This incredible story has its beginning in 17th-century Europe. For 300 years prior to this, European man, slowly breaking down the wall between man and nature imposed by church scholasticism, had begun a passionate although somewhat chaotic exploration of nature and the universe. This was the Age of Discovery, of Renaissance, of Exploration, of men such as Gutenberg, Petrarch, de Gamma, Columbus, Cortez, daVinci, Michaelangelo, Titian, Marco Polo, Copernicus. Man no longer viewed himself as a passive pawn in the Divine Game, but set out to explore and investigate in a thousand different directions: new ideals, new geographical vistas, new modes of experiencing his personal existence. This collective explorative urge, however, remained rather blind, diffuse, and uncoordinated, until it was concentrated and channeled by the introduction of the single most influential dualistic idea ever conceived by the human mind. This discovery was not just one among numerous other discoveries of this age: it was, in L. L. Whyte's phrase, the "discovery of a method of discovery," or in Whitehead's words, the "invention of a method of invention." It was, in fact, the idea that formed our present age. L. L. Whyte narrates:
Prior to (1600] the only developed systems of thought had been religious or philosophic organizations of subjective experience, while such objective observations of nature as had been collected had remained relatively unorganized. Medieval rationalism was subjective; there was as yet no rational philosophy of nature of comparable complexity or precision. For 2,000 years man had been observing, comparing, and seeking to classify his observations, but as yet there was no system of thought concerning nature which provided any method which might be systematically used for facilitating the process of discovery....
We have reached a moment of great significance. About 1600 Kepler and Galileo simultaneously and independently formulated the principle that the laws of nature are to be discovered by measurement, and applied this principle in their own work. Where Aristotle had classified, Kepler and Galileo sought to measure.
Within the span of a century, European man had become totally intoxicated with this new idea of measurement, of quantity: it was not just the progressive betterment of mankind or the assurance of human happiness that was promised by the new science of measurement, but a knowledge of Absolute and Ultimate Reality that had escaped the men of all previous ages.
Nature and natures laws lay hid in night; God said, "Let Newton be." and all was light.Ultimate Reality was that which could be measured, and European man had begun the frenzied Quest.
Implicit in this search were two other ideas that became welded to that of quantity: Reality was objective, and Reality could be verified. All knowledge was to be reduced to objective dimensions, to the "primary" objective qualities of number, position, and motion, while the subjective aspects, the "secondary" qualities of the emotions, senses, and intuitions were to be completely exterminated, for they were ultimately unreal. "True observation," as Comte would soon declare, "must necessarily be external to the observer." That nagging question of the dualism of subject vs. object was not answered by the new science, it was simply sidestepped: the subject was proclaimed unreal.
The methodology of measurement became the new religion because it allowed, for the first time, a systematic procedure for empirically verifying a proposition. No longer would it be sufficient to prove an idea by subjective intellection alone, as had been the case prior to homo scientificus. There is the story that Aristotle once gave an elaborate and rigorous demonstration that Mrs. Aristotle had to have exactly 42 teeth in her mouth—it never dawned on him to open her mouth and actually count them, for it was impossible, as his reasoning clearly showed, that she could have any other number of teeth. Philosophy from that time on was by and large a case of grown men, each convinced of the certainty of his position, yelling at one another, "It is so." "No, it is not so." "Yes, it is so " "No, it is not so." "Yes it is." "No it isn't." "Tis!" Tisn't!" As Bertrand Russell confessed, "This may seem odd, but that is not my fault." At any rate, no longer would this bickering be the accepted case. All propositions were to be confined to that which was objectively measurable and verifiable. In short, if something didn't submit to these criteria, then it just did not exist or plainly was not worth knowing. This is exactly the type of powerful and consistent methodology that is potentially capable of destroying dualisms, and although the scientists of those times didn't realize it, they had started to build upon the Cartesian dualism of subject vs. object a methodology of such persistence that it would eventually crumble the very dualism upon which it rested. Classical science was destined to be self-liquidating.
That this could even happen reflects a positive virtue of the new scientific method, namely, the willingness to pursue a course to its ultimate end, admitting and weighing the evidence as it proceeded. In this respect, it was quite unlike any of the other systems of thought that remained for the most part "closed." For instance, fundamentalistic Christian thought was (and is today) "closed", in the sense that any proper self-criticism is denied, for anyone who questions the dogma is obviously being put up to it by the Devil himself. We know this to be true because the dogma tells us so. "What is the most sacred and authoritative book ever written in the world?" "The Bible." "How do you know?" "It says so in the Bible." This may seem odd, but that is not my fault.
On some levels at least, science was an open-system. Although it flatly rejected the non-measurable, non-objective, and non-verifiable, it nevertheless pursued its own course honestly and rigorously to its ultimate conclusion, which was very soon to arrive. Heisenberg states:
It had not been possible to see what could be wrong with the fundamental concepts like matter, space, time, and causality that had been so extremely successful in the history of science. Only experimental research itself, carried out with all the refined equipment that technical science could offer . . . provided the basis for a critical analysis—or, one may say, enforced the critical analysis—of the concepts, and finally resulted in the dissolution of the rigid frame.
The Spectrum of Consciousness, Ken Wilber, Chapter 2