The New Inquisition
|Author||Robert Anton Wilson|
|Subject||Science, Scientific materialism, fundamentalism|
|Publisher||New Falcon Publications|
The New Inquisition is a book written by Robert Anton Wilson and first published in 1986. The New Inquisition is a book about ontology, science, paranormal events, and epistemology. Wilson identifies what he calls "Fundamentalist Materialism" belief and compares it to religious fundamentalism.
In The New Inquisition Wilson criticises scientists. It is intended to be deliberately shocking, Wilson states that he "does not want its ideas to seem any less startling than they are."
The book's subtitle Irrational Rationalism and Citadel of Science, summarizes its topics;
- 'Two More Heretics and Some Further Blasphemies'
- comments on werewolves and other things
- 'The Dance of Shiva'
- comments on Bell's theorem, Po and mysterious fires
- 'Chaos and the Abyss'
- comments on phantom kangaroos and other things
- '"Mind", "Matter" and Monism'
- comments on coincidence
- 'The Open Universe'
- further comments on energy fluctuations and "spooks"
- 'Creative Agnosticism'
- further comments on the human brain, and how to use one
|“||It seems to me that existence - at this point I have doubts about 'the' 'universe' - is a lot like a Rorschach ink-blot. Everybody looks at it and sees their own favorite reality-tunnel||”|
—Robert Anton Wilson,
The New Inquisition is the author's term for what he refers to as a tendency within mainstream science to forbid certain forms of theories from being classed as "science." He cites the cases of Wilhelm Reich, Rupert Sheldrake, and the Mars effect controversy, among others, in support of a central claim that a materialist bias within the scientific community has led to some speculations and theories he claimed were unjustly thought of as unscientific.
"The Citadel" is the author's term for the military-industrial complex that he claims funds mainstream science and is the source of its bias. The book lists a large list of paranormal reports, (from the Fortean times among others) with Wilsons tour of the history of modern physics. He is particularly interested in Bell's theorem, and Alain Aspect's experimental proof of Bell's theorem. Wilson opines that the implications of Aspect's proof include that magic is possible, and that "the sum total of all minds is one".[verification needed] He claims the facts that he thinks that it is not a coincidence that the darwinian model of evolution best suits the "reality tunnel" of the Citadel, and that biologists such as Sheldrake who have alternative theories of evolution, are drummed out of mainstream science.
On the topic, he states,
[... the] Scientific Method (SM) [is] the alleged source of the certitude of those I call the New Idolators. SM is a mixture of SD (sense data: usually aided by instruments to refine the senses) with the old Greek PR [pure reason]. Unfortunately, while SM is powerfully effective, and seems to most of us the best method yet devised by mankind, it is made up of two elements which we have already seen are fallible. [...] Again, two fallibilities do not add up to one infallibility. Scientific generalizations which have lasted a long time have high probability, perhaps the highest probability of any generalizations, but it is only Idolatry which claims none of them will ever again have to be revised or rejected. Too many have been revised or rejected in this century alone.
— Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition
Among the concepts covered is the idea of "absolute laws of physics" - he ends up saying that every "law" that has been investigated seemed to be subject to anomalous results from time to time, and that there may be some other parallel universe with absolute laws of physics that are always obeyed, but Wilson has not seen any sign of it round in this one. Wilson draws on a large number of accounts of recorded events said to be "paranormal" but dismissed by materialist science as mass hallucination, e.g. the visions in Fátima, Portugal, and various UFO sightings. He comments that when it comes to 70,000 people having a mass hallucination, it's difficult to see how the explanation is any less occult than the events the explanation purports to explain. "You try it", he writes "See if by any means you can induce a mass hallucination [...] try, saying, hey, take a look at that light over there brighter than the sun."
The book lists a lot of phenomena that the author claims do not fit neatly into a materialist account of the world, and secondly, the book introduces various interpretations of quantum physics that may or may not provide a ground for explanation. The book concludes with the idea which he claims Schrödinger supported, that the sum total of all minds is one, and that individual brains are best understood as local receivers, of an overall transmission which is always everywhere.
|“||That is my heresy; that is why I cannot buy into fundamentalism. I wonder a bit.||”|
—Robert Anton Wilson,
The author repeatedly says "I am not asking you to believe any of this stuff, I'm just asking you to dispassionately observe your own reaction to these accounts".
Jim Lippard described the quality of research in the book as "very shoddy". Lippard listed inaccuracies about the Esperanza stone, fish falling from the sky and the alleged Mars Effect. The book had a large number of typographical errors. He also said that Wilsons' message about avoiding dogmatism was worthwhile, that the book was entertaining but that readers should be careful about taking Wilsons' explanations seriously.
Kristin Buxton compared Wilson to Martin Gardner, noting that Gardner has written on many of the topics that Wilson writes about in the book, taking very different points of view. She pointed out that Gardner doesn't think it is easy to exactly define pseudoscience, nor does Gardner think his ideas are infallible. She mentioned that other reviewers had pointed out problems with the research and that the book needs to be read with care. She concluded with suggesting a merging of the views of Robert Anton Wilson and Martin Gardner as a possible new approach to science.
- Schrödinger, chapter 23
- Book Review: The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science By Robert Anton Wilson 1987, Falcon Press, 240pp., Jim Lippard, Phoenix Skeptics News (later The Arizona Skeptic) vol. 1, no. 5, March/April 1988, pp. 3-6.)
- Model Agnosticism vs. A New Idolatry: A Critique of Robert Anton Wilson's The New Inquisition, Kristin Buxton
- Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science. 1986. 240 pages.
- Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science. 1994. 256 pages.
- James Patrick Hogan, Kicking the Sacred Cow. Baen Books, 2004. 400 pages. ISBN 0-7434-8828-8