In today's uncertain world, we can be certain of at least one thing--that science can provide us with the proof that we seek.
Or can it?
According to the world-class scientists at the Sages and Scientists Symposium organized by Deepak Chopra and Rustum Roy last week, the foundational laws of science reveal a whole lot. But neither proof, certainty, nor even matter itself are engraved on the checklist. Proof is dependent, certainty, uncertain--and matter? Well, it doesn't exist. At the core of reality, everything is in play, dynamic, interactive, shape changing--and uncertain.
Bad news for a health journalist like me? Maybe. And maybe not. I've spent the last 20 years dutifully pegging each health recommendation, blog, or book to the "latest research which proves that X does Y to Z."
But the more I learned, the more I learned to question whether the "proof" was as air tight as health experts, researchers, and journalists like me assume. While we reassured people that research shows that "this works for that," evidence mounted that medical science's well advertised white-coated certainty was contradicted by the warnings in the fine print.
What if we could no longer assert the primacy (and certainty of) biomedicine as the ultimate authority of human life? What if its microscopic analysis, though often useful, presumed too much, omitted too much, and at the end of the day would prove to be the scientific equivalent of foot-binding--a little too narrow?
Last weekend in Carlsbad, California, I got a rare chance to ask and get answers about this. Welcomed by Deepak Chopra, world class international scientists gathered to share with the public the frontier science they usually reserve for dense papers read by their colleagues.
During dazzling exchanges among brilliant scientists of diverse disciplines, it became clear that biomedical science, however helpful, was just one kid on the scientific block-- the child and grandchild of other senior branches of science like biology, chemistry and physics.
But can biomedicine learn to respect its elders--and play better with its peers?
For example, with all the evidence of nonlocal/nonsensory observation, intention, and knowledge, Chopra and other scientists question why biomedicine insists that awareness is just a biochemical secretion.
What about its first cousin, the so-called soft social sciences? Nowadays, cuz's emotionally intelligent questions sound more relevant, such as "How well is this health model working for people, children, families, communities, the economy and our society?"
"Scientists conduct research as if the laws of nature were fixed," said Vladimir Voeikov, a biologist who came from Moscow where he's the Chairman of Bioorganic Chemistry at a major university. "But in living systems, everything is changing. As a scientist, my goal is to understand the ways that living systems self-organize and regulate for change."
"Science has to go beyond its laboratory confines to reveal the real environmental and social dangers we face now, and to indicate the opportunities to renew ourselves on this planet," posited pioneering systems theorist Ervin Laszlo.
"Unfortunately," said Larry Dossey, "We're up against an old science in which consciousness is local, finite, and physical with no direction, and no meaning. One prominent scientist called humans nothing but computers made of meat."
As Deepak Chopra pointed out, in quantum physics, matter fluctuates between a wave and a particle, only "collapsing into manifestation" in response to an observer. Not only do differing levels of awareness lead people to perceive the world differently, but through our awareness and conscious and unconscious layers of intention, we all participate in creating what manifests.
As a result, the absolute, unalterable certainty humans seek cannot be measured, proven, and frozen into a fixed form.
If science's task is to reflect reality, what happens to us and to our planet when instead our science treats dynamic life forms as fixed, dead, separate, and devoid of awareness and organizing intelligence, rather than as mutually interdependent and connected?
Has our quest for absolute certainty led us to parse reality into manageable pieces while myopically overlooking the whole?
"What many call science is really a religion, enforced by the popes and the cardinals of academia. Their quest is for grants, not scientific inquiry," said Rustum Roy, a distinguished material scientist and water researcher at Pennsylvania State University. A long-time champion of cross-disciplinary science, it was Roy who had invited many of his esteemed colleagues to gather at the Symposium.
One was physicist Hans Peter Duerr, a successor to Werner Heisenberg, the discoverer of the famous Uncertainty Principle, a foundation of quantum science.
"We want it to be either yes or no. But the truth is always somewhere on the way between yes and no," said Duerr.
"What makes humans think that cosmic design can be totally apprehended by the human brain or captured by human logic or language?" Duerr asked. "If you're so sure that you know exactly what something means--you're probably wrong. If you're uncertain about what's going on, you're on the right track."
Can we take in the humility of this deeper scientific view and allow it to shape our science and our lives? Instead of trying to erase uncertainty, what would happen if we were to accept it? Can we let go of proving what's right? Can not knowing, and being vulnerable pave the way to mutual respect, and interdependence--between people, and between branches of science?
"We are in a transitional period. People are disoriented and suffering. We have to wake up and that means the system itself has to change," Laszlo reminded us.
According to Voeikov, "It's not that we must compete with each other-- but we must together develop the most harmonious strategies for life."
"We need community to share the complexities of our own evolution," offered Marilyn Schlitz, President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
In this time of transition, Duerr counseled, "The fittest who survive are those who know best how to cooperate."
Demanding a science that gave me and my readers definite answers, I lost the open science that asked questions. At Sages and Scientists, I rediscovered that science and it's still as uncertain as ever.