Science Advisory Committee

While cracks in the metaphysical edifice of scientific materialism continue to widen, there remains a popular scientistic orthodoxy that prides itself upon having secured objectivity by eliminating any trace of intelligent human beings and even sentient organisms from its explanations of the universe. Scientific materialism treats mind and life as peripheral accidents that are ultimately explainable in terms of the mindless, lifeless reduction base of physics. The natural world studied by this scientistic mode of thought has been scrubbed clean of everything qualitative, value-laden, or purposive, leaving behind only what can be quantitatively measured and fed into computer models.

From Whitehead’s point of view, the situation contemporary physics and natural science more generally find themselves in is double-edged. On the one hand, new mathematical methods and more precise measuring instruments have enabled tremendous advances. On the other, despite being forced to demolish the old metaphysical foundations of classical physics in light of new discoveries, no new philosophically coherent foundation has been erected in their place. As he warned almost a century ago, the result is that natural science has “degenerated into a medley of ad hoc hypotheses” (Science and the Modern World, 18).

The strange nature of the universe described in the models of physics is losing all contact with the commonsense experience of human life. “The divergence of the formulae about nature from the appearance of nature,” Whitehead argued, “has robbed the formulae of any explanatory character” (Modes of Thought, 154). He was dissatisfied with the instrumentalization of physical theory and frustrated by the tendency of its materialist popularizers to marshal unexamined and inadequate metaphysics in an attempt at “brilliant feats of explaining away” all those aspects of nature (colors, sounds, feelings, etc.) deemed superfluous or epiphenomenal.

In place of a bifurcated reductionism, Whitehead sought to construct a more adequate metaphysical scheme in terms of which the new scientific discoveries could be understood to hang together with “the general consciousness of what in practice we experience” (Process and Reality, 17). For him, “the red glow of the sunset” that warms the hearts of poets must come to be understood as no less a part of nature than “the molecules and electric waves by which men of science would explain the phenomenon” (The Concept of Nature, 29).

Our Aims

The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, Seek simplicity and distrust it.
–Alfred North Whitehead

The Science Advisory Committee at the Cobb Institute is dedicated to furthering the vision of Whitehead and allied thinkers in an effort to bring forth a more integrated, relational, and experientially adequate approach to natural science and cosmology.

Our primary objectives are:

  • To build a network of process-oriented scientists and natural philosophers for the sharing of resources and ideas.
  • To record dialogues with process-oriented scientists and natural philosophers that raise awareness about this alternative approach to the study of nature.
  • To plan and host online and in-person conferences addressing the intersections of natural science and process-relational philosophy.

Committee Members

Matthew David Segall is a transdisciplinary researcher, writer, teacher, and philosopher applying process-relational thought across the natural and social sciences, as well as to the study of consciousness. He is Associate Professor in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness Program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA and the Chair of the Science Advisory Committee for the Cobb Institute.

Committee Chair

Jesse Bettinger does research in Neuroscience and Philosophy of Science. His most recent publication is "Conceptual foundations of physiological regulation incorporating the free energy principle and self-organized criticality" in Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews (2023), coauthored with Karl Friston.
John Buchanan - crop
John H. Buchanan received his master’s degree in humanistic/transpersonal psychology from West Georgia College and his doctorate from the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University, where he first studied process thought with William Beardslee, and later with David Griffin. He has been trained and certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner by Stan and Christina Grof. His book, Processing Reality: Finding Meaning in Death, Psychedelics, and Sobriety, based upon his continuing interests in process philosophy and transpersonal psychology, was published in the fall of 2022. Buchanan has contributed a number of journal articles and book chapters on similar topics, and in 2020 was contributing co-editor for Rethinking Consciousness: Extraordinary Challenges for Contemporary Science. Dr. Buchanan also serves as president of the Helios Foundation.
Ronny Desmet is a notable scholar particularly recognized for his contributions to the study of process philosophy and the work of Alfred North Whitehead. Desmet's academic pursuits are deeply rooted in the exploration of metaphysics, philosophy of science, and the interdisciplinary dialogue between philosophy and science, especially in the context of contemporary physics and cosmology. His work often focuses on the philosophical implications of scientific theories and the potential for process thought to provide a coherent and comprehensive framework for understanding the complexities of the natural world.

As an educator, Ronny Desmet has also played a crucial role in nurturing interest and understanding of process thought among students and scholars. His teachings and writings aim to bridge the gap between the abstract realms of metaphysical speculation and the empirical realities of scientific investigation, fostering a richer and more integrated approach to both philosophical inquiry and scientific exploration. Desmet holds a Masters degree in Mathematics (UA, 1983), a Masters in Philosophy (UA, 2005), and a Doctorate in Philosophy (VUB, 2010). His dissertation was on Whitehead's philosophy of mathematics and relativity.

Timothy E. Eastman, PhD was a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (retired) and has more than 40 years of experience in research and consulting in space physics, space science data systems, space weather, plasma applications, public outreach and education, and philosophy of science. Dr. Eastman’s interest in philosophy and philosophy of science extends over three decades with several journal publications in philosophy in addition to the SUNY volume. He is on International Advisory Boards for Process Studies and Studia Whiteheadiana (Poland), was lead editor of Physics and Speculative Philosophy (2016, DeGruyter Press). His latest book is Untying the Gordian Knot: Process, Reality, and Context (Lexington Books, 2020), which articulates a natural philosophy for the 21st century.
Àlex Gómez-Marín is a Spanish physicist turned neuroscientist. He holds a PhD in theoretical physics and a Masters in biophysics from the University of Barcelona. He was a research fellow at the EMBL-CRG Centre for Genomic Regulation and at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon. His research spans from the origins of the arrow of time to the neurobiology of action-perception loops across species, including flies, worms, mice, humans and robots. Since 2016 he is the head of the Behavior of Organisms Laboratory at the Instituto de Neurociencias in Alicante, where he is an Associate Professor of the Spanish Research Council. His latest research concentrates on human consciousness in the real world.
Jay Jones is Professor Emeritus of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of La Verne. His research interests include the effects of metals and gases on soil microbes and on plant fluorescence, remote sensing, biogeochemistry, diagenetic changes in biochemical components of plants (particularly cutin), plant physiology, and paleobotany.
Spyridon A. Koutroufinis is Privatdozent (Associate Professor) for philosophy at the Technical University of Berlin. Between 2012 and 2014 he was Visiting Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has specialized in process philosophy (Whitehead, Bergson), biophilosophy (Canguilhem, Uexküll et al.), classical metaphysics (Aristotle, Leibniz) and complexity theory. His research focus is the establishment of a new theory of the biological organism based on process ontology. He is the author and editor of six books and numerous articles and book chapters.

Michael Rahnfeld

George Strawn (EAC member) is a former Department Chair of Computer Science, Director of the Computation Center at ISU, Professor. He then spent a number of years in various positions at NSF, that last of which was on detail to OSTP as co-chair of the Networking and IT Research and Development (NITRD) subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council and also as director of the National Coordination Office, which staffs the NITRD subcommittee. After retiring from NSF, he recently became board director for the National Academies' Board on Research Data and Information.
William Wilding - crop
William Wilding is a dialectical process thinker who operates in the intersection between philosophy, art and design. Drawing on the history of ideas and the philosophy of science, he works in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne. Active across industry and academy, he develops collaborative projects to research and realise philosophical ideas. In his PhD (2022), he created process metaphysical roots for design. Focusing on Plato, Kant, Goethe, Schelling and Whitehead, he integrated processual, speculative and dialectical forms of reasoning into design history, theory and methodology on the one hand, and environmental, conceptual and interaction design practice on the other. In the process he formed Studio Romantic, and he partnered with Education, Government, Industry, Philanthropy and Church to design, produce and exhibit abstract concepts in aesthetic forms. He is especially interested in the power of the imagination to reproduce the origins of the self in consciousness, and he strives to realise this power through the iterative processes of strategic design.


Rupert Sheldrake

Conversation Series: Intuiting Life

Series Introduction

Recording Date: October 3, 2023


  • Matt Segall
  • Spyridon Koutroufinis

Session 1

Recording Date: October 14, 2023


  • Spyridon Koutroufinis
  • Federico Giorgi

Session 2

Recording Date: October 21, 2023


  • Philip Tryon
  • Johanna Häusler
  • Nathaniel Barrett

Session 3

Recording Date: October 28, 2023


  • Matt Segall
  • Spyridon Koutroufinis

Conversation Series: Tim Eastman Unties the Gordian Knot

Session 1

Date: June 12, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 1

Session 2

Date: July 10, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 2

Session 3

Date: August 14, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 3

Session 4

Date: September 11, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 4

Session 5

Date: October 9, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 5

Session 6

Date: November 13, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 6

Session 7

Date: December 11, 2021 | Topic: Chapter 7

Session 8

Date: January 8th, 2022 | Topic: Chapter 8

Session 9

Date: February 12, 2022 | Topic: Wrap Up