The Language of Nature is Science
The categorical statement that all unicorns are black, or white, and sleep all day, though delightful lore, is of little importance. If one is to build a substantial philosophy and an efficient government, one must observe, study, remember, and relieve contradiction. In reviewing the early history of science we encounter some of the same men we did when we reviewed the history of logic. Logic was a reasonable first step in trying to organize one's thoughts when one had nothing else. It was terribly difficult to get started in science. They had to first learn many things that any modern person takes for granted. When one grows up believing that everything is spiritual and governed by whimsy, it is difficult to change. To a primitive person, before clocks, it was obvious that the days and nights differed in length as indeed they do, but they did not understand that if the day were longer, the associated night was shorter. All of us know that some days and nights fly by while others are slowed by boredom and sleeplessness.
Thales (624-546 BC) was arguably the first man of any note to change the way men thought. He was the first to concern himself with great matters outside of the human mind. Thales was a merchant and it was through this vocation that he traveled all over the known world. The accomplishments by this man are numerous. He discerned that there are two right angles in the sum of the angles of a triangle. He generalized the conditions of the universe to conditions of water: everything was a state of water. He related the steam, water, and ice to the gas, liquid, and solid of all other matter. He retained the idea that all solids had their own spirit. To him fire was the coming out of the spirit of wood. Thales had been to Egypt and learned some geometry and philosophy from the Egyptians, While he was in Egypt he measured the height of the Great Pyramid by measuring its shadow when the shadow of a man was equal to his height. To us this use of the parallax of the Sun's rays seems obvious, but the use of this principle in geometric solution of such a problem infers a knowledge of the Sun's great distance from the Earth. That type of knowledge was reserved for the most sophisticated thinkers in those days. The answer is the pyramid was four hundred eighty one feet and four inches tall.
Astute as he was to have measured the pyramid in that fashion, it is nothing compared to predicting the complete eclipse of the Sun in the year 585 BC. This eclipse took place during a battle between the Medes and the Lydians, and it's prediction by Thales unnerved the enemy and caused a cessation of hostilities that led to a lasting peace between the contending nations. My history book does not record whether Thales had anything to do with the battle and the lasting peace that followed, but simply that Thales predicted the eclipse and that it did occur at a propitious moment with those salutary effects. One may speculate on how anyone could have solved such a problem at that time, especially since Thales thought that the Earth was a flat disk, a geometric fallacy that was not likely to help. The problem is somewhat simplified by standing in one spot as at an alter worshipping the Sun and the Moon. After standing in that place year after year, one could sense a progression of the Sun's rising and setting with respect to the horizon, and the Moon's rising and setting also. As the generations passed, some influential priest might get a lot of people to set a pole or heavy rock in the ground to designate a spot on the horizon at the beginning and end of one of the progressions.
Early controlled observation
the more I have become a lover of myth" Aristotle
Myth may have meant to Aristotle a little of what revelation meant to millions in the later centuries; and for all his Scientific labors he may have felt at last a supreme consolation in the life of contemplation that might lead, at its highest moments, to "visions of the Divine." Aristotle was alone, indeed, very alone.
At his death, his treatises were stored and forgotten for two hundred forty years until 80 BC. At that time they were accepted as a whole, complete body of knowledge, and from the beginning of the dark ages in 500 AD to the Renaissance in 1500 AD his works were venerated as gospel, something that would have amazed Aristotle, himself, for he believed fervently in the evolution of ideas. He was sure his work was but a step, but his treatises became the basis of university studies without change, even to the point of enshrinement.
A somewhat earlier work, that of Abuali Alhazen (965-1038), experimented with dispersion and refraction essentially proving that sight depended on reflected light from the sun, and that the blue sky was due to light refracted and reflected from air particles. In other words he explained twilight and dusk in the morning and evening. He effectively outdated the idea that daylight could be created on the first day and the Sun on the fourth day of Genesis. This passed practically unnoticed in the western world, possibly because Alhazen was in North Africa.
In the last analysis all modern philosophy should be Realistic Idealism, because philosophers wish to promote the best there is for humanity. The best there is is so wrapped up in the reality of the sciences, such as the science of nutrition, health, housing, sanitation, transportation, communication, and such that now all philosophers must know something about all the sciences. The most effective path to a goal of happiness is through Science: what we know about realism. It is here that we begin our long thoughtful trip toward Realistic Idealism the philosophy for philosophers. We have defined idealism. We now shall determine how we shall recognize realism.
The trinity of science
REPEATABILITY: Experiments are contrived studies of specific subjects. Where the subject matter has not been exhausted by the first experiment, one may make a second contrived study. This is the essence of repeatability. Any valid experiment can be repeated two or more times, preferably by several experimenters, and each experimenter gets the same results.
The basic laws of science
The law of the conservation of energy is the first law of thermodynamics to the effect that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It may be converted from one form to another, but never lost. Thus, mechanical energy can be converted to heat, light, and electricity, and a mathematical equations of these factors must balance.
Many magic shows feature an act of levitation in which a body will rise without support. This violates the law of gravity. Magic, then, is a violation of at least one of these basic laws of Nature. There are many other laws of Nature that we have not discussed, but they are so seldom involved in magic and superstition that they do not need to be considered in those respects. If the results of an experiment are repeatable, reliable, and cohere to established laws of nature and are a natural development of them, they are deemed to be valid.
The observation of snapping turtles
There has also been a report by a Scientist who observed a shallow lake while lying on his stomach on an abandoned railway viaduct. On sunny days he could see snapping turtles working the bottom of the lake eating the succulent lower ends of the reeds and rejecting the tough upper portions which floated to the top of the water. The turtles would move along the bottom of the lake cutting off hundreds of reeds one at a time with one bite. This is consistent with the fact that snapping turtles are omnivorous, in fact, eating more vegetation than protein. This has been substantiated by analysis of the contents of hundreds of snapping turtle stomachs (remember, turtle soup is a staple product).
Logically, a person might logically visualize a scuba diver going along the bottom of the lake with stainless steel shears cutting off the reeds at their bottoms. This is possible, but nobody has ever seen such a joker doing that, and, even if so, such an isolated case would not substantially modify our conclusion about snapping turtles anyway. These tests of responsibility put on philosophy should also put an end to the concept that philosophical maturity is a blase futility and frustration. An understanding of entropy does give direction to history and events. Entropy is a pawl on time that makes it irreversible. There is a constructive purpose to life, and progress is distinct from pure change.
The maze of probabilities
Our final conclusion seems to be related to a smooth line drawn through a scattered cloud of points on a graph. We end up with a conclusion that can only be true of a general situation and can never be applied reliably to a special instance. This is especially true in medicine, law, and sociology. To a novice this may seem to be impossible to live with. How can we seriously act on a scientific conclusion if its results are all that uncertain? A philosopher might make much of this. It takes experience and judgment, but it is the only way to move ahead through life with any reliably positive results. One is more secure if the variability is reduced to below the ambient noise level. The "ambient noise level" means that if one sufficiently refines one's measurements, one finally reaches a point where all borders become chaotic.
Paradoxes of sub-atomic chaos
To any Scientist this is all trite. It is an everyday problem for which there has been compensation. Scientists have made adjustments for it, but for most of the world it may be incomprehensible. Scientific and common languages are worlds apart. It is like the meeting of strangers from a foreign land. We have been talking about true evidence on the macro-physical scale. In contrast, phenomena on the micro-physical level present investigators with seemingly contradictory evidence. Light undergoes diffraction which can only be explained by adopting the classical wave model. Yet, in the photoelectric effect and in photon scattering experiments light behaves like particles and the predictions of the wave models are not realized. The actual observations can only be rationalized by postulating quanta: a light that can carry momentum like particles and act like a wave subject to restrictions of the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle" (the position and momentum of a particle in it's wave packet cannot be simultaneously known to arbitrarily high precision by any process of measurement we might apply to the photon, or electron for instance).
There are other paradoxical examples on the sub-atomic level: Negative electricity was first found to be quantified in electrolysis and oildrop experiments, and each unit of negative electricity behaves like a little lump of matter with a mass of 9X10-28 gm. and a charge of 4.8X10-10 electrostatic units. This gives us a rather clear picture of an electron as a discrete charged particle. Yet, it acts like a wave formation when we direct a stream of electrons into a crystal, and the diffraction phenomenon takes place. This paradox is difficult to explain, and is usually viewed with a liberal mind that permits these apparently contradictory concepts to exist side by side. The single fact of these matters seems to be irreconcilable. Our experience with ocean waves and baseballs does not prepare us to deal with light and electrons.
As mysterious as these examples seem, they are none-the-less, as common an experience as water. It is a matter of magnitude. On one level of magnification water is a fluid. On another level of magnification water is a molecular: H2O. Another paradox we might consider is the following. We are traveling on a carnival ride (earth) spinning on its axis and rotating around the Sun. We are riding on the surface of the Earth at more or less 1000 miles an hour and around the Sun at 68 thousand miles an hour so that at any given midnight we are approaching a star on the eastern horizon at 68 thousand miles an hour and retreating from a star on the western horizon at the same speed. Yet, the light from the two sources measures exactly 186,000 miles per second from both directions! One might conclude that the ruler by which we measure the speed of light stretches when we look back and shrinks when we look ahead. Although this puzzle is addressed by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity the contradictions are evident.
Throughout history it has always been on this edge of humanity's knowledge of nature's design and the perception of surrounding chaos and inconsistency that the irregularity in the manner of things needed a supernatural, helping hand to overcome the gap in the inevitable flow of cause and effect. This seems just as true today as when the Biblical creation story was written.
Realistic Idealism is philosophy that concerns itself with the human condition and that area within the realm of humanity's knowledge. We can be satisfied that there will always be mystery without leaping to a mythical conclusion. The curious mind is constantly being challenged with new concepts that must be checked with what we already know about the world to determine whether a concept is compatible or disruptive. We find it easy to accept that which is compatible and hard to accept that which is disruptive. Life and maturation seems to be an eternal conflict; a building and destroying and rebuilding of the dichotomies; reshaping of the mental dream states which we hold to be our belief in the world of Truth. The whole pattern is shaped by the inner complexes of a person's mind which lead to a confusion of unrelated parts and compartmentalized conflicting fragments. Scientists, watching their data fall into recognizable patterns, may extrapolate and visualize phenomena that can later be verified. Scientifically projected consistencies are tentative theories and hypothesis that lead to new discoveries. These are not so much logical tenets as they are extrapolations of the consistencies of the conservation of mass, energy, momentum, and the laws of entropy and gravity. New discoveries are then subjected to the trinity of repeatability, reliability, and consistency before they are accepted. That part which still remains outside our knowledge is still mystery and is the "stuff" that makes up "faith".