There has been a bit of a fuss about the recent ‘observation’ of gravitational waves that confirm the predictions of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. As the Guardian reported: “We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.The discovery is well explained by Martin Rees in The Telegraph.
This is an undoubted major achievement that scientists have dreamed of for 100 years, and will open up new areas of exploration. And it’s great to know that there is still essentially ‘pure science’ being pursued without the underlying carrot of commercial success. However, we must beware of some of the hype that inevitably comes with it.
For example, does it really get us anywhere nearer to understanding ‘how the universe was created’?
Well yes a tiny bit, but hold your horses. Let’s go back centuries to metaphysics, Descartes and the subsequent development of science. There is a duality of subject/object, the objective domain is amenable to measurement, whereas the subjective is not. Science developed as the way of understanding the measurable objective domain.
The subjective domain is not amenable to experimentation by the Scientific Method. Although modern neuroscience is able to establish correlates of brain activity with subjective experience, this does not mean that some day, mysteriously, subjective consciousness will somehow be explained by the objective understanding of the objective brain – contrary to the irrational belief of some scientists.
Surely the question of ‘how the universe was created’ is a question of the whole, with subjective interior and objective exterior. So any improvement in science’s models of the exterior is merely one part of the overall picture, which must necessarily involve also the interior question of consciousness.
Footnote: Einstein himself was a mystic as well as a scientist. Consider for example this quote:
“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
Image coutesy of MoocSummers and Wikimedia Commons