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It was the turning away and ignoring that was, as I saw it, the mental cowardice.
The Fates are kind.
Both mathematicians and physicists have chosen to turn away from the import of their own discoveries, in a sort of mental cowardice. Not the least of the many ironies of our time is that these various limitative results have created rich possibilities, especially for creating clever toys, and the attraction of the toys has served to mask the underlying difficulty.
The real reason little attention was paid to foundations and students were discouraged from thinking too much about them was that high-energy physics experiment was well ahead of theory for the better part of the 20th century. Progress was astoundingly fast. So fast, indeed, that the whole 80 years of quantum theory are littered with half-cooked models that just about work, despite their mathematical and epistemological inconsistencies. At the same time, the number of physicists expanded greatly as did funding for the discipline, so scholarly reappraisal of decades old advances occupied relatively few people.
Since the 1970's theory has been ahead of experiment but, instead of going back and doing the boring work of revising the foundations, people forged ahead in search of Einstein's unification (talk about platonism and flights forward).
The 21st century will be the century of biology and maybe that's a good thing for physics: funding will drop in real term, fewer people will work in the field and the slower pace of progress will motivate people to look back, reappraise, understand and reformulate quantum mechanics.
We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
So of course i'll continue to believe you chose not describe people who believe in higher realities mental cowards. (This of course does not mean there aren't mental cowards who do believe in higher realities, but the latter doesn't beget the former.)
Illustration. i spend much of my time in the science of material reality, trying to answer such questions as: why are the planetary gear teeth experiencing micro-pitting?; why are we seeing leading edge delamination or root cracking?; how can we better estimate fatigue or transient loads better? We use the tools of engineering to get closer and closer to answering the questions.
So how do i explain this story? My father had been quite ill, but i'd been informed he was doing much much better, and i didn't need to fly to visit. Days later, normal day, mid afternoon, i've decided to bring my laundry downstairs, where i would mix it with water and various detergents under turbulent conditions in order to make them cleaner. Like always, i take the basket out the door into the hallway, to begin my journey. Suddenly i find myself yelling at the ceiling, very loudly, "Joe, let go! Joe, Let Go!!
I don't conceptualize it yet, but i know what's just happened, despite my shock at suddenly discovering i'm yelling at the ceiling. i bring the clothes basket back into the loft, and plop into my favorite recliner and drift into the ozone. Half an hour later the call comes that my father had just passed on, fighting against the electric shocks.
To me that was direct inner empirical evidence of some higher reality. That i choose to believe that someday physics will discover the mechanism used for the communication or transmission or whatever it was which most of science today doesn't even acknowledge, does not make me a mental coward. That i "know" for certain there is a higher reality doesn't either.
But then, i've seen old indian guys break clouds away or bring rain. Wish they could do load calculations.
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
There might well be an entire spectrum of reactions, both from those who rely on spirituality and beliefs, and those who don't. From those who do rely on spirituality and belief, there might well be an entire spectrum of reactions. On one hand, indignation and anger there their belief is characterized as an act of mental cowardice.
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