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The irreducibility scale.


Essay on a few limit situations in the field of scientific exploration and possible relevance for the relationship between knowledge and life. A perspective provided by Orthodox Christian Theology.

In an analysis made by the British philosopher Robin Collingwood, three major concepts have come along in regard to the physical universe and nature throughout the centuries. The first model is of Greek origin and it depicts the world as an organism while the second model, issued in the Renaissance period, is mechanicist, outlining simple laws at the basis of life and the intelligent aspects of the world (Collingwood 2012: 11-30, 184-189). The latter is the model of a progressive nature, characterized by complex dynamics that go beyond simple, repetitive cycles in favour of complexity and emergence. Meanwhile, as we shall see, numerous limit situations have arisen in various areas of research, situations that raise serious questions regarding the scientific description of the world. At the same time, many approaches to the world have been too little affected by these situations, while preserving the reductionist intent to gain insight into all physical processes (also chemical, biological or psychological) through simple mechanisms. Here are such situations and their possible effects on knowledge.

1. An awkward complicity--the physical universe and the quantum void

According to several considerations, some results in Physics link the Universe and the surrounding world to the quantum vacuum (1). This is present in the microcosm and is part of the matter, the atoms being "more space than substance" (Atkins 1998: 120). At the same time, the fundamental interactions could be characterized by several types of vacuum (Barrow 2006: 280) (2). On the other hand, the vacuum includes potentially all the known particles (Ibidem), being "the entire list of elementary particles and the constants of nature", so that it is considered "the framework within which the laws of physics take a particular form" (Susskind 2012: 111).

In addition, the quantum vacuum plays a decisive role at the scale of the entire universe. The formation of galaxies, for example, is attributed to the primordial non-uniformities of the quantum vacuum. According to the current cosmological model, even the vacuum fluctuations were amplified in the short existence of the inflation and the subsequent expansion of the universe, forming in time the current cosmic structures (galaxies, swarms and clusters) (3).

However, the inflationary mechanism, as understood today, could have appeared in the transition from a false void to the real void (Davies 2008: 46-150). Furthermore, two other great cosmology responses could be related to vacuum energy: the explanation for what we today call dark matter (see Hajdukovic 2012: 9-14) and the cause of the accelerated expansion of the universe, based on dark energy (Seife 2007: 236; see also Wang et al 2017: 103504). Finally, some attempts regarding possible links between the gravitational interaction, responsible for the architecture and the dynamics of the cosmic structures, and the forces that come into play in quantum mechanics, focus on the vacuum energy as well (Moskowitz 2014). Being present at the beginning of the universe, constitutive of space-time pair and of particles, decisive for the future of the cosmos, the vacuum seems to hide, according to some theorists, "the secret of our existence" (Seife 2007: 233).

2. The physical world is irreducible to the primordial vacuum

Starting from considerations of this kind, some authors propose a reductionist approach, claiming that, given the fluctuations of the quantum vacuum, the beginning of the universe is both unpredictable and inevitable. This would imply a spontaneous creation, a scenario that would eliminate all the other metaphysical interrogations (Carroll 2012: 134).

Thus, physics would provide a cosmological response to Leibniz's old metaphysical question: "Why is there something rather than nothing?", nothing here, of course, having a metaphysical meaning, distinct from that given by physics. Some theorists assert that "something is a more natural state than nothing" and, therefore, the world could be a natural passage from nothing (here understood as a vacuum) to existence, an excitation of the vacuum (4). And, somewhat naturally in this setting, since everything would naturally spring from (this kind of) nothing (Gefter 2011: 28-29), the existence of a Creator would no longer be necessary.

However, there are authors who notice that this reductionist project does not provide answers to all questions. The reason is simple: this universe cannot appear from any vacuum. To give birth to this universe, the primordial vacuum must be characterized by a certain mathematical structure. Only so could its cosmological peculiarities be explained (5). The scientific endeavours to provide a comprehensive explanation for the whole physical reality based on the primordial vacuum encounter difficulties. Here we may see a first limit situation in the reductionist approaches: the universe is irreducible to the primordial vacuum.

3. Mathematics is irreducible to itself

However, the very mathematical instrumentation underlying the physicists' effort to describe physical phenomena contains problematic issues. In the logical-mathematical sphere, logical knowledge is theoretically limited, as are the judgments that are built through it. It is said that there is no logic that develops through its own content (that is, a logic of induction). In fact, deductive logic allows us to seek and find only those statements that are (implicitly) embedded in their premises (Omnes 1999: 50). On the other hand, the number theory also records the existence of important limitations: natural numbers are not in their foundations (Frege 2000: 258), as if mathematics were a science that does not contain its foundations (Nesteruk 2009: 295). More generally, the attempts to formalize mathematics had no success. The axiomatization of the theory of multitudes, attempted by Zermelo, stopped before an exhaustive inclusion. Geometry, admirably axiomatised by Euclid, unexpectedly opened to non-Euclidean territories, indicating that the Euclidean set is a particular version among many possible geometries. However, even in the theory of multitudes, some results reveal that there are four theories that are mutually exclusive (Livio 2017: 212-214). On another level, Frege's endeavour to provide logical foundation to arithmetic received an unexpected reply through the paradox of the multitudes of all multitudes formulated by Russell. Finally, Hilbert's breakthrough attempt to formalize the entire mathematical construction, as well as Russel's endeavour, following into Frege's footsteps, will also be limited by Godel's incompleteness theorems (Ibidem: 223). Practically, the systems of sufficiently complex axioms include sentences for which there is no possibility of evaluation. The systems do not contain mechanisms that can validate all the assertions that can be formulated (Barrow 1999: 200) (6), and this issue immediately announces the impossibility of achieving a complete axiomatization of arithmetic (Benmakhlouf 2005: 443).

Accordingly, incompleteness would be characteristic to any sufficiently developed mathematical theory, whose deductive resources are those of classical logic (Suppes 1990: 191) (7). Such results suggest, in the same vein of interpretation, an irreducibility of mathematics to itself, its inability to clarify its own foundations, with the usual clarity of its demonstrations.

4. Reality is irreducible to language

At the other end of the approach of physics, where grasping reality is attempted, the actual description of phenomena also faces severe limitations. Firstly, the results of quantum physics show that the conventional division of the world into subject and object is no longer valid (8). Only partially is nature accessible to the scientific method of investigation, and that is not the physical reality itself, but the way it appears in relation to us. Separating knowledge from the one seeking knowledge is impossible, so that the ideal of abstract and objective knowledge is illusory (Cushing 2000: 386). What we know is not a state of affairs to which a complete description is to be attached, because at the quantum level there are no objects as such, but only processes in a continuous development, that observation directly influences them and, to a certain extent, to an indeterminate extent. That is why reality is a sum of microscopic facts about which something can be said as well as facts about which nothing can be said (Nouvel 2005: 458). Finally, the resolution of the descriptions still shows a further constraint: scientific theory, as a description of reality, does not coincide with reality, as there are differences of nature between reality (signified) and logos (signifier) (Omnes 1999: 499). A certain imprecision therefore shadows the whole approach of physics. Paul Dirac wrote, in 1930, that the physical laws of nature "do not in any way govern the world directly, as it appears in our mental picture: they control instead a substrate of which we cannot create a mental image without introducing irrelevant elements" (Apud Das 2013: 98).

Keeping to the same hermeneutical orientation, we could perceive another barrier that seems to limit the reductionist approach of science: the actual reality is irreducible to language. To briefly conclude, if the description provided by physics were an imaginary bridge linking "the bank of mathematical language" to that of perceivable reality, then we could say that the interpretative bridge has weak points in its structures of resistance (of fundamental nature) at both ends.

5. Biology is irreducible to physics and chemistry

Most of the time, scientific approaches to the origin of life and the dynamics of living beings, along terrestrial history, follow that description that can explain life and man as a result of physical and chemical mechanisms. The progress in biology is fascinating. Refined descriptions, to the resolution of molecular and cellular events, reveal the characteristic processes of living organisms (such as metabolism and self-reproduction) in a formidable complexity.

However, the sphere of life sciences is still far from providing answers to all questions. Life as a whole has not received a satisfactory scientific explanation. A famous biologist, for example, asserts: "The DNA is currently known as the indispensable molecule in reproduction (except for some viruses). But how was it brought into this function? There is no theory explaining this" (Mayr 2004: 67).

On the other hand, the authors of modern synthesis have focused their research efforts on the genotype at the expense of the body itself, leaving aside its extraordinary complexity and, at the same time, one of the biggest questions for any organism: "how does it get to express this complexity starting from a single cell?" (Wagner 2016: 26). We find such approaches elsewhere too. Nobody has formulated, as another researcher highlights, "a satisfactory theory of how the interaction between DNA and RNA first occurred", the issue being essential as long as "the sequential order of the DNA molecules cannot derive from the chemical affinities of the components that constitute one unit" (9).

At the molecular level, biology highlighted, in protein and amino acid structures, an extraordinary information architecture and the complex functions they have. The dynamics and complexity of these structures persuaded some authors to regard them as true "information libraries" of nature, which seem to account for the entire diversity of the living world. However, their origin is not clear either! A researcher has recently asserted that they show how "the very creativity of life feeds from a source that is older than life and maybe older than time" (Wagner 2016: 230). Such situations might indicate another problematic issue in the intention of phrasing a reductionist description of the living world: the entities and phenomena that are explored in the sphere of biology may not be fully described through physics and chemistry. The life of the living world could be irreducible to (and therefore impossible to elucidate only through) the chemical and physical processes that accompany it.

6. Psychology is irreducible to biology

The reductionist approaches to the human being are not missing either. Recalling the somewhat old topic of mechanicism in the 1980s, medical sciences announced the possibility of gaining insight into the characteristics of the personality of any human subject only through the genes. Such projects continue even nowadays. Most of the neuroscience community, writes a researcher,
subscribes to materialism and reductionism, promoting the idea that we
can be understood as a set of cells, blood vessels, hormones, proteins
and fluids--all following the laws of chemistry and physics. Day by
day, neurologist enter the laboratory and work on the principle that
the parts will make us understand the whole. It is the same method of
success that applies to physics, chemistry... (Eagleman 2017: 272-273)

Such a view is also shared by the authors who argue that the intention of voluntary actions hides only automatisms and that conscious will is an illusion (Wegner 2013). The unity of the self, thought and experience would be, according to this approach, "an illusion created precisely by the limited capacity of self-conscious systems" (Oakley DA and Eams LC 1985, Apud Norretranders 2009: 278) so that, in the limit, the consciousness would be but a delusion of the user (Norretranders 2009: 284). In radical forms, man is presented as an "I-machine without a self", "without any essence", a "genome copying device" whose achievements are exclusively the result of a "blind bottom-up organization" (Metzinger T (2015: 246-249).

Several centuries ago, Dilthey distinguished the natural sciences from the sciences of the spirit of (Geistes wissenschaften) and warned of the inadequacy of the explanations of natural sciences for the wider sphere of human life--including artistic experiences and historical events (Dilthey 1999). Subsequent phenomenological analyses provided rigorous examinations which find, without exception, the inadequacy of the instruments of natural sciences for history, arts, and the world of life. Husserl would also reject the claims of the natural sciences to provide a total comprehension of the world and life (Husserl 2011). Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for example, would argue that man is not to be found at the intersection of multiple causality, which determines the body or the psychism; nor can we simply conceive him as a part of the world, a mere "object of biology, psychology or sociology" (Merleau-Ponty 1999: 6). In the same vein of thought, Michel Henry finds that living realities, the way of living life within the world of intentionality cannot be attributed to "molecule edifices or clusters of cells" (Henry 2003: 415). In fact, man cannot be confiscated a certain "acoustic freedom" (Merleau-Ponty 1982: 72, Apud Nesteruk 2009: 263) beyond the determinations of the world of physics.

It is already well-known that many researchers into the sphere of sciences (psychology or medicine) outline similar findings. We have no guarantee that reductive approaches that attempt to elucidate the human depth by chemical and physical decoding of brain activities will work: "The brain, a researcher has recently written, with its particular, subjective experiences, is different from any research object so far. Whoever says that the reductionist approach solves the problem does not understand the complexity of the problem" (Eagleman 2017: 273).

In many places in the field of these concerns, one can easily see that the mind is one of the challenging topics for the current scientific approach. Antonio Damasio also considers that brain events could be "the most complex in nature", which could "make it unlikely to ever render the full extent of the neural phenomena associated with a mental state" (Damasio 2016: 350). The difficulties that arise are also enhanced by the fact that the mechanisms of the unconscious and their connection with the conscious ones have not been elucidated. They cannot be ignored as long as "the unconscious explains why people thought to be rational live their lives in an irrational manner" (Gold 2013: 32-33). Understanding the mind would therefore also include understanding what is called the unconscious and the subconscious (10).

Another problem concerns the relationship between the brain and the psychic, which, along with that of consciousness, is part of what seems to be impossible to solve, if we take into account the theorem of A.M. Turing (11). Some researchers consider them to be insoluble or in-decisible (Gavriliu 1998: 118), which may be beyond the possibilities, methodology and working tools of the sciences (Ibidem: 119).

Therefore, the opinion according to which an attempt to respond strictly scientifically to "the identity and uniqueness of the person" would only lead to its closing in the "trap of causes and physical explanations", its existence and mystery remaining "without any light or shine to distinguish it from other things" (Nesteruk 2009: 366) seems justified. These data reinforce the validity of earlier considerations, such as Antonio Damasio's: "the complexity of the human mind is perhaps so that we can never find the solution to the problem because of our inherent limitations" (Damasio 2005: 15).

If we take into account situations of this kind, we should rather assert that the human being transcends, "all the models and structures that describe it" (Allport 1991: 568). Such an opinion is still supported nowadays, despite the new medical imaging technologies. Some authors argue that not even with these new technologies will the elucidation of the reality of consciousness be possible (Tallys 2010: 28). In a way, these findings could indicate another limit situation in the field of reductionist models: the irreducibility of psychology to biology.

7. The Universe, Life and Man. Three Insights into the Eastern Patristic Outlook

The three irreducible situations presented so far (the irreducibility of physics to the vacuum, that of biology to physics, and that of psychology to biology) could be symbolically seen in the meanings of several verses of the Old Testament interpreted in light of the Christian Revelation. These are three verses in Chapter 1 of Genesis:

- "In the beginning God made [...] heaven and earth." (v. 1)

- "And God created [...] great whales, and every living creature that moveth..." (v. 21) and

- "God created [...] man in his own image, in the image of God created him" (v. 27).

As it can be seen, all these fragments contain the expression 'bara', which, we shall see, has an important meaning. In Hebrew, there are two phrases with similar meaning: asah, translated as "to make" and [...], "to create". They seem similar, but in reality, bara' has a more special meaning. The Greek-language translators of the Old Testament did not benefit from the originality of the term bara', in fact a hapax (a unique phrasing) for the Greek space (Vannier 2003: 6-7). For the Greek text of the Septuagint, for the term bara', they worked with approximate translations: [phrase omitted] [poiein] and [phrase omitted] [ktizein], and genesis or creation in Vetus Latin translations (Ibidem) (12). These terms are, however, not entirely appropriate, because they do not exclude the possibility of a pre-existing matter from which all was formed, thereby weakening the meaning of a creation from nothing (13). Thus, although the text of The Septuagint (LXX) often translates bara and asah through a single Greek verb, [phrase omitted] [poieo], in Hebrew they do not mean the same thing. Unlike asah, the Hebrew word bara ("create") is used only to refer to God, the term emphasizing the decisive contribution of the Creator, Who does not only process something already existing.

These verses from the beginning of the Genesis, with the specificity of the term bara', along with some other Old and New Testament texts, were decisive in shaping the teaching of the ex nihilo creation present in Eastern Patristic thought. Three of the most important fragments in The New Testament that have clarified these meanings are:

- "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [...] All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1, 1-3) and

- "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Hebrews 11, 3)

- "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible [...] all things were created by Him, and for Him" (Colossians 1, 16-17)

It is not the place here for too many details regarding the doctrine of creation from nothing (ex nihilo). We simply assert that it had a special development since the 2 (nd) century AD (Fantino 2003: 31). According to this teaching, the meaning of the first verse of the above mentioned, "In the beginning God made heaven and earth" (v. 1) is that "heaven and earth" were created by God without the use of any matter or energies pre-existing to creation. Space-time, matter-energy existing in the universe (including the fundamental bricks of the sensitive world and fundamental interactions that model the sensible world) were made by God, out of nothing, not from pre-existing matter. Mircea Eliade will support the radical novelty of this cosmological vision in relation to all the other worldly concepts present in ancient traditions (14). "For Christ, writes St. Maximus the Confessor, or for the mystery of Christ, they received all the ages and foundations within the ages of the beginning of existence" (Maximus the Confessor 2009: 373). God made all things out of nothing, through His Logos, through Jesus Christ, the Lord, the One who was "at the beginning", but Who has no beginning, the One who is the principle by which all things and ages have been made (Pelikan 2004: 218). He is the beginning of the existence of the world, He is God, He "sustains the world" and, anticipating now, He is the "purpose of existence" (Origen 1984: 426). We therefore see a certain apophatism at the beginning of the created world; the mystery of creation is hidden in the Creator, and thus evades a scientific, causal examination. The three New Testament fragments clarify the first verse of the Genesis.

The second verse of Genesis is "And God created [...] great whales, and every living creature that moveth..." (v. 21). It is also worth mentioning here the presence of the term bara'. St. Gregory Palamas writes that "the earth was mixed with water, and each was pregnant with air and with the various species of animals and plants [...] a kind of all-embracing material substance with the potentiality of giving birth to all things [...]" (Grigory of Palamas 2013: 513-514). In the writings of another patristic author, we find that "by the Creator of the universe, the animals were brought into being from these waters" (John Chrysostom 2003: 47-48). "God created [...] great whales, and every living creature that moveth [...]" (v. 21). We can, therefore, understand the theological perspective that, by command, God made the living world from the water and the primordial earth. On the one hand, this symbolically comprises the particular reality, scientifically established, that the human body and other living organisms are made of water and chemical elements in the universe. On the other hand, in the light of the meanings found in the Prologue of John (1, 1-3), the presence of bara' means that they are created by God, not relentlessly resulting from the powers of the created world. "No matter how many creatures were conceived by Him to be brought to life," wrote Gregory of Nyssa, "all were called to existence as they were conceived [by Him]. That is why everything that is in God is conceived at the same time as the foundation of the creation of all creatures [...]" (Gregory of Nyssa 1998: 96). Therefore, a normal exploration of the living world, under the conditions of these theological meanings, could not identify in the created world something that would explain the appearance and complexity of life, because the foundations of the living world as part of Creation are hidden in God.

Finally, the last verse of the Gospel refers to the creation of man: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (verse 26), meaning that man - a created being in the image of God, and in view of the likeness with Him - is suddenly a being that is related to the world through the body of the dust of the earth, and the vocation to the heavenly, to God, by the special act through which he was created through His divine breath. Taking into account this spiritual reality, St. Gregory of Nyssa uses, in regard to man, the phrase atheoretos, meaning that man "escapes any theoretical consideration", since, God being unen-compassable, "it is impossible that His << image >> in man should not be unencompassable" (Nellas 1999: 66). That is why the Christian-Orthodox theology supports a certain apophatism of the human person (anthropological apophatism), which somewhat corresponds to the divine apophatism (15). In an equally synthetic and profound, as well as inspired interpretation, father professor Gheorghe Popa asserts that in all three verses of the Genesis, which use the phrase bara' , we can see "three fundamental moments of the creative act and three essential discontinuities that emerged and remained in creation: the creation of the energy-matter system, the creation of life and the creation of man" (Popa 2002: 15). What we have mentioned here could be supporting elements for this approach, highlighting how the revealed text can be edifying for some of the dead end situations in the field of recent scientific research.

8. The spiritual life is irreducible to psychology

An impressive number of researches in psychology and medicine developed over the past decade addressed the spiritual experience and religious life. We are dealing with a repertoire of extremely varied approaches. There are explorations that track the effects of different spiritual practices on health (Perlmutter and Villoldo 2013; Taylor 2011), while others are clearly oriented toward the benefits of Christian religious practices on personal, family, and social life (Koenig, McCullough and Larson 2001). Others focus on the study of various types of meditation, aiming to highlight the beneficial effects on emotional states, cognitive activities and on health (Austin 1998; Davidson and Begley 2013). Obviously, there are also fundamental research projects that seek to provide an explanation of the nature of the spiritual experience. For example, brain imprints that correspond to the various beliefs and representations of God in contemporary religious practices are sought (for example: Newberg, d'Aquili and Rause 2008; Newberg and Waldman 2009). Others try to clarify the concept of spiritual intelligence by identifying some specific traits of cerebral functioning (Marshall 2009).

Radical models are also explored as they attempt to provide an explanation for religious thought. One of the recently proposed explanations frames the religious phenomenon, in its broadest sense, within the narrative construction of the brain. It is asserted that man has the tendency to create coherent, flawless stories, augmenting reality (Linden 2012: 270-276). In connection with these reductionist approaches, which refuse any transcendental anchor for spiritual experience, there are also neurotic explorations that call for medical interventions for moral bio-improvement (Persson and Savulescu 2014: 184). These are processes designed to establish moral behaviours for the subjects of non-religious societies through various meditation techniques (consciousness widening, altruism, panoramic thinking), biofeedback, the use of magnetic fields or the administration of substances with psychotropic effects (eg LSD, ayahuasca) (16).

However, the scientific approach does not fully elucidate the nature of the spiritual experience, the life of faith, the deep articulations of religiosity. "Religion and the sacred [...], a scholar has recently written for example, remain a vast, intricate and largely unexplored field of science, yet so simple and elegant for most people around the world in their daily lives" (Atran 2013: 22). Indeed, from the perspective of Christian theology, the life of faith, as the experience of the relationship between man and God in the ecclesial space, contains many substantial aspects that lie beyond the sphere of competence of the sciences. The spiritual life is not adequate to scientific research, since, according to Orthodox theology, there is an indissoluble link between the spirit of man and the Holy Spirit (Lossky 1964: 225-226, Apud Staniloae 1997: 268). Father Staniloae underlined Vladimir Lossky's statement that "the divine breath indicates a mode of creation, by virtue of which the human spirit is intimately linked to grace." (Staniloae 1997: 268) This may be understood as "an indissoluble connection between our soul and the power of God, Who enables him to exist in His image" so that the grace of the Holy Spirit is "the true principle of our existence" (Ibidem).

As long as, according to the Revelation, the theological reflection considers the person's life as indissolubly linked to the grace of God, we are dealing with a fundamental impossibility to gain scientific insight into religious life and spiritual experiences. Furthermore, in the same vein of interpretation, there could be another border place: the irreducibility of spirituality to psychology and medicine.

9. Wisdom is irreducible to science

We have seen that, on certain border issues, which are at the edge of observable reality, reductionist approaches face difficulties. The effort to make a description of the entire universe through the primordial void requires preliminary mathematical structures; the intent to fully formalize the premises and the ends of the logic-mathematical construction has weaknesses. Moreover, neither is reality completely translatable in language since the mechanisms of life escape the descriptions of physics and chemistry and biology fails to shut down the whole psychology, a strictly biophysical and chemical explanation of subjective consciousness being rather illusory. It may be concluded that, despite the huge progress made so far, scientific explorations are only at the onset:
However far we have got (in the scientific exploration of the world), a
scholar has recently written, it is almost certainly wrong to imagine
that we are close to the final answer. [...] Biologists do not yet know
how and when life first appeared on earth, or how likely it is to
appear on another earth-like planet. They do not know what the
selective advantages that drive development are [...] and, perhaps most
importantly, they do not know how the brain produces mental
experiences. [...] Chemistry also has major questions left
un-Answered--from the mysterious way in which water molecules form
hydrogen bonds with their neighbours to create the magical properties
of that vital fluid to the way in which the amino acid chains fold to
form spaghetti-like proteins that are vital to life. (Mlodinov 2015:

Beyond these limit areas in the scientific rendering of the world, there are also epistemological challenges. The reality explored by science is vast and diverse. So are the branches of science. The focus is not only on cosmic, physical and chemical phenomena, areas where theories can be verified, most of the times, in the experimental plane, repeatedly. The results of biology, (involving extremely complex processes and considerable time-scale dynamics) do not allow the same validation criteria used by chemistry or physics. Neither the exploration of psychology and sociology, which take into account man and community behaviours, nor branches of history and legal sciences can be evaluated according to the same pattern. We cannot have everywhere in science the same empirical validation criteria (17).

In various forms, various analyses signal other possible limitations. For example, the description of a complex system, made up of many interrelated subsystems, has been proven to often affect the error of the explanatory depth (18), which often arises through the over-crediting of a freshly confirmed experimentally hypothesis and the omission of apparently insignificant details.

10. The knowledge society: a dramatic paradox

All the problematic areas that have been highlighted so far underline an equally paradoxical and dramatical situation. On the one hand, humankind has progressed enormously, now being capable to scrutinise the world with the fine eye of science, reaching limit areas. On the other hand, despite such progress, we are still in the beginning. Moreover, even if the great mysteries--the beginning of the universe, the nature of life, the depth of the human being--seem to evade the assault of science, the reductionist enterprises are multiplying. It is clear that in the approach of knowledge, we find a reality that is more complex than the instruments of any subject. This should impose, as an infinite task, the reflection on the limited competencies of the sciences not strengthen the cognitive reflex of the reductionist approaches. At the same time, the need for a dialogue as open as possible between the different sciences, philosophical and theological reflection, and the continuous widening of the perspective underlying the enterprises of knowledge are emphasized.

However, there is also a dramatic side. The discoveries of science have not changed the life of man and the world at comparable magnitude. The resounding results regarding the beginning of the universe, the miracle of earthly life and the depth of the personal subject, in the last century, have not produced echoes. We find no effects on the conduct of the current civilization that match these discoveries. The immensity of the universe does not seem to elicit astonishment and does not seem to stop man from the daily rush. The magnitude of the structures and the cosmic dynamics neither convince him to contemplate creation nor help him to become aware of his miraculous existence and of the fabulous potential of knowledge he is capable of. The discoveries regarding the diversity of the living world, in the extraordinary terrestrial cradle, have not increased the respect of civilization for life either. Nor has the complexity of biological processes that sustain the life of our bodies every second, brought to light by medicine and psychology, greatly increased the care of the world for the human being.

On the contrary, the rise of the entertainment and consumption industry, the increasing pollution and waste, the overexploitation of resources and the deepening of the gap between the rich and the poor show us that, as a whole, mankind is pursuing other targets (19).

This could be the dramatic paradox of today's civilization. Never before have we known more--in scientific order, about the immense universe and about the miraculous terrestrial world we live in. Yet, like never before, we have ignored the Earth as a cradle of our lives. Never before have we better known the splendor of the living world and the close connection between its species and areals. Nevertheless, never before have we endangered the diversity of the living world as much as we do now, through pollution and overexploitation. Finally, never before, in our complex biology, have we better seen the difficulties of understanding our own mind, the mystery and the value of the human person. And yet, never before has humanity been so loaded by economic discrepancies, famine and conflict, humanitarian catastrophes and social tensions of millions that have taken so many lives. And never before has humanity known so much, never before have education, the cultivation of spirit been so accessible, access that was facilitated by the digitalization and global circulation of cultural productions, while yet living so deeply immersed in entertainment and consumerism, so conquered by the mirage of the technologies, far from the exercise of inner reflection, too little preoccupied with metaphysical reflection and cultivation of virtues.

These dramatic aspects show that mankind has failed to find the best way to capitalize on the acquisitions of scientific knowledge in support of a better life and world. In particular, scientific progress does not automatically create the premises for a better living, for an improved person. Here, one can see another limit challenge, which regards, this time, the life of the world: wisdom is irreducible to the scientific efforts of explaining the world and life (20).

11. Short intermezzo on the limited rationality, ignorance and weak will

This situation indicates a possible failure in the relationship between knowledge and life, in the agreement between what we know that should be done and what we do. Numerous research results support these arguments.
We need, writes a neurospecialist, a new way of being, being in
ourselves. Our modern culture has evolved lately in a direction that
has created a troubled world full of people suffering from alienation,
a society lacking a moral compass to help clarify how we can advance
within our global community. (Siegel 2016: 13) (21)

As early as the 1950s, while evaluating the human decision-making behaviour, sociologist Herbert Simon highlighted that we usually display limited rationality. Under various constraining factors, such as the time for making decisions and the multitude of issues to be pursued, our decisions are not optimized (Selten 2002: 13-20). Other authors underlined that we usually read reality in a selective manner, pondering more on the facts and data that confirm our beliefs or political ideology that we share. In the wealth of information we have in the field of life, we often seek those facts that support favouring conclusions (Freedman and Sears 1965, Apud Gilbert 2012: 232).

Most often, without realizing, we exercise indirect control on the conclusions that we are going to draw from various life situations, selecting the memories, facts, information or sources that support the already formed opinion (Gilbert 2012: 230-243). On the other hand, we are used to misinterpreting the threats whenever they are far away in time or space (Persson and Savulescu 2014: 57-59). Such findings suggest that we do not set off in the process of assessing a certain aspect of reality, ready to learn its new "lesson", we are not prepared to change our way of thinking and acting. Nor do we rely on a reason that judges reality objectively or rationally. Rather, we imprint our meanings in what we do know (22). In another vein of thought, research has revealed that we overestimate our knowledge and that, in reality, we are ignorant many times. In fact, it is difficult for us to know how much or little we know, precisely because the evaluation goes through the filter of one's own knowledge (Sloman and Fernbach 2017: 302-303). We are all incompetent in most areas of our lives, David Dunning, a psychologist who has long researched ignorance, asserts. Most of the time, experts--whoever they are--often do not make the effort to see and understand what is beyond their sphere of expertise and so they are concerned about the risks of ignorance. As long as we live in ignorance, Dunning concludes, it
shapes our lives in ways we are not aware of. Simply said, he
continues, people tend to do what they know and fail when they want to
do something they have no idea about. Thus, ignorance deepens the
course we follow in life [...] People fail to reach their potential
[...] because they fail to realize what is possible. (Dunning 2010,
Apud Sloman and Fernbach 2017: 304-305) (23)

But we have difficulties even when we know what actions need to be taken since we do not have the necessary will to choose and act according to what we know to be good. There are situations in which self-control is inefficient. Numerous researches show, for example, how stress, anger or aggression, sensory over-stimulation or lust dramatically weaken the capacity of self-control, dramatically influencing the decisions and actions of the person. (Baumeister and Tierney 2012) (24) It is important to mention here that, from the perspective of Christian spirituality, this finding is not a novelty. To provide only one example, Apostle Paul stated something similar: "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Romans 9:17).

Somehow one can see that the rationale that we usually use to decode knowledge data and to manage the circumstances of life cannot normally provide us with an undistorted perception of reality. We face several problems: we selectively accept reality, we judge with limited rationality the selected fragment, and we resist with what we already know about what is to be known. When we do acquire new knowledge, we are in danger of becoming more and more ignorant of what lies beyond our sphere of competence. Finally, in many situations, when we know for certain what is worth doing, we lack the will to act as such.

All these things show us that there is a significant distance between the stage of the accumulation of scientific discoveries and the condition of a life built on the knowledge data, the passage between them not being automatic. Achieving those actions that are consistent with knowledge data requires sustained effort. Remarks of this kind are often formulated in the experience of spiritual life. Saint Maximus the Confessor, for example, identifies a few steps between the efforts of rational knowledge and the life lit by wisdom:
The natural adornment of the rational, writes St. Maximus, is reason.
The adornment of reason is the understanding that the rational ones
manifest through reason. The adornment of understanding is the habita
and aptitude that the rational manifest through rational virtue. The
adornment of this habit is the perfect contemplation, through which
true knowledge is acquired. And the end is wisdom, which is the most
true fulfillment of understanding. (Maximus the Confessor 2009: 42).

In other words, it would be natural for people, rational creatures, to live guided by reason. Furthermore, understanding would be the most valuable gain from the proper use of reason, the most noble of its uses. In its turn, proper understanding of things is attested by good habits, through good actions and habits, tailored accordingly, resulting from it and growing with it. And these good habits empower the person for a wider and deeper engagement of the world and life, for those sensitive and intelligible. Manifestation transforms the capacities of perceiving and understanding of the world, opening the window to a more comprehensive view, contemplation that, in turn, provides true knowledge.

Finally, the most ripen fruit of this true knowledge, the sign of its maturity, is wisdom. It may therefore be concluded that the acquisition of wisdom is closely related to the application sphere, to the exercise of being through exercise, with a view to the endeavour of the person to do good deeds, to learn the good habits, to cultivate virtues, these efforts exercising a strong transformation of the one that strives.

12. Knowledge and life: a problematic report

We have come to the end of this reflection, analyzing the relationship between knowledge and life itself. We deal with an old issue here. We find it in the Greek antiquity, as a paideic ideal, we find it recurrently in Christianity, in the endeavours of life improved through the effort of hesychasm and the cultivation of virtues, aiming to intensify the communion with God in the life of the Church. From the perspective of the Christians, the understanding and the proper use of the world and life are indispensably linked to the efforts for hesychasm. An un-cleansed mind, the passionate connection to the things of the tangible world distort the perception of reality. For a proper perception of the world (theoria), undistorted by passions, the life of the one who knows must change, under the power of ceaseless ethical and ascetic exercise, meant to renew sensitivity and relations with one's neighbours and the world (25). They provide a manner of perception and spiritual use able to sustain the improved life (26).

It is remarkable that these findings, which regard the link between life and ordinary experience, on the one hand, and the effort of knowledge, are also revealed in some neuroscience research. The exploration of neuroplasticity, for example, has revealed that experiences and habits influence the way we perceive and understand the world. For example, the way we become accustomed to paying attention contributes significantly to our perceptions (27). On the other hand, the provisions, the emotional state, participate in some way in our cognitions (some questions are raised in Damasio 2005), each person being able to judge rationally (suitable for abstract situations) or empathically (appropriate to situations with a moral stake), depending on emotions that we have (Najjar et al 2009).

Other research showed that the state of helplessness and, at the other end, trust--which also corresponds to a specific hormonal picture--influences, among other things, creativity, the quality of abstract thinking, the efficiency of work, the speed with which we make decisions and the ability to understand the perspectives of the other (28). Finally, in order to emphasize only a few aspects, even the posture of the body, influencing the hormonal picture, decides, to an unexpected extent, the "shape of the mind"! (Minvaleev et al 2004) (29)

Such results suggest what we have previously outlined above: understanding is not decided only by reason and language, by logical instruction, by careful examination of reality or by aspects of the this kind that we were accustomed to. The possibilities of my understanding are also decided by my life, by little experiences, by the compassion or the hatred that I feel towards my fellows, by the gentleness or the anger with which I interact with my fellow men. In other words, virtues and passions, life itself influences the perception of a reality and, of course, its understanding. Life, as a whole, influences its knowledge, orientation and modalities.

Furthermore, in the last decades, medical sciences have revealed that our habits affect the degenerative or regenerative brain processes. Alienating or improving cognitive powers and emotional arrangements, through exercise, choosing and exercising conscious behaviours is somehow at our fingertips (30). For example, simple, repeated practices produce long term changes in the cerebral function. The voluntary attention control, as a particular example, induces deep changes in neuronal functionality in stimuli signals processing (Briggs et al 2013). Experimental data show that by thinking in a repeated and focused manner (practicing some kind of mental training, already practiced in performance sports), we have some influence on our abilities or behaviours, altering qualitatively the execution, but also the correlative brain networks (Pascual-Leone et al 1995). Finally, professional activity, day-to-day practices, the manner of socializing with one's neighbours, spiritual and artistic experiences leave a lasting im-pression on our judgments (31).

Deeper, epigenetic reveals that the experiences, thoughts and emotions induce lasting changes in the genetic expression (32), to the level of biological codes that structure the functions of the living. As we live, a researcher asserts, epigenetic processes continue to modify and build the person we become (Fisher 2013: 212). This remarkable plasticity of the human being, highlighted in the deepest layers of biology, shows how, under the power of daily experience, man and his life change in the deepest noticeable particularities of the being. That is why we can say that knowledge, as an exercise of the world's powers of perceiving and understanding it, is imprinted in the body, feeling and mind, transforming the life of the person!

Even if they do not affect the way logical reasoning is built as a formal demonstration and they do not change the experimental verification criteria for the validation of any theory, the subjective experiences are very likely to be found in the predilection of choosing one or another of the interpretations of a science fact, to continue the effort, the inspiration degree and the type of creativity, being eventually imprinted in the meanings that we preserve and in the actions that we take. Therefore, knowledge, as the effort of the person, ends up transforming life.

Conclusions. Knowing God and full life

Let us take a brief look at the situation here. Through many of its spectacular results, science has discovered some limit places. They can also reveal edifying meanings about the scientific approach and the approach of knowledge in general. On the one hand, these limit places suggest some possible limitations of the reductionist approaches, limitations found this time even in science and its instrumentation. On the other hand, the advances in science and technology have occurred in parallel with the rise of some of the greatest threats encountered by mankind, which calls into question the relationship between science and wisdom, knowledge and life.

We have seen that, in the scientific approach, man's reason proves to be limited, and that the safety provided by an expertise can fuel ignorance for all that lies beyond it, leading to the myopia of the expert for everything he does not know. Constrained by the limitations of science, puzzled by the risks of our own limitations, under the threat of global problems and encouraged by progress, we give science ever more confidence, while remaining ignorant and incapable of assessing the risks that result from it. The ignorance of the spiritual dimension of life triggers the inability to capitalize on the fruits of the progress of science in the sphere of human life. The fascination for what we know and for the new powers that technology places in our hands makes us forget that we actually understand things less than we think (Sloman and Fernbach 2017: 307).

Finally, we have seen how the problematic situation in which we find ourselves is complicated by the fact that the way in which what we know affects our life, and how the life we live affects, in turn, the mood and the predilection with which we organize the knowledge enterprises, directing in one way or another the scientific projects and the resources for their advance. A poorly organized knowledge, determined, for example, only by market profits, will affect the lives of those who practise it and those who use it. The passionate life, separated from any spiritual project, cantonized within tangible matter, can only affect man, changing the provisions with which he directs his efforts of knowledge. This link shows us that, separated from the efforts for hesychasm, knowledge cannot have a beneficial effect on human life.

However, given these last remarks, we are in full agreement with the experience of the Holy Fathers and we are about to see the possibility of reorganizing the efforts of knowledge towards a better world, inspired by the spiritual life of Eastern Christianity. The Christian manifests an increased care for all aspects of life, knowing that they all leave their mark on human powers. In his work, he supervises his inner movements and external activity. He aims for a good living, paying attention to every detail of life, to the manner in which he relates to things, the manner in which he stands, walks, eats, gazes at and understands his neighbours. It is both the hesychasm and the cultivation of virtues, with a view to an ever more comprehensive understanding of a life, ever closer to God and more and more loving to fellow men. In the vision of the Christian Fathers, this work of hesychasm and the cultivation of virtues are equally connected to personal effort and God's help. On the one hand, endeavour as personal, as-sumed effort, is indispensable: "this must be known, too, that one cannot reach the measure of any virtue unless one strives his whole life, with all his might to acquire it through tedious labor and care, for example, for mercy, restraint, prayer, love, or of any of the general virtues" (John of Damaskos 2000: 189-190).

At the same time, in the indispensable spiritual ascent, God's help is necessary for He is the One who "can bring together all the parts of the soul, and all we can do is to strive for this work of grace of God by continually praying" (Louth 2002: 159). In this way, the Christian, strayed from the noise of the world, living moderately, deepened in prayer to God, tense in the ascetic and high in contemplation, glad for every moment of life and ready to receive and help his neighbours, provides an excellent edifying lesson regarding the relationship between knowledge and life. Life and the efforts of knowledge are mutually fulfilled, on the path of gaining an improved life. However, the Incarnation of the Son of God reveals even more, in regard to the relationship between knowledge and life: both are imprinted in man, by virtue of the plasticity of the human being forever! St. Maximus the Confessor underlines, in this sense, that man received from God the gift of existence, so that through the good existence, in cooperation with God, he may acquire the everlasting good existence (33).

Christian revelation shows to the world that "the deeds of efforts and momentary mercies are eternally imprinted in our being, which shows its depth from which nothing is erased anymore, not even eternity" (Staniloae 1987: 285). That is why life is the contents in which we are called to acquire, through knowledge, eternal good life, imprinting in us through the endeavours of knowledge, for eternity and its fruits. True knowledge supports or illuminates man's life for eternal life.

"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." (John 17: 3).

The struggle for knowing and approaching God, through faith and the Holy Sacraments, places all the other efforts of knowledge and life in the path towards the supreme plasticity of the being: deification. It is the life full of God's grace that man lives full of love for Him, open to the contemplation of all mysteries of the world, with wonder and gratitude, and with endless and equal kindness for all men, never tired of serving them. This is the life fed by knowing Him, by His kindness and love for us, the course of continual improvement, which empowers the one who is struggling to avoid the captivity of Creation, the temptations of the inequitable, passionate uses.

With these meanings, and with the life of faith hidden in Him, Christian theology can inspire the quest of today's world, in the face of the recent challenges of science and civilization. However, the same meanings place upon each of us an immense responsibility for every moment in life, for every effort of knowledge, for every action. Because each of these are opportunities, invaluable chances of transforming the person towards ever greater communion with God and our fellow men, real possibilities for spiritual training in the ecclesial life, for an ever more complete entrusting of our persons to His Person.


(1) What physics calls vacuum or void differs, of course, from what we commonly understand by nothingness or vacuum, being a state that constitutes energy fluctuations, that is, particle-antiparticle pairs that appear and disappear without ceasing.

(2) For example, the fact that the presence of an electrical charge determines a polarization of the vacuum in its vicinity may be an example of how the electromagnetic interaction could receive such representation.

(3) Explanations, easy to understand, in this matter can be found in Rees 2000: 141.

(4) On another occasion, we presented arguments that indicate that the "nothingness" that Christian theology refers to in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is neither the same as the quantum energy void, to which it refers physically, nor with the "nothingness" present in reflection metaphysics. We emphasized, however, that the theological perspective also finds in these considerations concerning the quantum void particularly relevant aspects (see the paragraph "The void energy an the history of the Universe", in chapter 8 of Mihalache 2016).

(5) The quantum fluctuations that explain the current distribution of matter in the Universe also imply the existence of quantum laws: "The origin of universes as a result of quantum laws, of inflation fields or of any other major properties of the string theory depends on the preexistence of those laws or fields. Thus, even the most skeptical scientist cannot avoid this faith." (Haisch 2013: 2),

(6) In other words, no formal system made up of a finite set of axioms and deduction rules will ever be able to encompass the whole body of the truths of mathematics (Cf. Livio 2017: 218).

(7) If in mathematics, the ideal of obtaining a complete and logically consistent set of axioms is out of question, then the chances of obtaining a similar set of results in physics are practically minimal (Cf. Heller 2006: 229)

(8) Extract from Werner Heisenberg, Physique et Philosophie, La Science moderne en revolution, trad. J. Hadamard. Paris: Albin Michel, 1961. Apud Cuny H (1969) Werner Heisenberg si mecanica cuantica. Bucuresti: Stiintifica.

(9) This is attributed to Andre Brack (astrobiologist) (see Brack 1998), who underlined the fact that the terrestrial geological evolution hides several mysteries and that the current theories regarding this issue are not supported (Cf. Gregersen 2007: 112).

(10) Some authors also propose an analogy that suggests the share of the unknown in the understanding of mental activity: how dark matter, having an unfolded structure, is part of the current cosmological picture (about 3/4 of the whole matter in the universe) could suggest how the unconscious is the broad and little known part of the psychic, demanding extensive and difficult investigations (Cf. Gold 2013: 33).

(11) It is stated that for any insoluble recursive problem there is another problem of even greater degree of insolubility (Gavriliu 1998: 119).

(12) LXX renders by one Greel verb [phrase omitted] [poieo] two Jewish verbs, bara' ("create"), to refer only to God as subject, and asah ("make") (Cf. Badilita et al. 2004: 51, note 1).

(13) Such conception was shared by St. Justin the Martyr and the Philosopher. Referring to the way God made the world, he states that it was through the Word of God and the primary elements: earth, water and pneuma (Cf. Vannier 2003: 9).

(14) Cronologically, the creation ex nihilo is usually related to the monotheism of the Semitic peoples (Cf. Long 1993: 94-95).

(15) Fr. D. Staniloae mentions here the Russian theologian Boris Viseslavtev (see Staniloae 1996: 275).

(16) The recent expansion of these researches, as well as the wide circulation of their ideas and outcomes at the level of the general public, increase the need for careful examinations not only from an ethical perspective. It is also important to elaborate a theological perspective for these new areas of work. In connection with this, we believe that the acceptance of all existing perspectives without a critical spirit, but also their undifferentiated rejection, on the grounds that they come from reductionist approaches, should be avoided.

(17) Such differences can be found in the very same science. In physics, for example, describing a macroscopic phenomenon (moving a ball on an inclined plane) requires a simple mathematical tool. The way in which the movement occurs and its description offer the possibility of precise formulations regarding the later evolution of the system. The situation is different if we refer to the description of a quantum event. The difference between the two descriptions is obviously the nature of the investigated objects. In the second case, precision is limited by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and requires another language. In general, the complexity of phenomena, their random nature, very large dimensions (cosmic scale), or very small (the ladder or string scale scale of the quantum gravity), but also the extent to which the phenomena are observable (if they can be noticed now can be measured in real time, or if, on the contrary, they happened in a very distant past, as is the case with the primordial cosmology event, the Big Bang explosion, constrains the descriptive device. For other such considerations, see Flonta 2016: 188-189.

(18) This concept, which was originally applied to situations that sought to understand mechanical systems, was then applied with reference to economic or social realities (Alter, Oppenheimer and Zemla 2010: 436-451).

(19) Two papers presenting arguments on this tragic journey: Wijkman and Rockstrom 2013; Reeves 2005.

(20) Europe's recent past, for example, supports this finding. During the First World War, a research writes, "Europe was self-destructing in trenches, at the cost of millions of deaths, precisely when it was considered the most civilized, the most advanced, the most philosophical area in the world... to be cultivated does not prevent barbarism..." (Pol-Droit 2012).

(21) Even the scholars with radical views in the reductionist approach admit that the organization of life only on scientific basis is due to fail: "the Judeo-Christian image of mankind... assured a minimal moral consensus in everyday life. This has been a major factor in social cohesion. Now, when neuroscience irrevocably disintegrated the Judeo-Christian image of the human being containing an immortal spark of divinity, we began to realize that they did not substitute it for anything that could hold society together and provide a common basis for moral intuitions and values we share. Immediately after the discoveries of neurosciences, an anthropological and ethical vacuum could occur." (Metzinger 2015)

(22) These remarks brings us close to the philocalic fathers. Here is a revealing fragment: ,,Cel ce preface prin imitare legile fapturilor in lege proprie este virtuos, umpland de ratiune miscarea celor lipsite de ratiune. Iar cel ce preface tot prin imitare, legea sa in legi de-ale fapturilor, e patimas, facand nerational ceea ce e rational" (Maximus the Confessor 2009: 210). "He who changesby imitation the laws of the beings in one's own law is virtuous, filling with reason the motion of the unreasonable. And he who changes through imitation his law into the laws of the beings, is passionate, rendering unreasonable what is rational." (Ibidem).

(23) David Dunning, in interview with Erol Morris, New York Times Opinionator, June 20, 2010, Apud Sloman and Fernbach 2017: 304-305. Here is an excellent argument that supports the opening of each expert to the other areas of knowledge, and leaving the captivity of the reductionist approaches!

(24) For situations where sensory stimulation weakens self-control, see Robb et al 2015: 9811-9822.

(25) "The departure from the world, writes Theolith of Philadelphia, brings shelter onto Christ. And the world I call clinging to the things subjected to the senses and to the body" (Teolipt 1999: 45). By departing from the world does not imply for the monk distance from the reality of the outsiders, but the inward state of denial of the passionate attachment to "the things subjected to the senses and to the flesh" (Staniloae D, note 2, In: Teolipt 1999: 46).

(26) In fact, that is how knowledge is possible. "Passion and those subjected to the senses were created to serve the mind" (Thalassios the Libyan 2010: 72), being so closely linked that, whatever may be absent, it will prevent the other from showing its works (Symeon the New Theologian 2011: 84).

(27) The fact that in neuroscience research it has been found that what we have accumulated from an experience (exercising the attention of one thing, for example) somehow decides the ease with which we will gain experience, from our efforts is remarkable (see Baniel 2014: 54-55). We adapt, therefore, to a particular effort, making it with greater ease, as we repeat it. Here we find a rapprochement with Peter Damaschin's philocalic observation, namely that the mind "takes the shape of everything that it receives and takes the colour according to what it knows" (Peter Damaschin 1995: 106).

(28) See Adam Galinsky's research. For a comprehensive presentation, see Cuddy 2016: 132-155.

(29) The phrase "the body shapes the mind" belongs to Cuddy Ami (2016: 221). But it does not refer to the meaning of mind is rendered in Philokalia, but to a general mental disposition that cann be seen in the manner of interpretation, of understanding a particular fact or experience.

(30) Fasting, for example, may favour the birth of new neurons from neuronal stem cells (see Stangl and Thuret 2009). It also influences in a positive manner the neural network connectivity by increasing the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Mental exercises or spiritual life produce changes in brain structure and functionality (neuroplasticity) that potentiate brain plasticity (Wei Wu et al 2008; Holzel et al 2011: 36)

(31) We have already mentioned that, according to some research, a situation can be judged differently, using "reason" or "empathically", depending on how the person relates to the situation. Other authors have suggested that there should be several patterns of thought: causal, abstract, binary, reductive, quantitative, emotional holistic and value. The causal operator, for example, is actually looking for causal sequences in reality, and is often used in the enterprise of natural sciences, while the abstract operator allows the formulation of general concepts based on particular data. (Cf. d'Aquili and Newberg 2001: 52-57.)

(32) For example, stress reduction, the practice of spiritual life can regulate the expression of genes responsible for the level of inflammation. Methyl groups appear that get attached to those genomic sequences responsible for glucocorticoid receptor production, thereby affecting the quality of response to stress. (Cf. Kaufer and Francis 2012)

Author Contributions

The author confirms being the sole contributor of this work and approved it for publication.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.


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Adrian Sorin Mihalache, PhD. Associated Professor at Dumitru Staniloae Faculty of Orthodox Theology. Alexandru Ioan Cuza University. Iasi, Romania;

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Title Annotation:neuroscience and Orthodox Christian spirituality
Author:Mihalache, Adrian Sorin
Publication:Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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