Reading the summary of Robert Lanza's new book "Biocentrism" made me realize that, as a physicist, I have not been radical enough. For several years now, i have been claiming that physics research has been going in the wrong direction - literally. The reductionist program of matter-science (physics) has been going inwards for over 100 years, investigating ever smaller configurations of matter: first the atom, then the nucleus, now the sub-nuclear (quarks, Higgs boson, etc). Apart from nuclear energy this has been a deeply frustrating activity, producing no technology or any other direct benefits to humanity, which has funded this endeavor for over 70 years & billions of dollars. I have been encouraging physicists to redirect their focus outward to atoms & molecules, where knowledge has a direct impact on humans. This level of matter research only needs the electromagnetic force & is totally unaffected by 'forces' that only act at much smaller scales than this.
The problem even with this approach is that the number of atoms required to cooperate to create even the simplest examples of living systems is in the trillions upon trillions. This is too great a chasm of complexity for humans to cross - especially when we cannot even solve the first non-linear system in physics: the helium atom.
Lanza seems to show that all of this low-level research is an almost total waste of effort. Scientists need to leap even from the atom & start studying how cells & other systems composed of living components interact. Fortunately, the zeitgeist seems to be influencing young people who are choosing biology over physics as their career of choice in science. Now, if we can only get governments to give up on their militaristic dreams & start really funding biological research (NOT weapons) instead of physics, we should really begin to make significant progress in this primary area. Unfortunately, the armies of physicists will resist this move to the death & will insist that their 'fundamental' research should continue to receive massive funding.
Exactly, I'm a layman with great interest in this subject and having a reasonable understanding of the progress in particle observation and theory coming out of it I agree physics needs more 'outside the box' thinking. I have a friend and a sister with degrees in physics and it has been difficult for them to accept this. The current narrow vision is too 'fundamentalist' like other world views we all know of. I hope more scientists like yourself are willing to leave the safety zone for the surprises that surely await.
Over 7,000 physicists are being paid by the world's taxpayers to search for the elusive "Higg's boson" at CERN near Geneva. What a frightful waste of money & brains. Unfortunately, the education of scientists is so narrow today that they neither realize how tiny is their viewpoint nor how unemployable they are outside their own speciality. As I said above, this will end within a generation as few students will bother to join this self-admiring community of the orthodox (physicists). Even Newton realized early in his "physics" career that the mathematical approach could not even solve the 3-body problem (Earth, Sun, Moon) so he gave up on this & studied (secretly) esoteric religion for the rest of his life. This is just one of the dozens of dirty little secrets that scientists never talk about.
Not a philosopher myself, but a Whitehead enthusiast, and wonder if anyone can relate this new paradigm to Whitehead's "actual occasions" in his process-oriented philosophy. To quote Richard Lubbock from his site, Whitehead for the Muddleheaded: "Whitehead says that the first thing you've got to understand is that science is deluded: the world isn't made of atoms, electrons, gravity, or whatever. There is only one kind of entity; and even that perishes as soon as it comes into being. That entity is an aesthetic moment of choice, of feeling." Whitehead has been neglected, but perhaps Lanza's work may awaken new interest in such a similarly jarring, counterintuitive approach to the giant questions.
Whitehead was wrong - and right. The world really is made of atoms but the truly interesting part comes from studying the processes in which these atoms participate and then, how these higher order collections participate themselves in more complex systems in a recursive manner that generates the world, generating holons of greater and greater complexity - eventually creating living systems & even us. Since the Ancient Greeks, natural philosophers have mainly been practicing cookery: they have been trying to decide how to 'bake the cakes' - that is, they want to know what are the key ingredients. They never realized, as they never entered the 'kitchen' (women's work or manual labor), that a recipe is more than the ingredients (earth, fire, ... , electrons, quarks, etc); it is how & when they are put together (i.e. the process) that marks out a great chef. Unfortunately, as Whitehead (a great mathematician) realized, theoretical physics has followed the simplistic road of mathematics that only works for simple aggregations of identical objects & small linear effects. This approach will never generate insights into the real world, as their cumulative failures over the last 100 years have clearly demonstrated.
A fantastic grouping of ink spots on what I perceived as paper. I preceived the ink spots as flowing symbols of letters that gathered familiar words that I perceived as having important meanings and thoughts. Most were familiar ideas and some ideas were slightly new for me. Most refreshing were ideas suggesting that any true ToE would need to include life and conscienceness, i.e., "Biocentrism" and that what seems beyond sensory perception seemingly undefinable, but fluid-like and real. Finally, I've found the written words of others that untangle my whirlpool of ideas. "Biocentrism" seemed connected to many of my mind's thoughts, but expressed with preciseness, eligance, and humor that I envy. For far too long, I've lacked the know how to put my thoughts and ideas in groups of words that made sense. Of course, some of my ideas seem beyond definable, but I've learned to live with that. Not intending to be spooky-like, I dare to believe that "Biocentrism" came my way like a stream of consciousness.