The Integration of the New Age Movement into Scientific Debate

Definition of New Age Movement per Wikipedia: A term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in Western nations during the 1970s.

By virtue in part to several mid-to-late 19th-century scientific revolutions, the New Age movement was born. This was a time in which many questioned traditional beliefs that had been fed to us by science and its findings. Such beliefs are included below:

– The age of the earth
– The relationship between mind and body
– How man, and woman for that matter, differed from other species (primarily concerning consciousness)
– Whether God existed and our relationship with him or her
– The nature of the material world

Our lack of definite knowledge of these subjects, coupled perhaps with the human’s pursuit of omniscience, has caused the New Agers to make a link between the concepts pertaining to material phenomena with those pertaining to metaphysical ideas. In essence, the idea of the New Age Movement that there is a direct link between philosophy and science — a reason for everything.

Since the New Age Movement uproar, which gained considerable popularity in the 1970’s, it has appeared increasingly in scientific debates, most notably in the debates questioning the existence of God. The scientists that find themselves debating these ‘New Agers’, most commonly atheists, argue that there is no reason to believe a correlation exists between the evolution of the earth and the idea of philosophy. Though the idea of atheism is often looked down upon and scolded by theists for its ‘selfishness’, scientists counter the same sentiment, echoing that the very belief of the New Age followers who try to link the idea of God to the order of the universe — that because the universe has a particular order, there must therefore be a mind or a higher power to be able to create this order — seems to comprise of a certain level of egotism itself. New Age believers claim that because some of this order can be rationalised by our minds as humans, it must consequently be explained as being a resultant of another mind (ie God).

Now, let’s look at this on a smaller scale. As we know, the order of our universe comprises of trillions upon trillions of subatomic particles. Quantum mechanics is a theory in physics that attempts to depict nature in its smallest form, down to these subatomic particles. Though the theory hasn’t been able to definitively prove what it sets out to, it remains hugely significant when we try to explain the constitution our universe, and then more specifically, how humans and animals can be differentiated from other matter by our consciousness. Relating to the theory of quantum mechanics is that of non-locality. Non-locality claims that the action of a particle will have an effect on another particle, which does not necessarily need to be in close proximity. The action taken by this particle, coupled with other variables such as the angle at which the action took place and so forth, will determine its spin. Through countless tests completed by scientists in the recent past, it has been concluded that the spin of that particular particle will cause another particle to have an opposite spin, somewhere else, anywhere else (therefore causing another action and the chain continues). Ridiculous, right? Suddenly, the notion that our everyday lives encompass different variables that have no relation to each other is falsified — in short, all that seems to be, non-locality appears to say, is not. Now, although this theory attempts to understand a whole lot, unfortunately, it proves precious little. So considering it baffled Einstein, who coined this theory ‘Spooky action at a distance’, it comes as no surprise that we are still debating this topic to this day.

Scientists cannot fully explain how non-locality works nor why and how it violates the rules of relativity. How can one particle’s movement affect another so far away, faster than the speed of light? And here is where the New Age believers come in. They attempt to fill in the gap. Deepak Chopra, a spokesman within the New Age community, implies that the actions of these subatomic particles raises the question of ‘awareness’. Let’s backtrack a couple steps. Remember when we learnt that these particles could directly affect another despite being nowhere near it? Well, Chopra ponders whether these particles (which are so small that describing them with hyperbole does them no justice at all) may perhaps have sentience themselves. This would mean that they would operate with some level of conscience in order to carry out their actions. To put this in perspective, this would entail an earth and universe with interconnected networks of particles all working independently, with intelligence, to achieve a common goal. Hopefully, it is easier to see why these New Age followers believe that everything happens for a reason; because the matter that causes things to happen, allegedly has a purpose itself.

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Deepak Chopra is a leading figure as part of the New Age movement

From a skeptic’s point of view, which scientists are, they argue that the theory is fundamentally flawed and does nothing to better our knowledge pertaining to the constitution of nature and of ourselves. Yet, it is one that appears to be appearing with increasing frequency in a new field of debates that incorporates both the New Age movement with science. In short, you are to decide whether this is, for lack of a better term, a leap of faith, which has no part to play in the advancement of scientific knowledge, or if the theory holds some credibility and is a legitimate enough alternative to challenge what science appears to have already told us.