A New Paradigm of Physics and Cosmology

Mar 13, 2024

Dear TNS Friends,

I hope this finds you as well as possible. From the very inception of The New School (TNS), I sensed that the program would become Commonweal’s best medium for communicating with the rest of the world. And so it has proven to be.

And what a world we are living in. Filled with joy and sorrow, hope and tragedy, wisdom and infinite folly. “Did you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the /world is governed?” Thus spake Herodotus.

TNS has, from the beginning, focused on “nature, culture and the inner life.” I was thinking today of a different tagline: “healing and learning for a new world.” Healing because that was the original vision of Commonweal, “a center for healing ourselves and healing the earth.” Learning because the love of learning and the search for wisdom is essential for the examined life. A new world because we are living in a new world filled with prospects for becoming a mature eco-civilization and for completely unnecessary destruction of ourselves and much of life on earth.

As some of you know, I have embarked on a quest I tentatively call “speculative cosmology.” I see speculative cosmology as open and free inquiry into the ultimate questions of our purpose on earth. The great ancient questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here?  Where am I going? And to what—or whom—am I ultimately accountable for how I live what Mary Oliver called this “one wild and precious life.”

My approach to speculative cosmology is based on a crude analogy I call “the lego block theory of critical thought,” which can be applied to speculative cosmology or any other field. The idea is that each lego block represents some idea, fact, or belief to which each player can assign a probability from say .01% to 100%. Each player can create as many lego thought blocks as they choose and arrange them in any way they choose.  You are not trying to persuade anyone of the rightness of your arrangement of lego thought blocks. You are certainly seeking to make clear to yourself and others of how you arrange a set of ideas, facts or beliefs that make up some portion of your belief system—”the shape of your mind,” as Terry Tempest Williams memorably called it in a recent conversation.

For example, I have one critical lego thought block in speculative cosmology that consists of the view many physicists take that the standard model of physics is collapsing. They believe a scientific revolution as described famously by Thomas Kuhn may be on the horizon—something comparable to the revolutions in cosmology assigned to Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. These revolutions in physics and cosmology reach far beyond their scientific significance. For example, the next one may further disassemble the fundamentally materialist world view that currently governs most of scientific thought—even though physicists themselves have moved far beyond it.

A second critical thought block that focuses on how little of the known universe we understand—less than 8%—since the rest consists of dark matter and dark energy which we do not understand. Does this give us a certain humility about what we know and don’t know?

A third thought block asks whether the unproven theory of a multiverse is accurate compared to the Anthropic Principle which appears to accurately describe the only universe we can see—which appears perfectly designed to support life throughout the cosmos.

A fourth thought block consists of what is called Fermi’s Paradox—the great physicist Fermi once asked some colleagues, “if life in the universe is so easy, why haven’t we been visited?” Or, more briefly, “where is everybody?”

A fifth thought block contains all the unexplained phenomena of consciousness that our present paradigm cannot explain: phenomena like healing energies,  the power of prayer, near death experiences, out of body experiences, psychedelic experiences, and much more. The unsolved question this lego block asks is whether a new paradigm of physics and cosmology will yield more insight into these phenomena or not?

A sixth thought block asks the question—and holds the hope—that the coming revolution is physics and cosmology might hold the key toward moving human consciousness toward our potential destiny as a mature planetary eco-civilization fit to take our place alongside other mature planetary eco-civilizations—if they exist—throughout the universe.

A seventh thought block returns to the great questions posed at the start of this note. Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I come from?  Where am I going? And to whom am I accountable? If the coming revolution in cosmology gives us new insights into this question, then the founding vision of Commonweal as a center for healing ourselves and healing the earth might move forward another step. We would move forward further  into our New School work of healing and learning in a new world.

Those are a few random thoughts, at 80, for where a commitment to freedom of thought dedicated to higher purpose might lead us—if we have the courage to undertake it. Freedom of thought has always been a perilous occupation which is why so often it has been restricted to small circles of secret inquiry. It is my hope that The New School will remain a beacon for freedom of thought dedicated to higher purpose. Healing ourselves and healing the earth.

Wisdom welcome,

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