Confessions of a Fallen Scientist
by Christina Carson
I was a child of the Sputnik era, the time when science bumped God off the bench as our real savior. People began to look to science before all else for security, healing, and hope. The adage that instructs, “when all else fails, …pray,” did not apply to science because we never expected it to fail.
It was an exhilarating time to be studying science. It filled me with the sense of power that reason and logic falsely engender. But with outer space the new focus, we practitioners of the ’50s and ’60s science felt like the 20th century voyageurs. In a society that worshiped the mind for its brilliance of intellect, scientists became heroes.
It all went well until I finished up my fourth year of pre-med only to realize that the theory riveted me, but the day job part of it left me cold. So I focused on medical research and was about to begin a stint of graduate study when I ended up in northern Canada farming. No, it wasn’t imprisonment in a gulag. It was a reasonable choice, just a tough one to explain. But I continued to read and keep up with science like someone on a sabbatical rather than a retiree until 1971, that is, when I read my first Carlos Castaneda book and was introduced to a new way to see the world. I don’t know what so attracted me to what I read, and why I never doubted its validity as so many others did. In fact, my more charitable friends accepted it as metaphysics while the rest thought I’d lost my mind. But suddenly I saw science as too restrictive, unable or unwilling to accommodate something that could not be assessed by its scientific method, and I moved on, pouring my enthusiasm into these novel ideas I was reading. My friends shook their heads and labeled me a zealot. Then when I added corroborating references from Eastern spiritual philosophies, they dropped zealot and switched to religious nut.
By the time I backed off, my circle of friends was down to my dog. And actually I think he knew more about the nature of life and the universe than most any of us. I couldn’t simply right off the fact that he was always content, lively, and aware of more than I could register.
But as so often happens, things come full circle, and those of us on our knees get to rise again. Quantum physics entered the scene and turned science unceremoniously on its head, to the extent that some of its big guns, like Erwin Schrödinger, sought out Eastern spiritual philosophy in an attempt to make sense of quantum reality. I’m a big person; I didn’t say I told you so. I was instead delighted that physics and metaphysics had finally kissed, and perhaps the engagement and marriage of science and spirituality was finally about to take place.
The implications of quantum physics as an instrument for true change on this earth haunted me. So a few years ago, I set out to capture in the novel, Dying to Know, what this shift in worldviews from physics to metaphysics might look like in the life of an ordinary person looking for a meaningful alternative. I felt using fiction would minimize resistance in the readers to the unfamiliar premises they’d encounter, and strangely it also added a sense of reality to the story. It’s a tale about Callie Morrow, who, when faced with a life-threatening illness but not wanting to go through what her mother did, seeks another approach to health and well-being. The scientist in me demanded a cogent depiction and the metaphysician took the quantum leap into a story that pre-quantum science wouldn’t condone. But this is a new age of science, and there are untold wonders awaiting us if we’re willing to open to a view of our world and our universe we’ve not yet considered. The epilogue of Dying to Know speaks to it this way:
Yet, the natural world continues despite this unimaginable degree of spontaneity and fluidity [as suggested by quantum physics] at the foundation of matter. Agreed, nothing yet looks different out the window to those exposed to quantum reality. For now, the significance lies elsewhere. It will be some time before the behavior of subatomic particles will suggest new dynamics in human interplay. Like bubbles of life-giving oxygen rising from the depths of the sea, that behavior holds significant promise, but has a long way to travel, the slowest passage being through the dark, narrow rigidity of the human mind. But while we wait, others, backed up against their own seeming insurmountable walls, will continue to ask the same key question as Callie: Is there not another way? And perhaps the Callie Morrows of our world will be close enough to hear them and assure them there is.
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