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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Traditionally the divide between the Superstitious and the Scientific is defined by the former claiming inherent or metaphysical knowledge of certain truths. The latter, 'restrained from the truth by the shackels of 'logic' ', ends up with a schizoid image. On the one hand, scientists are used to give credibility to claims ranging from those of charlatans to popular science writers. On the other hand, solid science is seen as boring, tedious, locked in logic and a bit of a party pooper.
When I talk about superstition I naturally include all religion, traditional, fringe and established. The huge social cred that established religion has gained is because of two key functions - (1) It serves a psychological need in the human psyche and (2) it was simply the fictional narrative that survived and consolidated from a pandora's box of ancient and fleeting myths of origin. If we reverse engineer the Jesus story there is a multitude of start narratives, one being as follows: A swarthy, charismatic, hippy was watching the sun set over the sea of Galilea with 12 of his mates when, in the meditation of the moment, a thought occured to him, "Hey guys! I've got a great idea for a con."
The reast is history...or, in the context of my argument, mystery.

The superstitious amongst us (whch accounts for most of us) seem to really believe that the Truth is simply handed via the Bible or the Mayans or voices from above. Science relies on the intrinsic connection between ignorance and wondering and its history is thus defined by a shedding of light on previous mysteries.

The bottom line is that in the search for Truth, only Science, in its widest reach, can give us the tools to move forward. This vitally includes understanding and describing the physical mechanisms behind seemingly metaphysical processes. We have to understand that a single proven miracle, not governed by any known or unknown laws of physics,  de facto destroys the entire edifice of science. Laws must apply universally when tested in the same Space-Time context.

Much of what is described by physicists as not following normal logic will inevitably be explained in terms of a new physical context. That is if we survive long enough as a species or....if the originators of the computer program within which we unknowingly exist don't turn us off.  The discovery of relativistic physics by Einstein, the revelations of the quantum realm and, recently, the confirmation of the existance of the Higgs Bosun are such moments in time.

The elusive yet attainable goal of modern physics is to unite all these phenomena into a single coherent structure and this is one of the key reasons for the huge investment in the Large Hadron Collider. That this project exists is evidence that, whilst a minority of people on Earth remain superstitious, the focussed and informed leaders of technological nations understand that this is worth funding to the tune of billions.

We live in a world where the superstitious claim the moral high ground that comes with Truth. Those who painstakingly seek and verify the Truth, are swept aside in the popular winds of democracy and religion.

Correctly, you will say that what I have written here is surface level and sees the world as black and white. I agree. It is but an early foray into this terrain and I welcome more complex responses and challenges. I know that your religious faith is complex, deeply meaningful and brings cameraderie and joy to your life. In addition, the work that you or others do in the name of your belief changes the world for the better. All this I respect and celebrate. Indeed it is this world that comprises much of the documentary film work I have done over 3 decades. Science too, has its share of conmen, investigator bias and fanciful PR. But this is the exception and Scientific Method is designed to detect and remove these deviations. In the world of superstition, they are encouraged and worshipped.

There is another however. When it comes to the Truth, getting as close to what is really happening and how and why things work, that is my interest. For me it is simple. We can reduce all phenomena to their constituent parts, yet, in doing so, we lose much of the magic that comes only in the complex arrangement of fundamental pieces. The Chess Game, the Romance Novel, all these attest to this reality. The noblest game of all is nothing more than 16 pieces and 64 squares. The most emotive novel, no more than x number of letters and words. So, in searching for understanding we must accept that life in its reality is much much greater than the sum of the parts. There are of course, many scientific disciplines that study this...chaos theory, complexity theory, genetics, etc, etc.

The challenge facing real scientists and all those seeking the Truth, has to be to open one's heart to the mystery and magic of the all and , without losing this magic, to revel in the knowledge that we are all part of a marvellous manifestation of the Laws that brought this universe and others into being in the first place. This is a truly exciting journey to be on.

It is the 21st Century. We live in a modern world. We are the only species that has the tools to control the process of our own evolution. This comes with a huge responsibility. The driving force is science, but, the medium must be a human striving for a better world and a viable short and long term future for our children.