The Cult of Scientism and Nikola Tesla’s Aether
I recently watched a BBC documentary titled “The Atom: The Illusion of Reality.” In Part 3, the host delves into the last few decades of quantum physics and makes some interesting admissions relevant to subject matter I discuss. The most significant section of the documentary deals with quantum electro dynamics and Dirac’s discovery of the equation that demonstrates anti-matter, and Feynman’s further contribution to this idea. QED posits that space is not a vacuum, but instead exhibits a never-ending cycle of energy that flows in and out of existence, that is borrowed from the future. While that is a complex idea, the main thrust of this essay is not to speculate on that question.
What I want to focus on are the presuppositions of the scientists involved in the documentary, as well as a telling example in the figure of Lisa Randall, how this relates to philosophy of science, and in turn how this is directly connected to pseudoscience that is propagated by the usual establishment suspects, to the detriment of all. After explaining the usage of the particle accelerator in measuring electrons, the host states about the Stanford linear accelerator:
“When the physicists [measured electrons in the accelerator] they got their first confirmation there might be a deeper set of rules underpinning the particle zoo. What they discovered from the way the electrons scattered and from their extremely high energy, was conclusive proof that protons have internal structure. In other words, protons were made of more elementary particles. Here were Gell-Man’s quarks….For decades people were confident that the components of the atomic nucleus – protons and neutrons were absolutely fundamental. And now for the first time there was evidence of something deeper. The quark is a tricky and elusive beast. There are six kinds of quarks: up, down, strange, charmed, top and bottom. Also, quarks never exist in isolation with other quarks. This makes them impossible to see directly. We can only infer their presence. Despite these caveats, quarks brought some semblance of order to the particle zoo. In recent years its allowed us to concoct a simple, yet powerful description of how the universe is built up. Basically everything in the universe is made of atoms and is built of quarks and electrons. That’s it.”
The ironies in this statement will not be lost on regular readers. For several years now I have written against scientism and analyzed presuppositions and worldviews. What most specialists and scientists in their respective fields fail to understand due to their specialization is the nature of worldviews and how they work. I don’t mean to devolve into psychologism, but I mean instead actual epistemology and metaphysics. Those trained in sound philosophy can easily see what’s at work here, as we unpack this astounding claim, and suffice to say this host and the documentary summarize the standard, mainline approach to these questions you would encounter (as I did) in mainline academia and universities.
Let’s analyze – the first problem with this statement is the question of the scientific method itself. Almost the entire academic world has, for centuries, been under the delusion that the “scientific method” is the best and only reliable means for arriving at an approximation of the natural world. Religion, speculation, emotions, etc., are all lumped into a similar dustbin, giving us no useful data relevant to science. Science, the argument goes, relies on some amorphous form of “reason” (though none of these pragmatists have any idea what exactly reason itself is), that provides us with calculable, generally mathematical results.
These results of the experiments thus confirm or refute any given theory, by some probabilistic approximation. Empirical science can never give absolute certainty, as that is something impossible. Instead, positivistic science and empirical research can give us the highest likely scenario about a given phenomenon, so long as the data lines up with the theory. In the words of one of the scientists in the documentary, “Shut up and calculate.” Allusion is generally made to some assumed belief of the ancient world, such as that Aristotle erroneously thought x, y, z. Thus, they gloriously proclaim, the empirical scientific method is the only reliable source of knowledge about the external world, and computers and iPods prove this to be so. The assumption there being that the Dark Ages was one of rampant superstition, while the scientific revolution brought man out of his self-imposed bondage, and into the light of reason, as Kant famously said.