Signs and Portents: How Physics Points Beyond Itself into a Richer Reality

poster for Pari Center's Longing for Wholeness

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event Longing for Wholeness, in Pari from August 27 to September 3, 2024.

Physics may reveal the mind of God, but only if he happens to be thinking about dirt.  Ken Wilber.

In the 21st century, quantum theory and the physics of complex systems have, for different reasons, loosened the straitjacket of cause and effect that strangled the worldview of classical physics. For the first time, physics is starting to describe a world more like the reality that our day-to-day mental life occupies. If we add in the success of cosmology, we see that the universe is intelligible, governed by laws of great beauty and anthropically fruitful. 

I will take a high-level flight over these branches of physics, drawing out their main features and conclusions. We will see that the dust has far from settled on materialism. Indeed, as various key physicists have noted, we may see signs of a deeper reality at work. 

The world may be a much more hospitable place that, in a sense, ‘knew that we were coming.’

Jonathan Allday was born in Liverpool in 1960. He did his first degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge in 1982 and then returned to Liverpool to complete a PhD in elementary particle physics. As part of this, he was fortunate to spend some time working at the European particle physics centre, CERN, in Geneva.

Also, during that time he was co-opted onto a working party looking at the teaching of particle physics in schools and universities. The upshot was a new syllabus in particle physics and cosmology to be added to UK A-level (16-18) physics qualifications. The first questions were set in 1992.

On the back of the work on this syllabus, Jonathan wrote his first book Quarks, Leptons and the Big Bang, which was published in 1998 and is about to enter its fourth edition. Jonathan has also collaborated on a couple of textbooks and written his own books on Quantum Theory, General Relativity and the Apollo moon missions.

Professionally, Jonathan worked as a physics teacher for 30 years in a variety of independent day and boarding schools in the UK. He was a head of physics, a head of science and latterly an academic deputy head. He retired in 2020 and now runs a consulting company providing training and educational advice for schools.

Jonathan is married to Carolyn, and they have three sons all of whom are far better at sport than he was. Carolyn was a GB swimmer, which explains how come the boys can do sport. Jonathan and Carolyn live in a hamlet not far from Worcester in the UK. When not writing or consulting, Jonathan enjoys watching cricket, James Bond movies and Formula 1 races.