally a static theory (Newtonian gravity) or rotten to the core because it predicts IAD (quantum mechanics).