Ultimate Reality by Robert Wheeler
We live in a cause-and-effect world, and sooner or later question the ultimate cause underlying our environment. Amazing advances in technology and resources have resulted from the reductionism of the scientific approach to explaining nature. Reductionism is breaking things down into basic underlying parts, constituent parts. As scientist can look farther inside the atom, more constituents are found. At the most fundamental level, there seems to be a common fundamental constituent (FC). This is scientifically supported in the scientific approach of theoretical physics and various branches of sub-atomic science. Constituents such as strings, vibrations, fields, forces, and energy have been discovered that in turn seem to have a more fundamental constituent still being looked for. An ultimate underlying FC has been supported by indirect observation and theorized to be something like information, consciousness, intelligence, zero-point energy, hyper-dimension, etc.
The nature of this type of FC is appreciated in the scientific approach because matter is recognized as mainly fuzzy space containing forces that create the hard surfaces we feel as physical material. The particles that have been detected in atoms are created by these forces that are nebulous things that could also be based on an ultimate FC yet to be found in nature. Or it may be something beyond nature associated with an unknown alternate reality. Recently proposed theories of Multiverse and Many Worlds support alternate realities where unknown worlds could exist with different forms of matter and different FCs .
The theistic approach of religion proposes an FC that is easiest to grasp and more popular, however it results from subjective experience and has the least scientific support. Because we live in a “cause and effect” environment and have such a strong need for a “first cause,” various forms of a supernatural deity have developed such as God, Allah, and Brahman. Belief in such deity effectively provides for a more easy to grasp FC and formed religions and ideologies that still dominate societies despite conflicts with recent research findings and modern experiences
In between these two approaches is idealism supported by recent studies indicating that the FC underlying our universe is some form of mental activity such as consciousness that exists as a universal “cosmic force,” and from which the material world developed. Personal consciousness of an individual could be an aspect of that universal consciousness. The idealistic approach has support from quantum physics where our material environment results from the coalescence or collapse of potentialities. This approach is also supported in psychology with research about consciousness and psychic phenomena .
The conflict between science and idealism was resolve in the seventeenth century when Rene Descartes organized the philosophy of dualism. This is the theory that both mental and material nature exist separately. But dualism also has problems explaining scientific observations, and recently the philosophy of panpsychism has been recalled in various forms to solve the problems associated with all four of the approaches, scientific, theistic, idealistic. and dualistics.
Panpsychicism proposes that consciousness is not only the FC but is present in everything. The contemporary philosopher Philip Goff has modified panpsychism and built a reputable case for consciousness to be an FC for both the material and the mental aspect of nature. Not everything is conscious, but consciousness resides as the FC in the components that make up everything. In Galileo’s Error , Dr Goff also points out the feasibility of another unknown “third element” that could be an FC for both the material and mental parts of nature Several other similar theories have been proposed forming a version of panpsychism called panprotopsychism. These theories consider proto-consciousness as the FC.
Science has now established a Periodic Chart of 112 elements, each of which is made up of eighteen different particles called fermions and five forces called bosons, referred to as the Standard Model. The particles have all been found to be made up of six types of quarks and leptons. As capabilities of nuclear science increased, constituents of quarks and leptons have been discovered that seem to be nebulous things similar to fields, vibrations, or maybe bundles of properties. Fields are best explained as some form of energy, and scientists are now searching for the nature of a basic form of energy. Quantum theory researchers propose exotic terms such as sygons, psychons, preons, and noetic fields that implies a common constituent in addition to consciousness. The leading candidate for this common constituent is a vibrating string. But what is vibrating? Before “string theory” was organized, the emanant physicist John Wheeler proposed it was information and there is now a sizable following supporting “information theory.”
The nature of this information and of other proposed terms is rather fuzzy and can be related to religion’s use of “word” and “light.” “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God”. “And God said, let there be light: and there was light.” It is interesting that the terms proposed in science to describe the ultimate basic part can be related to metaphysical terms used in religion such as Spirit, Holly ghost, Brahman, Allah, and God. The separation between the scientific and theistic approaches is decreasing as science digs deeper into the basic parts of nature. The boundaries between physical and metaphysical or between natural and supernatural are now obscure.