VALUE AND PURPOSE IN SCIENCE
With ARTHUR M. YOUNG
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Today we're going to talk about purpose and value in science, and my guest is Arthur M. Young -- cosmologist, inventor of the Bell Helicopter, founder of the Institute for the Study of Consciousness, and author of The Reflexive Universe, The Geometry of Meaning, and The Bell Notes. Welcome, Arthur.
ARTHUR M. YOUNG: Hi.
MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here. You know, in science in general, purpose and value seem to be talked about at least in the social sciences and management sciences, but then as sciences reduces down to psychology, to biology, to chemistry, to physics, it seems as if purpose and value are done away with entirely, to the point where they say there is no such thing as purpose or value in the physical universe. You take a different view, don't you?
YOUNG: Well, there's a perfectly good reason for leaving out purpose, because it doesn't have any explanatory value. I'm familiar with it, for instance, in patents. You can't patent the purpose to fish or the purpose to fly. You can see why; it's ridiculous. But if you show a device by which you could fish or fly, then you could patent that. So purpose is out, so far as describing a patent is concerned. And it's rather similar in science, because it doesn't have any descriptive value. Now, as for value, that's a different thing again. I think that science does deal with what corresponds to value. Do you want me to take off on that?
MISHLOVE: In the physical sciences, you mean.
MISHLOVE: Yes, let's talk about that, because so often science says we are value-free -- that anybody can replicate an experiment regardless of their religion, their race, their creed, their color, because values don't enter into physical science.
YOUNG: Well, that has to do with methodology. In other words, you must be objective. You can't put your hand on the scale. You can't bias the results. It has to be value-free in that sense.
MISHLOVE: In sociology there's a big argument that says that's impossible -- that nobody is really value-free.
YOUNG: Well, it is possible to make an experiment without putting your hand on the scale.
MISHLOVE: In the physical sciences.
YOUNG: In the literal sense. But that's quite a different thing from saying there are no values in nature. To me value is not objective; I think everyone would agree with that. And that's one reason it's left out of the scientific method, because the scientific method has to be objective. But that doesn't mean that the things you're dealing with are entirely objective. I mean, how could everything be objective? Then what is the meaning of projective or subjective? There has to be one to be the other.
MISHLOVE: Perhaps we could just define these terms as you use them.
YOUNG: I use the word projective to get away from the personal. The word subjective implies that it's in a person's head or in their feelings. But what's subjective to you is not objective to me. I can see your face, I can see your suit, but I can't see your feelings. Your feelings are something you alone feel. They're not subjective to me. My feelings are subjective to me. So the more general word is projective. I can say your feelings are projected by you, and my feelings are projected by me -- projected in the sense that if you feel bad, then everything looks gloomy.
MISHLOVE: So I might describe the world about me by projecting my internal reality out.
YOUNG: Right, and that wouldn't help if you were doing experiments. You might even foul up the experiments just because you were feeling fouled up yourself.
MISHLOVE: In principle scientists are not supposed to do this.
YOUNG: Right, and let's say that's a good goal. But that doesn't mean that reality doesn't have this projective aspect, and where it appears in science is with forces. Now of course science deals with forces. But let me take you off a little bit now. Suppose we were talking about business, and suppose I were to say there's no such thing as value, everything is forms. Well, that would be ridiculous, because the businessman doesn't care about the forms. He invests his money into one thing, and then changes into another, then into another -- hence the term liquid assets. And the more liquid a business is, the more money it's likely to make. If you get stuck on the form aspect, you'll go on make something that's obsolete and can't sell it.
MISHLOVE: I suppose it might be fair to say that a businessman is mostly concerned with value.
YOUNG: Right. It would be very foolish to say there was no such thing as value if you were in business. You shouldn't be in business if you said that. Well, it's similarly wrong to say there's no such thing as force in science, even though force cannot be objectively described.
MISHLOVE: But in physics one hears about the so-called four forces -- gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force. I get the feeling, not as a physicist but as a layman, that they think they can objectively describe these forces.
YOUNG: But that's just it. They're stuck when it comes to describing a force as a force, so they substitute something -- it could be saying it's the bending of space-time. Now, if that means anything to you, fine; but it doesn't mean much to me.
MISHLOVE: That's how gravity is described, and it's always been a puzzler to me too.
YOUNG: The alternative is to say it's a shower of gravitons. Well, how could a shower of gravitons cause things to attract each other? I'm just bringing out some of the foolishness of it. Maybe I'm not doing justice to science, but I'll try to do justice, because, for example, suppose you say a shower of gravitons is causing gravity. Well, the reason they've invented these hypothetical gravitons is because they want something like light, which is radiated. But then, if we turn to a black hole -- I think everyone knows what a black hole is, but it's defined as something that's so dense, so heavy, that light can't escape from it, can't radiate from it -- well then, how could the gravitons radiate from it, if they're to be modeled after light?
MISHLOVE: And yet it has intense gravity, is the whole point of the black hole. The gravity is stronger than the light.
YOUNG: Right, it keeps the light from radiating. But if the graviton is so named to be like light, how could it be radiated?
MISHLOVE: Well, these are paradoxes in physics, and I guess what you're saying is we should look at these paradoxes, because they tell us something. Other physicists often tend to say, "Well, we should just ignore the paradoxes and deal with what we do know about."
YOUNG: Well, I'm talking about these paradoxes, but they're more than that -- they're ridiculous. I think we should go on further, though. I don't want to labor this point. I'm just saying that forces cannot be described conceptually.
MISHLOVE: I think what your point is, and the point you'd like to bring us to, is that from the notion of the forces in physics we can derive a concept of value in nature.
YOUNG: That nature is full of values. Protons like electrons. Protons don't like other protons; they repel one another. How do you explain this? How do you describe attraction? In order to describe attraction, you can't do it conceptually. You have to say, "Well, it's like I'm attracted to a beautiful girl."
MISHLOVE: And I think most physicists, if they were really honest, would admit that physics hasn't yet explained the basic concept of attraction.
YOUNG: Well, it's all right not to explain it. I'm criticizing putting it under the rug and saying that you've accounted for it by a shower of something or other. Mind you, the shower, in the case of electricity, has to go both ways. You have to have a shower that attracts and another shower that repels, and these both have to be going on at once.
MISHLOVE: And you seem to be saying that a better analogy would be our own feelings, our own emotions.
YOUNG: To just accept that nature, like ourselves, has e-motions, forces. What does e-motion come from? Something that causes motion. Well, that's precisely what causes the motion of the planets, is forces. And this causes the motion of electrons, the motion of everything. So motion, and the forces which cause motion, are as much part of nature as are these forms and shapes which you can describe conceptually. So what this really boils down to -- and it's time for the psychologists to come in -- is that there are other faculties besides concept, intellect. There's a feeling faculty and a sensation faculty, of course, and it's when we come to the intuition faculty that we get really interesting in science.
MISHLOVE: What you're saying is that it's perfectly legitimate to take the scientific attitude that all of nature is in effect alive, has feelings as we have feelings -- that this is not the anthropomorphic heresy, that there's something to it.
YOUNG: Well, that's going even further than I am. I'm perfectly willing to do that, but I'm only asking scientists to recognize that there's a cosmological entity called force which is if anything more basic than the particles. And this is just what they find, because you begin with objects like bricks, you take them apart and find molecules. You're still dealing with particles. Then you take the molecules apart; you've got atoms. They're still definite things, and they have an identity, and you can say this atom is different from that atom. But what happens when you take atoms apart? You get forces. Now, they will tell you you get protons and electrons, but protons and electrons are only, as it were, the poles of forces. The force is so much more important than the electron and the proton. Its measure is ten followed by thirty-nine zeros times gravity. That force is utterly beyond anything we can conceive of in our own lives, but it is more basic than the things called particles.
MISHLOVE: We're not even clear, as I understand physics, that these particles are really particles at all, anyway.
YOUNG: Well, I'm perfectly willing to call them particles, if that's what they want to call them. But they don't have identity. You couldn't tell one particle from another. Or if an electron went into an atom and then an electron came out, you wouldn't know whether it was the same electron. It's a value, and I often use that thing about a dollar bill -- let's see if I have one. I haven't got one.
MISHLOVE: I have a Greek drachma here. Will that work?
YOUNG: Well, that's rather uncommon. I wanted something like a dollar bill. But suppose you lend me a dollar, and then I pay you back next week or the following week. You don't look at the dollar and say, "That's not the dollar I lent you."
MISHLOVE: No, it wouldn't matter to me. And if we were in Greece you could give me any drachma back.
YOUNG: Right. Well, that's what I mean by saying identity doesn't matter at the value level. In fact, here's another thing you could put in your book, for saving the immortality of the soul. This is one of the things that scientists can't cope with. Suppose I were to set a match to a dollar bill, or a hundred dollar bill. What happens to that value?
MISHLOVE: It's gone.
MISHLOVE: Oh, all right. What happens?
YOUNG: Do you know how much in debt our government is?
MISHLOVE: Trillions of dollars, I think.
YOUNG: Well, suppose I were to collect a trillion dollars and burn it. How would the U.S. be?
MISHLOVE: The debt wouldn't be any different, would it?
YOUNG: No, the debt would be gone.
MISHLOVE: Now you've confused me.
YOUNG: I've confused you? Well, the dollar bill is an IOU from the government. Originally they would pay you in gold. If you burn an IOU, there is no more debt. In other words, if I wanted to give my money to everybody, I'd burn it. It would make everyone that much richer, because there's a constant value. That's what countries do when they start printing more money. The money becomes worth less, ultimately worthless. We've been printing this money to pay our military and other things, and we have inflation.
MISHLOVE: Now, how does all of this relate to the notion of value?
YOUNG: Because there's the same conservation of value as science recognizes in the conservation of mass-energy.
MISHLOVE: In other words, you can't really destroy value, is that what you're saying?
YOUNG: Right. And because you can't destroy value, and because the soul is a value thing, you can't destroy the soul.
MISHLOVE: Now, another point
that you mentioned there
YOUNG: No, because the soul
is, you might say, a possession of spirit, and that gets us far out. In
a sense what you say is true -- that soul is a common possession. But that's
really what I would call the group soul, and this is something that animals
properly develop, and that's how animals develop instinct, by developing
something that the group soul remembers. This is what Sheldrake refers
to when he talks about the morphogenetic field. But it really should be
the group soul of the animal, because it's not a field, it's a program,
it is knowledge of what to do, it's a memory of past experiences. All right,
we too have a group soul, in somewhat the sense that an animal has. We
have an instinctive way of behaving, but it is man's job as man, as distinct
from the animal, to create his own independent soul. That's what really
is most of our trouble, what
MISHLOVE: Marx and Hegel?
YOUNG: Hegel it was. Self-alienation is what everyone does to acquire their own identity. They have to rebel against the group soul, think for themselves.
MISHLOVE: And in a sense, I get the sense that spiritually what we do is we develop our unique egos, think for ourselves. We detach from our own sense of oneness with nature.
YOUNG: That again is a step in this process. Now, what you're talking about is the detachment; in a way it's unfortunate, but it's necessary if we're to learn to think for ourselves. According to my arc and all that jazz, you eventually give up the ego, but you first have to get the fruits of having the ego, because without it you couldn't learn anything.
MISHLOVE: It seems to me what you're talking about now is the essential necessity for us to identify ourselves as separate from our environment, separate from the forces of nature, and at the same time connected, because these are forces in us and outside of us.
YOUNG: No, I'm saying it's necessary to take on this identity thing, but it's not real, it's not a true separation.
MISHLOVE: It's not who we really are.
YOUNG: We're still connected.
MISHLOVE: Which is an important thing for an adult to understand.
YOUNG: I'm neglecting the last step of this argument, but what we've been saying is perhaps the most difficult to understand -- I mean, the soul thing, or what I call second level -- that which is beneath the conceptual. It's really part of the unconscious.
MISHLOVE: I just want to elaborate this point a little more, Arthur, because when you talk about the physical forces as being akin to our own feelings, I think you're making an important statement about our integral, innate connection with nature itself.
YOUNG: Right. That is connected with nature, and we're connected together. That's part of the psychic, telepathy and all that. The word tele-pathy -- it's not communication at a distance, it's feeling at distancy. Pathy means feeling, like pathos or pathology. You're misunderstanding telepathy if you think of it as communication.
MISHLOVE: Of thought, yes. Well, where do we go from here, Arthur?
YOUNG: Well, I wanted to go back one step further to purpose. This is what you began with. I've been talking about value. The thing in science that corresponds to purpose has only been discovered fairly recently, and this is the quantum of action. This is my central thesis, and I was quite surprised that one of my old students who's been thinking and writing and buzzing around for years now -- it's ten years, I think, since I first started with him -- he said to me the other day over the phone, "Then you mean" -- he'd been reading something recently -- "that the quantum of action is spirit, or is spiritual?" Well, I've been trying to tell him that for ten years. He finally realized it. At least he realized that I said so. The next step is for him to realize that it's true for himself.
MISHLOVE: Let's define the quantum of action for our viewers. What is that?
YOUNG: Well, the quantum of action is what was discovered by Planck. Action was known for a long time. It was very mysterious, because they talked about things like action at a distance. How could something here affect something over there? This is action at a distance. That's primarily what light does. Light transmits energy from one point to another, and it's action at a distance. Now, what is this action? What Planck discovered in 1900 -- and this was what is very important -- was that it comes in whole units. You can't measure any amount of action. This makes it analogous to decision. See, you couldn't decide to do something 1.4 times. This is very important. It's much more fundamental than the physical atom.
MISHLOVE: In other words, what you're saying is that the physical universe is basically composed of these quanta of action.
YOUNG: Not physical objects. Because if you had a physical atom you could divide it and divide it again, but you can't divide an action. I can't vote one and a half times, or a half a time.
MISHLOVE: This is essentially like consciousness at the very basis of the universe itself.
YOUNG: Right, because action includes consciousness. I mean, you may act unconsciously, but if you do so you'll get the feedback and get conscious. This is part of the process of growing up, is to make unconscious actions and then be conscious of the result. This is the learning process. And that's why God forbade eating the tree of knowledge, because in order to gain knowledge you have to act on your own. See, if you make a mistake and you blame it on the boss, you don't learn anything. You can only blame yourself for your mistakes if you're to learn something. And that was a very necessary thing.
MISHLOVE: In effect that's why we develop these separate egos, why we become so disconnected from the universe which at this deeper level we must be at one with.
YOUNG: Well, I said the other day that God started by having a university and invited everyone to come, and nobody came. So he then decided to change tactics and he forbade people to eat it, and that made it very popular. In any case it's necessary to act on your own if you're going to learn anything.
MISHLOVE: This is your central thesis -- basically that the quantum of action is a unit of conscious decision, and that's what the whole universe is composed of.
YOUNG: Is based on, right. Now, I don't know how much proof you want of that, but one way to look at it is it's also called uncertainty. You see, if I were perfectly certain of what another person would do, they would have no power over me. It's because I'm uncertain about that person that they can have an advantage over me. You might be a spy or something. In other words, that uncertainty is their freedom.
MISHLOVE: That's why nations always want to keep each other off guard.
YOUNG: They have all their spying techniques and so on. They're trying to find out what the other nation's up to.
MISHLOVE: We don't want to tell them will we or will we not use our nuclear weapons. How does this relate to the quantum of action?
YOUNG: You see, the quantum of action is also called the quantum of uncertainty. So since it is uncertainty to the observer, it's freedom to that which is observed.
MISHLOVE: In other words, the subjective aspect of uncertainty is freedom. The objective aspect of it is uncertainty, or perhaps even the projective aspect.
YOUNG: There is a very tiny amount of uncertainty even in a molecule, and as you go down to atoms it gets greater, and it becomes about one percent when you get to nuclear particles. But when you get to the photon, which starts it all, it's a hundred percent. That is very important.
MISHLOVE: The photon is a hundred percent uncertain.
MISHLOVE: So it represents to us, I suppose, a hundred percent free will at some level?
YOUNG: Yes. But let me point out why that's important.
MISHLOVE: We have about a minute.
YOUNG: Oh well, then I think I'd better let it go. I think it will take a little longer than that. But you get an increasing amount of uncertainty as you get more basic. So if the scientist insists on reducing things to the most basic, he's going to reduce it to consciousness.
MISHLOVE: In other words, it's as if in the process of reducing science, from psychology to biology to physics, science has come full circle, in a sense -- starting with theology, you might say --
YOUNG: It sounded like reduction into simple bricks when you talked about molecules, but if you carry it on through, the ultimate end of this reductive process is the photon, which is pure freedom.
MISHLOVE: Arthur Young, thank you very much for being with me.
YOUNG: Thank you, Jeff.
MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure.