Science & Absolutism
Confronting the ‘Irrational’

Absolutism has seldom been celebrated, and particularly not in this supposedly postmodern era.  Yet, it would be difficult to maintain that even with all its post quantum sophistication that science has completely shed the absolutism of its origins back in the metaphysics of materialism.  Skirmishes continue between scientists and humanists over this issue.

Those who criticize the residual absolutism of science apparently fail to comprehend the potentially radical nature of the relativism that they suggest.  And for their part, the scientists are understandably reluctant to point out to its social critics that they may be playing with fire.  However, the fact that the critics tend to only nibble around the edges of scientific materialism, implies that they may sense that they are venturing onto thin ice.

When all the angels are fearful to tread on ‘sacred’ ground, the call goes out for ‘fools’ like myself, and we are happy to rush in.  And into what is it that I rush?  Immaterialism is the answer.

I am suggesting that the studied indifference to metaphysics exhibited by so many scientists is only barely concealing a deep-seated fear that they share with all of us.  The fear is that our world is much more fragile than it appears, or than we are willing to acknowledge.  This is what is at stake when we finally resolve all the talk about absolutism versus relativism.

To better grasp our situation, we may look to history.  There we find absolutism most closely associated with the tradition of monotheism.  From thence it entered into politics as the alleged ‘divine right’ of monarchs.  It is then difficult to argue that there is not a strong historical tie between the absolute laws of God and of science.  This latter-day residual absolutism of science carries historical baggage.  Disencumbering ourselves from that baggage will be a risky maneuver.

 Immaterialism is the logical opposite of materialism.  It is the view that the world is a state of mind, a mind that must at least include the minds of all sentient creatures.  The world then is not a mere object, but rather the object of a ‘cosmic’ intelligence that might or might not be more than the mind of the creatures.

What I have just outlined is a very old idea that comes down to us as recommended by almost every sage.  But now I give to it a new spin.  I do this in response to the inevitable ‘so what?’  The immateriality of the world is entirely moot so long as we are able and willing to ignore it.  It would appear that we have profitably ignored it for at least the half dozen millennia of recorded history.  Why stop now?  I merely suggest that our extended period of ‘material grace’ might have a logical and imminent conclusion.  ‘Repent, the end of the world is near.’  Is there anything new here?  Yes.  I claim that the eschaton will not be the arbitrary act of an absolute deity.  It is rather something that is built into the metaphysics of creation and which we will control.

Very simply, to the degree that the world is not an absolute object, to that same degree it is something superficial.  It has a hidden, non-material foundation.  The high degree of intelligibility of the world is not an accident.  It is because we are its co-creators.  That this fact could be so well concealed behind the façade of nature implies the involvement of a ‘higher,’ but probably not separate, intelligence.

What has been concealed may also be revealed, at the appropriate time.  Inevitably our science will lead us back to its own origin.  This has been happening from the start and is still accelerating. The recent history of science and its public vicissitudes may be more comprehensible from this larger perspective.  I am merely anticipating an outcome that need not be viewed as unreasonable.

If anything I have said may sound radical, it should be considered relative to the more radical speculation that science is representing an absolute truth.

The question remains as to whether the ideas presented here warrant any action on the part of the scientific community.  I would argue that they do, at least to a minimal extent.
If science were to forego its absolutism, as many people propose, then immaterialism becomes a leading contender to replace the present materialism.  Both sides of this issue bear responsibility to weigh the consequences of such a move.  I have been able to bring about that deliberation only to a very limited extent on my own.  By being granted occasional access to a scientific body such as this, my efforts would be advanced to a minimal but still useful extent.  Considering what may be at stake, could any lesser response possibly be justified?

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rev. 1/20/99