07.24The Grand Unified Woo-Woo Theory
by Marc Berard
Living Energy Universe (Hampton Roads Pub. Inc., Charlotsville, VA, 1999), written by Dr. Shwartz and Dr. Russek, is the latest attempt at a “theory of everything,” including everything paranormal. What Shwartz and Russek have done is take the basic concept of feedback loops and do some wild speculation that does not necessarily follow the evidence. They then take that speculation as fact and make even wilder speculations with even less basis, take that as fact and so on. The end product is little more than a house of cards, and the second law of thermodynamics is a bowling ball rolling towards it.
During the course of the book the authors tie their theory to a wide range of paranormal claims, stating the phenomena are real and explained through their theory. The Systemic Memory Theory might be referred to as the Grand Unified Woo Woo Theory. Among the paranormal phenomena mentioned are cellular memory, out-of-body experience, after death contact, reincarnation, psychometry, telepathy, qi, homeopathy, aroma therapy, hearbalism, energy medicine, crystal healing, distant healing, spirit medicine, acupuncture, kinesiology, akashic records, kaballa, cold fusion, and karma. I’m not entirely sure if they are trying to support their theory by tying it to paranormal claims, or support the claims by linking them to the theory. More like one card leaning on another for mutual support.
Dr. Shwartz is now on the media circuit, claiming his theory is proof of life-after-death. He is even investigating famous medium James von Prague, claiming to validate his powers to speak with the dead.
The Theory: Physical Systems
The starting point is in feedback loops. Using two tuning forks as an example, one is struck and starts to vibrate. The vibrations (a1) travel out to the second fork, causing this one to vibrate. The new vibrations (b1) were caused by (a1) and are said to contain the history of (a). These vibrations go out, strike the first fork and alter the manner in which it vibrates. The first fork is now vibrating in a pattern (a2). A2 is the result of (b1), which was a result of (a1). Thus it is said the vibration (A2) contains the history of (b1) and (a1). As the loop goes on this ‘history’ builds up. This is perfectly logical and nothing unusual. However, the authors strike out for strange by the fallacy of assumed equivalence. This history is termed memory, that it changes with each iteration is termed evolution. The system has memory, it evolves, and therefore it is alive.
The good doctors repeatedly state that if system theory is true then it is true at every level, from subatomic to galactic and universal. Since they redefined a feedback loop as “living, remembering, evolving” then subatomic particles remember, evolve, and are alive, and the same holds true for galaxies. EVERYTHING remembers, evolves, and is alive. This is an example of the modest leaps made in their theory.
One of the speculated results of this theory is the idea of emergent properties. The claim is that studying atoms, and subatomic particles, will not give one a clue as to what gives a water molecule it’s ‘waterness.’ But Systemic Memory would say the properties of water come from how the atoms resonate in a systemic feedback loop. This would appear to be an error. Industrial chemists earn their living by predicting what properties a new substance will have based upon its atomic composition. The principles of chemistry and physics explain water’s physical properties quite well, actually. Furthermore, if Systemic Memory (SM) were true, then each and every water molecule would have different properties as the atoms making them up have different histories.
“We will consider the idea that if matter evolves, then it follows logically that energy evolves too.” (pg. 70)
Now we get to the next layer of the house of cards, energy systems. In order for the resonance to occur, the ‘energy/information’ has to travel between the two objects. So the area between the objects is not a vacuum, but has all these signals traveling through it. As the signals change over time, the claim is now that the energy evolves. The signals are said to interact, creating a feedback loop between two points in the vacuum. “These dynamical info-energy systems will continue in the vacuum of space forever, even when the physical structure deconstructs.” (pg. 104) This statement is derived from the fact that light reflected off an object and into space will continue forever, long after the object no longer exists, so the object has attained a type of immortality. This idea is then misapplied to the tuning forks example. Take away the forks and the energy system is supposed to continue in an energy vortex, swirling on forever.
Now there are two assumptions here, first that the signals interact with each other, and second that they will continue to exist once the physical part of the system is removed. Studying waves has demonstrated that when two waves pass through the same point they combine constructively or destructively, only to emerge on the other side of the point unchanged (imagine two water waves moving through each other). The signals pass through each other without being altered, so not all types of energy interact. Even if we assume energy does interact, can it interact in a continuing system outside of a physical system? It might be possible for two photons to interact, but then what? Photons must travel at the speed of light and in a straight line, unless acted on by an outside force, so how could a feedback loop be created? With no force to hold them in the area (in which case they are no longer photons, as their energy has been absorbed by a physical system) the most that could happen is two photons interact and part. In fact, any pure energy (not bound to matter) must move at the speed of light, and cannot stay in one area. So light or other unbound forms of energy cannot enter into an energy system. What about other forms of energy? Heat and kinetic are matter in motion, chemical energy is matter in molecular bonds, they can’t exist in a pure energy system. Even if a pure energy feedback system were possible it is not universally applicable, and would require special conditions.
The lack of support for energy systems does not deter Shwartz and Russek from wild speculations as to the implications. Once again an assumption of equivalence is used, this time to compare energy/information to spirit/soul, with little explanation for this jump. Now we have the claim that the soul is an energy system, without any mention of what kind of energy it is, or how it got started. Can energy and information be intelligent? “Why not?” (pg. 170) Out-of-body experiences are explained as simply times when the energy system goes roaming. A new force is introduced to explain why it doesn’t go roaming all the time, “systemity” (system gravity), and the added claim that this totally new, previously undetected force may be what underlies the Strong/Weak nuclear forces. We also get the claim that this traveling energy system can see and hear, with no explanation as to how.
You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet
Now the real wild claims begin. Energy systems are alive, got it? Now energy systems take place in a vacuum, everything is all connected through the vacuum; therefore the vacuum is alive, evolving, and eternal. Of course that is like saying bacteria are alive, bacteria are connected through the petri dish that contains them, therefore the petri dish is alive. Since we’re declaring everything alive why not natural laws as well? That’s on page 142. How a law can evolve is not explained. Laws are descriptions of how nature behaves, there is no matter or energy with which to feedback, and if SM existed it would have to work according to natural laws. If laws evolved then could they evolve to a state that did not support SM, and therefore end all systems? Time and Space are not immune from being labeled alive either. Electrons, photons, superstrings are all declared to have consciousness for no other reason than the belief the system is true on all levels. Everything is connected through the vacuum so everything is one.
Stories come to life too. According to the authors a story that is on people’s minds creates an energy system that is alive, so the story is alive, a living idea that can have a life of it’s own. The example given is people contacting Jesus could be in contact with the ‘original’ historical Jesus, or a Jesus created from the concepts and stories of people since then. Following this logic that means Santa Claus, Freddy Kruger, Romeo, and many other people exists as real spirits. And you might meet them, since Shwartz and Russek reverse cause and effect in one chapter, claiming that it was energy systems that created matter. “The purpose of physical systems may be to shape the evolution of living energy systems. From this perspective, the purpose of matter may be to evolve information and energy, the soul and spirit of the universe.” (pg. 165) You will be happy to know that before time and space came into existence there was a single primal force guiding what came later, and that force is Love.
Cut Shaving with Occam’s Razor
Dr. Schwartz wants to conduct well-designed experiments. He wants properly conducted studies that will supply real evidence, to maintain intellectual integrity. Unfortunately, he falls rather short. It seems that he is not familiar with some of the concepts and practices in proper research, and shows a shocking lack of understanding in some basic concepts not in his field.
Lets look at the question of thermodynamics. According to the second law of thermodynamics, closed systems tend to become less organized (increased entropy) over time. SM would have us believe systems normally increase in order and complexity, and Shwartz even named a new force for this idea, enformy or negentropy (energy form, negative entropy), clearly in conflict with known principles. How do they handle the problem? Simple, by saying the second law of thermodynamics must be dropped as being totally wrong. They display an ignorance of organic evolution, claiming that complex life could not come about under the second law (they miss the basic fact that organisms do not evolve in a closed system, but receive energy from the sun). Their explanation is that what looks like disorder is incredibly complex order, that systems appearing to be falling apart actually may just have reached the limit of how much information they can hold. Wouldn’t this mean that systems are not eternal, as they have to ‘fill up’ sometime?
Following this line of reasoning they come up with the idea that aging and some disorders are a matter of the body becoming too ‘full’ of information. When we excrete it is not to get rid of toxins, but to get rid of extra memories. As water is supposed to be very good at holding memories, and has been around for millions of years, the water we drink should be pretty full. If we create new water in a laboratory it won’t have the vast amounts of memories, would some of this created water then be better for us? Would a glass of this new water sustain us for much longer that regular old water?
This is not the only bizarre biological claim made. “Brain cells learn as complex networks of feedback loops….However, the story science has created for explaining how brains learn, applies equally well to how hearts, lungs, kidneys, or even bones can learn.” (pg. 77) Yet another example of assuming equivalence, this time equating methods of learning and reinforcement to SM. For scientists involved in medical research they have a shocking lack of understanding of biology, highlighted when they refer to the pupil as a black surface.
Finally, is their misconception of Occam’s Razor, a logical principle that states that scientific theories should not be unnecessarily complex. Stated another way, when more than one theory explains all available evidence, the one that introduces the fewest new assumptions is most likely to be correct. The authors seem to be a bit confused on exactly what this means. Given a choice between the idea that paranormal phenomena are a variety of normal phenomena and coincidences which are misinterpreted, and the idea of SM they think the single theory of SM is the simpler choice. Their theory, however, includes at least two new undetected forces, abandonment of a well-established law, and totally rewriting biology – all with no evidence other than anecdotal stories of paranormal claims which, even if true, do not necessarily support SM.
Their claims are not surprising, considering their attitude towards science. They made it quite clear that they consider science nothing more than a dogmatic religion. In talking about atoms: “Some priest or priestess of science, a physicist or a chemist, tell us they are there, and we believe him or her. We accept their story, typically of faith.” (pg. 32) Is that what they are doing? Telling us a story they wish us to accept on faith? I’m sorry, but that is not how science works.
They write, “Here’s the bottom line: If we had found a flaw; or Lynn Nadel and our team of original friendly devils’ advocates had found a flaw; or the many reviewers of various scientific manuscripts had found a flaw; or the many readers of various published papers had found a flaw; or the thousands of scientists who have now heard us present the basic systemic memory hypothesis at meetings had found a flaw, then we would have been the first to tell you ‘The hypothesis is wrong for this reason-let’s forget it, and move on.’” (pg. 195) Maybe they should have chosen better reviewers. Or did they get some reviews that found flaws and just ignored them? They admitted one reviewer ended the review with “Do not publish, and do not even consider in revised form.” (pg. 116)
There are plenty of other problems that could be addressed, but the multitude of holes already demonstrated are more than enough to condemn the theory. Dr. Shwartz and Dr. Russek seek to explain all the alleged mysteries of our world with a grand theory of everything. All they have succeeded in accomplishing, however, is yet another clear example of the perils of pathological science.