EFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Today we're going to talk about quantum physics and related philosophical notions, and their impact on our culture. My guest, Dr. Fritjof Capra, is the author of The Tao of Physics, and also The Turning Point, and is a member of the staff of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Welcome to the program, Fritjof.
FRITJOF CAPRA, Ph.D.: Hello.
MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here. You know, it seems as if around the turn of the century many developments happened all at once that really changed our culture -- Freudian psychology, modern art, quantum physics. Do you see these things as being related somehow?
CAPRA: Absolutely. I think, and I've come to believe, that consciousness, the collective consciousness, changes in certain phases, and this was such a phase of dramatic change of consciousness, a shift of the collective consciousness -- in art, in science, and in various other fields.
MISHLOVE: In your book The Turning Point you describe what you talk of as a new culture, a new holistic or integral culture, that's on the rise now, whereas the old Western culture, with its mechanistic linear models, is in a decline.
CAPRA: Right. I follow people like Sorokin, for instance, and I follow Hegel and the I Ching and various traditions and philosophical schools that have seen development of consciousness and of society as a cyclical process -- a process of fluctuations, of cyclical changes. And so cultures and civilizations rise, and then they reach a culmination point, and then they decline, and as they decline a new culture will arise and tackle new problems with new ingenuity and new creativity. This is what happened at the turn of the century -- that the old culture, which was basically the scientific culture of the seventeenth century, of the Enlightenment and Newtonian physics and the Copernican revolution -- that this way of seeing the world, in mechanistic terms, in reductionist terms, has come to a close and is now declining. And what is rising is a more holistic or more ecological way of seeing things.
MISHLOVE: You mentioned Sorokin, Pitirim Sorokin, who founded the Department of Social Relations at Harvard University, one of the first and great sociologists of this century. He made the point that cultures are predicated upon ideas or concepts, that a culture revolves around basically a metaphysical principle. The old culture revolved around the metaphysics of materialism. Today it seems as if the bedrock of our materialistic science is quantum physics. Yet it seems as if quantum physics itself is no longer materialistic in the nineteenth-century sense of things.
CAPRA: That's right. What quantum physics has brought was a dissolution of the notion of hard and solid objects, and also a dissolution of the notion that there are fundamental building blocks of matter. When you study the smallest pieces of matter that we know, the subatomic particles, you can do that only when you have large instruments -- particle accelerators and bubble chambers and detectors and all these large apparatus. And when you then study the processes at the level of the very small, you find that you can only talk about probabilities. That's very well known. Since quantum mechanics we know that all these laws and regularities can only be formulated in terms of probabilities. But then you ask, what are these probabilities of? And you find they are probabilities of making a certain measurement, of these large-scale instruments interacting in a certain way. So whatever you say about the smallest pieces comes back to the large pieces -- can be expressed only in probabilities, in terms of the large pieces. It's sort of a circular situation.
MISHLOVE: In other words, everything is interconnected.
CAPRA: Yes, and it's interconnected in such a way that the properties of the smallest pieces depend on the properties of the whole. So in other words, whereas before we believed that the dynamics of the whole can be explained in principle --