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Reading Wolfgang Smith on Science, Scientism, and Signs of God in the Cosmos Dr. Necati Aydin

Wolfgang Smith is an unequivocally proven giant of science and philosophy. He completed his bachelor’s degree in physics, mathematics, and philosophy at Cornell University at 18 and went on to do a master’s in physics and a doctoral degree in math. He worked at MIT as a professor before retiring in 1992 at 62. He started to observe significant problems with most scientists who turned science into a new religion. As a scientist, he knew the shortcomings of science and decided to spoil the game. He retired early to dedicate the rest of his life to the most dire crises of humanity resulting from a misguided scientific perspective. He saw that while science develops astonishing and amazing technology, it leads us to decline to a level below animals mentally, morally, and emotionally. He was one of the few great minds attempting to save humanity from the greatest fall.

He has been fighting like a last warrior through his foundation and publications. In this article, I will discuss arguments in his following book: Physics and Vertical Causation (PVC): The End of Quantum Reality (2019).

In the book, Smith discusses the problem with modern science and some solutions, highlighting the problem with scientism that promotes materialist ideology as a scientific fact. He is not against real science. Rather he tries to help us understanding scientific findings.. He identifies Descartes as the source for planting the seed of materialist ideology in science. In his famous inquiry for verified knowledge, when Descartes declared that “I think therefore I am”, he essentially planted his materialist worldview into science. The cartesian view divides reality into objective and subjective. The objective one is a physical reality. It is nothing but the hard-core matter with movement under specific natural forces. Anything else besides matter is secondary and the human mind’s product. This is what Smith calls Cartesian bifurcation. Thus, scientists’ task since Descartes has been to explore “objective reality” through observation and experimentation. Everything else is just a subjective product of the human mind that does not have an actual existence like matter. “If only entities measured by physicists are objectively real and everything else exists only in the fantastical mind of an unversed humanity, the conclusion is unavoidable: physicists alone can know reality and distinguish it from fantasy.”(PVC) Smith thinks this is an impossible task for science.

Science is a way of exploring and discovering causation in the physical world. Smith calls Cartesian philosophy of knowing the reality a bad way of spoiling scientific interpretation: “Now, it seemed to me that what was actually being “spoiled” by that “bad philosophy” was not, in fact, “good physics” itself, but the ontological interpretation of that “good physics,” which is something else entirely.” (PVC) Smith blames Cartesian bifurcation for the crisis of ‘meaning’ in modern times. In his words, “Descartes has in effect cast out the very essence of the world in which we live, and move, and have our being. The crucial and almost universally undiscerned fact is that the Cartesian reduction of the corporeal world to “matter”—the denial, thus, of its “formal” component, its inherent morphe—has seemingly emptied the world of everything endeavor in human history.” Smith affirmingly quotes Whitehead that the universe has become the place of “a dull affair”: merely “the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly.” (PVC) As science succeeds in unveiling the secret of the physical world, it becomes the sole authority in defining and giving meaning to reality. Technological success, in particular, offers ammunition to science to kill any other way to understand reality. “In the name of science, an uncanny deception has been imposed upon humanity, which literally stands the world on its head.” (PVC) In a way, the entire humanity has been living under the “tyranny of horizontal causation” since the onset of the Enlightenment. Smith argues the sole authority of science was shaken if not destroyed with Quantum physics in 1926. The measurement problem seriously threatens the dominant scientific understanding of reality. The Thomistic view of reality turns out to be wrong. First, as we dig down, scientists came up with something weird instead of finding hard matter, acting like particles and a wave at the same time. They almost do not exist. They had a kind of half existence. They could be simultaneously in a state of existence and non-existence, just like Schrodinger’s famous cat example. “Since the days of Sir Isaac Newton, it had been supposed that matter reduces ultimately to Democritean atoms and that with the refinement of experimental means, these would eventually present themselves as objects to be measured and observed. However, at the very moment when this prospect did materialize, it became apparent that these so-called atoms are not, in fact, “tiny particles” at all. In place of authentic atoms, what came to light is something that exhibits both particle and wave characteristics, which is to say that it is actually neither a particle nor a wave.” (PVC) Smith seems to agree with David Hume denying observed causation as a true cause. However, he thinks causation does exist. It is a fundamental reality. We know causation does exist because we could cause something through our actions. Since we have agency, we know that causation requires agency.


Thus, horizontal causation in the physical realm is not a real cause because matter has no agency. God, who is beyond time and space, is the real cause behind apparent causation in the physical realm. Though Smith does not explicitly invoke God by name, he seems to mean God when he talks about “vertical causation”. He thinks the measurement problem reveals that there must be God who is in a different realm causing the quantum particles/waves to act as they do. “For as we shall see, vertical causality—unlike horizontal—is not something quantitative, not something amenable to the description in terms of differential equations. At the risk of producing more consternation than enlightenment, one could say that it is a causality that measures but cannot itself be measured.” “It is vertical causality that accounts for the ontological stratification of the cosmos—which the ancients understood so profoundly, and present-day civilization fails even to recognize.” (PVC) Smith believes that Quantum physics allows us to observe God’s works by discovering nonlocality. Therefore, he quotes Heisenberg's wife, Elisabeth Heisenberg, about the feeling Heisenberg had when he first discovered the nonlocality: “With smiling certainty, he once said to me: “I was lucky enough to look over the good Lord's shoulder while He was at work.” That was enough for him, more than enough! It gave him great joy and the strength to meet the hostilities and misunderstandings.” (PVC) Smith also argues against information as being the source or cause of observed change. For instance, we could not ascribe the transformation of inanimate being to animate being through coded information such as DNA. That is because information does not have any agency to cause anything. We know through our experience that the agency is required for causation. We are causing something through our agency. Smith also refers to William Dembski’s so-called “design inference” theorem extensively to affirm “on mathematical grounds, that the production of what is termed “complex specified information” or CSI cannot be effected by way of horizontal causation alone.” (PVC) Smith is right in his criticism that information is the cause of changes in nature. Imagine that an extremely skillful person manages to make himself invisible while performing certain amazing works. Imagine that person is well organized. Therefore, he will plan what he will do for every stage and act precisely according to the plan. However, though he does not reveal himself to anyone, if he reveals his plan to everyone, will it be easy to know Him? The answer is yes, as long as we realize that the apparent cause is not a real one. Also, if we know the written plan does not have agency. Thus, it could not cause anything. In such a case, we will understand that there must be a true cause (vertical cause) for everything in the universe. This is precisely what is happening with animate beings. Smith argues that life cannot be explained through horizontal causation. There is no way to attribute life to inanimate beings.



Therefore, explaining life through chemistry or physics is no help in his view: “The first point to be made is that this reduction of the animate to the inanimate—of the living to the merely “complex”—so far from being based upon scientific fact, is a groundless assumption, which gains strength from the fact that it is beyond our means to grasp whatever it may be that distinguishes the two. It amounts to saying that the living organism can only be what our methods of inquiry are capable of detecting: that it must consequently reduce to a physical object, and that, at the bottom, biology is no more than physics.” (PVC) Smith has done a great help through his books, helping us to go beyond horizontal causation and see the Divine Hand behind everything. Perhaps, that is why Smith ends Physics and Vertical Causation with the following joyful message for believers: “Let Christians—and all who bow before God—rejoice: the scourge of relativism and irreligion has now been dealt a mortal blow! Following four centuries of intellectual chaos and de facto incarceration within his own distraught psyche, homo religious is now at liberty, once again, to step out into the God-given world, which proves to be—not a mechanism, nor some spooky quantum realm—but its very opposite: a theophany ultimately, in which “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” (PVC)


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