A Review by Zeus and Emile
Ignorance, Rationality and the Crisis of Trust in Mainstream Science
by Alan Rayner
Montréal, November 23, 2000

Zeus: Emile, what did you think of Alan Rayner's article in the Times Higher Educational Supplement today?

Emile: You mean his essay on 'Ignorance, Rationality and the Crisis of Trust in Mainstream Science?'

Zeus: Yes, that's the one.

Emile: I thought it was out of place in the Higher Educational Supplement, ... it should have gone into the pages on local news where the readership would be more likely to 'get the message'.

Zeus: Howso?

Emile: I was reading an accident report on page 5 which had a lot of the same ideas in it, and which showed how the type of ideas in Alan's essay can be taken differently, depending on people's educational background and other proclivities.

Zeus: What's the scoop?

Emile: Well, this story concerned three electrical engineers from the same firm that were heading home late after work. They all entered the same freeway going in the same direction but they entered at different times into different lanes and were travelling at speeds. And they all had a crazy habit of changing lanes at the same frequency, once every hour.

The first engineer, let's call him 'Car A', enters the freeway at milestone 0 at midnight (0:00 hrs) doing 30 mph. in the right lane. The second engineer, in Car B, enters at milestone 0 at 1:00 a.m. doing 30 mph. in the left lane and the third engineer in Car C enters at milestone 0 at 1:30 a.m. doing 60 mph. in the left lane. According to the story, all cars switched lanes with the same frequency, once per hour with reference to how long they'd been on the freeway.

At 2:00 a.m. Car C, travelling in the left lane, reached milestone 30 at the same time as Car B who has now been on the freeway for one hour and was just switching from the left to the right lane. Car C overtook Car B as he moved over and continued on his way. At 3:00 a.m., Car C, now travelling in the right lane (he switched from left to right at 2:30 a.m.), reached milestone 90 at the same time as Car A who, having been on the road for three hours was just switching from the right lane to the left lane (R-L-R=>L). Car C overtook Car A as he moved over and continued on into the now open road and they all arrived home safely.

Zeus: ... So?, ... what's the problem?

Emile: Well, there was no problem that night, but the next night, the same three electrical engineers are once again heading home late after work at the same times as the prior night. But being as they know each others habits, ... speed of driving and lane changing and all that, ... and because they all wanted to get home a lot faster but without any risks to safety, ... they figured that there would be no risks if they all doubled their speed and halved their frequency of lane changes, ... because, as Fourier math's shows, this gives back exactly the same interference pattern.

So, this time, Car A entered at milestone 0 at midnight (0:00 hrs) doing 60 mph. in the right lane. Car B entered at milestone 0 at 1:00 a.m. doing 60 mph. in the left lane and Car C entered at milestone 0 at 1:30 a.m. doing 120 mph. in the left lane. The drivers of all cars set about to switch lanes with the same frequency, but this time only once every two hours.

According to the police records, at 2:00 a.m. Car C, travelling in the left lane, reached milestone 60 at the same time as Car B and the two cars collided, going out of control and off the road down an embankment. Since they had decided to cut the frequency of lane changes in half to compensate for the doubling of their speed, the time had not yet arrived for Car B to change lanes.

Zeus: Ouch!, ... what went wrong?

Emile: According to the article, later on in the hospital, during their recovery, the two injured engineers and the engineer in Car A who wasn't involved in the accident, had a little tete a tete to discuss what went wrong with their Fourier 'interference theory'. They checked their formulas and confirmed that wavelength X frequency = velocity, so that doubling the velocity and halving the frequency should not have changed the form of the signal. But the driver of Car A asserted that it was a problem with the relative phase angles of their 'square waves', ... that they doubled their wavelengths over the ground and that their starting time differentials had been the same, thus, their phase relationships had changed, and that it was the motion of the trucks in an 'out of phase' manner which had caused the accident.

Meanwhile, as the article goes on to say, the engineers had no shortage of kibitzers while they were carrying out their inquiry. In fact the nurse had quipped that if that was what they called unanticipated 'constructive interference', they must have been the ones who coined the term 'collateral damage' for environmental destruction in the 'clean' guided missile attacks in Iraq and Serbia - Kosovo.

A biker visiting a patient in the next bed, who had overheard the discussion, pointed out that there would have been no problem had they all been riding motorcycles, and that the big recreational vehicles they had been driving were a glut on the highways in any case, ... closing down opportunity space for everyone else and making the traffic flow a lot more viscous. He claimed that the problem was the tank-like SRV movements rather than the phase calculations.

The patient he was visiting, was a musician and he reinforced the biker's comment saying that it would be ridiculous to think you could double the tempo on a piece of music played on a piano and drop down an octave and get the same thing, that the 'shape of the silences' would be very different, and the shape of the silences or 'opportunities for sound' had an overriding effect on the flow-quality of the music, ... that the silences opened up for you to come inside and immerse yourself in the music so that the shape of the dynamical opportunity space of silence was all important, ... that it was deficiency in the shape of silence or 'holeness' motion which caused the accident.

An old black man sweeping the floor chimed in, saying that scientific laws were all about describing what happens, ... but they didn't bother to get into what doesn't happen and why it doesn't happen, ... that it wasn't necessarily a case of how big you were or where you were coming from, but more a case of how the opportunity space shrunk when they seen you coming, ... that it was the movement of the mind which was the cause of collisions between things.

Zeus: Wow, quite an interesting philosophical discussion, how did the exchange end up?

Emile: Well, it ended up with the engineers getting very irritated with the way the 'gallery' conversation was going and tried to make themselves heard, that there was nothing at all wrong with the theory, ... that they had simply made an error in not properly accounting for the phase angles. They thought it unjustified that people who didn't understand the theory played around with it and made fun of it the way they.

Zeus: And how does all of this tie back to Alan's essay being in the wrong place?

Emile: It's not hard to see that while the engineers are referencing to 'rationality', the others were referencing to 'inclusionality' which is quantum physics compliant.

Zeus: ... s'cuse me!? .....

Emile: Rationality always reduces things to a 'flatspace' screen, it selects and excludes like the hunter's vision through the telescopic sights of his rifle. It reduces the immersed volumetric aspect of real life experience down to a flatscreen display.

The three engineers were visualizing their interference in terms of what might appear on the flat screen of an oscilloscope rather than in fullblown volumetric space-time as the others were, who weren't so well versed in the rational theories.

There is always a price to pay for the tidiness one gets with the absolute times and the absolute discrete boundaries of rationality. In the case of the engineers Fourier theory, the price for a discrete frequency is that its energy is distributed over absolute time which runs from the infinite past to the infinite future.

Zeus: Ahhh, ... now its coming back to me, ... Gabor's point that for information theory to be realistic, one has to account for the uncertainty or 'interference' between time and frequency, given by Wolfgang Pauli's formulation of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle;

.... delta t x delta f >= 1/2

Emile: That's right, Zeus. Gabor showed that it was more realistic to think of elemental signal in terms of local 'quanta' or 'logons', rather than something that stretched out from the infinite past to the infinite future. In fact, he compares the logon based signal to a rotating vector field,... a space-time inductive tendency. So he trades out the Fourier concept with its oscilloscope 'locus of a point' orientation, for what is in effect an 'inductive hole'. Gabor type maths based on 'holes' is what you need when you shift from the conceptual waves in electrical engineering to real waves in the earth as in seismology. In seismology, it is the inner-outer volumetric inwelling-outwelling which is the overriding effect, and this requires the complex information signal of the 'logon' type of Gabor.

Zeus: I see where this is going. The gallery comments by those who were not versed in Fourier theory went naturally to the world of space-time volume, the dynamic opportunity space which one has an implicit understanding of in freeway driving, which is the reciprocal to the forms of the vehicles. What matters above all in this view, is 'holes', ...whether or not one has the dynamic opportunity space one needs for one's 'assertive behaviours'.

Emile: And you can see right away that the 'flow of holes' is not really in the plural since there is just one unbounded and dynamically transforming 'hole' which is otherwise known as our evolutionary space-time container, or 'space' for short.

Zeus: I am beginning to see what the musician was saying about the 'shape of silence' and also what the biker was saying about 'viscosity' and the janitor about 'opportunity' taking precedence over assertive behaviour. All these things are views from an immersed position in space-time and very much unlike the flatspace screen views of rationality.

Emile: This is precisely what Alan Rayner is talking about in his article when he says; "Deliberate ignorance comes with rationalistic modes of inquiry that continue to underpin mainstream analytical science, ...". The three engineers refused to engage in the conversation about the real life volumetric forms and how this has an overriding effect on systems behaviour. While they were dealing in terms of flatspace-quantity and absolute time-phase, the other 'less knowledgeable' folks were dealing in the 'space-time phase' of INCLUSION in 'dynamic opportunity space', ... a 'holographic' vision in the quantum physics compliant information theory terms of Denis Gabor.

Zeus: Are you telling me that quantum physics is not 'rational'?

Emile: Like I said, rationality deals in 'discrete entities' and the discrete binary logic of 'true or false' and there is a price to pay for that since the world is, at its base 'uncertain', ... and how could it not be since it is in a continual state of unpredictable and irreversible evolution. The price which is paid for rationality, is that what it gives us in terms of phenomenal understanding is simply statistics based 'analytical backfill' based on past happenings, ... a reduced, 'routinized' version of what in real-life is a continuous outwelling-inwelling of diversity and novelty. To put rationality into the primacy over our sense of immersed inclusion in this spher-cular transformative process is to have us become voyeurs, watching our lives play out on the flatspace surface of the screen of rationality, where our parts are played by moving points or pacmen-like figures which we manipulate with the joystick of rationality. Our life appears to us as a yellow brick road leading over the horizon, to the right side of the screen, and as we make plans to get to it, and apply the joystick of rationality, ... it is instead happening to us because we are immersed in it but cannot see it because of the mesmerizing property of our 'rationality screen'.

Zeus: So we 'must become the path as we walk it', ... as the Zen folks say, ... rather than putting the screen display and joysticking in the primacy.

Emile: In Alan's allusion to vortex in flow, we have no other 'sane' choice. That is; "... we humans are as immersed in and inseparable from our living space as a whirlpool is in a water flow."

Zeus: That one little innocuous looking 'interference relational' of Pauli's, delta t x delta f >= 1/2 would appear to have some pretty profound ramifications.

Emile: Pauli's time-frequency interference relation is simply an attempt to capture the profound implications of nature and our relationship within it.

Zeus: I take your point, Emile, ... but now I'm thinking, does it really make sense to invert our view of the world from the primacy of the assertive behaviour of things to the inductive behaviour of holes,... the sounds of silence as Simon and Garfunkel put it?

Emile: One doesn't give anything up in flipping to 'holes' since what we are really talking about is the geometry of nested vortices as in the imagery of a hurricane in the earth's atmosphere. This is an 'inclusionary' image, ... as the hurricanes form 'transforms' so also transforms, simultaneously, reciprocally, the form of the containing 'dynamic opportunity space'. The assertive behaviour aspect of the hurricane is included by referencing to the 'silence at the center', the 'eye' of the hurricane, meanwhile the form of the hurricane implies the reciprocal form of its space-time container, its 'dynamic opportunity space'. So in this 'inclusionary view' we are accounting for both assertive and inductive influences at the same time.

Zeus: I can see now, how this view relates to Einstein's general relativity theory with its notion of a 'relativized energy store' from which new form 'outwells' as old form 'inwells', a space-time self-referential evolutionary flow. I can think of my own body doing this kind of thing right at this moment, ... just like a vortex whose form is outwelling or developing and inwelling or dying all at the same time, ... and just like vortex, my overall outwelling from the energy store at birth will be followed by my overall inwelling in death. This model has a lot to be said for it since the 'assertive outwelling - inductive inwelling' geometry analogues are everywhere in nature while no-one has ever seen the binary absolutes of rationality wherein things can only 'exist' or 'not exist' and on the questions of from whence they came and whither they go, there is now't to be said.

Emile: Rational thought is not 'reasonable' thought, ... not where we look to nature and lived experience for reason, in any case. While the assertive behaviours of independent things, the 'currency' of rationality, say nothing of the coherent and harmonious codynamics amongst constituencies of things, the vortical form which is at the same time its dynamic opportunity space, ... says a whole lot. In the first place, the quantum flip from points to holes takes care of the issue of the 'form' of space which, as the nurse, the biker, musician and janitor pointed out, is an overriding factor in the quality of living. You can't get to the 'form of space' by confining one's reasoning to the 'assertive behaviour of things' as 'rationality' does.

The biker is of a like mind to Alan Rayner in that we must "giving precedence to our living space" in that the shape of the dynamic opportunity space in which we are all 'inclusions' governs our opportunities to sustain and evolve our life. Freeway flow is most fluid and harmonious when the collective of drivers, rather than following mechanical rules, ... key to the 'shape of dynamic opportunity space', ... guiding their assertive actions by a conscious awareness of their simultaneous reciprocal effects on the shape of opportunity, ... slowing down or speeding up slightly, or changing lanes to sculpt the right shape opportunity corridor for someone else in need of it. When multiple drivers join together in this 'inclusional' practice, the evolving shape of dynamic opportunity space is the immanence of the collective conscious.

Zeus: This would seem to be the basic underpinning of 'inclusionality', this re-instatement of conscious awareness of our inductive-assertive nature, which has been reduced to an assertive-only focus by our deification of rationality. The pedestrian who crosses a crowded terrace or the driver who navigates crowded freeways or the individual in his passage through life, has the option to maintain an awareness of his 'feminine' or inductive influence which is simultaneously, reciprocally transforming his containing space as he asserts himself. And should he key to this 'shape of space' and cultivate its harmonious opportunity form cooperatively with others, ... then he will in effect be tuning in to the collective conscious.

Emile: Precisely, as Alan says in presenting a relative perspective on 'rationality' vis a vis 'inclusionality', "This tool [rationality], when complemented, through dialogue, by the collective imagination and insights coming from many, diverse perspectives, can illuminate implicit, holographic, reality. In this way we can stay attuned to our dynamic context rather than create dissonance by assuming control over what our restrictive analytical vision prevents us from seeing."

Of course, in the assertive act of cooperating, tapping the collective conscious so as to see our dynamic opportunity space holographically, we are at the same time inductively shaping it. As the Buddha said, 'It's your mind that creates this world'.

* * *

[[Following article published in 'The Times', London, Friday, November 23, 2000 in the 'Times Higher Educational Supplement' under the following heading; 'Put Science in Context - life is not like a box of Lego: Public unease over science is compounded by science's refusal to look at the big picture, argues Alan Rayner'; ]]


By Alan Rayner

The debate about genetically modified crops is only the most recent symptom of a growing public unease. The shining aura of infallibility that used to shield scientific authority has begun to fade, to be replaced by questions: do they honestly know what they are talking about; can our science really foresee the long-term consequences of our actions? And as the global impact of human technology looks set to outstrip human wisdom, these questions become more urgent: the future quality, if not survival of our living space is in doubt. Faced with this crisis, the retaliatory response of some is to accuse the disquieted public of ignorance, irrationality, irresponsibility and pursuing a political agenda. Ironically, it is the deliberate ignorance of context, compounded by political, economic and career aspirations, which really risks unleashing dysfunction: indeed it already has done so.

Deliberate ignorance comes with rationalistic modes of inquiry that continue to underpin mainstream analytical science, regardless of the implications of relativity, quantum and non-linear theory, amongst others. In its relentless pursuit of simplicity, precision and certainty, rationalism has for centuries separated 'subjects' and 'objects', 'insides'and 'outsides', 'self'and 'other. It prizes a purified, 'objective' view of 'things'as discrete 'contents' in splendid isolation from their contextual 'container', thereby eliminating 'dirty' subjectivity and 'noisy' environmental variables.

Life and the universe are hence regarded like a box of Lego blocks that can be sorted, assembled and disassembled: a fixed reference frame of empty Cartesian space and absolute time in which independent objects collide, compete and stick together but can't relate. It all seems so simple and logical -- the only uncertainties lie in the randomness of independent events, but statistics and risk analyses can account for those.

But the simplicity is false, arising from deliberate exclusion of all considered outside the frame of reference. To be fair, the exclusion results from believing that we can't account for everything, so it seems better to focus first on the small picture and build from there. But, unfortunately, it's impossible to get the big picture from a small one that has already excluded vital contextual information. This problem becomes critical whenever analytical science tries to take a long-term view, because then the crucial uncertainty is not randomness, but rather implications -- how the future will unfold as neglected outside influences come to bear and one thing induces another.

For, in reality, no thing occurs in complete isolation. The discrete boundaries assumed or imposed by rational inquiry to keep things simple are artefacts that actually complicate and ration our understanding, starving us of what we need to know. Real boundaries are dynamic interfaces, places of opportunity for reciprocal transformation between intercommunicating insides and outsides over nested scales from sub-atomic to universal, not fully discrete limits. Features arise dynamically through the inductive coupling of explicit contents with their larger, implicit context, which, like a hologram, can only be seen partially and in unique aspect from any one fixed viewpoint.

By the same token, we humans are as immersed in and inseparable from our living space as a whirlpool is in a water flow: our every explicit action implicitly depends upon and induces transformation of our environment -- which is as much our inheritance as our genes. By taking self-centred action, regardless of context, we put that inheritance at risk and ultimately conflict with ourselves. The resulting damage is evident in tales of the unexpected, from Dutch Elm Disease and Southern Leaf Blight in monocultures of male-sterile corn, to global warming, mental stress and BSE -- a just cause for mistrust. And when, as with genetic modification, we try only as afterthought to test implications, using experimental methods that continue to disregard context, we add insult to injury. To restore trust, it would help to invert this application-before-implication trend, so that new technologies like genetic modification emerge in relation to contextual need, not private greed. Otherwise analytical science may find itself more like an arrogant football striker, sidelined for bringing the game into disrepute, than a team player fully involved in the flow, making and moving into space.

As deep ecologists urge, we therefore need to shift, both intellectually and practically, from egocentric to ecocentric, by giving precedence to our living space. The participatory philosophy of 'inclusionality' I'm currently working on with others, in which all things are viewed as dynamic contextual inclusions, may help by enabling us to value the explicit, laser-like focus of rational inquiry not as 'all there is', but rather as a high resolution tool. This tool, when complemented, through dialogue, by the collective imagination and insights coming from many, diverse perspectives, can illuminate implicit, holographic, reality. In this way we can stay attuned to our dynamic context rather than create dissonance by assuming control over what our restrictive analytical vision prevents us from seeing.

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