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As some people who read my work know, I’m a philosopher. I do not have a degree in philosophy because I never went to university. Well that’s not true. I did sit in on philosophy classes for about a year, but since I couldn’t pay I obviously never got any credits for it.
I never the less studied philosophy all my life by reading and thinking and debating. I know most if not all the philosophical arguments of old, but I was always more interested in finding new truths. That is to say discovering what others had not.
To that end I went about things in rather a backward way from traditional schooling. I never went out and read so and so’s opinion on this or that problem before I had studied the issue logically and had come to my own opinions first. Then I would read other people’s work and compare notes. People told me all the time that I was constantly reinventing the wheel when I could have been working with someone else’s wheel and improving on it. But I can’t work that way. I have to know it for myself. I can’t just accept the wheel someone else found. If at the end I discover it was the same wheel all along then that’s great. While consensus does not mean something is true, it does give one the feeling of vindication that someone else has gone through the same line of reasoning even if it turns out to be a false lead.
I began to question life at age 6. I am now 58. I’ve told this story many times in other essays, but the reason for telling it is always from a different perspective.
I began by asking questions about the Church and the religion I was brought up in. When I was informed by my mother that probably no one knew for certain what the answers were to the questions I was asking I promised myself that before I died I would find them. That led me from religion to religion, including Eastern philosophies like Zen, questioning, reasoning, debating, and learning. Learning mostly that everyone had their own ideas on the matter and for some reason none of them satisfied me. There was always something that did not feel right.
At a certain point you get stuck. How do you know the answers you get from your queries are true and not just some personal bias or another? Every seeker comes to that point and the ones who really want to know find a formula. The formula usually goes something like this: Listen and take in everything, but don’t be quick to accept anything as the whole truth. Above all, care only about truth for its own sake. Be ready to drop any belief if it proves to be false.
When one sets out to find the truth with only rationality, it becomes a hit and miss game. I came to a number of conclusions, however, that were born out as true. We can get a lot from intuition mixed with rationality. One such revelation was that all things are interconnected. More than one field of science has shown that to be true. But the one that hit me the hardest was that I once predicted that we would discover that all things are energy, rather than energy just being the work matter/a system can do.
What a surprise it was to me to find out that the little equation I had seen before but like most people never understood said exactly that: E=MC squared. While I had reinvented the wheel and felt vindicated in my conclusion, Einstein had proven it long before I was born. Yet few people even today besides scientists know what it means, and that it means exactly the above.
The other event in my life that blew me away happened in grade 10 science class. We were studying physics, and the teacher told us that all atoms tend toward their lowest possible output of energy.
Up until then the class had been rather dull. But the implications of that started to hit home right away as if it was a revelation from god. That’s how and why we have the substances we have today. That tendency forces atoms to merge and create new things. The laws of conservation and thermodynamics were like getting the secrets of the universe handed to me on a silver platter. The teacher treated it all as if it was old hat, though I am sure she didn’t get it.
I started studying science like I used to study religion, and in particular physics. And low and behold there were answers out there, but it seemed that few people had any idea what they meant.
What dawned on me too is that the scientific method resembles the method every serious seeker that I have ever spoken to has to come to on their own. In science the goal is to falsify your hypothesis. If through experiment you continuously can’t falsify it, and no one else can, it must have some truth to it.
This is philosophy at its best.
So gradually I realized that the best source for answers to philosophical questions is science. The best way of thinking in terms of day to day living is by using the scientific method. After living this philosophy I came to the conclusion that I could take my formula one step farther. One does not in fact have to believe anything at all. You can form opinions based on the evidence, but that is speculative and should not become a belief.
Should we then believe in facts? No. Why? They are facts until someone proves they aren’t, or finds a modification to them. No belief is required. And since there is only fact or speculation belief is never required. What is not fact is speculation and disserves only an opinion on its probability of being correct or wrong based on the evidence. That’s nothing to spit at if the evidence and the logic are good, but still not worth investing faith in.
To use science in philosophy one has to study science and understand it. If one understands the math as well then all the better. But it is not required.
So I decided there should be a new type of philosophy: Science Philosophy. Of course, when I looked it up, someone had beaten me to it. I feel good about that.
The point is that in my writing I use the philosophy of science in explaining what has been discovered and what it means. Scientists do this as well, even if they are loath to admit they are engaging in philosophy when they explain what the data they have unearthed means in any broader sense than just telling us about the data. A scientist is only doing science when they are gathering data or reporting it. When they are explaining the factual data and its implications they are taking on the role of philosophers.
Even though science more and more relies on math as opposed to intuition and even though the findings of science become more and more counter intuitive, it still takes intuition coupled with logic to figure out what it all really means. It just means we have to fine tune our intuition, and I’ve written a lot about how to do that.
The modern philosopher and seeker still has to rely on intuition, but now they have new mysteries to solve. Even though we get data from scientists and new ideas as to what the data means, there is still a place for philosophers if they use the wealth of data that scientists supply.
The fact is that scientists are specialized. There is not enough cross referencing going on. The studied science philosopher can bridge that gap and perhaps find leads scientists are not finding.
For instance one can look at behaviour from the view point of how our atoms, what we are made of, behave. To me the biggest revelations in that regard have come from the laws of thermodynamics. Because obviously the laws of thermodynamics while determining the behaviour of atoms, also must affect the behaviour of mankind. And so they do.
But another great place to look is in chaos theory.
Traditionally the philosopher has also been the scientist trying to prove their hypothesis. Descartes was a scientist in his own right, and so were many others. But with the advent of quantum mechanics, physics seemed closed to anyone but the mathematician. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it isn’t.
Science philosophy is the philosophy of the new millennium and beyond. It is also a world view, a way to the ultimate questions for the seeker and even the average human; and yes, a way of life.
on Aug. 15, 2011 :
I could not put this book down once I started. Right from the very start the author pulls you into his world and you feel as if you are walking beside him as he brings you on a journey he began when he was about ten years old. The author, Ron Hooft, describes his obsession to know the truth about the universe and how he would use everything at his disposal including drugs to achieve his goal. The book is a modern day version of the Buddha's own journey to enlightenment. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about a sincere seeker's journey to transcend the ego and realise the true self. You will not be disappointed.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)