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.

Science, after all, is supposed to be about Truth -- regardless of whether it conforms to any popular model. And their model of reality would make us all automatons, would it not, if governed only by the laws of physics?

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    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, 2012 at 6:34
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    @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. Dec 7, 2012 at 6:42
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    Not constructive? It's the most constructive question I've seen for a while and a fascinating one so I'd vote to re-open. It is a fine philosophical question that deserves an answer. I can easily imagine Erwin Schrodinger asklng it. Surely as philosophers we should all know the answer to it.
    – user20253
    Oct 31, 2018 at 16:40
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    To be honest that post just sounds like nonsense. I can't even try to convert it into a coherent idea. If you told me reality has 8 dimsions and that concept is not inconsistent with reality and I can use it to make accurate predictions, I would have no problem.
    – Cell
    Nov 18, 2018 at 0:56
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    In re your recent edit to add the final sentence And their model of reality would make us all automatons.... It may or may not; that is immaterial insofar as the scientific endeavor is concerned. If we are all automata, then science wants to reveal that fact to us; if we are not, then science wants to reveal that fact to us. Science is not responsible for the facts, its duty is to make the facts available to us. Argumentum ad consequentiam and so forth.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 18, 2018 at 11:42

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 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.
    – Marxos
    Sep 4, 2012 at 20:58
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    If mysticism is amenable to experimentation, then it falls within the purview of the scientific method, and can be disproven (or not). At that point, it's no longer mysticism, but 'physics' or 'biology'. Oct 31, 2018 at 16:52
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    @PeterJ The results of a mystic experiment are not normally visible to anyone but the mystic. If they are reproducible by sufficiently many people, we can treat them scientifically. Feynman doubtless meant "experiment" as something that can be objectively verified. If you can levitate due to a mystical practice, that's verifiable. If you can see the face of God, that isn't. Oct 31, 2018 at 20:40
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    @PeterJ One thing that distinguishes physics from mysticism is success. After centuries of having mystics around, the world still abounds with unenlightened people. Far more people have had their lives improved by science than mysticism. I've had my own mystical experiences, and I'm reluctant to talk about them because I can't teach other people to have them or to know really what they are. Scientific experiments aren't limited to individual scientists to make, observe, and interpret, and that's the big difference. Nov 2, 2018 at 2:45
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    @PeterJ Think falsiiability and replication. A physicist can tell you how to construct apparatus and conduct an experiment. If the apparatus is properly constructed and used, the result should be the same. (If nobody else can replicate it, it's not science.) If my samadhi doesn't do something Patanjali said it would, is my samadhi lacking or is the sutra wrong? Can you examine my ability at samadhi independently to find what went wrong (much like they eventually found a loose cable in the neutrino speed experiment that found the buggers moving faster than light)? Nov 2, 2018 at 22:19

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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