Two Contrasting Paradigms of Science: Cartesian Mechanism and Undivided Wholeness

By Siddharth G. Chatterjee.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Building on the ideas of the theoretical physicist David Bohm, this paper postulates that Cartesian Mechanism (CM), which is the current philosophical paradigm of modern science, is derived from a more fundamental paradigm – one that is based on undivided wholeness (UW). After a discussion on the nature of scientific theory, the paper contrasts the chief elements of CM, which postulates that an entity or a process (i.e., a whole) can be broken down into a certain number of fundamental parts (e.g., a photograph), against those of UW according to which the whole is primary while a part is a conceptual abstraction from the whole, which the part also contains (e.g., a hologram). The two worldviews are illustrated by simple examples. Two phenomena are then examined from the chemical engineering field. Mathematical models are presented for (a) unsteady-state physical gas absorption in a liquid, and (b) adsorption of a species in a single, spherical adsorbent pellet. The theoretical expressions for the instantaneous rates of absorption and adsorbate uptake exhibit holographic features, i.e., they contain or enfold the entire process history up to that instant. Only under special circumstances, e.g., when the turbulence level is high [case (a)] or at large times [cases (a) and (b)], they reduce or collapse into their standard, widely-used photographic forms (i.e., effect of past history is insignificant). Thus, the mechanistic (i.e., unfolded) order of everyday experience in which events appear to be separated in time and space may be a projection from a deeper (i.e., enfolded) order of reality. This has profound implications for the physical sciences and for present-day humanity that is rent by social divisions of various kinds.

Keywords: Paradigms, Cartesian Mechanism, Undivided Wholeness, Adsorption, Gas Absorption

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.75-93. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 925.233KB).

Dr Siddharth G. Chatterjee

Associate Professor, Department of Paper and Bioprocess Engineering, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York, USA

Dr. Chatterjee received his Bachelor’s Degree in Technology with Honors from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, all in Chemical Engineering. He has taught courses on air pollution engineering, water pollution engineering, engineering economics, engineering design, mathematical methods in chemical engineering, ordinary differential equations for engineers and scientists, partial differential equations for engineers and scientists, bioprocess plant design, air quality, thermodynamics and heat transfer, and bioprocess engineering design. He has worked in the areas of hydraulic design of tray and packed towers, hydraulic design of mist eliminators and liquid distributor, process and fluid-flow simulation, air and water pollution control, gas absorption, membrane filtration, adsorption, distillation, renewable energy, moisture transport in paper, evaporative cooling, and autohydrolysis of wood. His research interests are in the areas of philosophy of science, air and water pollution control, alternative energy, heat and mass transfer, separation processes, reaction engineering, mathematical modeling, and simulation. Besides having publications in scientific journals in the above-mentioned fields, he is the co-author of a book titled When Worlds Unite - East meets West (SONTA, Kolkata, India, 2012).