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Lothar Schäfer

Lothar Schäfer is the author of In Search of Divine Reality; Science as a Source of Inspiration.  His impressive resume, his website link, and a brief description of his book are included below.  For our purposes, his Epilogue (which is taken from his website) is reprinted here, in part for convenience, and in part, to emphasize the importance of his views on philosophy, modern physics, and their inherent connectedness and compatibility.

So, without further ado, here’s... Lothar!:  


On the Foundations of Metaphysics in the Mind-like Background of Physical Reality    

That the basis of the material world is non-material is a transcription of the fact that the properties of things are determined by quantum waves, - probability amplitudes which carry numerical relations, but are devoid of mass and energy.  As a consequence of the wave-like aspects of reality, atoms do not have any shape - a solid outline in space - but the things do, which they form; and the constituents of matter, the elementary particles, are not in the same sense real as the real things that they constitute.  Rather, left to themselves they exist in a world of possibilities, “between the idea of a thing and a real thing”, as Heisenberg wrote, in superpositions of quantum states, in which a definite place in space, for example, is not an intrinsic attribute.  That is, when such a particle is not observed it is, in particular, nowhere.

In the quantum phenomena we have discovered that reality is different than we thought.  Visible order and permanence are based on chaos and transitory entities. Mental principles - numerical relations, mathematical forms, principles of symmetry - are the foundations of order in the universe, whose mind-like properties are further established by the fact that changes in information can act, without any direct physical intervention, as causal agents in observable changes in quantum states. Prior to the discovery of these phenomena information-driven reactions were a prerogative of mind. “The universe”, Eddington wrote, “is of the nature of a thought. The stuff of the world is mind-stuff”. [add emphasis]

Mind-stuff, in a part of reality behind the mechanistic foreground of the world of space-time energy sensibility, as Sherrington called it, is not restricted to Einstein locality.  The existence of non-local physical effects - faster than light phenomena - has now been well established by quantum coherence-type experiments like those related to Bell’s Theorem. If the universe is non-local, something that happens at this moment in its depths may have an instantaneous effect a long distance away, for example right here and right now.  By every molecule in our body we are tuned to the mind-stuff of the universe.

In this way the quantum phenomena have forced the opening of a universe that Newton’s mechanism once blinded and closed.  Unintended by its creator, Newton’s mechanics defined a machine, without any life or room for human values, the Parmenidian One, forever unchanging and predictable, “eternal matter ruled by eternal laws”, as Sheldrake wrote.  In contrast, the quantum phenomena have revealed that the world of mechanism is just the cortex of a deeper and wider, transcendent, reality. The future of the universe is open, because it is unpredictable.  Its present is open, because it is subject to non-local influences that are beyond our control.  Cracks have formed in the solidity of the material world from which emanations of a different type of reality seep in.  In the diffraction experiments of material particles, a window has opened to the world of Platonic ideas.  [emphasis added]

That the universe should be mind-like and not communicate with the human mind - the one organ to which it is akin - is not very likely.  In fact, one of the most fascinating faculties of the human mind is its ability to be inspired by unknown sources - as though it were sensitive to signals of a mysterious origin.  It is at this point that the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.  Ever since the discovery of Hume’s paradox - the principles that we use to establish scientific knowledge cannot establish themselves - science has had an illegitimate basis.  Hume was right: in every external event we observe conjunction, but infer connection. Thus, causality is not a principle of nature but a habit of the human mind.  At the same time, Hume was not right in postulating that there is no single experience of causality.  Because, when the self-conscious mind itself is directly involved in a causal link, for example when its associated body takes part in a collision, or when the mind by its own free will is the cause of some action, then there is a direct experience of, and no doubt that, causal connections exist.  When this modification of the paradox is coupled with the quantum base, a large number of pressing problems find their delightful solutions.

Like the nature of reality, the nature of knowledge is counter-intuitive, and not at all like the automatic confidence that we have in sensations of this phenomenon.  The basis of knowledge is threefold.  The premises are experience of reality, employment of reason, and reliance on certain non-rational, non-empirical principles, such as the Assumptions of identity, factuality, permanence, Causality, and induction. Where do these principles come from?  Neither from an experience of external phenomena, nor from a process of reasoning, but from a system program of the self-conscious mind.  By being an extension of the mind-like background of nature and partaking of its order, mind gives the epistemic principles - those used in deriving knowledge - certainty.  Since they are not anchored in the world of space-time and mass-energy but are valid nevertheless, they seem to derive from a higher order and transcendent part of physical reality.  They are, it can be assumed, messengers of the mind-like order of reality.

In the same way, moral principles.  Traditional societies based their social order on myths and religious explanations.  By assuming a purpose in the world, they told people why things are the way they are, and why they should act the way they were supposed to act. In the “animist ontogenies” values and knowledge derived from a single source, and life had meaning in an “animist covenant” as Monod called it.  By destroying the ontological base of the animist explanations, - their astronomy, physics, and chemistry, - science also destroyed the foundations of their values.  In this process Monod saw the origin of the contemporary sickness in culture, das Unbehagen in der Kultur: on the one hand science is the basis for our power and survival; on the other, it has broken the animist covenant, rendered life meaningless in the process, and disconnected the world of values from the world of facts.

The sickness of spirit and the concomitant erosion of moral standards are the great danger for the future of mankind, already apparent in the public adoration of violence and debased behavior.  At its roots is the unsolved question, on whose authority are the moral principles to be based now that the authority of the animist myths has been found lacking?

For those who are willing to listen, the answer is: on the authority of mind.  In the same way that the self-conscious mind grants certainty to the epistemic principles, it invests authority in the moral principles.  Like the former, the moral principles are non-empirical and non-rational, - not derived by a process of logic nor verified by experience - messengers from a higher reality beyond the front of mass-energy sensibility.  Epistemic principles give us a sense of what is true and false; moral principles, of what is right and wrong.  The former establish the certainty of identity, permanence, factuality, causality; the latter, of responsibility, morality, honesty.  By the same process that allows us to accept, without possible verification, the epistemic principles, we can also accept the authority of the moral principles.  Violation of any one of them will put us in contrast to the nature of reality.  If the nature of the universe is mind-like, it must be assumed to have a spiritual order as well as a physical order.  As the epistemic principles are expressions of physical order, the ethical principles are expressions of the spiritual order of physical reality.  By being an extension of the transcendent part of the nature and partaking of its order, mind establishes the authority of the ethical principles.

The challenge of reality and the ability to explore it are wonderful gifts to mankind. Understanding reality requires refinement of thought.  That is, it has to do with culture.  It requires an effort, is not afforded by automatic, intuitive reflex.  Making sense of the world takes the response to a challenge, not the complacency of common sense.  It is one and the same as striving for the moral life.  An important part of it is the need to become aware of the specific character of human nature, to recognize “the human mystery” as Eccles called it: the mystery of how mind and body interact, how self-conscious human beings with values emerged in an evolutionary process supposedly based on blind chance and brutality.  The evidence is growing that there is more to human nature than the laws of physics or chemistry, more to the process of evolution than blind chance and brutality; that evolution is more than, as Monod wrote, “a giant lottery, and human beings live at the boundary of an alien world that is deaf to our music and indifferent to our hopes and suffering and crimes”.

The barbaric view of reality is mechanistic.  It is the easy view of classical science and of  common sense.  In epistemology mechanism is naive realism, the view that all knowledge is based on unquestionable facts, on apodictically verified truths.  In physics mechanism is the view that the universe is clockwork, closed, and entirely predictable on the basis of unchanging laws.  In biology, mechanism is the view that all aspects of life, its evolution, our feelings and values, are ultimately explicable in terms of the laws of physics and chemistry.  In our legal system, mechanism is the view that the assumption of precise procedural technicalities constitutes perfect justice.  In our political system, mechanism is the view that the assertion of finely formulated personal rights constitutes the ideal democracy.  In our public administration, it is the view that responsible service manifests itself by the enforcement of finely split bureaucratic regulations.  All of these attitudes are the attitudes of barbarians.  [emphasis added]

The quantum phenomena have taught us that, without naive realism, knowledge is possible. They have taught us that, without naive animism an ethic of knowledge, as Monod has called it, and a life with values are possible.  Principles exist which are valid even though they cannot be verified.  The discovery of the quantum phenomena has established a new covenant - between the human mind and the mind-like background of the universe - one that provides a home again to the homeless and meaning to the meaningless life.  Whether or not the human mind is separate of the brain, as Sherrington and Eccles thought, I do not know.  But I do not doubt that it is human only in some parts, and in others shares in the mind-like background of the universe.  It is now possible to believe that the mind is the realization of universal potentia, a manifestation of the essence of the universe. Therefore, the only good life is in harmony with the nature of reality.


Lothar Schäfer is the Edgar Wertheim Distinguished Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  He received his Ph.D. (in Chemistry) from the University of Munich in 1965, and is the recipient of numerous awards for his scientific work. His current research interests include topics in Applied Quantum Chemistry and Molecular Structural Studies by Electron Diffraction.  His website is: <http://www.uark.edu/depts/cheminfo/uarkchem/facultystaff/faculty/schafer/index.html>.  He can be contacted at (479) 575-5079; Fax: (479) 575-4049; and email: schafer@uark.edu.

Lothar Schäfer is the author of the book, In Search of Divine Reality - Science as a Source of Inspiration, <http://comp.uark.edu/~schafer>.  The book is, in essence, a brilliant description of the encounter of Science and Religion, wherein Schäfer proposes “that the traditional conflict between the two disciplines is mainly one involving classical, Newtonian Science; and many of its most pressing issues have obtained an entirely different meaning by the change in world view effected by the discovery of Quantum Mechanics.”  He goes on to note that, “In the world of Quantum Mechanics, the foundations of physical reality have revealed all the aspects of a transcendent reality; with non-material entities at the basis of material things; with components of ordinary things that are not as real as the things that they make; with instantaneous, long-distance  (non-local) connections pervading the universe; and with elementary entities that have mind-like properties.  Thus, in the same way in which dead atoms can form living organisms and stupid molecules can form intelligent brains, the metaphysical can engender the physical.”

Such a view is in accord with the applicable discussions in this website, with the difference being that the extension of Classical Newtonian Physics by The Fifth Element brings even classical physics into the transcendental.  In particular, Connective Physics provides the same “instantaneous, long-distance (non-local connections pervading the universe”, as well as incorporating Consciousness or “mind-like properties” in the theory.

In a review of Schäfer’s book, Professor Quentin Smith, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, writes:

“Schäfer’s book is an integrative approach to Modern Science and Religion that aims to show how some traditional religious and philosophical notions can be understood or redefined in terms of modern science.  The scientific explanations are reliable and the scientific interpretations of religious ideas are interesting and should be taken seriously and respectfully by even the most sober-minded adherents of the scientific world-view.  Rather than science being opposed or subordinated to religion, religious views are refashioned in terms of currently accepted scientific theories.  Most of the arguments of the book are based on conclusions drawn from the phenomena of quantum reality and it is one of the clearest introductory explanations of quantum mechanics on the market.  Schäfer’s book is written in a lively and accessible style that will appeal to the general reader. I really enjoyed reading this book.”

The Table of Contents are a further indication of the breath of this book, which includes:

            The Non-Rational and Non-Empirical Elements in Rational/Empirical Knowledge,

            The Composite Nature of Knowledge,

            The Conceptual Foundations of Science,

            The Theorem of the Threefold Basis of Knowledge,

            The Transformation of Hume’s Problem by Involvement of a Self-Conscious Mind

            Transcendental Knowledge, The Non-Material, Non-Real, Non-Local, and Mind-like Components of Physical Reality,

            The Wave-Particle Duality,

            The Conceptual Consequences, and Transcendental Reality. 

            The Human Mystery,

                        The Argument from Evolution,

                        The Argument from Popper’s Three-Worlds Hypothesis,

                        The Argument from the Creation of a Self,

                        The Argument from the mystery of Conscious Perception,

            Chance and Necessity [aka Determinism and Free Will],

            Tradition of Objectivity Versus Tradition of Purpose,

            The Laws of Physics and Chemistry,

            Against Eccles’ Argument from Evolution and the Creation of Self, and Rejecting the Animist Covenant.

            The Importance of the Self-Conscious Mind,

            The Interaction of Mind-Matter [and Mind-Body],

            Information as a Causal Agent,

            The Importance of the Self-Conscious Mind as a Basis for Knowledge,

            The Opening of the Universe,

            Objective Knowledge in a Life with Values,

            The Significance of the Epistemological Paradox,

            The Self-Conscious Mind as the Basis of Ethics,

            The Foundations of Ethics in the Mind-like Order of the Universe,

            The Transformation of Hume’s Fundamental Problem of Ethics,

            The Restoration of the Covenant, and

            The Foundations of Metaphysics in the Mind-like Background of Physical Reality

His Appendices (which constitute half the book) include: 

            The Illegitimate Components of Knowledge,

            The failure of Intuition,

            Some Aspects of Causality,

            Science and Humanities,

            Popper's Logic of Science,

            Some Properties of Waves and Particles,

            Schrödinger’s Wave Mechanics,

            The Meaning of Y,

            Empty Atoms as Platonic Forms,

            Some Aspects of the Nature of Quantum States,

            Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle,

            The Surrealism of Superpositions of States

            The Case of Schrödinger’s Cat,

            The Pauli Principle,

            The EPR Paradox [aka EPR Experiment],

            The Non-Locality of the Universe,

            Some Technical Details Concerning Bell’s Theorem,

            The Emergence of Historical Philosophical Views in Quantum Ontology, and

            Defining a Realistic View of the World.  

[For comments with respect to book, contact: schafer@protein.uark.edu]  

“The paradox of personal freedom...” 

“The best rule of government is democratic --

the deciding of expert matters by a vote of the uninformed.”


Connective Physics         Causality         Objectivity

Forward to:

Mathematical Theory         More Math         Zero-Sum Games



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