previously published in 2004
by Tepi (formerly published at Saragrahi.org)
As a former student of Korzybski’s General Semantics, it has long seemed to me that the word ‘Science’, as it is used today, is the greatest semantic catastrophe of the age; instead of ‘Science’ what we should be talking about is ‘Science-1’ or ‘Science-2’ or ‘Science-3,’ etc.
There are, in other words, many possible forms that science may take, both higher and lower, and if those of the ancient Indian Vedic culture or Heraclitus or Goethe are considered as types of Science-1, a reading of Thompson will very soon convince you that our own science, that of the modern age, barely rates a Science-3 designation.
If we consider that the author is himself a highly qualified mathematician and scientist with professional experience in fields as diverse as quantum physics, mathematical biology, and computer systems analysis, we may begin to feel that this is one of the most amazing books on science ever written.
Thompson is something of a paragon. Not only do his books carry an impressive (though lightly worn) freight of solid scholarship, but they are also extremely well-written and well-documented, and his style is both lucid and civilized: no one could be more fair-minded when discussing the views of those with whom he disagrees.
It would take someone far more knowledgeable than me to do justice to this book, a book which takes the reader through a whole series of key concepts from quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry, biology, evolutionary theory, artificial intelligence, information theory, etc. Thompson’s procedure is first to show us some of the more grandiose claims being made by various representatives from these fields. He then goes on to select specific concrete examples from each field for close scrutiny and to apply mathematics and information theory to their analysis.
What becomes apparent from these analyses is the shoddiness, the illogic, and the invalidity of so much modern scientific ‘doctrine.’ ‘Science’ emerges, not as the shining and glorious edifice of the modern scientists’ imagination, but as a flimsy, tottering, ramshackle structure, much of which begins to look more like pseudo-science than science: it is a structure riddled with fallacies.
Thompson’s analysis of modern science is, as I have said, eminently fair-minded. It is also thorough, though the book has been written in such a way as to make it approachable both by the mathematician and scientist and by the general reader. His proofs are detailed, rigorous, and fascinating, and I for one have not been able to find any weakness in his argument.
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 3rd Century A.D., the West effectively severed itself, not only from its classical past, but also from the East. The sad effects of this self-mutilation are still with us, and are nowhere more apparent than in the inferior science of the modern age. If we want to find a true example of Science-1 it follows that we will have to look elsewhere. Thompson, who besides being a scientist is also a
Sanskritist, proffers as an example of Science-1 the Bhakti Yoga of Vedic India. Unlike our own reductionist and mechanistic science, Bhakti Yoga, for Thompson, not only satisfies all the criteria of a genuine science, but as a non-mechanistic science it is able to provide a valid, convincing, and true explanation of the most fundamental fact of human experience – a fact which mechanistic science has nothing to say about – the fact of Consciousness. Bhakti Yoga also offers a perfectly satisfying explanation for the existence of higher forms, forms which our mechanistic science desperately pretends come about by
Whether you are scientist or general reader, you will find it well worth your time to read Thompson’s book, a book far richer and more complex and fascinating than I’ve been able to suggest here. It is undoubtedly one of the finest and most interesting studies of science that I have ever read, though much of what it has to say will be unwelcome to many since few care to have it pointed out to them that the Emperor has no clothes.
Science-3, as Kierkegaard saw long ago, can only end in despair. Science-1 is what, as human beings, we are both fully capable of and entitled to if we can only succeed in overcoming our cultural limitations. Thompson is to be thanked for having shown us why this is necessary and one way in which it can be done.