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21st Century Schizoid Man – The Epistemology Crisis

December 15, 2012

Originally posted on: March 31, 2012 22:07

Cat’s foot iron claw

Neuro-surgeons scream for more

At paranoia’s poison door.

Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire

Politicians’ funeral pyre

Innocents raped with napalm fire

Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man’s greed

Poets’ starving children bleed

Nothing he’s got he really needs

Twenty first century schizoid man.

King Crimson – 21St Century Schizoid
Man lyrics

© Universal Music Publishing Group


According to the Wiki (aka the Encyclopedia Galatica), epistemology is a branch of philosophy that concerns itself with the nature of knowledge and how humanity comes by it. You’ll wade through a lot of isms that are variants of approaches to knowledge acquisition, but the big daddy that has fueled the technology of the industrial revolution up to the present has been the scientific method.

Scientific Method

The scientific method fundamentally posits a rational objective reality to exist. In other words, it is predicated on certain assumptions – to most folks they seem to have been pretty good ones. Mankind, after being in virtually a technological static mode for thousands of years, where humans, animals, and natural forces of nature such as wind and running water have provided the source of energetic force for anything requiring labor, in just a few centuries the scientific method overturned that status quo, literally propelling our species into the outer space beyond our planetary sphere. For most people that speaks volumes to the success of this particular approach to knowledge acquirement. We believe ourselves to be much better off than the state of humanity that prevailed, say, during the Middle Ages before the scientific method and its technological offspring of the industrial revolution become dominant.

Yet as we’ve entered the 21st century, mankind – around the globe – has found itself to be in a bit of a funk; perhaps even disillusionment would not be too strong an expression. The scientific method keeps cranking out further advancement and refinement of knowledge over the mastery of nature, yet there are certain detectable cracks in its mighty edifice that have begun to appear to the observant.

A Hairline Fracture

To begin with, there are findings in science itself that have brought into question the matter of if our shared reality space is indeed truly objective. This is a rather big deal because from the outset it has been one of the fundamental pillars of the scientific method to assume that reality is objective. Yet in the field of quantum physics there has been a peculiar finding.

Again, referencing the Wiki, this statement here from the Wiki’s description of Wheeler’s Delayed choice experiment crystallizes the essence of the mystery that goes on in such experiments:

According to the results of the double slit experiment, if experimenters do something to learn which slit the photon goes through, they change the outcome of the experiment and the behavior of the photon. If the experimenters know which slit it goes through, the photon will behave as a particle. If they do not know which slit it goes through, the photon will behave as if it were a wave when it is given an opportunity to interfere with itself.

Some state of knowledge of the experiment underway, held in the mind of the experimenter, has bearing on the outcome of the experiment. Juxtaposed against the core assumption of an objective reality, this is just extraordinary – and perhaps even unsettling to anyone that gives it a moment of serious contemplation. Further, it is the act of measurement (observation) that collapses the so-called quantum wave function of  matter/energy. The universe is seemingly a probability field that is in a continuous mode of manifestation upon being observed – by conscious observers. In respect, at least, to the various double slit experiments, that consciousness is pinpointed to that of the human scientist conducting the experiment and making the observations of the experiment’s outcomes.

In everyday life deterministic laws of nature, such as Newton’s still quite handy formulations, work very well and consistently. If we step in front of an on-coming bus we’ll get pulverized – quantum physics might describe this as a high probability outcome of the collapse of the wave function of the system under observation.

Yet at the very finest scale of the fabric of reality that is probed scientifically – subatomic particles and even larger orders such as clumps of atoms and molecules – reality does not behave in that straight forward deterministic manner. A tiny hairline fracture appears in that most comfortable model of the so-called objective reality assumption.

The Heresy

In my posting, Consciousness And Quantum Physics – And Where That Leads, I discussed three of the interpretations in view of this finding.

Certainly one possibility that remains on the table is that consciousness may actually be more primary than the matter/energy detectable phenomena by which we’ve been accustomed to reckoning about reality. Instead of the universe innately existing and then human consciousness being a mere byproduct, a kind of reverse scenario may be the actual order of things. Information processing due to elemental, pervasive consciousness may under-gird all aspects of perceived experience. What we distinguish as reality may be a kind of virtual reality (the term virtual here denoting not having innate existence in and of itself), and instead of behaving simply as good clockwork should, it might at times exhibit phenomena that seems a bit strange because it ebbs from the deeper meta reality of all that is going on.

Today this point of view (the universe as a kind of virtual reality manifested via consciousness) is the provenance of the side-lined and marginalized pop culture (our favorite thought provoking movies) and counter culture (our various flavors of gurus and mystics). These are the fringes that exist in our society where an imposed rigidity of thinking can be most resisted (or simply ignored).

All we see & seem is but a dream within a dream

The fracture that is coming about in human understanding of so-called reality has been building in cadence for some time. Even as science has emerged triumphal and seemingly swept away superstition, mysticism, or anything else that might be dubbed as so-called paranormal, there has continued to be an undercurrent of contrarian agitation in the panoply of reported human experience, stubbornly refusing to be completely banished to non existence or unreserved irrelevance.


The term outlier is used in statistical mathematics to denote a data point that is numerically outside the range or grouping of most normal data points. Statistically speaking normal tends to define the effect that is most prevalently observed/experienced. Hence outlier here is a good basis for metaphoric language that denotes phenomena that surfaces in the annals of human experiences and yet does not reside in the observations/experiences designated as normal.

What consideration is consigned to a reported outlier?

In the context of a scientific experiment, where some outlier measurement is contrary to expectations, it would typically be relegated to such causes as:

  1. Low contrasting signal to noise ratio of system being measured
  2. Procedural error in taking a measurement
  3. Faulty calibration or operation of measuring equipment
  4. Bias of the human experimenter clouding the technique or method of taking the measurement
  5. Fraudulent intent of the human experimenter
  6. Mental instability of the human experimenter

In a recent highly publicized scientific experiment, regarding a possible finding of neutrinos traveling faster than light, the head of the group that came forth with that finding, Prof Antonio Ereditato, has now resigned:

Neutrino ‘faster than light’ scientist resigns

An attempt by a second group to make the same measurements came up with results that found neutrinos to be traveling at the expected speed of light. Back in February there was intimation that measurement equipment might have been at fault:

Faster-than-light neutrinos could be down to bad wiring

The two problems the team has identified would have opposing effects on the apparent speed.

On the one hand, the team said there is a problem in the “oscillator” that provides a ticking clock to the experiment in the intervals between the synchronizations of GPS equipment.

This is used to provide start and stop times for the measurement as well as precise distance information.

That problem would increase the measured time of the neutrinos’ flight, in turn reducing the surprising faster-than-light effect.

But the team also said they found a problem in the optical fiber connection between the GPS signal and the experiment’s main clock – quite simply, a cable not quite fully plugged in.

In contrast, the team said that effect would increase the neutrinos’ apparent speed.

The indication here is that the unusual finding may have been due to the third bullet item, yet the recent resignation of the team’s director implies a reaction from the scientific peer community that is behaving as though it were bullet item 4 or 5.

Climate of Intimidation

Ponder here the upshot that is involved. A team following scientific protocol in good faith perhaps has a mistaken result, yet because the outlier finding challenged a fundamental pillar of contemporary science, an individual most responsible for that team is allowed scant mercy.

The incident then ends up being a reflection of the collective mind set of the scientific community: we have our hallowed precepts – do not come anywhere near to treading upon them in the science you conduct.

If the body of the scientific community reacts toward its peers in this manner in this situation, consider the disdain it would have for ordinary folk reporting categorically bizarre outlier phenomena.

Perhaps there are readers that see this in the same vein as the scientific community – if you dare to bring forth a finding that is contrary to an established pillar, you’d very well better have your ducks in a row as the body of science is hard won knowledge and is not to be dallied with lightly whatsoever. The attitude here is that this body of knowledge should be accorded due respect. Being duly respectful sounds like a reasonable and even virtuous demeanor.

Personally I’m not sure I see how an atmosphere of civility and a wee bit of forbearance for making mistakes can be thrown out the window, though, and there still exist an environment for scientist (and other researchers) to be able to go forth and probe the edges.

There is so much that hints that there is yet much to learn – and that even our hallowed pillars may one day be overturned. For indeed, what can we say about scientific theories couched in continuous maths and yet experimentally we keep verifying that the true nature of the fabric of reality is that it is discreet? Continuity doesn’t ultimately map fully onto a medium that is innately discreet – it may simply appear as good approximation for perhaps a wide range of operational regimes; quoting from the Wiki again, this time regarding Plancks’s Constant:

This inherent granularity is counterintuitive in the everyday world, where it is possible to “make things a little bit hotter” or “move things a little bit faster”. This is because the quanta of action are very, very small in comparison to everyday human experience. Thus, on the macro scale quantum mechanics and classical physics converge. Nevertheless, it is impossible, as Planck found out, to explain some phenomena without accepting that action is quantized. In many cases, such as for monochromatic light or for atoms, the quantum of action also implies that only certain energy levels are allowed, and values in between are forbidden.

The formulas of classical physics are continuous maths and by that manner of categorization, Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is still a kind of classical physics – thus at odds for reconciliation with the fundamentally discreet nature of quantum physics. With an eventual deeper understanding, something is going to give way here and end up being lumped into the same space as Newton’s Laws – that which serves as good approximation for some regimes of consideration and purposes, but not a true depiction of deeper underlying reality. One could say that the laws of classical physics are emergent.

By the way, that which is inherently discreet is of the realm of information processing. Physics is in transit to giving sway to the science of information processing as the ultimate discipline. Indeed, all fields of science these days are in route to being subsumed in some fashion under the umbrella of information processing.

Gentle reader, you may view the prior paragraph as a bit of fanciful assertion, but go undertake an investigation. First ask the question of whether all scientific inquiry is edging toward the auspices of information processing. Consider these books as a jumping off points:

Decoding Reality: the universe as quantum information

Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics

Then ask the question: Is the ultimate agency for the information processing that sustains our apparent observable reality an innately existing universe, or is it something still deeper?

To be continued…

In a future continuation article we will delve into more outlier phenomena while looking at another pathway to knowledge. We will posit that it is a necessity to break out of the confines of the epistemological box that our civilization (indeed our species) is currently trapped in.

MyCoreArticles (and some related links)
[awakening, synchronicity, Gnosticism, AAT, nature of reality/consciousness, etc.]


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