Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scientific gobbledygook

I am working on my review of the book Mind, Brain and the Elusive Soul: Human Systems of Cognitive Science and Religion, by Mark Graves.
The review is for the journal Science and Christian Belief

The question the book addresses is, “How do contemporary investigations in cognitive and brain science, pragmatic philosophy, and emergent systems theory impact upon a theological understanding of soul and spirit?” (p. 207).

So what are cognitive science and "emergent systems theory"? The Wikipedia entries on Cognitive science and Systems theory give a good introduction and overview to these enterprises. To me, cognitive science is a legitimate and exciting enterprise involving multiple academic disciplines. It is populated by many leading researchers from a range of disciplines and has made important contributions to our understanding of how the brain works and functions (and does not function at times).

However, in distinct contrast "emergent systems theory" seems to be a "theory of everything" that is "going to change the world." It is promoted by people such as Ervin Laszlo who do not hold regular academic positions and argue for highly speculative positions that are well outside the scientific mainstream. Wikipedia states that Lazlo's 2004 book:

Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything posits a field of information as the substance of the cosmos. Using the Sanskrit and Vedic term for "space", Akasha, he calls this information field the "Akashic field" or "A-field". He posits that the "quantum vacuum" (see Vacuum state) is the fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present (collectively, the "Metaverse").

László describes how such an informational field can explain why our universe appears to be fine-tuned as to form galaxies and conscious lifeforms; and why evolution is an informed, not random, process. He believes that the hypothesis solves several problems that emerge from quantum physics, especially nonlocality and quantum entanglement.

I regret to say that this is just scientific "gobbledygook". It claims connections and research results that are not valid.

1 comment:

  1. I think you will find that Ervin László is not a scientist in the sense of the standard "hard sciences". It would be incorrect to make any conclusions about "science" from his writings. Just as, while Depok Chopra may occasionally use a scientific term, he is not a scientist as say Steven Hawkins would be. I would say the term "scientific 'gobbledygook'" would not really apply here.