The Problem with Science

Abstract: Optionality did receive some strong comments on earlier articles that discussed Don Paragon's views. In this article, Edwin Thor comments on such comments, further elaborating on Don Paragon's position that optionality is not a belief in the religious sense, but an approach that is superior to science.

A. Comments on Comments

Don Paragon's views have often been discussed in this magazine and there are always people who seem to get offended. The article How Education corrupts Research, in the April 1995 issue, prompted one reader to write us not to send any future issues anymore. As discussed in the July 1995 article Object against Objectivity!, by Ben Mettes, there is no disagreement within Quintessence regarding Don's views on science.

What caused the most vitriolic attacks was what Don Paragon said in the article The Message of Words, in the May 1995 issue. Of course, we have written what Don's views are for a long time, including his attitude to decline invitations to write articles and his reason for this: Don rather expresses himself in his music than through the written word.

But this time some words seemed to strike a chord, as Don likes to say himself. Virtually all readers who commented focused on Don's words: "You may talk about, say, a chair, but using the word 'chair', i.e. naming something, does not prove that it exists other than in your imagination."

This sentence proved too much for some readers. We received comments such as: "Ask this crackpot to sit down on a chair to see if he keeps floating in the air!" and "That chair! What you wrote about that chair! How can you expect to find anyone interested in your consultancy work, if you appear to reject science, words and logic in general."

This time, we felt we had to do more than what we usually do, i.e. to reply to these comments in our Letters to the Editor-column. So, short of getting Don to write an article, the following quotes may shed some further light on Don's position.

B. Determinism rejected

"Most scientists still believe that the deterministic laws of Newton are 'what makes the universe tick'. They may have heard about quantum mechanics and chaos theory, but they believe that such 'weird' theories apply only at extreme circumstances, e.g. at the smallest level of physics or under the massive gravity pull of black holes."

"But let's take that chair again. Is there really one and the same physical object that you see everytime you look in that direction? Perhaps there are two chairs that look alike; now you see this one, the next time the other; or perhaps they overlap each other, so every time you look, you see only one chair. It may sound silly, but all this is not a question about the number of chairs. The point is not what is the truth, or who is right or wrong in counting the chairs. The point is how do you approach such a problem? The point is what model do you use to tackle such a question?"

"Physicists have measured absurdly small things as well as cosmic distances. In both cases, the deterministic laws that seemed to work all the time posed problems. So, why still hang on to such a model? Scientists are quick to accept theories such as that there are parallel universes, but they still insist that there is only one chair. Why accept that the deterministic laws of nature do not work at two extreme ends, but still expect them to work in the middle? Wouldn't it be better to use an approach that does work?"

"Until now, scientists did not have a model, an approach, that works under conditions that are common to us, as well as in extraordinary situations. But now, there is optionality. From the perspective of optionality, it is acceptable that there is only one chair, however, optionality leaves open other possibilities. Quantum mechanics fits in well with optionality, but where random events and chaos oppose the traditional order, optionality can accommodate causality as well. For me, optionality is not politics, but an attitude; an approach superior to science."

"The problem with science is that determinism is built into the model. Scientists search for knowledge, certainty, etc; and attempt to formulate universal laws of nature. The more they search, what they find is optionality."

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