Hi Paul. Thanks for the quick response.

I accept that my use of the word 'offence' was somewhat flippant. In your article you made critical observations about New-Agers citing Capra, Zukav, Bohm etc. Following on from my courtroom analogy of using the word 'guilty', 'offence' seemed an appropriate word to use. I perceive Medium articles to be something in the nature of a blog, so don't require the same standards of precise language as academic articles.

On your second point, indeed it wasn't a claim about the "relevant scientists". I was merely trying to distinguish between the scientists and those New-Agers whom you rightly criticise. What the scientists themselves do and say is surely more important than those who misrepresent them. If you don't believe these physicists became spiritual because of their work in physics, do you have any evidence that Jeans, Heisenberg, and Eddington made idealist statements along the lines of Plato before the discoveries of quantum physics? I believe that Eddington was a Quaker, but don't think Quakers' beliefs extend that far.

Profound transformative experiences would, as you say, be personal. My point in using the word 'vague' was that you didn't give any examples of what you meant. To give an extreme example, someone might just wake up in the morning and decide to become an idealist. That would be a personal reason, but not a very good one. My contrast with the word 'experience' was intended to show that a conversion to spirituality usually comes about following something real, at least in the minds of the ones experiencing this. They are the ones who believe the experiences to be profound, and they are relevant because they are life-changing (even if you think that such people are deluded, and choose to dismiss their experiences as irrelevant).

Such experiences may have no connection with the world of physics, but it does explain why such people may sympathise with physicists who make statements supportive of a spiritual worldview.

You say that none of the philosophical idealists you know have said anything about their own personal experiences. I'm not sure if by that you mean the quantum physicists we are discussing. In any case, along the lines you argue that could be seen as a good thing. How did they therefore arrive at such a conclusion? Was it through a process of logic, philosophical reasoning, because of the obvious flaws in physicalism? As I don't know to whom you're referring, you would have to elaborate with examples.

On your next point, I agree that I was spiritual first, but as I made clear I was neither an idealist or a New-Ager. I started from a belief in Jungian psychology which, as I imagine you agree, cannot be confirmed or otherwise by physics. I certainly did not read quantum physics books therefore to back up my prior spiritual beliefs. On the contrary, when I read the statements by physicists in these books, these opened me up to a deeper understanding of what spirituality is all about. You say: “that's demonstrating my very point. That is, you found some physics which you believed squared with your prior spiritual beliefs”. But that's completely the opposite of what happened, and what I said. Are you suggesting that all spiritual worldviews are the same? Nowhere in Zukav, for example, is there any mention of Jung and the ideas that I started with.

On your next point, it may not have been established that what the physicists said was true, but unless they were deliberately trying to deceive the public, it is hard to argue that they weren't saying what conclusions the physics had led them to. I specifically agreed that what you said about Schrödinger might be true, but contrasted this with a statement by Bohr, where he did make a connection between the physics and the spirituality (ancient wisdom). I invited you to say whether any of the statements I quoted by Jeans, Heisenberg, Eddington, Bohr were taken out of context. You haven't done so here.

On your next point, I'm assuming that, unless you have evidence to the contrary, the physicists came to their spiritual views because of the physics. As I said, at the start they were merely doing scientific work, investigating the nature of the atom. The only exception, as far as I'm aware, was Schrödinger, who was a Vedantist before his work on quantum physics.

You say that you don't deny that some physicists at some point may come to their philosophical views because of their science. I don't know why you then say “so what!?”. That seems very significant to me. I don't need to establish precisely how the two connect up. I read the scientists and, while I accept that they might have got it wrong, find what they say interesting. Since, as I said, there is a reasonable consistency between their viewpoints, despite the different interpretations of quantum physics, I find this reasonably compelling. If you find all this “vague”, it's up to you as a trained philosopher to explain how they've got it wrong.

Your next section is interesting, and disturbing, but I don't see how it's relevant to what we are discussing. Surely it must be obvious to you that political views are of a completely different nature to scientific findings.

If it is only a tiny minority, then can you provide me with a list of the vast majority of quantum physicists who disagree. (I've noted that Carlo Rovelli seems to distance himself from a spiritual interpretation, but even he was deeply impressed by the Buddhist Nagarjuna.)

Agreed that there are different interpretations of quantum physics, and some people mistake the interpretations for the physics, which is why it's important to understand clearly the difference. Perhaps it would be helpful if you stated what you believe to be the actual truths of the science before the interpretations are added.

You may “suspect” that Heisenberg merely checked the physics and the historical details of quantum mechanics, and that “he wouldn't have checked Capra's own spiritual interpretations, analogies”. That would of course suit your argument. The more likely interpretation is that he did endorse Capra's ideas. If not, would he not have criticised them, and suggested that he not go ahead? You ask, “so what?” Well, to get one of the most significant figures in the history of quantum mechanics to endorse your theory would be something special. That was what Capra was saying in print, which is why I invited you to challenge it, no rhetoric intended. Your suspicion is not impressive on this occasion.

Nothing you've said here has persuaded me to shift a millimetre on any of this, although I am open to more convincing arguments. As you say, your response suggests that you won't shift either. I apologise if you think I've misrepresented your words, which wasn't intentional. I think you may have overstated this, however; I was merely trying to establish and clarify what your argument appeared to be saying.

It isn't materialism that irritates me per se, rather materialists who make nonsensical statements in defence of it.



I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com

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Graham Pemberton

I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com