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Frontier Science Defined

        The modern formal process of gathering knowledge and gaining understanding about the natural world is called science. As an organized method of inquiry into understanding the natural world, its methods are very young, only 400 years old, but it has proven to be an extremely successful discipline that is responsible for many aspects of our modern technological society. Over the years, science has developed a very powerful and successful protocol to investigate new phenomena. This protocol is called the scientific method of inquiry or scientific method for short. It is based on observation, hypothesis, experimentation, repeatability, and peer review. Using this method of inquiry, only when multiple independent efforts have duplicated and validated the experimental results are the new theories accepted.

 &nbs         As productive as the scientific method has been, it is heavily influenced by prevailing paradigms. Like all previous civilizations throughout history, these paradigms are based on a set of largely unstated assumptions about who and what we really are, what kind of universe we live in, and what is largely important to us. These assumptions spill over into science just as they do into all human endeavors. Science has been tremendously successful in the last few hundred years in making our material existence more comfortable. Because of its successes our existing world view is heavily influenced by the interpretations and pronouncements of the findings and discoveries of science. So when science proclaims there is no meaning or purpose to our lives and that we are nothing more than biological machines here as a result of some random acts of nature, it creates a huge conflict with our intuitive spiritual understanding of our connection and relationship with all of creation.

        For anyone attempting to investigate nature beyond the existing paradigms of science, their task can be very challenging indeed. These investigations are usually described as frontier science. Because it challenges the very foundations of existing paradigms, frontier science is often met with great resistance by the prevailing scientific establishment. This establishment is the one that usually controls the funding for new research proposals. So when research proposals fall outside existing accepted paradigms and attempt to push the boundaries of our knowledge into uncharted territories, they are often summarily rejected and unfunded.

       Funding for frontier science research has always been problematic at best. Although most of the great breakthroughs throughout the history of science have resulted from the efforts of frontier scientists, in recent years frontier science investigations now face a new and significant challenge. Much of the scientific research in the world today is supported, controlled or heavily influenced by corporate interests. These interests are much more focused on applied research than basic research. For in applied research there is a much less risk and higher potential for pay-back that will affect the corporate bottom line then long term basic research which is much riskier but which will significantly enhance and extend humanity’s understanding of nature. Although the outcome of basic research is highly risky and unpredictable, it often leads to all kinds of long term shifts in perspectives, innovations and applications that were totally unanticipated at the start of the research effort. >       In frontier science the risks of achieving major breakthroughs are high but the rewards can also be huge and paradigm shattering. However with risk-adverse corporations controlling the purse strings of research and development programs, a much smaller percentage of funding is now allocated to basic research and frontier science exploration. This is problematic since frontier science is perhaps the best means now at our disposal to acquire new knowledge and insights about the nature of reality. With all the pressing problems our civilization is currently facing, a fundamental change in perspective and understanding is sorely needed.>       In just a relatively short span of time, science and resultant technological innovation have completely transformed life on our planet. They have brought about dramatic improvement in the quality and longevity of life, as well as the human condition in general. What’s more, the threshold of discovery has been barely crossed. The greatest achievements and contributions of science have yet to materialize. Many more significant breakthroughs may soon come about perhaps within the next few decades. All of these breakthroughs have greatly advanced the material aspects of our lives but they have done little to advance our understanding our spirituality, our relationship to the cosmos, to supply us with answers about the nature of existence or to give us a sense of meaning and purpose for our lives.

       In the future, one of the greatest breakthroughs will likely come from the study of interactions between information, energy and matter specifically in the context of their relationship to consciousness. These breakthroughs, when they occur, will help us arrive at an entirely new understanding or comprehension of the true nature of reality and our place in it. This shift in perception of the nature of reality could open our eyes to tremendous possibilities, enabling us to construct an optimal future for all manner of life on our planet.

       Frontier science is critically under-funded as we have seen. Most research funding, whether in the form of government or private grants, or charitable giving, flows strictly into the coffers of mainstream, institutional, academic, conventional science, which usually is more focused on contributions and payback to the corporate bottom line. But as frontier science gathers a greater head of steam through growing awareness of the value of its unique role in the mining of new knowledge, the availability of funding for its critical research initiatives will hopefully improve. That day cannot come soon enough, for the potential benefits to be realized by allocating greater support for the work of frontier science will far and away exceed whatever the dollar cost might be.

       Some who consider themselves frontier scientists would consider it to be multi-disciplinary, non-institutional, off-campus science, literally based in one’s garage, home-office or warehouse laboratory performing research or experimentation or theory construction on the outer fringe of what established science would consider acceptable. It is their off-hours full time job while their day-time job is often in academic or corporate applied research labs pursuing incremental discoveries leading to ever greater profits for their employers or sponsors. Frontier science typically operates on a shoestring budget, oftentimes funded by the frontier scientists themselves out of their own pockets, at least for those who are highly motivated and driven by fire-in-the-belly syndrome who cannot find funding for their own work elsewhere.

       Many would agree that frontier science is unfettered, untethered and unaffiliated science on the leading edge of discovery, unimpeded by institutional politics or academic territorialism or scholarly egocentrism. Frontier science, they would say, is not a servant to grant procurement, publishing, impressing one’s peers, pursuit of tenure, or courting the favor of philanthropists, corporate titans or government funding sources and the like.

        To be sure, true frontier science serves no masters and is not beholden to any special interest, such as government or the corporate sector or individual benefactors. It has no special loyalty to established belief systems, theories, paradigms or models. Rather, it thrives on pushing the envelope in rigorous pursuit of genuine breakthrough discoveries.

        Certainly, it is fair to say that frontier science can be non-traditional, unconventional, innovative and improvisational, perhaps even somewhat eccentric by consensual standards. Frontier scientists are often the proverbial loose cannons, the boat rockers, and the ones who maintain their penchant for pushing the envelope ever further, increasingly beyond its normal limit even when told by the mainstream that what they are seeking is impossible. In spite of the obstacles, they are driven by the force of their convictions.

         Frontier science is usually populated by maverick radical thinkers and visionary revolutionaries who operate outside of the prevailing scientific paradigms box. They are not usually bounded by existing assumptions, intellectual predispositions or preconceived notions, nor are they interested in doing “Bureau of Standards” type scientific work, or becoming the sycophant slaves of funding sources. Rather, the only master they serve is the burden of empirical proof using the scientific method, or new inventive variations of such. Often, frontier scientists are found on the extreme edge or cusp of new understanding and knowledge. They offer the freshest thinking from the most open minds, sometimes chancing upon breakthrough discoveries in the most fortuitous fashion.

        To call frontier scientists rebels in their respective fields would not be inappropriate, for they often are distinguished by their unconventional pursuits. They are the unsung heroes of science today, mostly ostracized and outcast by their peers for going against the grain. But if the popular adage holds merit that science advances only at the funeral of one established scientist after another, it would not apply to the imaginative men and women of frontier science, who cannot help themselves but to go opposite of prevailing winds, trends and currents. They willingly pay a dear price for this, but they reason that the pleasure that may come from the contributions they believe they will make to the advancement of knowledge should more than offset the pain and sacrifice they must endure to carry out their vital work.

        This is not to suggest that conventional, institutional, mainstream science lacks merit or fails to make meaningful contributions to the advancement of knowledge or that it seldom if ever can be credited with major discoveries. Nothing is further from the truth. Conventional science is enormously important and valuable. Its accomplishments are astounding and it continues to impress. Nor does it imply that all frontier scientists are always pursuing noble goals. Every human endeavor has its share of crackpots and unrealistic dreamers.

        Mainstream science, especially outside of the disciplines of modern physics and cosmology is still largely based on the Newtonian model of reality imparted by Sir Isaac Newton. This model considers all of reality to be derived entirely from that which is physical or material, meaning that which is observable and can be quantified or measured. It considers all phenomena to be derivative of physical and material processes. It totally rejects the notion that reality might also contain a non- physical dimension, such as our consciousness that might exist separate yet interacting with physical-material properties and processes. Materialist science rejects outright the notion of a human soul, as there is no proof of its existence, and considers consciousness to be solely a by-product of electro-chemical processes in the human brain.

       Critics of this model say that it succumbs to nihilism, reductionism and materialism. Moreover, they argue that it does not adequately explain the full spectrum of phenomena found in nature, especially the rather intriguing matter of consciousness and its interrelationship with matter and energy in influencing reality. This is where conventional science and frontier science seem to part the company with one another.

        One highly promising area of frontier science is the inquiry into the nature of consciousness, as well as its apparent influence on matter and energy. Conventional science, on the other hand, is dismissive of consciousness as an epiphenomena of bio-chemical brain processes and does not consider it of any import whatsoever at any level of reality. Yet, it could well be that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of nature serving as an important link between the observable and the unobservable realms of nature.

         To be sure, both conventional and frontier science have a rightful and legitimate place at the table where knowledge is sought and found for the greater benefit of all. Both fulfill important functions in the overall scheme of things. And, although both forms of science and their methodologies are far from perfect, they remain the best means humanity has yet devised to advance knowledge and discovery. Moreover, they remain the best available and most credible arbiter for distinguishing that which is true from that which is false.

        Scientists, like theologians and religious leaders, can become hopelessly imprisoned by their own dogmas, beliefs, models, theories and doctrines. Their intellects can become encrusted and rigid. They can be as change-resistant and recalcitrant as the most stubborn everyday human beings. But stubborn adherence to fixed ways of viewing reality or perceiving any given phenomena never serves the pursuit of objective truth. Sometimes, even the most prominent thinkers fall victim to this mind trap.

        Knowledge procured by frontier science may be our best hope for achieving the brightest possible future for humanity. Once fully embraced and accepted by mainstream science, it will furnish new insights into the huge questions concerning life’s meaning and purpose. Frontier scientists are closing in on answers to who we are and why we’re here, and where we may be heading in the future if we resolve to make smart enlightened choices. When this knowledge becomes popularly understood and integrated into consensual belief systems, it will light a path out of the darkness and despair now upon the face of the land. It might occasion a whole new beginning or turning point for humanity.