I completed recently the first part of Richard Dawkins' Biography "An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist: a memoir". In fact - due to its ready availability in my local library - I had read the 2nd part "Brief Candle in the Dark" earlier.
In many way I found the first part more interesting as it provided insight into how Dawkins later came to
adopt his particular view of science.
Though some might describe his earlier
life in Africa as idyllic, I would not see it that way. Certainly it provided a
range of interesting experiences,
but it seems to me have been a somewhat unsettled and lonely existence. This
was compounded by the fact
that Dawkins comes across as an unusually
sensitive child with a very trusting nature.
And this trust was severely tested as he tried to adapt to the many
uncertainties of his world.
It is very revealing in this context that Dawkins
frequently admonishes his younger self for his "childhood
gullibility" (though to many readers this may indeed appear as his most
attractive characteristic). He is thereby suggesting that if he could have
reasoned then in an adult manner, that he could have avoided much of
the hurt and confusion of his early life!
Now it is in the very nature of development that a child will go through
magical and mythical
stages of growth where the holistic unconscious remains embedded to a degree with emerging conscious
Then - at least in modern Western culture - by early adulthood the more specialised
development of conscious ability takes place. This
then tends to dictate
our normal waking activity, though - as Dawkins
is so well aware - significant mythical
elements generally remain with respect to conventional religious understanding.
There are in fact further important stages of development that can occur beyond the specialised rational level.
These have been documented
in great detail in all
the great spiritual
traditions, where highly refined intuitive type capacities, culminating in a
pure contemplative vision of reality, can unfold. Then at most advanced levels,
reason and holistic intuition can be merged with each other in an extraordinarily
creative, yet immensely productive, manner.
So in psychological terms, this most advanced stage represents the mature interpenetration of
both conscious (analytic) and unconscious (holistic) understanding.
Thus like the electromagnetic spectrum in physics, we have a full spectrum
with respect to the possible stages of psychological development.
However Dawkins shows little appreciation of
this psychological spectrum. While reluctantly conceding the existence of "lower"
stages where both conscious and unconscious still intermingle in a somewhat confused
fashion, Dawkins believes that we
should encourage children from an early age to dispel all myths. In other words, we should train children to think just
However this displays a remarkable lack of appreciation of the role of the
So the true task in life is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (in
discarding the unconscious aspect), but rather to seek to develop both aspects in a mature manner, so that they can mutually serve each other.
So proper development does not end with the specialised development of the
conscious mind. Rather it should then ideally proceed to ultimately
attain corresponding specialised
development likewise with respect to its unconscious aspect i.e. in a
refined holistic intuitive form of awareness.
My own childhood experience
in many ways is the opposite of Dawkins in that I displayed unusual scepticism for myths
from a very early age. I had already discarded the notion of Santa Claus at
about the age of 5 or 6. I even then used "a scientific experiment" to prove my point by
suggesting to my older brothers the most likely places in the house where the
Christmas presents would be stored by my parents. Then on Christmas Eve I
duly carried out a search to quickly locate them in the preferred
Then about a year later when being instructed on the story of Adam and Eve
in the Bible, I stood up in class to declare that I believed in evolution (which, as one
might imagine in the Ireland of the 50's went down like a lead balloon with my
However strangely, this early uncovering of religious myth did not reduce -
but rather increase - my desire for authentic spiritual meaning.
So whereas I would now readily agree
with Dawkins that the major religions
support the literal adoption of myths in their attempt to convey
spiritual truths, I do not equate spiritual meaning with the acceptance of such
So again, one can remain totally sceptical regarding the literal
meaning of religious myths while maintaining a sincere commitment to spiritual type
Likewise, while remaining personally sceptical, I
would not dispel entirely the present need for the preservation of myths in popular religious terms. For the role
of myth here is to convey, however imperfectly, holistic type meaning that
resonates with the unconscious - rather than the conscious - aspect of
personality. And this type of meaning, by its very nature, cannot be conveyed
in a rational scientific manner!
So the real problem is that the unconscious aspect of personality still
operates at an immature level in modern society necessitating the preservation of
myths to convey spiritual type truth!
And paradoxically the very adoption of the rational scientific model adopted
by Dawkins would only serve to delay
further the realisation
that such unconscious development requires the recognition of a distinct type of
meaning that is not catered for in conventional scientific terms.
In fact there are clear paradoxes evident in relation to Dawkins' own
adoption of "rational science".
The very title of his memoir "An Appetite for Wonder" draws
attention to this!
Now the capacity for wonder is a indeed a marvellous human gift. However it pertains directly
to the unconscious - rather than the conscious - aspect of personality.
The very nature of conventional scientific interpretation
requires that a clear dichotomy be drawn as between
the "knower" and "what is known".
Therefore in conventional science - certainly in the kind
of science that Dawkins advocates
- an unwarranted supremacy
is given to the merely objective
data of experience (as if they can somehow exist
independent of the enquiring
So such science attempts to deal -
misleadingly - with what
can be objectively known.
However the real issue in science points
directly to the relationship
of the knower to what is known (i.e. to the manner in which the
of experience through interpretation, interacts
with its corresponding objective aspect).
By its very nature therefore,
the relationship as between
the "knower" and "what is known"
cannot be satisfactorily addressed
in a detached conscious manner.
However it can be addressed in terms
of the unconscious where both aspects are holistically understood
as complementary (and ultimately identical with each other).
Thus the capacity for wonder, enticing rapt attention, already presupposes a certain mergence of the "knower" with "what is known".
So through wonder, we can become momentarily lost in
the objects of our investigation by - literally - to an extent becoming
united with them.
And of course this capacity for wonder is initially associated
with childhood (where the unconscious is still immaturely
embedded with conscious
Thus it would seem clear to me that Dawkins' own capacity for wonder is rooted very much in his childhood and later teen experience (where magical and mythical type thinking
And - though I am sure
that Dawkins would not choose
this form of expression - wonder really
serves as the innate
expression of a spiritual instinct!
Thus if he had been successful in eradicating this "childhood
gullibility" (through the premature adoption
of adult reason) this very capacity for wonder would likely have been its severest casualty.
It is also interesting to find
that Dawkins was - and remains - a lover of poetic verse, especially
in its most romantic expression.
For example he quotes
- among others -
lines of W.B. Yeats
which made on him a lasting impact.
And this poetic sensibility
is clearly evident
in the titles he has chosen for some of his recent books "Unweaving the Rainbow",
"An Appetite for Wonder" and "Brief Candle in the Dark".
And he demonstrates how this affective dimension
is intimately involved
in the experience
of a rainbow.
"And it doesn’t matter
how many rainbows you see throughout
your life. The glory
is reinvented afresh,
and the heart leaps up
However the clear implication of this
is that we cannot hope to successfully
reduce the actual experience of a rainbow
to its cognitive scientific explanation.
So in actual experience - and this by extension applies
to all phenomena - we have the complementary dynamic interaction of both cognitive
(scientific) and affective (artistic) aspects.
The very essence of the cognitive
aspect is that it is of a detached impersonal nature, whereby
a collective universality
can be applied to the definition
of phenomena. Thus
at the level of the scientific description of a rainbow it is quite
irrelevant as to how one emotionally reacts
to the phenomenon. Rather it suffices that a collective cognitive
agreement exists as to this explanation.
However this is all inverted at the affective level, whereby
one reacts to a rainbow
through a sensible
form of personal response.
So from this perspective, each person's experience is unique. And the clear distinction
as between the scientific and artistic experience is that in the first case the object
is considered in a detached
manner (as separate to the observer)
whereas in the second case the
observer is necessarily
viewed in a shared participative
relationship with the object of observation.
And without this capacity for sensible response
(of an affective nature) it is impossible to see how the observation of any
scientific data could properly take
But in conventional science the affective aspect is quickly forgotten with the relationships
reduced to mere rational type explanation
(of an impersonal kind).
Thus a deeper issue
for science - which Dawkins never really addresses - is to explain
how both the affective and cognitive
type aspects of experience can be successfully integrated
within a more refined scientific type explanation. This requires I believe a complex rational approach entailing both real (conscious) and imaginary (unconscious) aspects. To be more precise the imaginary aspect entails the indirect rational expression of what directly relates to holistic (unconscious) meaning. So it is through recognition of this imaginary aspect that the artistic response to phenomena (which is an indispensable aspect of the experience of phenomena) can be indirectly interpreted in a scientific rational manner.
So Dawkins’ version of "real" science
represents a very reduced version
of what true scientific experience properly entails.
Though he readily admits the importance of wonder and affective sensibility,
these are not actually
integrated into his scientific methodology (which remains at
the linear rational level of explanation).
his true intellectual hero.
As we know Darwin's magnum opus "The Origin
of Species" was published
in November, 1859. What is
very interesting that in the same year - indeed the same month of
November - a short mathematical
paper was also published by Bernhard
Riemann, the long-term implications
of which, I believe, will prove more important than Darwin's
Riemann's paper dealt with the nature of prime numbers,
which are considered the basic
of the number system.
In it, he showed
how a certain set of solutions to an algebraic
equation - now known
as the Riemann zeta function - provide the means to perfectly
predict the number
of primes up to a given
number. Now, whereas the individual nature of primes appears
highly random, yet a remarkable regularity attaches
to their collective relationship
with the natural numbers!
And Riemann in effect
showed how these
as the "zeta zeros"
could be used to exactly reconcile
the individual random
behaviour of the primes
with their collective ordered
regularity (with respect to the natural numbers).
Now this issue might initially
appear as of a somewhat limited technical nature.
However the famous German mathematician Hilbert was to later refer to the problem of the "zeta zeros"
not only as the most important in Mathematics but absolutely
the most important (i.e. of all problems).
Now I happen to agree with Hilbert
on this (though for reasons that he
would have been loath to consider).
in fact discovered, way
back in 1859,
was that underlying the conventional number system -
which we take so much for granted -
is an alternative, highly intricate wave-like
series of numbers,
which is essential for the very operation
of the conventional system.
Now something similar
was to be discovered much later in the 1920's in physics when in Quantum Mechanics,
it was found that all subatomic
phenomena have dual particle
and wave manifestations.
And as we know Quantum Mechanics has created havoc
with respect to the traditional classical notions of physical
on Newtonian Mechanics)!
This should have then suggested, due to Riemann's earlier discovery,
that a similar problem exists at the very heart of Mathematics.
However because the prevailing mathematical
orthodoxy is much more entrenched than in physics, this did not happen
However new empirical
evidence emerging from the 1970's has lent further weight
to the fact that there seems to be indisputable
close connections as between
the "zeta zeros"
and the observed energy states of certain quantum mechanical
Over the last 10 years or so, I have devoted
an enormous amount
of time to unravelling
this mystery regarding the "zeta zeros"
for strange as it might seem, I strongly consider that professional
mathematicians are in no position to do so (due to the unquestioned nature of their existing rigid assumptions).
In fact, at the deepest
level, the "zeta zeros" relate to the ultimate connection as between
quantitative and qualitative
For several millennia
now, we have tried to understand Mathematics as the mere
study of quantitative
type relationships. However in truth, the quantitative
has no strict meaning in the absence of its counterpart
In other words the basic problem in Mathematics - and by extension all conventional science - is the confusion of the nature of an overall relationship in any
context (which is qualitative) with
the constituents to be related
(that are - relatively - quantitative).
For example in present Mathematics,
the individual primes
are considered in a merely reduced quantitative manner as the random "
of the natural number system. However the collective nature of the primes displays
a remarkably ordered
relationship with the natural numbers.
In fact the term "the music
of the primes" - with its obvious qualitative connotations - has been used to refer to this ordered
So the big mistake
that is made in present Mathematics
is the attempt to understand both the "building blocks"
(as parts) and their collective
relationship to the natural
numbers (as the whole)
in a merely reduced quantitative
Rather, what we have here
is the two-way relationship
of quantitative to qualitative
(and in turn qualitative
to quantitative) meaning.
And crucially we cannot attempt to meaningfully reduce the qualitative aspect in a merely quantitative manner! In fact we need two distinctive modes of understanding i.e. analytic and holistic for every mathematical symbol and relationship, which are then considered in a dynamic interactive manner.
So to put it bluntly,
our present understanding of the number system - and by extension all mathematical and scientific relationships - is, strictly
speaking, not fit
for purpose as it represents the fundamental reduction of the collective whole (in any context) to its individual parts (which are then interpreted in a merely quantitative manner).
And I am fully confident that future
generations will come
to accept this observation.
In truth the number system -
and the other mathematical relationships
- can only be properly understood in a dynamic
interactive manner, entailing
the complementarity of both quantitative and qualitative
aspects (which are analytic and
holistic with respect to each other).
as we approach its origins,
the number system
is revealed as amazingly
dynamic structure with a
holistic synchronicity characterising
its very nature. So ultimately the primes
and natural numbers
are revealed as perfect
mirrors that mutually interact
with each other, both quantitatively and qualitatively, approaching a state of pure
ineffability. So rather than a timeless abstract entity, in truth number, with respect to its analytic and holistic aspects, represents the fundamental encoded nature of all phenomena (with natural physical phenomena in turn representing the evolving decoded nature of number)!
So we are light years
here from present accepted notions!
I have been outlining for many years
now the 3 important
stages that I would see in a future "golden age" of both mathematics and science.
First, we have analytic type specialisation of a quantitative
kind. This is the form of science that
the last 300 years or so of
enquiry. Though the proper differentiation of quantitative
from qualitative type meaning has indeed brought
remarkable benefits, it is crucially
limited in important respects.
Because it lacks
any true holistic dimension,
complete reliance on such science will
lead to increasing fragmentation
in scientific, economic,
social and political
The signs are already there - though not yet sufficiently recognised - of the start of a serious breakdown with respect to both mathematics and science (where they are unable to adequately
explain their most fundamental
The second requirement
is holistic specialisation of a qualitative
kind. This form of science is practically non-existent (except
for some unrecognised fringe
activity at the margins).
Ultimately it will
be required to bring
to our world.
However its rationale is hard to meaningfully
discuss here, as it is not yet recognised as having
by the scientific profession.
The third requirement
is to eventually bring
both quantitative and qualitative
in a new dynamic synthesis that can be both immensely
productive and highly creative.
I refer to these simply as the Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 approaches
that apply equally
to both Mathematics and Science.
We are still largely confined to the Type
- of which Richard Dawkins is such a strong advocate
- that formally is of a merely reduced quantitative nature.
Thus if we wish among other things, to properly unweave the rainbow, we will need ultimately to also recognise the pressing need for both the Type 2 and Type 3 scientific approaches.