Friday, July 15, 2005

Suspending disbelief

Endless conversation by Tony Evans

Tony Evans

Endless conversation by Tony Evans

The Shawnee Indians once shot flaming arrows at the eclipsing sun in order to light it back on fire as it slipped behind the moon. This sort of activity seems ludicrously naïve to someone raised in the scientific tradition. Science, we are told, is more than just an empty ritual. The rigors of repeatability and peer review form a consensual reality that eventually puts a man on the moon, treats ailments unseen by the human eye, and hopefully engender a cross-cultural discipline that unites mankind in an objective, verifiable reality. The scientific method brings down the world of ideas into the world of matter.

The work of Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan, the keynote speaker at the Sun Valley Mountain Wellness Festival in May, seems to walk the boundary between philosophy and science, between the material world and metaphysics.

What many of us are willing to accept on faith—that emotions have a direct effect upon the material world—Emoto claims to have proven through the study of ice crystals programmed with human language and intention. The idea being that water is capable of participating in dialogue with human beings. I do so want to believe that our prayers and intentions have purchase in the material world in unexpected ways, despite all evidence to the contrary.

In grade school I remember a science fair experiment with houseplants that had been treated to opera and kind voices. They seemed to flourish, while identical ones that were left alone in the same physical conditions withered. I began to see vegetable matter in a different light, somehow connected to humanity in subtle ways not yet apparent to science.

The science of medicine is filled with unexplained instances of the interaction between medicine and patient. As a doctor, Emoto is no doubt aware of the effect of placebos. Sugar pills have successfully treated everything from depression to cancer when administered with a white lie. Belief has been proven to be a powerful tool in medical treatments.

The scientific method may only ever bring us to an approximation of the wonders of nature. What is considered irrefutable fact in one generation is viewed as lacking or naïve to the next. Despite previous claims such as that the Earth is neither flat nor at the center of the universe, atoms consist mainly of emptiness, and that according to Heisenberg our observation of atomic particles seems to have an effect upon their very structure. Do these accepted theories have philosophical implications beyond the world of particle physics? Probably. Do they empower us with imminent powers of mind over matter? Who knows.

Despite the veracity of Emoto's claims, his work brings into question how much our scientific development has to do with our level of conscious awareness. Are we determining our philosophical world views through experiment, or dreaming our way into the future? In either case the Shawnee Indians were probably content in knowing that their flaming arrows worked every time.

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