Sherds of Physis Shattered by Dr. Andreas Wolfsson

Passing to the historian-of-science perspective, we present a demythologised account of the history of physics, and hence give an insight to the makeup of its mentality and its formation through the centuries to the present. In the process, we again have the opportunity to dispel some wide-spread scientific mythologies. We readily admit this much: that in its formation during the 20th century, physics has demolished some preconceptions which are commonly part of a mechanistic, or for an outsider materialistic, or quite generally scientistic Weltanschauung. This process began with the special theory of relativity, which was compelled to drop the classical hypothesis of the absoluteness of time, while the general theory of relativity did the same with respect to the geometry of physical space. Quantum mechanics on the one hand dropped determinism, and, on the other hand, with the hypothesis of the wave nature of matter, shook the classical assumption of the corpuscular constitution of matter. This latter was eliminated definitely by quantum field theories, where instead of particles, the quantum fields generating them are promoted to absolute status. Finally, with the thermodynamic entropy, the “knowledge” of the individual becomes an integral part of physical description.

In connection to this formation a new mythology has arisen: Glancing over this process, some come to the conclusion that modern science is maybe breaking out of its original boundaries, from material becoming more and more spiritual. This on the one hand makes it a suitable tool in the hands of certain pseudo-scientific, pseudo-spiritual tendencies. On the other hand, it prompts certain people—we may think about the endeavours of David Bohm or Fritjof Capra—to compare physical theories with spiritual-religious doctrines. From the traditional metaphysical perspective, with the above strict definition of the operation of physics in our hands, we are able to dispel this pseudo-myth; for this process of the disintegration of presumed absolutes takes place in the domain of the interpretation of the theories, that is, the altogether unverifiable hypotheses. Thus, we can by all means allow that on the level of profane philosophy this may raise problems or may have consequences at all. On the level of traditional metaphysics, however – that is, real spirituality and its reflections, the orthodox religions – this is not possible, and for the simple reason that higher cannot stem from lower, only vice versa. And physics stems from the strictly materialistic order, and the conceptual foundations of the theories can in the best case be characterised by the metaphor of a “swamp”. More generally, we will state that “nothing that is established from below will afterwards be able to truly engage the spiritual, the order of perennial values” (László). Scientism naturally ignores the very existence of such an order since modern science does not expose its own limitations. In contrast to all that moderns think about knowledge, knowledge of this order is such that nothing—absolutely nothing!—can be seized from it without it “appearing as penetrating the whole being of man, with impact on his existence and way of life as well” (Horváth).

With this, we arrive at the last part of our criticism, which is directed at post-modern physics and its community aspects. We show that the reign of quantity spells the end of that kind of science which avid scientists of the 19th – early 20th century cultivated, and as it is still pictured for outsiders through scientific propaganda. This part of our criticism is formulated from the perspective of such a scientist. We identify two defining characteristics of post-modern science:

  1. With the appearance of scientific inventions that can be applied almost directly in engineering (the so-called laser, for example) the frontier between physical and engineering sciences is fading away.
  2. Scientism cannot be separated from its social aspect anymore, it lives in a perfect symbiosis with the social structure that is generated by it and sustains it at the same time. There are two reasons for this, both of them false and suggested by hidden background forces: one is the alleged ever faster exhaustion of technologies, and the other is that people expect from modern science the solution of certain problems menacing its survival—an altogether vain expectation, as the crisis of the modern world is a crisis of orders of existence, and any endeavour trying to solve this on the mere material level cannot but increase the fragmentation and vulnerability of the world.

In the post-modern era, the most striking phenomenon is the astounding inflation of physics, in every respect. Indeed, for the above reasons, or generally because of its astonishing “usefulness”, governments, and even those of mediocre operating efficiency, lay a huge stress on the promotion of scientific activity (so much, that this often becomes a measure of the quality of governments). Recently, states from the third world have also joined this tendency, where in the last decades “research groups” of ever dwindling quality have proliferated. Due to the increased attention and resource requirement, there is a strong demand on controlling quality and productivity. This is however not easy at all, on the one hand because the activity pursued here is inherently difficult to judge on a quantitative basis, and on the other hand because the ignorance of outsiders and the deliberate bombast of scientists, make it difficult for the former to get an insight into the real processes. The appearance of the most block-headed quantitative criteria has lead to the situation that nowadays it does not pay off to pursue “difficult” problems. It is an everyday experience that there are lots of fundamental unsolved problems in the theories, but nobody really harps on these as that would ruin productivity; it is simpler to accept the theories as given, and rather continue scratching about within their premises. The aforementioned inflation is therefore penetrating every modality of science: what can be considered physics and physical knowledge, who can be considered a physicist, and what should be the adequate activity of a physicist.

We will say that many perceive this ever worsening crisis within physics, but that the romantic idea is very deeply rooted, according to which physics is a pure or even noble discipline, which however is used by some for their own ends, or even for outright evil. This concept is erroneous on two levels even, on the one hand because physics is not a discipline in the original sense of the word (since disciplines in the original sense are sacred Self-realisation, Self-retrieving paths or in some sense even techniques), and on the other hand because the present situation is very much inherent in the nature of modern science; what we see here is merely that certain processes that have been running virtually for centuries are now starting to arrive at a boiling point.

In the context of the community aspects of modern science, we will make one more note, which brings us in the direction of certain occult aspects of the formation of physics, the full exposition of which could make up for a whole series of studies, which we intend to undertake in the future: The most obvious propellant of physical research is the applications in engineering, that is, whose aim is on the one hand to “solve” problems the majority of which was created by modernity itself in former periods, and on the other hand to flood the world with billions of increasingly insipid consumer goods. It is obvious, however, that not all heavily funded research directions fit in this circle, moreover, such a simplification would be exceedingly naive as to the workings of modernity. In reality, no less important is the kind of research which aims at the formation and solidification of the Weltanschauung whose fundamental concept is that the Earth, mankind, or man is in every respect, regarding space, time, and the structure of matter, no more than a grain of dust in the “universe”. The reflection of such a Weltanschauung in the earthly-human world is exactly the sub-individual, sub-national, globalised world of today, which is devoid of any veritable centre.

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  • Confession

    She, my Belovèd, is a wondrous day;
    And I, who love Her, I am life and death
    And storm and lightning, and my word is wine;
    The world lies in my blood and in my breath.

    O thou who seekest me, do never ask
    Which is my homeland, nor what is my name;
    The Universe is made of Light and Love,
    And from this Light and from this Love I came.

    - Frithjof Shuon