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"But nature gives most of her evidence in answer to the questions we ask her. Here, as in the courts, the character of the evidence depends on the shape of the examination, and a good cross-examiner can do wonders. He will not indeed elicit falsehoods from an honest witness. But, in relation to the total truth in the witness's mind, the structure of the examination is like a stencil. It determines how much of that total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest. " - C.S. Lewis (The Discarded Image)

Like any human endeavor, the direction of scientific research is influenced by the perspectives of the people involved. The types of questions asked and the culture of the field depend on the objective that drives the research. For example, common objectives for scientific research are technological advances, national security, economic growth, or the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. In defining and developing science integration as a field of study we're carving out an additional niche for research guided by the aim of developing a clearer perspective on our role as conscious creatures within the overall framework of the universe. By necessity it as a very interdisciplinary field that includes any area of science where the insights uncovered have a direct impact on our perception of our place within the universe, and also includes the study of how people assimilate these principles to make them part of the personal knowledge they use to interact with the world on a daily basis.

Because it's a broad and interdisciplinary subject, it can be difficult to find an intellectual home for people to do the work of assimilating and integrating information from science into a form that is useful for people seeking perspective and meaning in their lives. As science integration continues to develop we hope it will provide a home and a supportive community for researchers in many areas of science whose work is focused on this objective.

Here are some examples of research topics that contribute to our perspective on our relationship to the universe:

Please send us any suggestions or comments you'd like to add.

Organizing and summarizing our current scientific understanding of the universe

In the words of Gerald Feinberg, "(The goals of the human race) have not been reconsidered in light of the science of the past few hundred years." There is much work to be done in synthesizing what we know from many areas of modern science into a widely accessible form that is directly usable for evaluating our goals and considering the direction we want to be moving as a society.

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The physical basis for the arrow of time

Our everyday experience is dominated by a perception that the future is fundamentally different from the past. We remember the past but not the future, and we have the ability to change the future but not the past. The sense of urgency in our lives and our ability to feel regret about what we have done, are inextricably tied up with the fact that we live in a universe with a fundamental property of irreversibility. Yet it is unclear just how this dominant aspect of our experience connects with the fundamental laws of physics, which for the most part do not make a distinction between past and future. Work in this area is important in order to provide a bridge connecting the world of ordinary experience to the objective and abstract world described by physics.

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Constraints and limitations

At its most fundamental, our study of science could be seen as arising from the desire to understand the constraints and limitations we experience on what we can do and how we can do things. We can visit the moon, for example, but only by following specific rules and limitations that are imposed on us. We can't simply wish ourselves there. The development of this perspective on science could open up new ways of seeing ourselves and our everyday choices and actions as an integral part of the universe.

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Historical origins of the separation between science and meaning

A better understanding of how and why the rift was created in the first place will provide insight into how to repair it. At the same time, it will help make sure we don't discard any important aspect of the scientific method when we apply it to research questions whose answers may provide insight about human meaning. Of course, much work has been done on the history of science and the attitudes of society about science. We need to continue this, and focus on linking this work to the practical questions of how to change attitudes and reconnect science and meaning.

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What properties must a "meaningful" universe have?

Findings from science are often used as evidence that we live in a universe that is devoid of human meaning. But this negative impression primarily results from the errors science has pointed out in particular traditions for establishing meaning. If we can better articulate the essential properties that seem necessary for a "meaningful universe" we'll be in a position to see whether these properties are compatible (or not) with what we've learned about the universe. This might help dispel some of the sense many people have that to embrace science is to embrace a "meaningless" universe, with no place and no purpose for humans.

Participate in this project by taking our survey.

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What causes us to reject scientific ideas?

It is important to learn exactly what people are looking for that they think a "scientific" world cannot provide, and that many turn to pseudoscience or other sources to find. In many cases, misunderstandings can lead to the belief that we must reject science in order to find what we're looking for. In this project, we will try to identify some of the key features of what we are looking for, what's leading us to feel these features are incompatible with a scientific view of the universe, and evaluate whether they may in fact be compatible (though perhaps in a modified form) with what science has revealed about nature.

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Quantum measurement theory

One of the most puzzling aspects of quantum mechanics is the role of measurement in the theory. When a measurement is made, a wave function which represented the probability of different states apparently "collapses" irreversibly. Although it's well understood how to predict the results of a measurement based on the wavefunction, the question of what makes one process a "measurement" of an observable, while another process does not constitute a measurement, is not so well understood. The rules of quantum mechanics seem to require a clear dividing line between systems which can be observed and analyzed in terms of the quantum formalism, and systems which act as classical "measuring devices" and cause the collapse of the wave function. Yet, there is no clear place to draw the distinction; a measuring device seems to be just a collection of many of the same kinds of simple systems to which quantum mechanics can be applied. It has been suggested that a conscious observer is needed to make a final measurement and collapse a wave function, but this is also puzzling. Surely any phenomenon which leaves behind an irreversible, indellible mark of what has occurred does so without the direct involvement of a conscious observer. In any case, an understanding of quantum measurements appears to be important to our understanding of concepts important to our search for human meaning, such as free will and the directionality of time.

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The anthropic principle in cosmology

It can certainly be argued that discussion of the "anthropic principle" opens the door to questionable science in some cases. Nevertheless, the questions it raises are very important: What type of universe is capable of supporting life? How likely or unlikely was it for our universe to generate the proper conditions? From the perspective of science integration, work in this area is important for shifting the focus of questioning onto our place in the universe, rather than just on the universe in general.

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Archeoastronomy and cultural anthropology on the role of cosmology in various cultures

Many cultures past and present have incorporated their cosmology much more closely into their daily lives than we do in modern western society. Understanding how different cultures have applied their cosmologies to their lives and social organization will be helpful in understanding how we might do this better ourselves.

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Nature and origin of life

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Food for thought:

"Regardless of different personal views about science, no credible understanding of the natural world or our human existence…can ignore the basic insights of theories as key as evolution, relativity, and quantum mechanics." - The Dalai Lama
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