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Published: Jun.5.2014

Restrictive Worldviews and Biomedical Science

Mike (Myron K) Denney, MD, PhD

After the scientific revolution had reached its pinnacle with the Positivists in Vienna in the late 19th century, the year of 1900 heralded fantastic and paradoxical discoveries that challenged the worldview that knowledge of nature could come about only through the rigorous application of logical mathematics and empirical science. The discovery in 1900 of the recursive paradox in mathematics by Bertrand Russell, and in the same year the use of a constant h to solve the electromagnetic black body problem by Max Planck, opened the door to two trains of thought that led respectively to complexity theory and quantum mechanics.

During the 20th century, complexity theory was heralded by Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which verified that the recursive paradox would never go away. That led the way to complex adaptive systems and complexity theory, in which unpredictable events spontaneously emerge from chaos. In parallel, quantum mechanics was realized through extremely reliable observations about the nature of reality—quantum particles do not exist until they are observed, can be in two places at the same time, are here and then appear over there without traversing the intervening space, and can affect one another instantaneously at-a-distance.

Such counterintuitive dynamics have not yet been applied to empirical biomedical science, in which objective, cause-and-effect studies with statistical analyses are the strict standard of research and treatment of disease. But, is it possible that complexity and quantum could be applied to the empirical methodology of ordinary biomedical science? After all, the human body is the most complex entity we know of in the universe. Moreover, human physiology is powered by chemical “transport” proteins, which exchange subatomic particles within human cells, and neuropeptides which constantly transport subatomic particles within neuronal synapses and at neuroreceptors throughout the body.

The goals of SSE include bringing improved understanding to those restrictive worldviews that limit scientific inquiry. Is it possible that in a kind of recursive paradox our culture’s rigid commitment to ordinary biomedical science is one of those restrictive worldviews?

How might one design a biomedical research project that included spontaneous emergence out of chaos and the existence of a quantum particle in two places at the same time? To begin with we might consider: qualities as well as quantities, the subjective as well as objective, wholeness as well as fragmentation, and the imaginary numbers in Mendelbrot’s fractals.

What paths might we take, what discussions might be engage in, what conferences might we participate in to bring about a union of ordinary biomedical science with the new sciences of the 21st century?