Institute for Advanced Physics is established to advance
modern science in a balanced fashion that does not leave
behind the correct philosophical foundations, nor the proper moral and spiritual
Is physics really essential in addressing our cultural problems?
Yes. Without a sound physics, one will not have a sound culture.
Here is the basics of the proof that our culture is in trouble and that it
will remain in trouble if we do not pay attention to physics:
- Everything we know comes through the senses, so physics, the
study of the physical world, is the first science.
- Therefore, all other branches of learning depend on this first
- Therefore, if our physics is wrong, to that degree, so
is everything else!
- The physics of our culture is an equational physics, a physics
that deals with symbols and systems of symbols. It is a physics
that ends in an equation not in a fully physical understanding.
Equations only exist in the mind.
- Therefore our physics is incomplete, being still focused in
- Now, since all of our cultural thinking builds on what we
think of the physical world, our physics, and since our physics
is an incomplete symbol physics, all of our thinking is at best
unstable and confused and often downright wrong and crazy.
Note, none of this should be taken to imply
that modern science is, in itself, a negative development. In
fact, modern science is clearly essential and irreplaceable.
Modern science and modern mathematics have in their own way made
so many deep and wide advances, one risks understatement even
trying to state it. The problem is that the equational form that
is the most formed output of modern science needs to be grounded
in the first simple things we know through the senses. Even to
fill out what this means, let alone the deep research and
education it calls for, is much more than can be said on a web
page. For this, see, for example, Dr. Rizzi's Science before
Science: A Guide to Thinking in the 21st century.
Can you say more about the need for the
physical science is done, one
finds a ready defense of certain basic truths. Scientists
hold that the world is rational and understandable by us.
Science is one of the few arenas in modern culture where
objectivity is respected. As Nietzsche, albeit from a hostile
prospective, pointed out, those who study the world and
hold to the reality of objective understanding witness
to the God of Truth. Still, scientists have inadvertently
allowed the poison of subjectivism to enter through various
port holes. Leading scientists hold, for example, using
facts of quantum mechanics, that the world is not there
when you’re not looking at it!1 Of course, this entails
a kind of split thinking, for while they're actually doing
their science they obviously think that they are learning
something about a real world whose existence is not merely
an aspect of themselves. The root causes of such a schizophrenic
state must be addressed or science itself will be undermined
by its unintended subjectivist fruit.
Now, science is extremely
important. It is a key driving force in intellectual and
cultural formation. Yet, moral, spiritual and philosophical
poverty truly exist in modern day science departments.
Morally, men of science are ready to treat human beings
as mere objects for and of research. Increasingly science
is animated by a disordered curiosity, not unlike that
of Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein. Spiritually, the life
of the soul and its directedness toward God are ignored
and even despised. Philosophically, physica (physics)2 , the study of changeable being,
is now for all practical purposes narrowed to the empiriometric and the empirioschematic
tools of physica.3 This
has bred a narrowness of thought and personality that is
creating an increasingly toxic atmosphere for human minds
and hearts. There is a clear need for reestablishing right
order in all these areas.
Briefly, how will the Institute accomplish this important mission?
The Institute will begin to
reestablish balance by deeply studying and advancing our
knowledge in these areas, by making bare the foundations
of science and applying them rigorously to old and new
scientific knowledge, thereby opening new areas of research.
Initially, this information and training will be disseminated
through seminars, conferences, internships, books (including
texts), journal articles, course materials at a distance
university run through Notre Dame (see ICU
web site), television programs, newsletters and Internet
activities. Though the Institute primarily targets higher
education, it will also, of necessity, foster high school
science education through these means as well. The end goal
of the Institute is to partner with a Catholic university
to provide undergraduate and graduate education in science
in an educational atmosphere that is fully human, incorporating
the appropriate philosophical, moral and spiritual components.
What is the proper
relationship between science and philosophy?
It is important to remember, what we used to
know implicitly as a culture, that both science and philosophy
study the same subject, reality and thus are fundamentally the
same. I summarize this as:
Using the word “science” emphasizes the
content of what we know, while using the word “philosophy”
emphasizes the orientation of our gaining knowledge, which is
to grow in understanding, grow in wisdom. We should love to grow
in knowledge. Of course, knowledge of reality that one does not
understand is not really knowledge at all, while neither is
understanding that has no content. The words "science" and
"philosophy" emphasize different aspects of the same thing.
In short, philosophy should not be a
separate subject as we usually treat it and think of it today.
One should be wise in whatever subject one studies and does. Wisdom
should not be left to someone else outside one's profession or any
part of one's life. One should be wise in engineering and in physics and in anything and
everything one studies and does.
taste a flavor of this, note that physicist David Mermin in 1981
famously said "We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there
when nobody looks." (in the first paragraph of his Quantum Mysteries
for Anyone in Journal of Philosophy V78,N7, 1981, p397-408). This
was in response to Einstein, who had already much earlier begun to
openly worry about this drift in thinking. Einstein had asked his
friend, A. Pias: "whether [he] really believed that the moon exists
only when [he] look[s] at it." (from A. Pais, Rev. Mod. Phys. 51, 863, p907 (1979))
The key issue here is not:
what will happen if you ask a scientist whether he thinks the world
is real or not. That question asked in isolation from his physics
thinking will almost certainly get a "yes of course." The point is
the that the question of reality is lost (confused with purely
mental being, i.e. beings of reason) amidst the equational structure
and so results in a confusion that is hard for the physicist himself
to recognize. It even leads occasionally to statements like Mermin's.
Mermin himself seems to have moved through various other positions
since his 1981 statement.
2. “Physics” is used
in the broad Aristotelian sense, meaning the study of
all of the physical world, i.e. changeable being, which
includes as a subset what we now call physics, chemistry and
sciences study the physical world as quantitative. As
such, it is the tool for the broader study of the physical
world as it is in its fullness as physical. Modern
physics is largely this tool. Empirioschematic
sciences develop schema to coordinate observables. Biology, the study
of living changeable being, makes extensive use of this
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