Wolfgang Smith

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Contextual Quote

"It is possible to link the scientific method to any underlying ontology, or to none at all. Working then into the second question, he proposes linking the scientific method — and thus the modern sciences — to a non-bifurcationist, non-reductionist metaphysics in the form of a modified Thomistic ontology, showing how such a move resolves the apparent incoherences of quantum mechanics."


1. From the Wikipedia:

"In parallel with his academic duties, he developed and still develops philosophical inquiries in the fields of metaphysics and the philosophy of science, publishing in specialized journals such as The Thomist and Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies.

Smith is a member of the Traditionalist School of metaphysics, having contributed extensively to its criticism of modernity while exploring the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method and emphasizing the idea of bringing science back into the Aristotelian framework of traditional ontological realism.

Identifying with Alfred North Whitehead's critique of the "bifurcationism" and "physical reductionism" of scientism — i.e., the belief that, first, the qualitative properties of the objects of perception ("corporeal" objects) are ultimately distinct from their respective quantitative properties (the "physical" objects studied by the various sciences); and second, that physical objects are in fact all there is, meaning corporeal objects are reduced to their physical counterparts — Smith examines critically in his work Cosmos and Transcendence (1984) the Cartesian roots of modern science.

Proceeding with his critique of scientism in his monograph, The Quantum Enigma (1995), Smith raises the questions of whether the scientific method is in fact dependent on the scientistic philosophy and, if it is not, whether linking it to other philosophical frameworks would provide better solutions to the way physical phenomena are interpreted. Demonstrating that neither the scientific method nor its results require adhering to a scientistic metaphysics, he answers in the negative to the first question, resulting in the conclusion that it is possible to link the scientific method to any underlying ontology, or to none at all. Working then into the second question, he proposes linking the scientific method — and thus the modern sciences — to a non-bifurcationist, non-reductionist metaphysics in the form of a modified Thomistic ontology, showing how such a move resolves the apparent incoherences of quantum mechanics.

According to Smith, this interpretation of quantum mechanics allows for the usage of the hylomorphic concepts of potency and act to properly understand quantum superposition. For example, instead of considering that a photon is "simultaneously a wave and a particle" or "a particle in two distinct positions," one may consider that the photon (or any other physical object) at first does not exist in act, but only in potency; i.e., as "matter" in the hylomorphic meaning of the term, having the potential of becoming "a wave or a particle," or "of being here or there." Whether one of these outcomes will happen to this undifferentiated matter is dependent on the determination imposed upon it by the macroscopic corporeal object that provides its actualization. A photon, thus, would be no more strange for having many potentials than, say, an individual who has the "superposed" potentials of learning French and/or Spanish and/or Greek, all the while reading and/or walking and/or stretching his arms. A further consequence of this interpretation is that a corporeal object and its "associated physical object" are not dichotomized or reduced one to the other anymore but, on the contrary, altogether constitute a whole of which different aspects are dealt with depending upon perspective.

Smith's understanding of the relationship between corporeal and physical objects extends to his interpretation of biology, where he has become an opponent of Darwinian evolution, as the fundamental element in a species would be its form, not its causal history, which evolutionists favor. This leads him to be a supporter of the intelligent design movement, though his own hylomorphic approach is not widely adopted by mainstream intelligent design theorists (who, like evolutionists, also favor causal history, albeit differently).

Smith has also taken a stance towards a relativistic rehabilitation of geocentrism. He does not support a Ptolemaic or medieval geocentrism unequivocally, nor assert that heliocentrism is absolutely false. Rather, he argues that, according to the theory of relativity, both heliocentrism and geocentrism have scientific merit, insofar as scientific observation depends upon the reference frame of the observer. Consequently, any observations made from Earth (or any near-Earth satellites) are in effect geocentric."


2. From the publisher, Angelico Press:

"Wolfgang Smith was born in Vienna in 1930. At age eighteen he graduated from Cornell University with majors in physics, mathematics, and philosophy. At age twenty he received his Master’s degree in theoretical physics from Purdue University, and climbed the Matterhorn. After contributing to the theoretical solution of the re-entry problem as an aerodynamicist at Bell Aircraft Corporation, Smith earned his doctorate in Mathematics at Columbia University, subsequently embarking upon a 30-year career as a Professor of Mathematics at MIT, UCLA, and Oregon State University. Despite his impeccable credentials in physics, mathematics, and philosophy, Wolfgang Smith is at heart an outsider not only in regard to these academic disciplines, but more profoundly, in reference to the post-Enlightenment premises of our contemporary world. Finding himself, thus, irreconcilably at odds with the prevailing Zeitgeist, Smith decided to forego a professional career in the fields of his primary interest—i.e., physics and philosophy—in favor of pure mathematics: the one and only academic discipline, he avers, in which “political correctness” can find no foothold. And so he enjoyed the luxury of pursuing a respected university career while being at liberty, as he puts it, “to remain perfectly sane.” It is no wonder, then, that when he finally confronted the so-called quantum enigma, Smith perceived the issue in a very different light than his peers. The problem all along had actually not been “technical”! It was not a question to be resolved by way of differential equations, nor primarily a matter of finding something new—but one of jettisoning an entire Weltanschauung. And for Wolfgang Smith this posed no difficulty: he had in fact done so decades earlier, as can be discerned in his remarkable series of publications."



Wolfgang Smiths's Critique of Teilhard de Chardin

(as argued in his book: Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy, 1988; originally published as: Teilhardism and the New Religion.)

From the Wikipedia:

"Wolfgang Smith, an American scientist versed in Catholic theology, devotes an entire book to the critique of Teilhard's doctrine, which he considers neither scientific (assertions without proofs), nor Catholic (personal innovations), nor metaphysical (the "Absolute Being" is not yet absolute),[54] and of which the following elements can be noted (all the words in quotation marks are Teilhard's, quoted by Smith) :

* Evolution: For Teilhard, evolution is not only a scientific theory but an irrefutable truth "immune from any subsequent contradiction by experience "; it constitutes the foundation of his doctrine. Matter becomes spirit and humanity moves towards a super-humanity thanks to complexification (physico-chemical, then biological, then human), socialization, scientific research and technological and cerebral development;[57] the explosion of the first atomic bomb is one of its milestones,[58] while waiting for "the vitalization of matter by the creation of super-molecules, the remodeling of the human organism by means of hormones, control of heredity and sex by manipulation of genes and chromosomes [...]".

* Matter and spirit: Teilhard maintains that the human spirit (which he identifies with the anima and not with the spiritus) originates in a matter which becomes more and more complex until it produces life, then consciousness, then the consciousness of being conscious, holding that the immaterial can emerge from the material.At the same time, he supports the idea of the presence of embryos of consciousness from the very genesis of the universe: "We are logically forced to assume the existence [...] of some sort of psyche" infinitely diffuse in the smallest particle.

* Theology: Affirming that "God creates evolutively", he denies the Book of Genesis, not only because it attests that God created man, but that he created him in his own image, thus perfect and complete, then that man fell, that is to say the opposite of an ascending evolution. That which is metaphysically and theologically "above" - symbolically speaking - becomes for Teilhard "ahead", yet to come; even God, who is neither perfect nor timeless, evolves in symbiosis with the World,[note 1] which Teilhard, a resolute pantheist,[65] venerates as the equal of the Divine. As for Christ, not only is he there to activate the wheels of progress and complete the evolutionary ascent, but he himself evolves.

  • New religion: As he wrote to a cousin: "What dominates my interests increasingly is the effort to establish in me and define around me a new religion (call it a better Christianity, if you will)...", and elsewhere: "a Christianity re-incarnated for a second time in the spiritual energies of Matter". The more Teilhard refines his theories, the more he emancipates himself from established Christian doctrine: a "religion of the earth" must replace a "religion of heaven". By their common faith in Man, he writes, Christians, Marxists, Darwinists, materialists of all kinds will ultimately join around the same summit: the Christic Omega Point."



  • Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy (1988; originally published as Teilhardism and the New Religion)
  • The Quantum Enigma: Finding the Hidden Key (1995)
  • Christian Gnosis: From Saint Paul to Meister Eckhart (2008)
  • Science and Myth: With a Response to Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design (2012)
  • In Quest of Catholicity: Malachi Martin Responds to Wolfgang Smith (2016)
  • Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality (2019)
  • The Vertical Ascent: From Particles to the Tripartite Cosmos and Beyond (2021)