Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"?

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  • #3949
    Profile photo of Jon Cleland Host
    Jon Cleland Host
    Participant

     

    Good conversation, (and, Linda, welcome!).

     

        OK, so metabolism being the ability to take in energy from the surroundings to keep systems going, the first question that comes up with me is “what ‘surroundings’ are we referring to?”.   Since the Universe is by definition everything, it seems that there aren’t any clear “surroundings” to take anything from.  While multiverses are possible, they certainly haven’t been shown to be real.

     

    Next, “energy”.  We understand well what the different forms of energy are (thermal, electromagnetic, kinetic, etc.).  Is there evidence of any of them coming from outside the Universe?  

     

    Brian Swimme is a great popularizer and a huge asset to our human species – but he is not a scientist.   If we can get the source he used to base his statement on, then it might be useful.

     

    Dr. Bohm was a great physicist, but I’m not sure how his statement that “the universe is a unified whole in flowing movement.” really means anything.  I mean, we already agree that we can see the Universe as a unified thing (after all, that’s it’s name), and of course it is filled with flowing movement (as the res-shift shows) – but that doesn’t show that the Universe is taking in energy from someplace else.  

     

    Perhaps more to the point, we need to look at actual research, and be careful not to fall into the trap of  treating quotes as data.  This means that wherever possible, we need to favor data over quotes – and especially favor consensus views over individual statements.  After all, scientists are humans, and with millions of scientists, some are going to have wrong ideas about some things.  Dr. Bohm is a good example of this – he was regularly fooled by charlatans.  

    The fact that we don’t know what dark energy is, is not a reason to conclude that it is coming from somewhere else or that it is categorically different from the known forms of energy.  Sure it could be, but one could have said that same thing about radiation energy in 1920 – and further work showed that radiation energy is just another type of energy.  

    The Wheeler quote is about the quantum phenomena of matter coming into existence  on a quantum level.  Without more data or explanation from Wheeler explaining what he means about that, I don’t see that it supports the idea of metabolism of the ability to take in energy from the surroundings to keep systems going.  That’s especially because particle coming into existence this way are balanced by anti-particles, and hence the sum energy or matter is zero (nothing is being taken in).  

     

    The scientific American article sounds interesting.  Could you explain what details it gives that are useful here, since I don’t have it?

     

    Thanks all-

     

        -Jon 

     

     

     

     

     

    #3950
    Profile photo of James MacAllister
    James MacAllister
    Participant

     Many better men and women have wrestled with attempts to define life. Perhaps Humberto Maturana and Francisco Vatema come the closest to explaining why life defies simply definitions. Vernadsky recognized that there was a difference between the geophysical Earth and what he called living matter. Lovelock used the metaphor of the Earth as a superorganism, but he agreed with Margulis that they were describing the Bioshere within the Earth system. Terms in science usually have very specific meanings. It degrades clear communication to misapply terminology and that doing so is scientific.  Genes are incapable of selfishness. You cannot have a symbiotic relationship with another human being. The Living Universe may be poetic, life may be common in the Universe, but if the Universe is alive, what then is not?  

    #3951
    Profile photo of Duane Elgin
    Duane Elgin
    Participant

    Thanks for the important questions Jon,
     
    In that spirit, I question your assumption that “the universe is by definition everything.” This assumption is now being strongly questioned by scientists developing multiverse or multiple universe theories. For example, if I go to the “Google Scholar” search engine, it lists nearly 13,000 references regarding the “multiverse.” See: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=multiverse&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5 Also, in publications such as “The New Scientist,” different views of the multiverse theory are regularly featured and discussed. This does not mean the multiverse is “real” or “proven” but it does suggest that we keep an open mind regarding whether there is a larger context within which our universe resides. The assumption that “the universe is by definition everything” may be outdated if “everything” is now beginning to include the possibility of a multiverse.
     
    In terms of energy, it is well-established that particles are constantly popping in and out of existence at the quantum level. This does not mean they are coming from “outside” the universe, particularly since 95 percent of the known universe is invisible. However, it does open the door to discovery and curiosity as to where this activity is originating.
     
    You say that Brian Swimme is “not a scientist.” However, his education and background suggest otherwise. He received his Ph.D. (1978) from the department of mathematics at the University of Oregon for work with Richard Barrar on singularity theory, with a dissertation entitled Singularities in the N-Body Problem.[1] Swimme was a faculty member in the department of mathematics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, 1978–81. He describes himself as an evolutionary cosmologist.
     
    I agree that we need to be careful to not fall into the trap of treating quotes as data. However, in that same paragraph you offer the statement that the physicist, Dr. David Bohm “was regularly fooled by charlatans.” I am interested in the actual data that supports this important assertion.

     

    You also say that “particles coming into existence this way are balanced by anti-particles, and hence the sum energy or matter is zero (nothing is being taken in).” I have had the understanding that there is, in fact, a slight but significant asymmetry in the universe such that there are more particles than anti-particles and this provides the basis for the physical universe we live within. See, for example, the Stanford article: https://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-sather.pdf which states that, “If we work out what the Universe was like one billionth of a second after it began, it turns out that for every billion particle-antiparticle pairs there was just one extra particle. To that particle we and stars owe our existence.”
     
    Duane

    #3955
    Profile photo of Stephan Martin
    Stephan Martin
    Participant

    Duane – thanks for the reference to the SciAm article on our Growing, Breathing Galaxy. I’ve requested it via interlibrary loan and will be happy to share it when it arrives.

    It seems that there may be two threads emerging in the discussion here: one about the on-going “livingness” on the universe, in terms of its dynamism and continual emergence on a moment by moment basis. The quantum particles that emerge from the quantum or false vacuum, by the way, are thought to be virtual particles (which means not fully real but mathematical possibilities). They can become real particles through the application of an electromagnetic field, which provides energy that pulls them into “realness” out of the void.

    The other thread is whether the universe possesses properties (such as metabolism, growth, etc…) that are commonly agreed upon as necessary for life. I see the two as different, in that describing the qualities or characteristics of something does not necessarily tell you what it is exactly (think about how describing the characteristics of a person falls short of knowing them fully), especially in the case of emergent systems, which the universe, or multiverse may be. So even if we all agree that the universe possesses properties that we agree are requirements for life, these may not be enough to demonstrate that it is a living system. Something which is like a living system and shares its characteristics such as computers or computer viruses, does not mean it is a living system, and this is a big debate among computer and cognitive scientists right now.

    However, it might open the door to considering other approaches to understanding life, which as James pointed out, is still very much a mystery. It’s interesting that many of indigenous peoples the world over would agree that the universe and all that exists is alive in a very real way, and yet most western scientists would not. Why is this? Partly I think it’s because indigenous people would consider qualitative approaches to knowing as sufficient evidence whereas western scientists would need quantitative data as well. Life may be difficult to define precisely because its “livingness” is a qualitative perception that can’t be easily quantified, even though the properties of life (such as metabolism rate, growth rate, etc…) can be precisely determined. Indigenous scientists such as Dr. Gregory Cajete (Native Science, et al.)  and western scientists such as F. David Peat (Blackfoot Physics et al. ) have proposed we need both types of knowing for a full view of reality, and I would tend to agree with them.

    It feels like we’re really pushing the paradigm here with this discussion – thanks for all the great ideas flowing!

     

    #3956
    Profile photo of Duane Elgin
    Duane Elgin
    Participant

    Stephan,

     

    Thanks for these clarifying and insightful comments. Yes, we seem to have at least these two threads of conversation going and I appreciate your contributions to them both. Personally, I agree with your comment that, “Life may be difficult to define precisely because its “livingness” is a qualitative perception that can’t be easily quantified, even though the properties of life (such as metabolism rate, growth rate, etc…) can be precisely determined. Indigenous scientists . . . and western scientists . . . have proposed we need both types of knowing for a full view of reality, and I would tend to agree with them.”

     

    Yes, we are pushing the limits of paradigms here! Very exciting inquiry!

     

    Duane

    #3957
    Profile photo of Jon Cleland Host
    Jon Cleland Host
    Participant

      Duane –         Thanks for the response.   I would like to add that I greatly appreciate your work and contributions, and see a lot of positive impact in our world from you and  your work, and am  honored to be friends with you.  That’s regardless of whether or not we’ll find points where we disagree. 

     

    you wrote:*** In that spirit, I question your assumption that “the universe is by definition everything.” This assumption is now being strongly questioned by scientists developing multiverse or multiple universe theories***

     

    ((A))  It’s not an assumption, it’s the simple use of a definition.  Universe:     noun

    1.

    the totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space; the cosmos; macrocosm.
     
    It’s important that we use definitions, and not try to make up our own definitions for things.  Clear communication depends on clear definitions.  It’s also helpful if we don’t call things that we don’t agree with “assumptions”, unless they, in fact, are.
     
    ****For example, if I go to the “Google Scholar” search engine, it lists nearly 13,000 references regarding the “multiverse.” See: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=multiverse&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5 ****
     ((B))
    Irrelevant.  you can get tons of hits for things like “alien abduction”, or whatever.  Hits don’t equal truth, both because papers often talk about speculative ideas as speculation, or otherwise discuss the topic without supporting it.
     
    ****Also, in publications such as “The New Scientist,” ****
     
    citing “new scientist” can hurt your claim, as New Scientist often publishes crackpot ideas.  They do usually have plenty of real science, but pseudoscience, and especially misleading hype, can be found in New Scientist.  You can see this from their “Was Darwin wrong” cover from 2009, supporting creationists.
     
    ((C))
    ******This does not mean the multiverse is “real” or “proven” but it does suggest that we keep an open mind regarding whether there is a larger context within which our universe resides. ****
     
    Then do we agree that it is outside the realm of material for teaching in a “scientific field”?
     
    ((D))
       *****In terms of energy, it is well-established that particles are constantly popping in and out of existence at the quantum level. This does not mean they are coming from “outside” the universe, particularly since 95 percent of the known universe is invisible. However, it does open the door to discovery and curiosity as to where this activity is originating.  ***
     
    Then do we agree again that it is outside the realm of material for teaching in a “scientific field”?  
     
    ((E))
    ****You say that Brian Swimme is “not a scientist.” …  dissertation entitled Singularities in the N-Body Problem.[1] Swimme was a faculty member in the department of mathematics*****
     
    Right.  I’m familiar with all that.  Having a background in Math does not make one a scientist, and not a astrophysical scientist either. 
     
     
    ****He describes himself as an evolutionary cosmologist.****    How one describes oneself is completely irrelevant (to the point that mentioning  how he describes himself hurts your case).  Many creationists describe themselves as scientists.
     
    ((F)) 
    Als0  I asked what the text of the “living galaxy” article said.  I thought that you had it.  I didn’t see that in your reply.
     
     More later – gotta go.
     
    -Jon

     

    #3958
    Profile photo of Jennifer Morgan
    Jennifer Morgan
    Participant

    Dear Jon, Lowell, Linda, Davidson, Steve, Duane, Jim, and Steve,
     
    I’m following this conversation with intense interest and will comment later.  Got to Cincinnati late last night and preparing for a program for tomorrow.  BTW – Linda Fitch’s uncle, Val Fitch, won the Nobel Prize with James Cronin for the developing the theory of CP Violation, or Symmetry Breaking, which you mention in one of your posts Duane. 
     
    Jennfier

    #3960
    Profile photo of Jon Cleland Host
    Jon Cleland Host
    Participant

    Sorry for the delay.  Here is my response continued.

    ((G))

    Duane wrote:

    ***you offer the statement that the physicist, Dr. David Bohm “was regularly fooled by charlatans.” I am interested in the actual data that supports this important assertion.  ***

      Yes, it is always quite fair to ask for support for any claim.  Here is a start – though there is more out there if you’d like.    

    “Bohm’s creative work in physics is undisputable, but in other fields he was almost as gullible as Conan Doyle. He was favorably impressed by Count Alfred Korzybski’s Science and Sanity, with the morphogenic fields of Rupert Sheldrake, the orgone energy of Wilhelm Reich, and the marvels of parapsychology. [1] For a while he took seriously Uri Geller’s ability to bend keys and spoons, to move compasses, and produce clicks in a Geiger counter, all with his mind.”   from: http://thinkg.net/david_bohm/martin_gardner_on_david_bohm_and_krishnamurti.html  

    *****You also say that “particles coming into existence this way are balanced by anti-particles, and hence the sum energy or matter is zero (nothing is being taken in).” I have had the understanding that there is, in fact, a slight but significant asymmetry in the universe such that there are more particles than anti-particles and this provides the basis for the physical universe we live within. See, for example, the Stanford article: https://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-sather.pdf which states that, “If we work out what the Universe was like one billionth of a second after it began, it turns out that for every billion particle-antiparticle pairs there was just one extra particle. To that particle we and stars owe our existence.”****

      Yes, that was the case during the Big Bang – but not now.  Now, there is no residual particle from the pairs.  As pointed out, they are not clearly real – as a mathematical model.  

     

    ((H))

    A major concern I have is that much of this appears to follow a similar approach as does a lot of pseudoscientific fields.  Specifically:

    1. Redefining words (“Universe”)
    2. Use of quotes as evidence in itself (Bohm)
    3. suggesting that other ideas are “assumptions”
    4. citing non-scientists as evidence (this also applies in cases, not seen here, where scientists are quoted outside their field).
    5. Vague, unsupported assertions (such as “There appears to be a permeating sentience or knowing capacity infusing the universe…”)
    6. etc.

      These are the types of approaches used by pseudosciences such as creationism.  We need to be especially careful to avoid them, both because we want to make accurate claims, and because we need to maintain the credibility of Big History (and the Deep Time Journey Network).  There is room for philosophical speculation, and for poetic and metaphorical use of language  – but when we do that, we need to be clear about what we are doing, and we need to keep that out of forums/area/publications that are for scientific articles, so that we avoid even the appearance of presenting speculation as fact.
     
    So far, it seems to me that the reasons cited for claiming that the Universe has metabolism are not helping to support that claim.   Thoughts?   Jon        

    #3962
    Profile photo of Ursula Goodenough
    Ursula Goodenough
    Participant

    Jennifer asked me to weigh in here. 

     

    Since Duane quotes Brian — the universe emerges out of an all-nourishing abyss at every moment — to support his point, I think it would be appropriate to get Brian’s feedback here as well. Brian, for example, is also known for “gravity is love,” and the last time I heard someone question him on that he walked it way back. I’ve not heard him comment on this quote, but I’d be quite surprised if he would be comfortable with its supporting the metabolism metaphor.

     

    The noun metabolism has a very specific meaning in biology, as in wiki: 

     

    Metabolism (from Greek: μεταβολή metabolē, “change”) is the set of life-sustaining chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms. These enzyme-catalyzed reactions allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. The word metabolism can also refer to all chemical reactions that occur in living organisms, including digestion and the transport of substances into and between different cells, in which case the set of reactions within the cells is called intermediary metabolism or intermediate metabolism.

     

    Metabolism is usually divided into two categories. Catabolism, that breaks down organic matter and harvests energy by way of cellular respiration, and anabolism that uses energy to construct components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids.

     

    To take this word and apply it, for example, to what stars do makes no sense to me. What is accomplished?

     

    Here’s where I come out in general. I’ve not been resonant with any Gaia-premised understandings of nature from the get-go, where Duane’s expansion of the concept to the universe is even less appealing to me. To my ears, those proposing Gaia-like worldviews are motivated, whether consciously or not, by the premise that to call something alive, or some process a living process, is to enhance its value, to increase our affinity towards it. This is the outcome, I would say, of our negative view of matter (Loyal Rue makes this point in some of his books as well, calling it the “grunge theory of matter”). So we hear such phrases as “only matter” or “mere matter” or “just matter,” whereas we don’t hear only/mere/just life. 

     

    I would say that the project to helping humans feel at home in the universe needs to include a celebration of all the wondrous things that matter does and can do when it’s not included in a life process, using the nouns and verbs we have for these things, rather than according them life-process nouns and verbs.

    #3964
    Profile photo of Stephan Martin
    Stephan Martin
    Participant

    Ursula makes a good point in highlighting the life/matter bias that has deep roots in our contemporary worldview. Ideas that matter/earth is sinful, fallen, ‘dirty’, etc… have a long history in western culture, and one that contemporary ecological philosophers such as Freya Matthews (For Love of Matter) and others have addressed by suggesting that the duality between the two may not be fundamentally real or helpful in creating a more participatory view and positive engagement with the world/universe. Matthews approaches this by suggesting that rather than maintaining a world of subjects and objects (which could represent living beings and matter in the present discussion), that we propose that subjectivity is inherent to the world itself. This lines up nicely with Brian Swimme’s view of the universe centrating into many unique centers of experience  and Thomas Berry’s “communion of subjects.” Perhaps subjectivity (to whatever degree it exists in various forms) might be a useful concept here in bridging the “participatory gap” between humans and the universe, rather than trying to demonstrate participatory engagement through common structures of life and livingness?

    #3965
    Profile photo of James MacAllister
    James MacAllister
    Participant

    I think the basis of this discussion/debate is fatally flawed. The list of qualities that describe life is hopelessly outdated, inadequate and vague.

    • Metabolism is more than the ability to “the ability to take in energy from the surroundings to keep going” (whatever that means). Cells are the basic units of life and they have very distinct requirements, a source of energy, a source of electrons, a source of carbon (and other elements usually abbreviated as CHNOPS), and a terminal electron acceptor. Metabollisms come in specific types named for their sources of energy and carbon, such as photoautotrophs (light & C02), chemoautotrophs (inorganic chemicals & CO2), heterotrophs (organic chemicals & organic chemicals), and others.
    • Homeostasis may be a feature of the internal chemistry and electrical charge of all active cells, but this may not be a requirement for dormant forms, spores, round bodies, other propagules and variant forms that can survive desiccation or freezing for decades or longer.
    • Reproduction may be a feature of some cells at some point in the life cycle of an organism for growth or to produce more numbers of the organism, but a mule, grandmother or a heterocyst can not reproduce but all are nonetheless alive.
    • Adaptation would seem to require clairvoyance on the part of organisms and “punctuated equilibrium” in evolution refers to the fact that much of evolution is not a record of gradual change but long stretches of stasis punctuated by bursts of rapid change or extinction events followed by radiations of new species. Horizontal gene and genome transfer (symbiosis) confers novelty and natural selection (an elimination process) winnows out the unfit and unlucky. It is probably more useful to think of repurposing novel traits rather than “adaptation”. The genome is dynamic and the organism has a given amount of plasticity which can be expressed given various information flow from the environment. Putting organisms under stress appears to be one way to invoke change in the growth and development of organisms and these changes have been shown to be inheritable.
    • DNA is an important molecule in the organelle of the nucleus of the eukaryotic cell or in the nucleiod of a bacterium but DNA is only a part of the system of the cell structurally coupled to the environment. DNA by itself does nothing. A tipping point has been reached and a new synthesis has replaced the so called Modern Synthesis or “gene-centered” view of life and biology that has dominated science for the past 70 years. You do not have to take my word for it, here is Oxford Professor of Physiology and Systems Biology Denis Noble https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzD1daWq4ng.

    Noble also gives a great talk on What is Life? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hS6PDOcJwY8&index=3&list=PLnqQJI0EhuwwdoH18CnKcOC6j4qaU_yXI

    As to the use of the word “science”, that term has an origin and history and a meaning that I think needs to be respected. Otherwise it may as well mean wishful thinking or “because I said so”.  There are many ways of knowing, but sticking the word science or physics onto a way of knowing that differs dramatically from the rules and methods of science, such as “dowsing science” or “Creation Science” does not make these ways-of-knowing science in anything but phony name.  

    Having worked for ten years with Lynn Margulis, one of the main collaborators with James Lovelock on Gaia theory, I must say I got a chuckle out of Ursula’s opinion that Jim or Lynn were “anti-matter”.  I can assure everyone that Lynn loved every element of the periodic table but she did understand that living matter differed from matter that was busy being a stone, a snowflake, a glass slide or a light-emitting diode.

    I must apologize for using my iPhone for my first foray into this discussion and getting Francisco Varela’s name misspelled and other sentence gaffs.  The book I mention is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what knowing is or what mind is.  I think they make a compelling scientific argument that it is an emergent property of life (cellular life – the only kind for which there is evidence).

    There is a talk by David Lenson at the second day of the memorial symposium to Lynn Margulis in which he plays a bit of her audio from one of her visits to his radio show and she talks about science as a way of knowing. It is 4 minutes into the clip and worth a listen.  < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9hTlyfq8PA>  Science has rules and is a discipline.  It looks for the truth (with a small “t”) as defined as what is shown by the best evidence at the time. There is no certainty in science because it is not objective, we humans do science so it is done through our senses and our minds and they are fallible. But science does seem to be one of the best ways we have to really know the world.

     

     

     

    Profile photo of Duane Elgin
    Duane Elgin
    Participant

    Jon,  

     

    There are many ideas that you bring up that I have questions about and don’t have the time today to go through them all. I would like to mention a couple:  

     

    First, you say that the physicist, David Bohm was “regularly fooled by charlatans” and, as proof of this you quote Martin Gardner. Gardner was a notoriously closed-minded skeptic who dismissed anything having to do with intuitive functioning. To quote Gardner as proof that Bohm was regularly fooled by charlatans is like asking an atheist to comment on whether people are being fooled by ministers. Martin Gardner is not a source of “empirical scientific data” but dogmatic opinion.  

     

    Second, you say (with regard to Brian Swimme) that being a mathematician does not make one a scientist. I’ve been exploring definitions of the sciences and mathematics is regularly included as a “science.” How do you justify removing mathematics from science?  

     

    Third, you say that references to multiverse theory in the Google Scholar search engine are “irrelevant” as are articles in “The New Scientist.” Does this mean you dismiss multiverse theory as “irrelevant”?  

     

    Fourth, with regard to the words “universe” and “multiverse,” I am suggesting there is a useful distinction to be made and explored. Your closed-minded description does not leave room for open-minded inquiry–which is what this dialogue is all about. Is there a definition of a multiverse as a larger context for individual universes that opens a door for inquiry?  

     

    Fifth, non-locality does suggest there is a deeper connectivity in the universe which can include “information” connectivity. See, for example, http://plato.stanford.edu/search/searcher.py?query=nonlocality    

     

    Sixth, you seem to regard scientists as independent observers who are separate from that which they are observing. Is that a correct assumption on my part? If so, I wonder what you think of the statement by physicist John Wheeler who wrote: “Nothing is more important about the quantum principle than this, that it destroys the concept of the world as ‘sitting out there,’ with the observer safely separated from it…. To describe what has happened, one has to cross out that old word ‘observer’ and put in its place the new word ‘participator.’ In some strange sense the universe is a participatory universe.”       

    #3969
    Profile photo of Jon Cleland Host
    Jon Cleland Host
    Participant

     

    Hi Duane-

     

       Yes, we are both very busy, and that’s OK.  There is no rush.  If you’d prefer I wait to reply after you put in a partial reply, so you can put the rest of the reply up, just let me know and I’ll wait.   I had just split up a post like that yesterday.    

     

    To keep things from getting messed up, I went back and labelled the current topics using ((A)) type tags.  These are, we should remember, all sub topics under “metabolism”, itself being the first part of the examination of whether the Universe fits David Christian’s definition of “life”.

     

     Also, thank you, additional posters, for clarifying the metabolic, catabolic, etc, details of metabolism.  I agree that those are relevant, but think that Duane and I have quite a bit already started, and suggest we get to those topics after finishing at least the lettered topics ((A)) through ((H)).

     

    With that, let’s see if we can continue here.

    ((A))   “Universe” definition   Also, your “fourth” from the last post.

    you wrote:

    I am suggesting there is a useful distinction to be made and explored. Your closed-minded description does not leave room for open-minded inquiry–which is what this dialogue is all about. 

     

    Whoa, you are calling me “closed minded” because I used a dictionary to get a definition?  How are you suggesting we get definitions?  By making them up?   If we don’t have an established word for what we are talking about, we can try to coin a new word, but I don’t we should be making up definitions. Right?

    Is there a definition of a multiverse as a larger context for individual universes that opens a door for inquiry?

    Well, that word too has a definition.  I just looked it up in the dictionary.  Instead of me posting the definition here (since that didn’t seem helpful last time), would you like to look it up, and see if you’d like to use that word?

     

     

    ((B))   “Multiverse” references

    You wrote:

    Third, you say that references to multiverse theory in the Google Scholar search engine are “irrelevant” as are articles in “The New Scientist.” Does this mean you dismiss multiverse theory as “irrelevant”?  

    No, it doesn’t – I don’t dismiss it.  It means that if you are going to cite a reference to support your point, you need to cite a credible reference that actually supports your point.  Those two (the fact that there are many hits and the fact that it was discussed in “New Scientist”) don’t support your point.  I’m happy to talk about the possibility of the multiverse, and what evidence supports it.

     

    ((C))  “Multiverse” – not proven

         (no response in your last post on whether or not your response indicates that it doesn’t belong in Big History).

     

    ((D))  Particles  popping into existence

         (no response in your last post on whether or not your response indicates that it doesn’t belong in Big History).

     

     

    ((E))  Swimme “Scientist”

    You wrote:

    Second, you say (with regard to Brian Swimme) that being a mathematician does not make one a scientist. I’ve been exploring definitions of the sciences and mathematics is regularly included as a “science.” How do you justify removing mathematics from science?  

     

     

    There are at least three reasons why Swimme’s math degree doesn’t make him a scientist (and by the way, I didn’t “remove” math from science – math is a formal science, like logic, not an empirical science, like chemistry).  

    1. “Scientists” are those who are doing (or retired from) active research in empirical science.  Math is not an empirical science.

    2.  Swimme has not published experimental results in peer-reviewed journals to my knowledge.

    3.  Even if 1 and 2 weren’t the case, his statement would still be irrelevant because it is outside the field where he has published work.  Specifically, if you want to use a quote about the galaxy from someone, that person needs to have published research about the galaxy, or have expertise in, and have reviewed work by others about experimental research about the galaxy.  Using a quote about, say, biochemistry, from a published astrophysical scientist, for instance, is fallacious.

     

    ************more later.  Please wait to reply.  My turn to be out of time  *********************   : )

     

    ((F))  Text of “Living Galaxy” article

    ((G))  David Bohm

    ((H))   Pseudoscience List

     

    #3970
    Profile photo of Duane Elgin
    Duane Elgin
    Participant

    Jon,

     

    A: my apologies for describing you as “closed minded” as my concern was that you did not seem to be open to the idea of a “multiverse.” Now I see that you are.  

     

    B. More on my own definition of a “multiverse” in a later post. Thanks for bringing it in.  

     

    C. You are correct that multiverse theory is not “proven” although there are some tantalizing clues emerging from brane theory. If big history is genuinely “big” then I do think this deserves inclusion in big history.  

     

    D. Beyond “particles” (or energetic structures) popping in and out of existence, I’d like to raise the issue of the entire universe as a continuously emergent process.  

     

    E. I respect your restrictive definition of a scientist as someone who has published experimental results in a peer reviewed journal and, in those terms, I may qualify as a “scientist.” More on that later. In the meantime, I do consider Brian a scientist in the widely accepted definition of being “a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.”      

    #3972
    Profile photo of Linda Fitch
    Linda Fitch
    Participant

    Dear Folks,

    Never has there been any kind of serial narrative more fascinating (to me at least) than the conversations that have shot back and forth  in the past few days.  I sincerely hope that it all continues and that nobody bows out. 

    Though I grew up in a culture of science, with my physicist uncle Val (Fitch) and his brother (my father) talking about k mesons, leptons, and “naked charm” at the dinner table, I always felt on the outside of science and occupied, for many years, the world of the humanities and the arts.

    I an seated, at the moment, in the Peanut Gallery of your conversations and very much appreciate what I am reading.  Please keep it up.  Your perspectives, whether in conflict or not, are of immeasurable value.

    Jim M., I’m so hoping that you and Lois Byrne will come to Isle La Motte, VT next summer to see the “Walk Through Time” exhibit set up in the context of our 83 acre Ordovician fossil preserve.  My unexpected battle, in the mid 1990s, to preserve these ancient outcrops  gave rise to my first faint interests in science (ie what happened  480 million years ago, what happened before and what happened after.) I very much appreciate what I am learning – among other things and particularly from you – about the legacy of Lynn Margulis.

    To Duane, Jon, Jim, Steve, and all: I am honored to be walking in the outskirts of your worlds.  My thanks for your sharings.

    Linda Fitch

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