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Can we broaden the context of science?

  1. Jul 22, 2004 #1
    I would like to pose a question. First, some background:

    The Indo-European grammar of English guides its speakers to subdivide their awareness of nature. Speakers of English recognize two very different and seemingly completely incompatible models of nature, science and religion. The grammar of English therefore leads to a subdivided model of nature. 2,000 years ago, both religion and science were subdivided into 4 main forces of nature. Religion unified some 2,000 years ago into a unified force of nature, god, but science still recognizes the same 4 fundamental forces of nature that our ancestors recognized 2,000 years ago. Modern science now also recognizes 4 subdivided dimensions. At its most fundamental level, therefore, the grammar of English guides it speakers to a subdivided awareness of nature, such as science from religion and space from time.

    In constrast, the Chinese language supports a single, unified model of nature, known as the Dao. China has of course borrowed numerous western religions as well as western science. However, the grammar of Chinese does not natively support either religion or science, in the western sense, but rather a single model of nature that correlates to both of these. The grammar of Chinese guides its speakers to recognize a unified model of nature, the Dao. The Dao at its most fundamental level recognizes a unity of nature. There is only the unity of the Dao. The Dao goes through a cycle of subdivision. This cycle recognizes 5 forces of nature, and 5 dimensions. The grammar of Chinese reflects a fundamental unity of space and time, as space-time, much like modern physics claims exists but which is so difficult to understand for speakers of English due to the recognized subdivisoin of space from time.

    I wonder if people on this forum consider that all models of nature are basically identical at a fundamental level, such that there is no need to look beyond science; or that the various models of nature differ in quality, such that there is no need to investigate other, inferior models of nature such as the Dao; or if people consider it possible that investigating the various science-like models of nature that have evolved throughout the entirety of our species might create a greater context within which to understand and interpret our observations of nature.

    My question is:

    Do you consider that there might be any significant value to considering science within a greater context, such as that presented by the Chinese model of the Dao?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2004 #2
    that would demand people to be quite atheistic, like chinese people are... religious people would probably oppose to this idea in great numbers, claiming it to be an attempt at secularizing both language and religion itself, and God would be mad and all that...
    people in general want black and white... human vs. nature, good vs. evil, them vs. us, science vs mind and religion (good riddens, if someone some day found out that mind and conciousness is deep down just chemistry and neurological impulses, they would be stoned by the masses...)
  4. Jul 22, 2004 #3
    You're kidding right? Science isn't even unified within itself, it is comparmentalized into so many different topics that the root forums of Physics Forum don't even have threads, but merely contain sub-forums which then contain threads along with even more sub-forums. Now you are asking us to unify science, religion, and nature as well?

    I don't think this will ever happen. I believe religion is a fog, and science is a break in the fog. As we begin to understand things more clearly, religion recedes and covers less and less territory. Ultimately, I don't think science and religion can be unified. I think science is constantly challenging religion. The thing that is unique about the chinese Dao is that it is not a religion, more of an adapter between other ideas. It relates things together. This is something that science lacks right now, but it is not out of a lack of interest, but more out of a lack of understanding. The Dao makes clear relationships in nature and science which have been reinforced through thousands of years of experience, but science will not accept it until it has been proven correct and we have some understanding of why that relationship exists.

    Well, those are my thoughts anyway. I actually didn't really understand most of what was being said in the original post. As usual, that doesn't stop me from replying!!
  5. Jul 22, 2004 #4
    that is probably true for 70% of the posts in the philosophy forums, so knock yourself out :biggrin:
  6. Jul 23, 2004 #5
    What you have really pointed out is the inherent holistic philosophy or worldview of asian cultures in general. Science is merely a specific process (eg exercizing, cooking, painting, etc.) and should not be confused with the philosophies which support it, whether eastern or western.

    As for whether there is significant value in considering science within a greater context, of course there is. Over the last century every branch of the sciences has adopted holistic theories, and a race has ensued to span all of the sciences within a single coherent holistic philosophy. Why has all this occured? Because by definition holistic theories describe more and are therefore more useful than reductionist ones.
  7. Jul 24, 2004 #6
    true, but divided reductionist sciences allow for more focus, thus quicker physical progress and RESULTS. And perhaps this has to be the foundation of what you call a single coherent holistic philosophy.
  8. Jul 24, 2004 #7
    i'm not sure if we can broaden the context of science though, as scientific method cannot be applied to absolutely everything, not as yet.
  9. Jul 24, 2004 #8
    By definition, Reductionism can be derived from holism. Reductionism is what I call the brute force engineering approach to problem solving. However, it can only take one so far. In surveys of the 100,000 of the world's leading scientists they estimated that the rapid growth of the sciences will slow to a crawl sometime in the next four to six hundred years.

    This has already occured in many branches of engineering and the sciences. For example, steam engines were pretty much perfected before physicists ever invented the laws of thermodynamics. However, the good 'ol days of backyard tinker's making major innovations in engines are over. For that matter, so are the days of a single scientist making major discoveries. Today's average significant physics paper has over a hundred contributors.
  10. Jul 24, 2004 #9


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    Not true. Go look at the arxiv new papers in hep-th, hep-ph, and even all physics papers. Three or four contributers. Maybe you are thinking of experimental results on the big colliders. An "experiment" in one of those is the size of an airplane hangar crammed full of hand built instruments. It takes a large team to construct and run all that, so a lot of contributers get credited. But that is not an "average' situation in modern physics.
  11. Jul 28, 2004 #10
    I basically agree with what you say.

    I think that science is an Indo-European invention, which is modelled on the Indo-European grammar of our language. I also think that an anthropological/linguistic widening of the scope of science to develop a more holistic context to analyzing the models of nature that have been developed by our species has the potential to help us understand why the unity of the Dao evolved into the subdivision of religion from science. When seen within a greater context, perhaps the seeming complete incompatibility of science with religion can be recognized to be subdivisions of the same unity, in much the same way as Yin and Yang are completely symmetrical subdivisions of the Dao.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2004
  12. Jul 28, 2004 #11


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    Unifying sciences is one thing. The best attempt I've ever seen is Consilience by E.O. Wilson. Unifying science with religion is a whole other matter. The epistemology of each is too different. Science is purely an empirical endeavor, whereas religion is mostly revealed. Perhaps what you want is for the two to eventually reach the same conclusions.
  13. Jul 29, 2004 #12
    The two are of the same conclusion, the fact that we're here.
  14. Jul 29, 2004 #13
    My point precisely. Modern speakers of English have an extremely narrow perspective on religion and science, the perspective that is provided by the grammar of our Indo-European language in isolation. From this perspective, there are two options available, religion and science, which are completely incompatible. Religion and science are not only very different, they are complete polarities in all respects.

    Billions of people throughout history have believed very devoutly in the truth of religion. Billions of people throughout history have believed very devoutly in the truth of science. While it is easy for members of each group to sluff off members of the other group as deluded, misguided fools, it is clear that something in nature is causing such beliefs to be perpetuated in a large number of people in each generation.

    I contend that were we to broaden our context of consideration, wherein religion and science could be considered from a more encompassing perspective, it might then be possible to find an underlying model of nature which subdivided to give rise to the dichotomy of religion and science.

    The completely polarized symmetry between science and religion is perhaps more than coincidence. Only by stepping outside of the grammar of English, which provides us with insights only to these two polarities of nature, to gain a greater context on their relationship can we come to understand better the nature of either and their relationship to each other.

    It turns out that the Dao of Chinese provides an interesting parallel to religion and science, and provides a possible source for understanding the origin of the dichotomy of religion and science.

    My point here is not to convince you that you should accept what I have to say as the truth, but to ask you to consider whether there is any potential for value in considering our models of nature, religion and science, from within the greater perspective provided by our entire species.
  15. Jul 30, 2004 #14
    Religious people worship, scientists observe. These are not incompatable practices. For example, Pantheists worship the totality of the universe. For many of them, scientific observation is one of the best ways to better understand what it is they worship. Hence, science "reveals" their religion, or at least a part of it.
  16. Jul 31, 2004 #15
    Reality is The One.
  17. Aug 10, 2004 #16
    Different languages guide people to different ways to relate to and interact with reality.
  18. Aug 10, 2004 #17
    I hadn't seen this before; it's a very interesting post.

    I think all models of nature are identical at a fundamental level, because to the best of my knowledge all human languages share the same foundation. No matter which language you speak, you can always express your ideas as causal relationships (verbs) between subject and object. For this reason, any true statement can be translated to any language without loss of information.

    I think (and I'm trying hard not to be biased) the European model is superior to the Chinese one, in the sense that it expresses more truths about nature. I say that not as a result of personal judgement, but simply due to the fact that the European model is far more popular in China than the Chinese model is popular in countries of European culture. For instance, while Chinese medicine sometimes succeeds where European medicine fails, the opposite is far more often the case. To me that means the European model of nature, when applied to the human body, reveals more truths than the Chinese one.

    So I don't think the best approach to improve the European model is to develop it further by acknowledging more facts about the world, facts that are known to anyone on any culture. The major flaw with the European model, in my judgement, is its stubborn, prejudiced attitude toward facts. More than explaining the world, our scientific model is used to explain it away - to discard all data it cannot accomodate as being false or irrelevant, and ostracizing anyone who dares challenge the mainstream.

    In my opinion, this all happens because science is perceived to lack a solid foundation. Most people think science is founded upon logic applied to perceptions, and while everyone trusts logic, few people trust human perception. The day everyone understands that science is actually founded upon language, then a door is opened to explore any true statement as being a statement about the world, as being a scientific subject.
  19. Aug 10, 2004 #18
    Aren't these statements contradictory? You believe that they are identical, yet you think that one is superior.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I will not tell you that you are wrong to have it, but I disagree completely.
    I have read the Old Testament in both English and Hebrew, and I found tremendous examples of the loss of extremely large and significant amounts of information in the translation. In my opinion, this is to be expected, rather than surprising.

    You speak of causal relationships between subject and verb. Subject are in the form of nouns, are they not? Are you aware that in many languages, the concept of a noun is very different than in English. For example, ask a friend or acquaintance how to translate the sentence "This is my brother" into natural Chinese or Japanese. This is not possible to do, except when stilted language is used. Furthermore, ask this person to translate into natural Japanese the sentence that might be asked a a restaurant, "Please put some more water into my cup." This again is not possible. Neither of these translations is possible, because in these examples there are multiple nouns that are possbile, and so more information is required for a translation. If a Chinese speaker or Japanese speaker were to translate the Chinese or Japanese word for brother into English, using the word brother, there would be a loss of information, as the Chinese and Japanese words contain more information.
    Verbs are also extremely different among languages, and convey different causal relationships among their nounds.

    This is a valid observation, but I believe that your conclusion is not completely correct.

    You think that the European model is superior in every way, rather than perhaps that together they provide more insight to truths than separately?

    If you cite this as a flaw of the European model, does this mean that it not be a flaw of other models, such that we might learn to do without this from other models?

    I agree with you that science is founded upon language, but I consider that science is founded upon the language of the Indo-Europeans, and that other language grammars lead to other models of nature.
  20. Aug 10, 2004 #19
    Reality is fundamentally the same though, right? And even if we discover and/or create something which is new, it's merely that which has always existed, potentially. :wink:
  21. Aug 10, 2004 #20


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    Ah, post-modern gobbledegook :yuck:
    Do you really think that the Romans knew a lot about beta-decay (the weak force) or about the strong nuclear force ?
    This is a typical pattern of "reasoning" in postmodernism: I guess you're talking about the 4 elements of Aristoteles, and the 4 forces (gravity, strong interaction, and electroweak interaction ; eh, only 3 ?? :shy: ok, before, it was, weak interaction and electromagnetism) in modern physics. The only thing they have in common is the number 4, so we say that it is the same thing. Like a hand has always communist tendencies.

    Also, in christian religion, the unified god is actually 3. Like the 3 little pigs. Or the 3 forces of nature.

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