METAPHYSICS OF SCIENCE & MYSTERY

I believe it is worth reviewing the historical relationship between science and mystery over the past four hundred years. Dear reader, don’t immediately yawn or navigate away from this site.  Give it a chance. You might find it interesting.

Before the so-called Copernican Revolution {which began after his death in the 17th century} in which the notion of a heliocentric solar system was first introduced, all questions of metaphysical truth were answered by the Church.  With the advent of modern technology: the telescope and microscope, for example, an entire new world opened up for European intellectuals. Science was seen as a direct threat to the power and influence of organized religion.

As led by Newton, Galileo, Descartes, Kepler and others, science gradually asserted itself into the forefront of the search for ultimate truth.  As science advanced, mystery diminished.  Soon it became appreciated that science would eventually uncover the answers to all problems of physical existence.  Religious dogma was gradually falling by the wayside to the onslaught of science.

God was determined to be present in the ‘gaps’ in scientific knowledge.  And these gaps were rapidly being filled by rational, logical scientific achievements. The poet Alexander Pope has even noted, in his revision of the Book of Genesis, that ‘God said, Let Newton be, and All was Light.’

Marquis de La Place, Napoleon’s main astronomer created a cosmology of the universe.  When asked by Napoleon why "God" was not mentioned, La Place famously replied, ‘I had no need for THAT hypothesis’, Sire’.

La Place had also boldly stated that he could predict the exact position and location of any object in the universe by utilizing Newtonian physics.

Mystery was fading away.  Science was seen as astoundingly powerful. Even philosophers were discarding metaphysical speculation in favor of science.  From Hume to Comte to Ayers to Russell, science was regarded by philosophers as the ultimate tool for uncovering metaphysical truths.

Something strange occurred on the road to now.  The twentieth century brought the bizarre notions derived from Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory.  Of the two, quantum theory was even more incomprehensible.
It postulated fundamental laws of physical reality which were difficult if not impossible to comprehend in a logical and rational manner.  How can an object such as light be regarded as a wave OR a particle depending on how an experiment is conducted?  Aren’t these two concepts paradoxically opposed to one another?  How could a subatomic particle literally disappear and then re-emerge somewhere else without anyone truly knowing where it was in between?  How could subatomic particles, once paired, the split and shot at opposite directions at the speed of light, still seem to ‘know’ what happens to its twin?

Other equally inexplicable tales were arising from the metaphysics of contemporary physics.  Most physicists refused to examine these implications.  They were far to concerned with the amazing applicability of quantum mechanics for the modern world.  In other words, they know how powerfully accurate and productive these concepts were.  They just couldn’t understand the metaphysics behind them–ie what they were telling us all about the nature of reality.

So here we are in the 21st century.  Over the centuries, mystery was replaced by the rational, commonsense pronouncements of science.  But now science was revealing a more mysterious universe than ever. 
Mystery was now in the ascendancy.  In prior centuries, mystery was associated with scientific ignorance, now with scientific knowledge.

What does this tell us about the metaphysical nature of reality?  I don’t think anyone knows……

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