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Star Trek’s Prime Directive – A lofty idea with a few wrinkles

Image FET-OPEN call deadline via Twitter

In the fictional world of Star Trek, the Prime Directive is a core regulation of Starfleet. To understand what the Prime Directive means, we have to know how Star Trek depicts its moral universe.

Star Fleet officers usually see themselves as an alliance of “good guys” belonging to the United Federation of Planets, as opposed to the “bad guys” made of up species like the Cardassians and the Borg.

Starfleet is concerned about right ethics, so the Prime Directive stipulates noninterference with other species’ planetary development.

This applies to space exploration through normal time¹ and to time travel. Violating the prime directive results in court-martial, except in extenuating circumstances.

The Prime Directive sounds like a great idea but, we could ask, what exactly does “non-interference” mean?

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation

Extreme causal loop time travel paradox animation – Wikipedia

Religious and New Age people, for instance, tend to say that humanity is invisibly guided by advanced beings residing in the universe, astral realms, heavens and throughout time.² If so, a Federation starship crew might have a moral responsibility to help primitive but eligible species develop better ways of living.

Despite its lofty ideal of non-interference, the Prime Directive is often breached. Moral dilemmas are key to dramatic storytelling and, it goes without saying, TV ratings. In real life, St. Paul says that moral dilemmas are best solved by following the spirit instead of the letter of the law.³ So it’s not surprising that the Prime Directive is often messed with.

As any good popcorn popping cultural studies or phony entertainment critic will say, art follows life and life follows art.

A relatively novel mystery arises with The Prime Directive’s treatment of temporal paradoxes. For obvious reasons, Star Trek’s writers never fully answer the tricky question: Could a time traveler going back in time be certain what choice out of many possible choices would be best? Or, for that matter, is there a single, best choice?

English: Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus...

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Borg Locutus – Wikipedia

Possible answers to these conundrums lead to notions of a plethora of potential outcomes and universes (to include parallel universes) and a multiverse (which differs from parallel universes).

Tantalizing cosmological questions have been posed by both mystics and subatomic physicists, but no universally agreed upon answers have been found due to their speculative nature.4

But one thing is certain. The Star Trek mythos is no silly fantasy but, rather, provides us with some of the best imaginative thinking in 20th and 21st century science fiction.

Related » Aliens, Angels, Jane Roberts, UFOs

¹ Technically, Star Trek might be at odds with reality because warp speeds are faster than the speed of light but travelers experience no time dilation. But being good sci-fi, fans are obviously willing to give the benefit of the doubt.  They weren’t as forgiving with Space 1999, which was visually interesting but a bit of a bomb.

² For some, demons try to get us off track.

³ Usually associated with St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the idea has other applications. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law

4 Sometimes the speculation is forwarded as a hypothesis, which is good, healthy science or mysticism. But other times it is not, as with those claiming to have advanced knowledge that others lack. In religion and the New Age, these mentally unwell characters may be ego-inflated holy men and women or, from my experience, some religious studies professors who do their esoteric “thing” under the cover of academia. In both cases, these half-baked manipulators are blind to their own prejudices and do everything possible to convince you that they know better. Watch out!

 Star Trek Continues, The Trek Show That Fans Wanted (ansionnachfionn.com)

 Star Trek spat: Why did one Starfleet captain block another on Twitter? (mashable.com)

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Predestination – Software is updated… why not theology?

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea – Wikipedia

The Chairman of the Bored

Not sure if it’s because of the holiday season and all the extra activity – inner and outer – during this time. But I’ve been letting this entry hang, fully aware it’s in need of revision. Which is a nice way of saying… I’m bored of theology!

Actually, I’m not bored of theology per se. If I’m predestined for anything, it’s to think about God and creation, trying to figure out how it all works, realizing I’ll always fall short due to my human limitations.

But that’s just it.

Human limitations.

I’m finding it dull and uninspiring writing about what a bunch of men thought about God over the centuries, some of whom were probably misogynist and racist.

It just seems so stiff and wooden.

So I’m going to boil it down to two main points. Or rather, the two main forms that, historically speaking, the idea of predestination takes.

Predestination in a nutshell

The first type of predestination, articulated by St. Augustine, is that some individuals are divinely predestined to reside in an eternal heaven. Many believe the following New Testament passage supports this belief:

Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23, NIV).

English: Laszlo Szlavics Jr.: John Calvin memo...

Laszlo Szlavics Jr.: John Calvin memorial medal, 110 mm, bronze, cast, 2008 – Wikipedia

The second type, called “double predestination” (or dual predestination), is the belief that God predestines some for everlasting heaven and others to eternal hell.

Gottschalk of Orbais, an unorthodox 9th-century theologian was imprisoned for advancing the notion of double predestination.

Centuries later, the Protestant reformer John Calvin made double predestination a key feature of his theology, differentiating it from the Catholic take.

Leading questions

Again, this is only the simplest of outlines. The idea of predestination has been debated for centuries among world religions. Some of the leading questions are:

  • Is God good?
  • How could a good God allow some souls to suffer an eternal hell?
  • Does God actively plan or passively allow eternal damnation?
  • Is God all-powerful?
  • Is God all-good?
  • Are we in a position to understand or judge God?
  • How do we envision God, after all?
  • Are we free to make good or bad choices?
  • Are we determined in some grand web of cause and effect?

The questions and answers are, indeed, many.¹

Time for an update?

Plasma Lamp by Luc Viatour via Wikipedia

Historically, it seems that theologians play word games to try to justify their limited outlook on God, space-time and creation.

God knows in advance how we will choose, for instance. Similarly, God permits but does not enforce our evil actions, we often hear.

This doesn’t intellectually satisfy most people because the answer is way beyond our human capacity for understanding.

With our imploding/exploding 21st-century cosmology where matter/energy and space/time are not absolutes, the old ways of looking at the issue come off even more stale and regimented.

Carl Jung picked up on this problem. His solution was to say that God is half unconscious and, really, half bad. For Jung, God learns to be ethically better through God’s own creation.

I think this is rubbish. Jung, despite his best efforts to differentiate the ego from the archetype became a bit egotistical in my opinion. True, I never met him. But from his work and biographical material it seems he occasionally fell into the power trip trap.

This morning I noticed a new article about Near Death Experiences.² It adds an intriguing piece to the puzzle.

solarein – Coma Domine via Flickr

The author says he died but came back.

During his comatose “death” he literally felt all the bad things he had done to other people. And each hell, he says, is custom made for a particular person’s transgressions.

Whoa.

My solution

Rather than speculate too much, I think it’s more practical to just try to do our best at being good. Deep down I believe we all know what that means. Some of us may be so messed up, touchy and unhappy that we do bad things to compensate for our hurt. We try to rationalize our bad behavior.

But in the end, we know.

And so does God, I believe.

* “The Chairman of the Bored” are lyrics from the Iggy Pop tune, I’m Bored.
¹ See Wikipedia entry for more interfaith details.
² My tweet:

 

Related » Book of Job, Determinism

 Western philosophy is racist (aeon.co)


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Pisces – Something fishy here?

pisces

Pisces – Peter Tittenberger via Flickr

Before the internet most newspapers had a horoscope section. It might have been a small weekly column or a full-blown page on weekends.

Every morning my family read the local paper. I always managed to get the entertainment and sports sections. And the index. You always needed the index because that’s how you found out where your horoscope was.

Sort of an extra feature, like the comics, the horoscopes were juggled around to fit any blank space in the daily edition layout.

How times have changed… Or have they?

Horoscopes are still popular. Today people read more than a newspaper blurb. Now you can get a complete online reading if, that is, you know your date and time of birth. Press the button and the machine tells your life story.

Why are horoscopes still around?

Science generally says they’re rubbish. Christian theologians don’t like astrology much either (although Hindus consult astrologers during wedding ceremonies).

It seems there’s a middle ground between science and religion that appeals to the public. Something like myth and fantasy. I guess that’s where horoscopes come in.

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry's Très Riches...

Anatomical Man in the Duke Berry’s Très Riches Heures (Photo: Wikipedia)

Whenever updating the astrology entries at Earthpages.ca I feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ll be honest. I don’t really believe in astrology any longer. Not sure if I ever did.

I know some people do believe and I respect that. We’re all different with unique paths. But for me, the power of God and the Holy Spirit makes any kind of “cosmic force” look small. It’s not that I don’t believe in cosmic forces. I do. It’s just a question of magnitude and relevance.

Let’s for a moment concede that cosmic forces affect the psyche. But what about God, the creator of those cosmic forces? God is infinitely larger and more powerful than any influence of Jupiter or Neptune.

Some astrology believers just don’t get this. They see God as the sum of the observable cosmos, known to thinkers like me as natural pantheism.

Still don’t see what I’m saying?

Let’s try this. Instead of the cosmos acting on mind and body, how about something more immediate, like nutrition.

Most people agree that nutrition is important. The substances we ingest directly influence our minds and overall health. But that’s not the whole story. Jesus of the New Testament tells us that we don’t live on bread alone. It’s the “alone” part that matters. There’s something more. Christians call it the Holy Spirit.

Likewise with astrology. We are not influenced by creation, alone. There’s more. The Creator of creation. Simple as that.

Take another analogy. God made the wind which, although invisible, is a powerful force. I believe in the wind from seeing, hearing, feeling and sometimes smelling its perceptible effects.

However, any good sailor can tack into the wind. We don’t have to be blown around just because the wind exists.

God gave us a mind and the ability to choose.

Well, enough preamable. Rather than rewrite my existing entry on Pisces, I’ll just tweak it.

No need to perpetuate the charade. I don’t believe in astrology. Life is too complex and ambiguous to be boiled down to an arbitrary theory. I’m not saying astrology is totally false. Cosmic forces no doubt exist. And astrology has entertainment, mythic and historical value. But to invest too much in it, I think, falls somewhere between spirituality and superstition.

A juvenile distraction, fine. But for spiritual adults, one hopefully moves on.

Pisces (February 19 – March 21) is the twelfth and a winter sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the fish and associated with the planetary rulers of Neptune and Jupiter. Its element is water.

Astrologers say that from Neptune, Pisces longs for a return to the primal waters; that is, a plunge into the underworld depths of the collective unconscious.

From Jupiter, Pisces is youthful, with all the pros and cons accompanying adolescence.  Astrologers say Pisceans are gentle but with fits of rashness, even cruelty.

Sometimes passive and lazy, Pisceans apparently alternate between lethargy and spells of vigor, enthusiasm and hope.

Prominent Pisces include Johnny Cash, Billy Crystal,  Elizabeth Taylor, Rihanna, Albert Einstein and Justin Bieber.

Pisces – The book of birth of Iskandar – Wikipedia

Related » Astrology

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 Your November Horoscope! by Crystal “Kitty” Shimski (twocoatsofpaint.com)

 Boom time for fortune-tellers and tarot card readers in Italy as economic crisis bites (telegraph.co.uk)

 Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2017: When, Where and How to See It (space.com)

 Mood Ring Is the New Bushwick Bar Inspired by Astrology and Hong Kong Cinema (grubstreet.com)


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Psi – Good, evil, real or fantasy?

English: Example of a subject in a Ganzfeld ex...

A subject in a psi experiment – Wikipedia

Psi (Ψ, ψ) is a Greek letter that today names frat houses and also denotes the idea of paranormal phenomena.

Coined by Bertold P. Wiesner, “psi” was appropriated in 1942 by Drs. Robert Thouless to indicate ESP

Psi later became an umbrella term for a range of alleged abilities. These include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitions and other unconventional phenomena involving subtle sensing, near and at a distance.

Around the turn of the century, psi was popularized by the TV program Psi Factor, hosted by Dan Aykroyd. The show dramatized the pros and cons of purported psi abilities. Several other popular TV shows about psi have come and gone. The idea has become more mainstream in sci-fi and fantasy, along with the notion of psychological time travel.

George Noory hosts a popular radio show, Coast to Coast AM, where fringe and more credible callers phone in to talk about psi experiences, insights and most other things paranormal.

toads-fly2

The Skeptics

Psi remains controversial. Skeptics say no reliable scientific evidence supports it. Believers argue that psi is not amenable to science as we know it. The psychologist Carl Jung claimed that some scientific studies gave significant results. But Jung’s claim is debatable.²

More recently, a new breed of thinkers are calling for a reworked science that would

  • assess spiritual and paranormal reports as potentially legitimate data for scientific study
  • develop a holistic approach that would extend our understanding of science but not lapse into scientism
birds final

The Believers

Many religious people question the ethics of psi. Psi may exist, they argue, but we need to ask if enhanced abilities are in line with God’s will. This question implies its opposite; namely, that evil may endow – or seem to endow – individuals with psi.

Psychiatry views psi in terms of mental health and illness. While not absolutely negating the possibility of psi, most psychiatrists would probably say the brain creates some kind of hallucination, giving rise to the false belief that psychic abilities exist.

Catholicism’s take on psi reveals a curious mix of traditional religion and 21st century psychiatry. Exorcism prayers may be recited over those deemed possessed or obsessed by an evil spirit. Alternately, afflicted individuals may be advised to consult a psychiatrist.

Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal

Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal – Wikipedia

Instead of resorting to a black and white scenario like satanic influence vs. mental illness, psi errors and questionable beliefs about psi could be explained by a combination of psychological, social and spiritual factors.

Effective treatments could best involve spirituality, psychiatry, along with the humanities and arts to sort through cultural prejudices – and lies – that could contribute to personal issues.

Lasting solutions to psychological unsoundness would ideally involve a multi-disciplinary approach. But this is rare in most corners of the world. Maybe we’re just not “there” as a species. I’m not sure. But it seems that many religious people, especially fundamentalists, come down heavily on psi. They are convinced psi is of the devil. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist balks if we suggest an angel, demon or dead person might influence us from the other side.

However, psi need not be contrary to religion or psychological therapy. Catholic saints, for instance, reportedly have a gift for “reading hearts”—that is, intuitively knowing what others are thinking, feeling or experiencing.

And belief in organized religious teachings is “sane” according to psychiatry (which some say is a politically charged and culturally relative outlook).

So saying that psi is always of the devil or, on the other hand, a mere psychological fantasy seems a superficial reaction to countless reports that just might be pointing toward the next step in human evolution.

¹ Thouless, R. H. (1942) cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psi_%28parapsychology%29, “Experiments on paranormal guessing”. British Journal of Psychology, 33, 15-27.

² Clark, Michael. Synchronicity and poststructuralism: C. G. Jung’s secularization of the supramundane, 1997: pp. 72, 119-122, 130, 156-157, 177-179.

Related » Akashic Records, Aliens and Extraterrestrials, Clairvoyance, Psi Spies, Pyramids, Michael Talbot, UFO

For more see my highlights with LINER

 

 ‘Stranger Things’ Bits: Candles, Trivia, Sesame Street, Hopper Dancing and More! (slashfilm.com)


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Who’s got the power?

The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice: Simon Greening via Flickr

Way Back

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle defined power in a way that remarkably prefigures Sir Isaac Newton‘s three laws of motion.

Aristotle says power is

  1. The agent causing a change in something
  2. The ability or potential in an object enabling it to act
  3. The ability in an object to remain unchanged

Image – Wikipedia

Today

In the social sciences and political life power usually means the ability to make decisions that influence, regulate or coerce.¹

For democratic countries political power is limited to the extent that the next elected representative has the ability to change or modify a set of power relations, as we see with US President Trump trying to unravel or remedy, depending on how you look at it, many of former President Obama’s initiatives.

But power goes far beyond big politics and weighty issues. It is found in the doctor’s office, the workplace, the schools and our neighborhoods. And thinkers like R. D. Laing suggest that power manifests within family dynamics.

Oliver Twist – Wikipedia

A Little Theory

Different cultural critics hold diverse views of power and how it is best applied. From Machiavelli to Marx, power is always present. But just how it is interpreted is a uniquely human act.

Postmodern and other social thinkers often overlook the fact that power, as a noun, is ethically ambivalent. Both good and bad can things be modified by the adjective “powerful”—for example, powerful love and powerful hate.

The 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that knowledge gained from philosophical understanding creates power. Hobbes added that such power should be applied in ways good for the Commonwealth. His argument is echoed in the G-8 countries’ rationale behind military strikes against the enemies of democracy and freedom. In Catholicism, this is called the “Just War.

Good and Evil – Wikipedia

Michel Foucault says power is embedded in our social relationships but he doesn’t emphasize an ethical dimension to power. Rather, Foucault sees power as an ongoing struggle of competing intentions.

To some observers, it is almost as if Foucault portrays ethics and morality as historically relative products of social power.

If true, good and evil are not absolute, timeless and universal truths. They are relative to a given social time and place. That is, good and evil are social constructions.

However, Jules Evans argues that Foucault’s later work, such as The Care of the Self (1984), reveals a developing interest in an ethic of wellness. As Foucault says:

Perhaps I’ve insisted too much on the technology of domination and power. I am more and more interested…in the mode of action that an individual exercises upon himself by means of the technologies of the self.²

Whether or not Foucault’s interest in wellness was purely intellectual or, perhaps, an emerging practical concern remains open to debate.

Anthropology, Depth Psychology and Religion

Supernatural – Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

Terms like mana, numinoustapas and orenda refer to a form of magical, mystical or spiritual power originating from beyond the realm of scientific predictability.

In keeping with Max Weber‘s idea of charisma, individuals with a lot of social power may possess, command or mediate a good deal of spiritual, otherworldly power.

I think Weber’s concept of charisma is important because, for some, it links spiritual and political power.

Science vs Religion

Power ON – Wikipedia

Another central question is whether or not a given set of otherworldly powers are good or evil. This issue was once of great importance. It is now pretty well passed over by the media and most everyone else.

In its place we have the popular mindset of “health” and “illness.” In a nutshell, science and technology have moved in where religion and ritual once held sway.

So the 21st century mass murderer is “mentally ill” and not “possessed by Satan.”

At least, this is how the courts see it. And they, to return to our initial topic, have the power

¹ See my highlights at LINER for some recent distinctions in the ongoing dialog about power:

Hard Power – http://lnr.li/C0mV7/

Soft Power – http://lnr.li/IQQXv/

Smart Power – http://lnr.li/0rJdk/

² Michel Foucault, lecture given in 1982 cited in Jules Evans, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” Eurasian Home Analytical Resource, August 15, 2007.

³ Most traditional theologians would say the courts only hold as much power as God permits, God being the bearer of all power.

Related » Counter-discourse, Discourse, Poststructuralism

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 The last sacred kings (aeon.co)

 What are your desert island philosophy essays? (ask.metafilter.com)

 If Time Is Money, They’re Both Lies (therooflesschurch.com)

 Porn stars go mainstream (foxnews.com)


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Phrenology – A case of science overextending itself

Self-portrait as phrenology illustration

Self-portrait as phrenology illustration by obscure allusion / Jason Priem

Phrenology is a word popularized by Johann Caspar Spurzheim (1776-1832) to describe a pseudo-scientific theory developed by Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828).

Gall hypothesized that different brain regions are responsible for specific functions. Today, the details are debated but this model is generally accepted.¹

So for Gall, a stronger trait or ability allegedly corresponded with more developed brain regions, while weaker traits or abilities coincided with less developed brain regions.

From there, he proposed that different abilities and tendencies are linked to the size and shape of the human skull.

Gall believed the skull would exhibit measurable bumps over larger, well developed brain regions, making his theory not only scientific but practical. Heads can be measured. And from those measurements, different treatments could be implemented.

This theory fell into disrepute around the 1900’s. Contemporary researchers highlight the importance of learning, stimulation, nutrition, attitudes, beliefs, as well as the density and differentiation of neural pathways in relation to brain performance and abilities.
Embed from Getty Images
Colour etching by W Taylor satirising the work of Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Spurzheim, proponents of phrenology, showing a doctor examining a patient’s head, whilst other patients with variously-shaped craniums await inspection.

Much like modern computer processors, bulk size doesn’t necessarily matter. Complexity does. Also, recent concepts like plasticity and epigenetics further discredit older, fully deterministic brain theories. In other words, genes matter but other factors come into play.

Perhaps because phrenology could easily be abused, it’s not well-known today. Hitler and the Nazis, for instance, used something similar to phrenology to try to separate Jews from non-Jews.²

Today, phrenology is sometimes upheld by sociologists and historians as an example of all that can go wrong when scientism (pseudoscience) masquerades as science.

“Raoul Hausmann was one of the leading members of the Berlin Dada movement… [his] most well known [work} is Spirit of Our Time. Finished in 1921.” – via Utopia/Dystopia

Wikipedia puts it well:

Phrenology is…based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. Although both of those ideas have a basis in reality, phrenology extrapolated beyond empirical knowledge in a way that departed from science.

Some writers at web sites like Mad In America zealously argue that all of contemporary psychiatry is pseudoscience and profit mongering. I think this is an extreme, polarizing view and not really helpful toward better integrating good science and good spirituality.

Quick Historical Outline

_____

Among the first to identify the brain as the major controlling center for the body were Hippocrates and his followers, inaugurating a major change in thinking from Egyptian, biblical and early Greek views, which based bodily primacy of control on the heart.

_____

This belief was supported by the Greek physician Galen, who concluded that mental activity occurred in the brain rather than the heart, contending that the brain, a cold, moist organ formed of sperm, was the seat of the animal soul—one of three “souls” found in the body, each associated with a principal organ.

_____

Phrenology came about at a time when scientific procedures and standards for acceptable evidence were still being codified. In the context of Victorian society, phrenology was a respectable scientific theory.

_____

Phrenology was mostly discredited as a scientific theory by the 1840s.

_____

In Belgium, Paul Bouts (1900–1999) began studying phrenology from a pedagogical background, using the phrenological analysis to define an individual pedagogy. Combining phrenology with typology and graphology, he coined a global approach known as psychognomy. Bouts, a Roman Catholic priest, became the main promoter of renewed 20th-century interest in phrenology and psychognomy in Belgium.

_____

During the 1930s Belgian colonial authorities in Rwanda used phrenology to explain the so-called superiority of Tutsis over Hutus.

_____

Phrenology was one of the first to bring about the idea of rehabilitation of criminals instead of vindictive punishments…

_____

In psychiatry phrenology was proposed as a viable model in order to reform the disciplinary field.

¹ Neurologists differ on how:

  • different combinations of the brain occur and affect functioning
  • much of the brain we use
  • the brain is linked to the rest of the nervous system, surrounding organs and microorganisms (e.g. bacteria).
  • sex differences affect brain functioning

² Josef Mengele, a sadistic and cruel doctor at Auschwitz, wrote a dissertation on “differing Lower Jaw formations and Racial differences.” See http://www.shoaheducation.judahsglory.com/philosophies.html.

Related » Face Reading, Social Darwinism

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 From the Bookshelves: States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System by Miroslava Chávez-García (lawprofessors.typepad.com)

 The Many Ways Science Has (Wrongly) Assessed Your Personality (io9.com)

 Use your head when buying a conversation piece (observer-reporter.com)


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Wave-Particle Duality – Micro concept with macro implications

The wave-particle duality refers to a contradiction that arises when we try to understand the nature of light.

Girls demonstrating wave-particle duality.

Girls demonstrating wave-particle duality by James Guppy via Flickr

Light can be either a wave (energy) or particle (matter), depending on the way we observe and interpret it. Some even try to combine the concepts of energy and matter to say that light is a “wavicle.”¹

Albert Einstein had this to say:

It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.²

Philosophers of science believe the duality is created by the way we use language. And the apparent conflict might be reconciled if we consider what language is and does.

Language, they say, not only describes but also influences our understanding of things spoken and written about. So with a kind of circularity, the way we describe our world in turns shapes our worldview.

Consider the moon, for instance. To an Apollo astronaut it is something to travel to, orbit and possibly walk on. For an ancient Roman, the moon might be seen as a somewhat mysterious place where the goddess Luna resides or as an aspect of the pagan goddesses Diana or Juno.

In ancient Iran, the moon was believed to be “The Great Man” who periodically incarnates on Earth. And in the recent past, the moon was whimsically said to be made of blue cheese.

In each of these examples, the words and the semantic context within which the occur shape the understanding of the thing described. We have to keep this is mind not only when studying myth and religion but in any aspect of life—ancient or modern. Culture isn’t just created. It also creates.³

We can overcome the wave-particle duality by realizing that it is informed by the way we categorize reality, but this might be a hollow victory because it doesn’t tell us much about the actual essence of light, energy or matter—or even if these phenomena have a true ‘essence.’

At some point language becomes inadequate. And many believe that sciences, which also use symbol systems like mathematics and physics, are equally as imperfect to the task of describing reality.

From this, the holistic thinker Peter Russell argues that we should not confuse the proverbial map (scientific concepts and theories) with the thing mapped (alleged fundamental aspects of creation).

The debate about describing vs the described can get pretty complicated. Some maintain that language is, in fact, adequate and an integral part of reality. Others say this argument falls short when we consider how meanings have changed throughout history.

Is truth always relative or is there something absolute, essential or permanent in our world? These basic questions may seem abstruse. But the way we unconsciously answer them in our daily assumption/decision making process no doubt informs many aspects of life.

So I think it’s better to be aware of our uncertainties and biases. Question everything. That way we don’t put the world – and other people – in an artificially small box. When people try to do that, what we’re really seeing is a picture of their provincial outlook.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality#Neither-wave-nor-particle_view

² https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality Follow this link for a good, brief history » https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality#Brief_history_of_wave_and_particle_viewpoints

³ That’s why many poststructural social thinkers argue that power is creative, not just repressive.

Related » George Berkeley, Brahman, Albert Einstein, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Poststructuralism, Erwin Schrödinger, Semiology, Tao, Thomas Young