Muddlers of Science

MR. BREWSTER will have to be more precise as to what part of the "new physics" he accepts and what part he rejects, before we can determine just what our discussion is about. As pointed out in my previous paper, there are large slices of the "new physics" that are not science at all. "Matterless energy" is one, the "annihilation of matter" is another. These are not scientific doctrines, but hopeless fictions. I should like to know just how Mr. Brewster stands on these two phrases.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with the science of physics itself. Our knowledge of the workings of matter is more solidly grounded today than ever before. And it is materialistic throughout. The fault lies in the teachings of a mystical clique in science, whose occultism and visionary ideas are brandished about as a legitimate part of "modern physics."

"Science now knows," says Mr. Brewster, "... that there are quite common forms of energy that are completely dissociated from any sort of matter, forms which, in theory at least, once created, may last a million years completely out of contact with any material thing.' Permit me to state that "science" knows nothing of the sort. Some of our dream-world physicists have talked about such an "energy," just as some of them have talked about "haunted houses," ghostly visitations, and table levitations, but the laboratory worker has discovered no such animal. In dealing with "energy," he knows of it only in terms of the material, or as an activity of matter. All "energy" is found, handled, and tabulated under the materialistic label.

As for Mr. Brewster's contention that matter "may be absolutely wiped out, cease to be matter of any sort, disappear completely from the universe," this occurs only in books. Such "matter" as this is wholly unknown in any physical laboratory. It is quite as fictitious as Mrs. Guppy's flight.

Mr. Brewster's remark that materialism is a system that "explains everything in terms of something that nobody knows anything about" would be an effective reply if true. While we have no "direct experience" of electrons and protons as we have of marbles or apples, and know nothing of what they "are really like" in appearance, they are not so ghostly nor even as invisible as mystics believe. We can trace their tracks on photographic plates. That is more than can be said for the "matterless energy" and ''spiritualized universe" of the Munchausen school. And, essentially important, they are material particles, the proton weighing the eleven-octillionth of an ounce and the electron having a mass about 1/1800 of that of a proton. Here is a material "atom," something that does not belong in a metaphysical world.

Where stands materialism in the light of the "indeterminable" electron? asks Mr. Brewster. Precisely where it stood before, when the electron was unknown. It still stands as the doctrine that all that is, is matter in motion. And the intricacies and complexities of "motions" far down in the atom do not in any way disturb our predictions as to what matter will do under given circumstances. We can still "predict" larger mass movements with certainty.

Every chemical formula is based on definite knowledge of what matter will do. The chemist who compounds nitro-glycerin knows exactly how it will act. The astronomer who predicts an eclipse of the sun or the return of a comet knows how matter will move. The biologist can foretell just what will occur under the Mendelian raw. We know precisely what water will do when brought to the boiling point, it will change into steam. We can predict, in a hundred thousand ways, how groups of protons and electrons will behave. We can send messages and music through the air; Mr. Brewster can talk to me through a copper wire extending from Andover to New York, or even without any wire at all. I myself have addressed "over the air" thousands of listeners I have never seen. And all this was "predictable" independent of the "unpredictable" movement of protons and electrons far down in the atom.

Physics and materialism are essentially the same: each deals with matter in motion. "Without matter there can be no motion, no movement, no phenomena, no "energy" no radiation, no anything -- not even a Mr. Brewster. Or does Mr. Brewster' think otherwise ? If he does, he is eligible for membership in the Old Order of Oriental Occultists.

When our mystical physicists can walk into a non-material laboratory, experiment with matterless apparatus, and convert some nothing into something and something into nothing, it will be time enough to celebrate the collapse of materialism. Every laboratory experiment involves a handling of matter. And that matter, in all its diversified activities, is as much with us today as it ever was.

And the activities of this matter, expressed in terms of "energy", are with us also. "Energy" loses nothing of itself or of its indestructible character through its manifold transformations. "All the life of the universe," writes Jeans, 1 "may be regarded as manifestations of energy masquerading in various forms, and all the changes in the universe as energy running about from one of these forms to the other, but always without altering its total amount. Such is the great law of conservation of energy." If there is a Humpty Dumpty in the picture, it is the smashed egg of mysticism, which all the king's horses and all the king's men can't put together again.
1. The Universe Around Us, p. 97.

In a letter accompanying his article to The Truth Seeker, Mr. Brewster objects to my use of the term "infinitely small" as applied to tiny bodies. All bodies are "finite," he insists -- which is true. Permit me to say, however, that my use of this term has dictionary sanction. I turn to Funk and Wagnall's Practical Standard Dictionary, and read: "Infinitely small: so small as to be incalculable and insignificant for all practical purposes." This is an exact description of sub-atomic particles and the sense in which the term was used.

It is my personal opinion that our mystical scientists have sold Mr. Brewster metaphysical jargon. They have sold it quite as impressively, quite as successfully as Crookes and Lodge and Lombroso sold Spiritualism to the credulous a few decades ago. It is but a short step from séance apparitions and mediumistic claptrap to the mathematical physicists of today, who divide matter (on paper) until it ceases to exist, or who see in sub-atomic exploration the path to a spiritual world.

It is within the memory of many men living that Crookes walked arm-in-arm with a ghost, that Lodge wrote "Raymond" and talked of "spiritual" whiskey-and-sodas, and that Lombroso told stories of shoes that walked:by themselves! Even Zoliner "proved" the "fourth dimension" by means of a spook. That was "modern physics" then; today our transcendental scientists hand us a vacuous universe composed of symbols and equations! In the words of Eddington, "matter and all else that is in the physical world have been reduced to a shadowy symbolism." 2
2. Science and the Unseen World, p 22.

"Modern physicists" have all but lost their last glint of humor. They solemnly assure us now, not only that matter is out of fashion, but that they can count the protons. The "elusive"' protons are not "elusive" to them : they actually tell us how many there are in the universe! If that isn't a "pontifical" bluff, I fail to know the meaning of the term.

If anybody were to presume to tell Mr. Brewster how many grains of sand there are on the beach at Atlantic City, he would be put down at once as a little bit flighty in the head. If Mr. Brewster's best friend were to inform him how many grains of dust are floating about in Grand Central Terminal, he would begin to fear for his friend's mental health. Yet when Sir Arthur Eddington tells us there are 15,747,724,136,275,002,577,605,653,961,181,555,468,044,717,914-,527,116,709,366,231,425,076,185,631,031,296 protons in the universe, we are expected to drop our jaws in amazement in the presence of "modern physics." The oracle of transcendental physics has spoken!

Flubdub like this is not new with the metaphysical school. Eddington himself is essentially a hopeless mystic, whose superstitious utterances in matters of religion are as brilliant as a Kentucky mountaineer's, refined, in part, only by his cultural contacts in the field of science. Men such as Eddington have gummed up more problems in physical science than they have ever solved. I cite him merely as an outstanding type of the occult brood.

As to the question, "how does any Materialist know that thought is not precisely the energy constituent of the atom, and as such, at least potentially, eternal?" the answer is simple: Function cannot survive the organ. Thinking, as a mode of motion, depends on the functioning of the brain and nervous system. No amount of academic tall-talk can refute the argument of the priest Meslier, who in his later years, turned from Catholicism to materialism. "We ridicule,'' writes he, "the simplicity of some nations whose fashion is to bury provisions with the dead --- under the idea that this food might be useful and necessary to them in another life. Is it more ridiculous or more absurd to believe that men will eat after death than to imagine that they will think; that they will have agreeable or disagreeable ideas; that they will enjoy; that they will suffer; that they will be conscious of sorrow or joy when the organs which produce sensations or ideas are dissolved and reduced to dust?"

He who thinks he can prove the indestructibility of thought from the conservation of energy might just as well try to prove that our brains are indestructible because matter is eternal. Matter and energy are both indestructible, but brains and thinking may both be destroyed, the latter even during the life-time of the individual. A blow or a blood-clot will blot out the most brilliant thought in the world, and a man may lie in a coma for days at a time before drawing his last breath.

Mr. Brewster will have to watch his step if he does not wish to be baptized in the hog-wash of "modern physics."

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