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Science typically refers people to Philosophy when such subjects are brought up. But yet they know that there are profound metaphysical implications of the physics of the last century, and since the spiritual interpretations don't conflict with the science, it doesn't quite seem in harmony with their otherwise neutral and inquisitive state of mind.

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who is they? do you mean philosophy in general? physicists in general? –  Dr Sister Sep 2 '12 at 5:23
This doesn't seem like a real, constructive question. I understand the need to blow off steam if the physics.SE folk haven't been very accepting of your participation, but this question isn't really within the realm of philosophy. It's psychology at best, but it would be closed there as well because it makes a bold, unsupported claim without any real explanation. –  stoicfury Sep 2 '12 at 6:34
@stoicfury:It's a good question. I don't think it should have been closed. In this review of Jim Holts book, why does the world exist. Freeman Dyson, a physicist concludes that 'Modern departments of philosophy have no place for the mystical.' Would he have concluded the same for Physics? It obviously has a role in his own life. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 7 '12 at 6:42
Presumably, Wittgenstein read out Tagores mystical poetry to the Vienna Circle for the same reason.(TLP 6.522 reads: “There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.”) –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 7 '12 at 6:52
And Grothendieck, after remaking the field of Algebraic Geometry in his own image, departed for mystical tranquillity at the age of 40; he wrote on the art of problem-solving: 'A different image came to me a few weeks ago. The unknown thing to be known appeared to me as some stretch of earth of hard marl, resisting penetration…the sea advances insensibly in silence, nothing seems to happen, nothing moves, the water is so far off you hardly hear it…yet it finally surrounds the resistant substance.' –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 7 '12 at 6:57
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closed as not constructive by stoicfury Sep 2 '12 at 6:34

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3 Answers

Richard Feynman summarized modern science with this statement:

In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is. It does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is – if it disagrees with experiment it is wrong. That is all there is to it.

Experimentation is the foundation of all modern science (particularly physics). It is the key difference that has allowed tremendous progress in science over the past few centuries compared to, eg, classical Greece. There were plenty of very intelligent people thinking about the physical world, but without that key mindset that experimentation must trump everything else, the progress was hindered.

By their nature, spiritual things are supernatural; therefore, they are outside the realm of experimentation. For this reason, there is no place in modern science for spiritual explanations.

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Yes, I like Feynmann's stance, but I would add that your statement "[spiritual things] are outside the realm of experimentation" is only true in an a posteriori sense, after these boundaries have been established -- a consequence of man's historical quest of knowledge not a source of science. –  Mark J Sep 4 '12 at 20:58
On Feynmans simple prescription, the greeks that came up with atomic theory over 2 millenia ago, would have to be dismissed as being 'not even testable'. String theory is currently not seriously testable, and it probably won't be for some time, and you have a lot of serious physicists working on it. There is a large element of speculation in physics which gets covered up because of its reputation as a hard science. Quite a number of physicists have been into eastern mysticism - see Bohm for instance. Or Weil, but he was mathematician. I don't know why physicists get het up about myticism –  Mozibur Ullah Sep 25 '12 at 18:56
maybe they're not as rational as they think they are. –  Mozibur Ullah Sep 25 '12 at 18:57
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Why do we get angry about anything? We could say that many times it is because we have personal issues related to the event or subject in question.

In the case of physicists, that also may or may not apply.

But in my experience, even if the above is the case, it is usually justified. People tend to distort or misinterpret physics claims in order to fit their own beliefs. Specially with modern physics, that has a lot of out-of-the-ordinary consequences, many people take a superficial view and use that as an "explanation" for spiritual stances.

Ken Wilber has an audio conversation entitled "Does Quantum Physics Prove God?" in which he says that it does not, and that those claims come from misunderstandings. The interesting thing is that Wilber himself is a "spiritualist" (whatever that may mean), but he says that that kind of mix of physics and spirituality is both bad physics and bad mysticism.

So when a physicist gets aggro about that, I would consider that it is because so many people has misused physics without really understanding it, simply trying to transfer some of physics knowledge's strength to the "spiritual".

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This reaction is a natural (unconscious) adaptation to preserve a boundary between subject and object. When this boundary is broken without control, it's called schizophrenia.

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this is untrue, the boundary between subject and object is not mentioned in the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia . –  Dr Sister Sep 2 '12 at 5:23
A statement such as this requires justification. (Both that the reaction is to preserve a boundary, and that the breaking of that boundary is equivalent to schizophrenia.) –  Rex Kerr Sep 2 '12 at 8:11
I know this from personal experience. Normally that special boundary is preserved by the decades of habituation of one's cultural biases and predilections. But they can get ruptured and then the "virtual world" and "objective world" do not have the nice clean distinction that we take for granted. @Seldom: there are ways to fix this, and psychology generally doesn't have a clue about natural/organic treatment of schizophrenia. –  Mark J Sep 2 '12 at 12:44
@MarkJ - Personal speculation is not suitable for an answer on most SE sites, including this one, unless you at the very least give a detailed account of the reasoning. You seem to be discounting that you may just not know what you're talking about and that the reaction is to being forced to deal with nonsense. If a two-year-old keeps throwing crayons all over the floor, I might get bent out of shape too. A careful explanation of what the situation is and why you have come to your conclusions might help distinguish this case from doing the physics equivalent of crayon-throwing. –  Rex Kerr Sep 2 '12 at 22:26
@Kerr: His speculation makes sense to me and sounds coherent. I think you could probably find some justification for his statement in Lacan, as inversion of ego-formation. Psychology is not an exact science, in the sense physics is. We shouldn't take human beings as inert objects as in Behaviouralism, where inner states are discounted of being of no significance. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 7 '12 at 6:23
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