The Apes of Objective Science

Fundamentals Continued…

So, for example, we have Boyle’s Law, which states:

The absolute pressure exerted by a given mass of an ideal gas is inversely proportional to the volume it occupies if the temperature and amount of gas remain unchanged within a closed system.

Note that in the statement of a scientific law, the context is precisely defined (in this example by the terms: absolute pressure, ideal gas, closed system). This theory acquired the status of “law” by being repeatedly proved in all appropriate contexts. Science rarely proclaims something to be a law. For example, Einstein’s general theory of relativity is widely regarded as correct at large scale and has been validated to some degree (in the sense of predicting experimental outcomes), but is still only accorded the status of theory.

Science is essentially collaborative. One individual could formulate a hypothesis in a given area and carry out many experiments that (in his opinion) unquestionably proved his hypothesis. On its own this counts for nothing: the scientist may be incompetent, he may be competent but have made an error in the design of his experiments, he may have failed to account for some factor that could impact the results and so on.

Consequently, within the scientific community, these hypotheses and experiments are subject to peer review by other scientists working in the same field. Hypotheses and the results of experiments are shared via the publication of papers, articles in scientific magazines and by presentation at scientific conferences. Comments and criticisms ensue and, over time, a general consensus emerges as to what is regarded as true, or likely to be true, in any scientific field.

In areas of science that attract the interest of the general public, information is disseminated by way of articles in magazines, newspapers and documentary television programs. Information is also disseminated through the education system, as various theories and “accepted truths” are included in school and university curricula.

The body of scientific theory, knowledge and information gradually expands over time, with some theories being adjusted and others being abandoned in favor of new ones. Occasionally some scientific hypotheses and experiments prove to be revolutionary, provoking a whole area of science to be rethought and reconstructed.

In some areas, science has become an expensive activity because of the cost of equipment needed to carry out well-designed experiments. This is the case, for example, in many areas of physics, chemistry and materials science. Here, funding is provided by governments and commercial interests, some of whom hope to profit from their donations. While this can at times exert an influence on science, it is rarely a malign influence.

Direct political influence in various eras has interfered with scientific activity, most obviously as occurred when the Roman Catholic Church tried and failed to enforce a biblical world view in contradiction to the ideas of Galileo and Copernicus. Science in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia was deflected for a while by political interference, but this eventually faded when the political weather changed. In recent times oil interests have interfered politically with climate science, but this also is now fading. In such situations, the inherent idealism of science—the search for the truth—is difficult to suppress indefinitely.

This is not to suggest that science is truly impartial. Some theories are established, become popular within the scientific community and eventually represent vested interests that the community defends against any contrary view. Sometimes a scientific idea becomes so offensive to the scientific establishment that, as Gurdjieff describes in The Tales, the one who proposed it is “pecked to death,” within the scientific community, and at times in the court of public opinion. This was the fate of Mesmer, and more recently the fate of both Immanuel Velikovsky and Wilhelm Reich. This is not to imply that the theories of these individuals were correct; only that they suffered the process of being “pecked to death.”

The Gurdjieff Work itself has received the occasional “peck” from the representatives of the scientific establishment, usually being dismissed as mystical claptrap and Gurdjieff himself being described as a charlatan or worse. This is to be expected. Contemporary science tends to denigrate the mystical.