Criticisms of the usual way that Reality is investigated by Science in general, and Physics in particular, are invariably rubbished, not only by the rank and file of these disciplines, which together constitute an admittedly very fruitful approach, but perhaps even more vociferously, by the denizens of this set of disciplines.
But, I’m afraid that they are wrong, and for very good philosophical and scientific reasons.
For, the usual methods and their consequently associated theoretical conclusions simply do not address what I call Reality-as-is! Indeed, what is always dealt with is a limited and certainly modified selection from Reality.
Neither can the methods they use deal with anything other than completely stable situations – either as they occur naturally, or, in the overwhelming majority of individual situations, in totally man-devised and constructed Domains – expressly designed to make Analysis as simple and easy as possible. “You know you have it right, when the targeted relation sticks out like a sore thumb”
Priority One in preparing to do an experiment of this sort, is to first isolate a well-defined situation for study, and, thereafter, to implement a great deal of tailoring, involving both the elimination of the more confusing other, non-targeted, factors, and also by purposely holding tightly constant many others, in order to actually farm that Domain appropriately to display clearly a single targeted relation, in order to investigate that as straightforwardly as possible.
Clearly, if this could then be done separately for each and every significant relation (each with its own tailor-made domain), then the overall situation will be, supposedly, cracked, understood, and be able to be used to particularly useful purposes. One relation and its associated domain at a time.
To complete the process this farming of the chosen plot is intended to make it ideal for displaying, and then extracting by measurement, the targeted relation, and then its idealisation by fitting-it-up to a purely formal pattern or Equation, so facilitating its purposive use.
NOTE: such a process was totally inconceivable prior to the Neolithic Revolution, which changed Mankind’s mode of existence from a roving hunter/gatherer existence, to one dependant upon staying in one place, appropriately transforming a plot, and then growing what you needed.
This set of procedures is, by now, a well-honed, and highly successful methodology, turning an ever-increasing Knowledge Base into the ideal tool for subsequent Predictions and productive Use.
But, nevertheless, it only indirectly increases our understanding of Reality.
For, at no point is Reality-as-is addressed directly. Instead, and in Mankind’s usually effective and pragmatic way, it bypasses the imperative for Understanding, by instead employing the immediate and survival imperative for practical use. And, such a purpose cannot be denounced. It has led to what we call Technology, and an ever more far-reaching control of our immediate and necessary environments.
Photographs by Edward Burtynsky
It has produced our current World!
BUT, no one can say that such methods deal with Reality-as-is!
On the contrary, what is investigated is a highly unnatural, farmed set of situations, designed primarily to reveal a given, at first only glimpsed, and then targeted, relation.
The supposition is that the relation and its equation so affectively extracted, is still the very same one as exists in completely unfettered Reality. And, the philosophical justification, finally included to justify this methodology, is the famed Principle of Plurality, which insists that all simultaneously acting factors in the Real World are due to Eternal Laws, and are hence independent of their concrete contexts. Each is wholly separable, and in no way distorted by where it occurs.
Any evident variations that unfettered Reality seems to deliver are simply put down to additions of many different relations, none of which is in fact in any way modified by its co-existing partners in a situation, and which delivers what it does as merely the sum of the many independent contributions, varying only in their relative magnitudes, but unchanging in their essential natures.
Clearly, if this Principle were true, then all the tailoring of situations would be entirely valid, for they are then just an effective means of revealing the eternal, and hence unchangeable, natures of the relations involved.
But, this is merely a belief!
The major plank, for accepting it, is the occurrence, in complex situations, of dominances, where, in spite of the multiplicity of simultaneously acting relations, the sum can tend towards an integrated result, which, via dominance, implies an underlying, main eternal law.
But no evidence apart from the classical pluralist method of simplifying the experimental context is available.
The two things seem to support one another, but they are actually mutually dependent upon one another: no independent evidence has ever been gathered to prove it.
The very methodology actually prohibits any means of dealing with Reality-as-is, for the usual methods deal with Reality by significantly changing it to produce an overall, if somewhat simplified, stable situation, which is then turned into what appears to be that of an unaffected particular part, and this, thereafter, is always considered as a revealed Eternal Law. But it isn’t!
And, in addition, such a Principle can never explain when and why the relation will ultimately, and certainly, fail, so that a very different one takes over.
But, even these criticisms are much too weak to reveal the most damning inadequacy of this Principle, for the most important episodes in all of Reality, which have to be explained, are those when an existing stability begins to break down, until it finally dissociates completely. And not only that, for it then is always replaced by a wholly new situation, sometimes even at a higher level of organisation, and then involving its own top-down causalities to distort the remaining bottom-up factors still in evidence. For, such always involves new entities and properties, which just did not exist within the now replaced stability.
Such Emergences are always creative and not just reorganizations of the same set of Eternal Laws.
These crucial developmental interludes of real qualitative change and creation are in everyday language described by the word Revolutions, but academically now generally termed Emergences. And these are totally outside the capabilities of a pluralist determined scientific method.
For that criticised approach in Science cannot ever deal with the creation of the New, so real Developments, occurring in all the major achievements such as Life and Consciousness, are unaddressable by that methodology, which can only be applied within Stability, and nowhere else!
Now, though the physicists are adamant that their science is the Basis of all the other sciences, it is actually, not only a myth, but, in fact, a disabling detour that will never be able to address development at any level at all.
How can a science, which is incapable of dealing with development, be the Basis of all said-to-be derivations from itself? For the very qualities that make developing Reality what it is are totally unavailable from such a pluralist standpoint.
And that is a standpoint that only works within Stability – the complete prohibition of qualitative change, And, it can only be made to deliver anything at all in natural or engineered stable situations, if all developmental elements are excluded on principle, and by the methodology used.
Indeed, at present, only those sciences addressing higher levels of Reality, such as Biology for example, implicitly ask how they came-to-be: they just cannot avoid the question! And, they are also confronted constantly with qualitative change in every single living thing that is studied.
Indeed, it was, and still is, from these higher sciences that the wherewithall to address Emergences came, AND, perhaps surprisingly, came up with wholly new methods to deal with them.
Photograph by Ansel Adams
The Origin of Species was a triumph of Biology in understanding Reality-as-is - and was totally unaddressable by Physics.
Indeed, it is these creative interludes that constitute the most significant periods of qualitative changes.
In fact, they also occur even within Physics, but are totally ignored (or even emasculated) by the dominant approach within that science: so they are never properly investigated.
In all the various levels of Reality, where these interludes of creative, transformational and qualitative change do occur, it was also how all these higher levels were originally created from simpler levels. But, nevertheless, the physicists not only claim primacy for their science, but also refuse to investigate how the higher realms of Reality came to be.
Instead, they continue to insist that all higher levels can be completely explained by Physics, using only physical Eternal Laws. It is, of course, nowhere near the truth!
And to compound the felony, it also prevents physicists from explaining qualitative changes even within their own areas of study. The Wave/Particle Dichotomy proves it!
Indeed, it is perhaps the most damning evidence from Biology of the inadequacy of Physics (as it is currently considered) that it is these so-called derived sciences that managed to deliver The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and the crucial research into the Origin of Life in experiments carried out by Stanley Miller. And, perhaps pointing the way, the crucial phenomenon that focuses attention upon the nature and reasons for Qualitative Change is embodied in the explanations of the existence and origins of Metamorphosis in living things.
The problem boils down to the inadequacy of the Principle of Plurality in dealing with Reality. The opposite alternative of Holism is clearly much closer to the Truth, and this does not see Reality as the simple summation of existing Eternal Laws, but, on the contrary, that it is a developing Reality that actually generates these “laws”, which will always depend upon context for their actual forms.
They are simply not eternal!