Contributions to Self Clarity, Wholeness, & Health

Introducing: Foundations for a New Civilization by Will Crichton

Chapter 2: The Present Work in Relation to Modern Science


It is important to say that this account of nature does not compete with science, as we know it. It offers a deeper foundation than the commonly accepted foundations offered by physics, but not such as to be inconsistent with the well-established results of physics, as far as I can tell. It cannot do what conventional science can do. Science is measurement-based; this account is not. Much of modern science is observational, but theoretical science is based on hypotheses that are then tested against observations. When close agreement is found the hypotheses are accepted as true. This is legitimate and has yielded insights into nature that are among our greatest achievements. However, it is a special kind of understanding of nature, not an understanding of what is found in the world but an understanding in terms of questions put to the world. The questions are ours, not nature’s. The theories are models rather than descriptions.

The present account is based on a different method, not the indirect method of hypothesis and verification but the method of deduction from premises drawn from experience — very general premises, namely that there are changes, structures, and tendencies. This may not seem a very promising approach, but persistence yields a great deal more than one would expect or than I did expect. The results may be said to have been found rather than constructed, though of course the arguments had to be constructed — certainly many of them are different from what I would have anticipated.

Modern science has two seemingly alien but closely related motives: on the one hand to know what the real constitution of the world is, and on the other hand to harness that knowledge technologically. Science has found out a good deal about the constitution of the world, and that knowledge in itself does not determine the kind of technology one will develop. One may wish to know the laws of thermodynamics and also think that heat engines are a curse rather than a blessing. It is not that knowledge that makes heat engines attractive. But if one’s underlying conception of reality is purely material, excluding transcendence, then one’s sense of what is useful to humanity will be shaped by that conception, and heat engines will appear to be obviously beneficial, their pollution, noise, and general ugliness seeming comparatively insignificant. I am not arguing for the elimination of heat engines, but pointing out that the kind of knowledge of the world that modern science provides is not really an understanding of the elementary nature of reality, though it is often thought to be so. It does not govern attitudes, but the materialist conception of reality that has historically accompanied and largely shaped modern science does govern attitudes.

The present investigation of nature, then, is aimed at the sort of knowledge of elementary principles that will shape one’s general attitudes and one’s conception of what a good life is. That knowledge, far from being in any sort of conflict with modern science, will collaborate with it to determine the kind of technology to be based on it.