Since I’m reflecting on the nature of science again, a question popped into my mind:
What, if anything, is beyond the realm of science?
It’s easy to give a BS poetic answer, like “the love a mother has for her child”. Which is wrong. Science can easily explain what that love is and why we feel it.
You can go deep into qualia and say, “science can explain why a sunset is red and gold, but not why we find it beautiful”. Bah. Sufficiently advanced science could map out, simulate, tweak, explain and demystify every protein in every cell between your retina and your ocular cortex.
Science and art aren’t mutually exclusive. Science can explain why art is beautiful, just as art can show why science is true.
Love and beauty aren’t beyond science. They obey physics and are, in principle, explainable. Go deeper than the boring answer.
There are many ways I could explore something that’s potentially beyond science.
I’ll go with one that’s front of mind for some reason:
Our best guess for how the universe works is the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Under this model, there are an infinite number of universes out there. When an event can have multiple outcomes, they all happen – but only one happens in this universe. The others happen in other universes that bubble out from ours.
To physicists, that means if an electron can be here or there, it’ll be here in one universe, but there in another.
To most humans, with our addiction to narratives, that means there’s every possible outcome to all of our stories out there in the multiverse.
That means there’s a universe out there where Alexander the Great is still alive in 2021.
“Oh, come on, William – the many worlds theory only allows possible worlds. That’s impossible!”
No, just highly improbable.
Alex’s cousin might have invented an immortality potion.
He might have found an ancient stasis suit left by Atlanteans.
Aliens might have uploaded his consciousness into a supercomputer.
All of these are permitted under the laws of physics. In an infinite multiverse, all possible outcomes occur in some universe, even the stupidly improbable ones.
That means there’s an infinite number of universes where you will never die.
Since it’s permitted, it’s inevitable.
(Aside: this is no utopian dream of heaven on earth. There are infinitely many universes where you’re tortured for eternity. Plus infinitely many where you were never born. All are possible.)
So far, so reasonable.
And within science, mostly. Although we can’t test the many world interpretation directly, there are certain clues in the laws of physics that suggest it’s likely.
Anyway, let’s go metaphysical for a moment:
Under one fairly mystical idea of how this works, no version of you in the multiverse will ever die.
In the moment of your death, your consciousness jumps over to another timeline – the closest one to the one you’re in, only you had a near miss instead.
You’d never notice this process in yourself. From your perspective, a series of events played out with nothing unusual happening.
You’d never notice this in other people. To you, they might die but, from their perspective, they keep on living in another universe.
It’s a cute idea.
One with zero scientific or logical basis to it. There’s no reason why the multiverse would be this kind to us.
It’s not easy to test.
Even if someone could observe all the timelines, they’d see one version of you die and another live. Did your consciousness scoot over before it was extinguished? Or are these two separate universes now?
And even if you live to a billion years, you could still theoretically die the next day. That’s not proof.
Unless you can observe a mind jumping between realities, you’re out of luck.
Therein lies the rub, though. If your consciousness can move between timelines instead of dying, then there must be some mechanism that causes that to happen. That’s tautological. If there’s a mechanism, though, it must be possible to observe it, research it and understand it.
How does it work?
Why does it work on consciousness?
What else can it work on?
How does it identify minds as being different to, say, rocks?
Maybe these questions aren’t answerable by any technology we can dream of, but it’s not beyond the realm of science.
If minds can jump, then so can the right machine – because what is a mind but a machine built by nature?
So, there you have it. Even this quirky theory with virtually zero testable predictions is still within science’s remit.
I’m over 700 words in, so let me get to the point.
If someone says to you their voodoo crystalline snake oil heals you and is ‘beyond science’, they’re wrong.
Healing someone is an easy effect to observe and test – easy.
“Ah,” says the mystic, “but it works by powers beyond science’s understanding!”
Even that is within science’s remit. People discovered magnets millennia before they discovered electromagnetism. Some funny rocks could push or pull each other without touching. How it did that was ‘beyond science’s understanding’ but people could still… you know, observe it working.
It was easy to prove that magnetism is real – that it wasn’t a con artist blowing on the rocks or something.
No one knew how it worked, only that it did.
So your magic juujuu heals people using powers science can’t comprehend?
Great – we can still test it against a placebo. Showing how it works is harder than showing that it works.
That’s why hypnosis is so great. There was a century or so of solid evidence showing that it worked – and that’s only counting what sceptical Western scientists observed personally.
It beat any attempts to debunk it and even allowed ‘impossible’ things, like surgery without anesthetic.
It cleanly divided the Scientists In Name Only from the real seekers of truth.
The SINOs grumbled, “hypnosis can’t possibly work!”
The Scientists said, “reality seems okay with it – care to rethink your stance?”
Hypnosis has mainstream scientific acceptance now, but it took an embarrassingly long time.
Don’t make the same mistake.
Rather than believe your problems are insurmountable, test that believe and follow the evidence.
Hypnosis is powerful – more powerful than you might dare believe.
Don’t believe me though.
Experience it for yourself: