One of the most prestigious scientific associations in the world is the Royal Society (The Royal Society of London for improving Natural Knowledge), founded in 1660. In those days science was very much an offshoot of experimental philosophy, and the RS was established to encourage physico-mathematical experimental learningBritannica.
Perhaps the most famous president of the RS, from 1703 to 1727, was Sir Isaac Newton whose works on white light, the laws of motion, gravity and calculus laid the groundwork for much of modern physics and mathematics. Newtonian Physics (or Mechanics) became the classical definition of a mechanical universe. A universe of certainty and predictability. A world view which underpinned the industrial revolution.
Given the mechanical world view associated with Newton, and the manner in which adherents of classical Newtonian Mechanics attack various reports of psychic phenomena, it is more than ironic to discover that classical science was almost a sideline for Newton. His real interest was in the occult!
After purchasing and studying Newtons works, John Meynard Keynes declared that “Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians.”
The insight this provides, is that beliefs and mental models are chosen rather than simply grounded in ‘fact’. Classical scientists deny certain kinds of investigations into people, because they ‘know’ they are fake, without credibility, forgetting that they are choosing which parts of Newtons work to believe (not too different from looking for evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, because you are determined to invade anyway). An almost schizophrenic mental gymnastic.
The problem is that scientists and engineers are people too! With all the same psychological problems as the rest of us and all the same constraints of beliefs and mental models. Of course, a key difference between the belief in gravity and the belief that seeing a shooting star will bring good luck, is that of testability. Jumping over a low wall will give you immediate insight into the effects of gravity (as well as your level of intoxication or old age!) whereas the luck associated with a shooting star is much more subjective and less testable.
Mental models and belief systems are important in this context because the mental models we each hold determine which strategies might be selected and their proposed implementation. For example, there is an extensive body of scientifically rigorous experiments, carried out by respected scientists, which demonstrate statistically significant results in support of a variety of human psychic abilities.
Despite this, the majority of scientists and scientific publications would not even allow themselves to look at the data, never mind test the ideas for themselves – instead simply considering that the experiments were flawed, with fake results generated by charlatans.
Take a moment to reflect upon the last time you found yourself vehemently denying something or defending one of your beliefs. You might notice that the energy with which you spoke (or which you may have suppressed because of social niceties) seemed to come out of nowhere – out of the blue. It was not as if you thought about it and decided that you were angry! You said what you had to say because you felt it so strongly (even though moments later you may have regretted it).
Where did that energy come from? Although we may skirt around our feelings and attempt to modulate them, they are real and the energies associated with them can be shocking, and take us by surprise. These energies are related to the depth of the boundaries that we draw between ourselves and others.
The strength of our variously constructed convictions (beliefs) have profound consequences. Some of which may be completely unintended, although perfectly predictable (to others).
Posted by Nicholas Moore 1:47:14.874889 pm