A Scientific Dilemma
And an unscientific solution…

There are two pillars of science: objectivity and corrigibility. For almost four centuries these two ideals have stood together, to the point that we view them as nearly synonymous.  It is because of our objectivity that we remain corrigible and vice versa.

There is an underlying assumption that is paradoxical.  Objectivity implies the existence of an object that is itself not corrigible: neither the object nor the assumption of its existence.  The object in question is the physical world.

The reality of the world is clearly a metaphysical issue that should come under the purview of philosophy.  Yet, the treatment of this issue has been both sporadic and superficial for at least the last century.  Quite simply it has not been taken as a serious issue, even to the extent that its lack of seriousness has not been a topic of discussion.

Superficially, the reason for this lack of consideration appears to be the overwhelming success of science over the last century: a success that evidently countenances no questions.  And for all the philosophical analysis that has taken place, this fundamental issue has managed to escape analysis.  Even more interesting is the fact that this fundamental oversight is continuing in the context of a rising interest in metaphysics in general.

What I suspect is more germane and what I have been testing is that the silence on the issue of the reality of the world is the result of an unarticulated sense of vulnerability, not just on the part of scientists, but for the whole of our modern civilization.  There is a nearly outmoded word that denotes the nature of this vulnerability: it is ‘apocalypse.’  How so?

This word derives from the Greek apokalyptein meaning to uncover or reveal.  If the physical world is not an absolute object, then it must be contingent on something else.  It is that something else that is to be revealed.  Similarly, to reveal the source of the world’s contingency is to demonstrate its vulnerability.  This is a vulnerability that can be assessed only in eschatological terms.  Such a revelation necessarily brings us to confront our destiny.

What started as a dilemma for science has been seen to include the most basic issues of philosophy and theology as well.  Yet, none of these disciplines is taking up this challenge.  It can be surmised that they feel a lack of authority adequate to meet the challenge.  Accordingly, I return to the scientific community to seek its tolerance for my taking on this challenge by also proposing its solution. The solution is to contain the vulnerability at the same time that it is revealed.  This is the only responsible approach.

If the risks and opportunities attendant upon this particular revelation are indeed the ultimate challenge for humanity then we should settle for nothing less than the personal and direct intervention of God.  But there is a small caveat.  We have to help decide how we want God to intervene.  My suggestion is that it would be preferable for God to do that as one of us.  There is ample precedence for that to happen.  Furthermore, so as not to be caught standing on ceremony, I am volunteering as an adequate agent for this task.  I feel obliged to offer this package deal, one that might not be easy to refuse.  It certainly ought to be entertained.

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rev. 1/22/99