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Sunday 4 September 2011

On so called scientific knowledge - I

I am not sure whether Prof. Carlo Fonseka has any more memorial lectures, invited speeches delivered at august bodies, seminars etc., on scientific method, scientific process or whatever in store for us. However, he has so far discussed the so called scientific method in his articles and I am thankful to him for taking the trouble to reproduce his lectures on the so called scientific method. I must say at the outset that I am not in agreement with the statement that there is a scientific method, and as I have stated in Sinhala on many occasions this particular statement is a “pattapal boruwak” (damn lie). In this series of articles which will be interrupted as the necessity arises, I will attempt to outline what I consider to be knowledge, empiricism, reality, objectivity, paradigm, chinthanaya, domination of the world by the so called scientific knowledge, relativity of knowledge, science as western science and not as an objective system of knowledge, western knowledge as a tool of western colonialism, knowledge as a construction or creation and not as a discovery, absorption of knowledge constructed in one system by another system, nirmanathmaka sapekshathavadaya or constructive relativism which I consider as my contribution to epistemology, interpretation of Buddhism to the westerners by Sri Lankan Buddhist scholars etc. I only hope that the editor and the readers would bear with me for taking the space of the newspaper to write on topics which may not be interesting but boring very often. However, the present discussion on the Natha Deviyan and Arsenic compels me to pen down these words. In the process I may have to express certain views that are not in agreement with the “orthodox” Thervada Buddhism as accepted by the “praamaanika” scholars and I am looking forward for their responses.

I must also say that I am neither a Mathematician, Scientist nor a Philosopher but a person who wanted to be a scientist, a Theoretical Physicist for that matter, from the time I was at school, but failed miserably in that endeavor. Since about 1983, I have been teaching “anti science” at the universities except for a long sojourn at home thanks to some academics at the University of Colombo. A situation similar to that prevailed in the University of Colombo then has now arisen at the University of Kelaniya where some academics have all of a sudden realized that I am “anti science”. My break with science or western science was preceded by my break with Marxism in 1980, before the July strike, and I must say that my resignation from the NSSP was not caused by the July strike though some stalwarts of the party appear to think so. Ironically I broke away from Marxism on the grounds that Marxism was not scientific, though not in a Popperian sense and my long letter of resignation from the party was titled “Marxvadaya Vidyathmakada (Is Marxism scientific)”? My break from science came after I began to teach a course in Quantum Mechanics at the University of Colombo when I realized that no western paradigm within their chinthanaya could “explain” Quantum Mechanics. The words of Richard Feynman to the effect that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics speak volumes on that matter.

With that brief introduction we will get on with so called scientific knowledge, hereinafter called western scientific knowledge. Western science is said to be different from other systems of knowledge mainly due to the so called scientific method adapted therein. There are various expressions of scientific method, starting with what could be called the pre Popperian, then the Propperian and finally the Kuhnian. Of course, there are other shades of these expressions but for our discussion these three views are sufficient. I would not go into a discussion of the so called scientific method at this juncture, but I wish to bring to the attention of the readers that Paul Feyerabend in his “Against Method” and other books has shown that there is no scientific method as such. However, there is a difference between western knowledge after the so called Renaissance and the other systems of knowledge due to the revolution in the western Chinthanaya that took place mainly in Italy during the sixteenth century. I am of the view that it is not a method that was introduced by Galileo that differentiated western science from other systems of knowledge but the new Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya that was introduced by the Renaissance artists which was followed by Galileo, Newton and others in what are known as natural sciences. The same Chinthanaya has been followed in other areas of western knowledge within four important paradigms. The four paradigms have been Newtonian Paradigm, Thermodynamics Paradigm, Relativistic Paradigm and the Quantum Mechanics paradigm. It should be emphasized that there can be more than one Paradigm in a Chinthanaya and so called Postmodernist Social Sciences and Humanities have failed dismally in trying to get adapted to Quantum Mechanics Paradigm. In any event all these Paradigms work within Apo, Thejo, Vayo and Patavi and have blissfully ignored the fifth Bhutha according to South Asian Chinthanayas namely Akasa.

I will go against peer reviewing and first publishing in so called international journals and mention a few words on Akasa Shakthi. In 1997 it was observed that the universe has been expanding with acceleration for millions of years, though at the very beginning, a typical Judaic Christian concept, it had been expanding with deceleration. Many stories have been proposed to explain this phenomenon and they could be categorized under the so called cosmological constant and quintessence theories. All these stories are supposed to describe what is known as the dark energy, a form of energy of which the westerners do not know anything at present. Anything not clear is dark or black for the white skinned westerners and no wonder they come up with terms such as dark energy, dark matter and black holes. I have been working on this problem with my students and I am of the view that so called dark energy is nothing but Akasa Shakthi or energy due to space time. This energy is measured by the cosmological parameter which we consider to be a variable rather than a constant. The dark energy could be converted into matter and radiation and vice versa. We have worked out some models based on Akasa Shakthi which is the fifth of the pancha maha bhutha that has been ignored by the westerners. The universe expands with acceleration when the Akasa Shakthi density is greater than the energy density of matter radiation and also that due to pressure. The Akasa Shakthi may be invisible as Natha Deviyo to us but then so is the gravitational force or the field and the curvature tensor in General Relativity. We will discuss this in more detail under empiricism.

In this series of articles knowledge within a Chinthanaya is considered to be one single whole though in different paradigms and different areas such as Physical Sciences, Social sciences, Humanities they may take different forms. Even Ethics is defined within a Chinthanaya and is relative in that sense. For example Buddhist ethics is defined relative to Nibbana, and Nibbana though cannot be defined but attained is associated with Buddhist Chinthanaya. In fact, this is only an expression in English, I do not believe in absolute or objective facts which are not theory dependent, Nibbana is not even a concept just as much anicca, dukka and anatma are not concepts. Certainly anicca is not impermanence, nor the opposite of nithya or permanent, and if it was the case we could have understood anicca long time ago without going through our sansaric journey. Thus concepts such as reality or yathartha cannot be used with respect to anicca though some tend to think that anicca is Buddhist yathartha. (To be continued)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva