Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 3.57.19 PMBy Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

In a sense, the modern world was created with a simple editing stroke when Truth lost its capital “T.” Instead of pursuing the Truth, along a hundred paths stemming from philosophy and religion, the rise of Newtonian science and the Age of Reason taught us to seek lower-case truth, which consists of a body of verifiable facts. We have inherited a suspicion about absolute Truth that can be heard in everyday speech. How often do people say, “Well, it’s all relative” and “There’s no such thing as truth with a capital ‘T’.” Between them, relativism and the mountain of empirical data assembled by science have suffocated the notion of Truth. Many truths have emerged, truth about the best form of government, about the value of free markets, etc.

The search for lower-case truth is no less ambitious than the search for God, the soul, higher consciousness, and a transcendent reality that lies beyond the physical world. Those were the basic elements of Truth as it was revered in the past but repudiated by science. We think it’s valuable to try and reconcile science and spirituality, but let’s skip over that for the moment. The truly important issue is to know if we should be going after truths or the Truth. It’s a question that touches everyone’s life personally, because in hidden ways our whole lives are governed by what we believe about truth. Is it just a mass of verifiable facts? Or are facts secondary to an overarching truth that people should live by as they once lived by faith in God an adherence to religious rules?

We’re not proposing the return of religion in its former guise, or making a back-door argument for a new kind of worship. (Ironically, many of the old religious views held that God is an external fact, as the universe is held to be external now.) When it had a capital “T”, truth defined the essence of reality. To say, “God created the world in seven days” was a foundation of reality, an absolute that was superior to everything else that might be observed in the physical world. This literal interpretation was of course contradicted by the findings of science. To a religionist, however, if a fossil dating back a hundred million years contradicted the Book of Genesis, faith required an argument that preserved the absolute Truth, no matter what the cost in rationality.

It hardly needs saying that science turned this scheme on its head, and now we know better than to accept any absolutes about the nature of reality. Not only have God, the soul, and higher worlds flown the coop, when science itself proposes to formulate laws of nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, these new absolutes are open to question. Time and space were absolutes in Newton’s classical physics until Einstein proposed his General Theory of Relativity. Now, at the cutting edge of cosmology research, the discovery that dark matter and dark energy may exist, and if so, they constitute 96% of the creation that emerged after the Big Bang, threatens to overturn the apple cart once again. It has raised doubts, for example, about the accepted truth that gravity dominates the universe and that energy only has positive values.

At first glance, the toppling of old verities seems merely technical. Ordinary life isn’t impacted by contending theories of quantum gravity and superstrings. Dark energy, if indeed it exists, is pulling the expanding universe apart at an accelerating rate, a startling finding that has profound consequences for how the cosmos might end, but who will be around billions of years from now when the end-point arrives? Anyway, quantum physics, which replaced Newtonian mechanics in the great quantum revolution of the early twentieth century, basically states that what the senses perceive is not reality itself, reinforcing the view that the Truth either doesn’t exist or is inaccessible. In a word, there is no place in a sea of constant change for anything absolute.

Despite the profoundly different world view that quantum mechanics ushered in, most scientists still practice science as conceived by the now outdated classical physics, believing resolutely that their task is to gather facts about fixed objects, akin to Newton’s falling apple or billiard balls bouncing off one another in a dance of cause and effect. This kind of science finds itself in a troubling place when it comes to explaining reality, however. New findings about the very early phases of the universe are already nibbling away at the edges of the three foundational principles that all of science is based on:

  1. There is an objective universe “out there,” external to observers.
  2. The universe reveals itself through the collecting of facts, measurements, and data.
  3. Once enough objective data has been assembled, we will understand the universe completely, which is the same as saying that we will understand reality.

These statements are the equivalent of holy writ for scientists; they are assumed without question to be valid, and as anyone can attest who has mounted an argument that doesn’t depend upon these principles, cries of heresy arise. It is strange that these cries of heresy seem to ignore quantum theory and its profoundly different world view. Rational researchers suddenly become hot-headed and ad hominem. One is quickly branded an enemy of science. When tempers cool, personal hostility turns into a more rational dismissal: To speak of a reality beyond the physical universe, one that isn’t known by collecting data, is simply “not science,” “metaphysics,” or even worse, “pseudoscience.”

In this series of posts we’d like to formulate a new picture of truth that replaces the flawed principles of science as it exists today. What is needed is an expanded science that grows out of facing – and correcting – some mistaken beliefs. Science follows wherever reality leads it. We think that reality has led to a place that isn’t explained by quantum mechanics alone. A new set of principles is needed to replace the current ones.

(To be continued.)

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Deepak Chopra , MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)