The Gulf Between Scientific Theory and Objective Experience

-Gai Eaton

But while the scientist, in his increasingly private and abstract sphere, finds a remarkable concordance between his thinking and the movement of a needle on a dial or traces of radiation on a photographic plate, the ordinary man of our time faces a widening gulf between scientific theory and any kind of objective experience known to him.

No longer can men be told that the truth of things will be confirmed in their own intimate experience if only they will look and listen. The proofs and arguments of contemporary science are so technical that they are no longer open to criticism by the non-specialist and cannot be tested against any kind of experience known to man as a loving creature. Informed that the electron’s position does not change with time, but does not remain the same, and that, although the electron is not at rest, it is not in motion, Francois Mauriac remarked: ‘What this professor says is far more incredible than what we poor Christians believe!’ The theories employed by modern physics have not merely by-passed the contours of the rational mind, they have gone beyond the range of human imagination.

‘In those never, through-the-looking-glass adobes,’ says Professor Huston Smith, ‘parallel lines meet, curves get you from star to star more quickly than do Euclid’s straight lines, a particle will pass through alternative apertures simultaneously without dividing, time shrinks and expands, electrons…jump orbit without traversing the intervening distance, and particles fired in opposite directions, each at a speed approximating that of light, separate from each other no faster than the speed of light.’ After this no one has any excuse for finding obscurities or improbabilities in the higher reaches of theology and metaphysics. If the majority of people still imagine that the physical sciences relate in some way to their normal experience this can only be because they are living in the past, comfortably immured in the mechanistic science of the nineteenth century.