Towards a new scientific worldview, part 4: Why I bring it up

Let me just repeat for all to see what I replied to tODD when he asked me why I was so fascinated with Dr. Lanza and his book Biocentrism:

I’m not fascinated with the man and his book, I’m fascinated at how even some atheist scientists are trying to form a new worldview that is non-materialistic to account for intelligent-design observations such as the Goldilocks effect and the strange findings of quantum mechanics. I am also fascinated that a Biblical worldview can account for these observations–the way the universe supports life and the necessity of an observer–in a better, Occam’s razor, kind of way, than having to jump to all of this New Age, it’s-all-in-your-head kind of silliness.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    At the risk of beating a dead horse (in a seemingly dead thread), I would argue that (1) Lanza is not a scientist in the field of which he writes, which means his “scientist” cred is as good as mine or yours, Dr. Veith. And that (2) “the necessity of an observer” isn’t very accurate, though I suppose I’d need to know the context in which a scientist said it, as well as what you understand it to mean.

    Perhaps I’m being too pedantic. I can appreciate what you’re getting at, at a philosophical level. But I’m concerned about the poor science behind it all. Doesn’t bad science make a poor foundation for philosophical arguments, no matter how agreeable you may find it?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    At the risk of beating a dead horse (in a seemingly dead thread), I would argue that (1) Lanza is not a scientist in the field of which he writes, which means his “scientist” cred is as good as mine or yours, Dr. Veith. And that (2) “the necessity of an observer” isn’t very accurate, though I suppose I’d need to know the context in which a scientist said it, as well as what you understand it to mean.

    Perhaps I’m being too pedantic. I can appreciate what you’re getting at, at a philosophical level. But I’m concerned about the poor science behind it all. Doesn’t bad science make a poor foundation for philosophical arguments, no matter how agreeable you may find it?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, I know. Lanza is a noted biologist, and he is trying to argue that biology is the key to understanding physics and the like. I agree that biocentrism is bad science. But you will find few good scientists who hold to the old assumption that atoms are like tiny marbles and who deny that quantum particles–such as the common commodities of light and electrons–have properties that defy traditional common sense. The whole force of science as an authority has been the sensibility that everything that exists is material, thus crowding out any kind of spiritual or supernatural reality. I don’t think contemporary science has that effect.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, I know. Lanza is a noted biologist, and he is trying to argue that biology is the key to understanding physics and the like. I agree that biocentrism is bad science. But you will find few good scientists who hold to the old assumption that atoms are like tiny marbles and who deny that quantum particles–such as the common commodities of light and electrons–have properties that defy traditional common sense. The whole force of science as an authority has been the sensibility that everything that exists is material, thus crowding out any kind of spiritual or supernatural reality. I don’t think contemporary science has that effect.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “[Lanza] is trying to argue that biology is the key to understanding physics and the like.” I disagree. That would be a scientific argument. Lanza is arguing that consciousness is the key to understanding physics, and, in turn, everything. His is a philosophical argument. As one critique I read somewhere put it, it is not testable, and thus is not science.

    I don’t understand your point starting ” you will find few good scientists who …”. Of course modern scientists accept quantum mechanics (though many of them are free to ignore it in their particular fields).

    I guess I still don’t have a good grasp on what you’re getting at here, and I can’t tell if it’s because I lack your understanding of or insight into philosophy and “modern” thinking, or if perhaps (no offense) your grasp on the science involved is a bit tenuous (or some variation on those two themes).

    Quantum mechanics is weird, but it still explains and consists of the material, at some level. It just tells us that, at a very small level, the material isn’t what we might have assumed. That it is counterintuitive perhaps tells us more about the words and metaphors we use to describe it to people outside the field than it does about quantum mechanics itself. The mathematicians do not find it counterintuitive, because it is perfectly sensible as a mathematical construct. It’s just when we try to clothe it in words that it becomes something like voodoo.

    But then, are you really arguing that science hasn’t appeared to be voodoo before? That, until now, science only dealt with the “material”? I’d argue that this is an argument made from the position of one who has come to accept and feel comfortable with modern science, after its claims and experiments have become commonplace. But I do not think that our ancestors would have so blithely accepted electromagnetic waves, atoms, and so on as “sensible”, much less “material”.

    I would posit politely that you may feel that “contemporary science” (now nearing 100 years in some respects!) moves into the realm of the “spiritual” or “supernatural” simply because it is not (yet) commonplace. Perhaps in several years, if all high school students are exposed to quantum mechanics as part of their normal science education (as they are now exposed to the concepts of electromagnetic waves, atoms, and so forth), the aura of the “supernatural” will have faded from the topic, as it has from its preceding fields.

    But I’m guessing. Because I don’t know what you know, and I’m not entirely sure about what I know, either. I don’t want to appear arrogant, because I admit that my science knowledge is quite probably lacking, at least to a real physicist.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “[Lanza] is trying to argue that biology is the key to understanding physics and the like.” I disagree. That would be a scientific argument. Lanza is arguing that consciousness is the key to understanding physics, and, in turn, everything. His is a philosophical argument. As one critique I read somewhere put it, it is not testable, and thus is not science.

    I don’t understand your point starting ” you will find few good scientists who …”. Of course modern scientists accept quantum mechanics (though many of them are free to ignore it in their particular fields).

    I guess I still don’t have a good grasp on what you’re getting at here, and I can’t tell if it’s because I lack your understanding of or insight into philosophy and “modern” thinking, or if perhaps (no offense) your grasp on the science involved is a bit tenuous (or some variation on those two themes).

    Quantum mechanics is weird, but it still explains and consists of the material, at some level. It just tells us that, at a very small level, the material isn’t what we might have assumed. That it is counterintuitive perhaps tells us more about the words and metaphors we use to describe it to people outside the field than it does about quantum mechanics itself. The mathematicians do not find it counterintuitive, because it is perfectly sensible as a mathematical construct. It’s just when we try to clothe it in words that it becomes something like voodoo.

    But then, are you really arguing that science hasn’t appeared to be voodoo before? That, until now, science only dealt with the “material”? I’d argue that this is an argument made from the position of one who has come to accept and feel comfortable with modern science, after its claims and experiments have become commonplace. But I do not think that our ancestors would have so blithely accepted electromagnetic waves, atoms, and so on as “sensible”, much less “material”.

    I would posit politely that you may feel that “contemporary science” (now nearing 100 years in some respects!) moves into the realm of the “spiritual” or “supernatural” simply because it is not (yet) commonplace. Perhaps in several years, if all high school students are exposed to quantum mechanics as part of their normal science education (as they are now exposed to the concepts of electromagnetic waves, atoms, and so forth), the aura of the “supernatural” will have faded from the topic, as it has from its preceding fields.

    But I’m guessing. Because I don’t know what you know, and I’m not entirely sure about what I know, either. I don’t want to appear arrogant, because I admit that my science knowledge is quite probably lacking, at least to a real physicist.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My previous comment did a poor job of distinguishing between two eras of science. I used the phrase “modern science” to refer to that pre-quantum-mechanics knowledge, while mentioned “contemporary science” in the context of more recent, quantum-mechanics-informed science. This may not have been obvious, as I chose those terms somewhat hastily. I hope my point comes across, anyhow.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My previous comment did a poor job of distinguishing between two eras of science. I used the phrase “modern science” to refer to that pre-quantum-mechanics knowledge, while mentioned “contemporary science” in the context of more recent, quantum-mechanics-informed science. This may not have been obvious, as I chose those terms somewhat hastily. I hope my point comes across, anyhow.