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Abhiram Lohit

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Are science explanations of the universe tending more and more toward metaphysics and philosophy?

Modern cosmologists use language that is less and less "concrete" or "quantitative" than it was in the time of Einstein or Schrodinger or Heisenberg.

Talks about multiverses remind one of the older metaphysics and philosophy. Could it be possible that ultimately the universe is explained through the essential ideas of metaphysics? Will we find that after all there was a limit to objective and experimental study?

I feel the blurring of objectivity started with the Uncertainty Principle, where the very act of observation changes the property of the particle.

Add to this, the penchant quantum physicists have for Eastern-style mysticism. To wit, Erwin Schrodinger who was interested in the Upanishads of India.

See http://www.physorg.com/news163670588.html
Also google "quantum mysticism"

Edit: See also Baruch de Spinoza, Western rational philosophy.

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    Jun 23 2011: If there is a universal theory or a singular truth about the material world, then it makes sense that all explanations and observations will tend towards the same answer.

    I still think science is driven more by what we expect to find than some objective truth..
  • Jul 21 2011: I understand your idea. The whole "11 dimensions" and "what is reality" blah blah does catch me off-guard sometimes, because it's presented like a science theory, but there's no actual evidence or explanation, so it sounds alot like metaphysical theory or philosophy... It could be that scientists are bored. It could be that we're just incapable of understanding.

    I saw a video the other day, talking about how electrons act differently depending on if they're being observed or not. To me, this makes no sense, but suggests no metaphysical philosophy. What it does for me is suggests that even though many popular physics studies these days do seem very philosophical, I can't always understand the ideas, and so I'm likely to pass them off as hooey. I try to think of them like the electron and observer video: It doesn't make sense, but that doesn't mean it's some philosophical quack.

    I also find this a prevalent issue in psychology. I mean, the front page of TED conversations is a debate on consciousness. Most neuroscience-practitioners would agree that consciousness is the elaborate interpretation and reaction to various forms of stimuli and human needs. But, we bring in old stuff like Jung and the collective unconscious. It drives me mad, because I know for sure that the interest in consciousness and psychology comes from that totally-faux movie "inception" :/
  • Jul 20 2011: Jim Lloyd, I think the solution to the multiverse/intersubjective question is a simple and anything but counter-intuitive one - although, ironically, secular fundamentalsits will doubtless claim it to be counter-rational! They, of course, claim that the absurdity of paradoxes are 'counter-intuitive', when they really mean, or should mean, 'counter-rational'! But then, they believe that paradoxes are not really total mysteries at all. One day, science will explain them all!We all come into this world alone, we know not whence, and leave it, we know not whither - at least in terms of the details. It would seem to me that what would answer perfectly to the 'inter-subjective' concept would be if we are each born into a little world of our own, all of which are seamlessly coordinated to appear a single world at the mechanistic level, but not at the quantum level. A Jewish mystic once commented to the effect that, when a man dies, a whole world dies with him.

    This is all very personal, but so is light in its relationship to us, as indicated above; while light is all but a synonym of God in Christianity, and I believe is celebrated in festivals of most of the great religions.
  • Jul 15 2011: I'd be interested in your response to the following program I'm trying to develop: a theory of interlocking worlds.

    The central message that Bohr and von Neumann taught us about the Standard Quantum Logic is that it can be viewed as a manifold of interlocking perspectives that cannot be embedded into a single perspective. Hence, the perspectives cannot be viewed as perspectives on one real world. So, even considering one world as a methodological principle breaks down in the quantum micro-domain. The issue I'm pondering is the inadequacy of only talking about appearances and not going beyond appearances to some sort of world. Appearances are very complicated, confused, etc. Worlds are both simpler and more inclusive. I have no problem merely assuming some sort of world if it works! That is, simplifies our conceptions. Think of what happened to Chew's S-matrix approach; it lacked powerful enough heuristics to get anywhere.

    To give you an idea of what I’m talking about concerning interlocking worlds consider the following definition of a quantum phase space associated to a quantum system described by a non-commutative C* algebra B. First replace B by its diagram of commutative sub-C* algebras {A}. Then apply the functor D which replaces a commutative C* algebra A with its maximal ideal space D(A)-a compact topological space-to {A} to get {D(A)}. This diagram is the quantum phase space of a quantum system. This is the type of gadget which could be described as interlocking worlds. Of course, in general, we’ll have to deal with more loosely, vaguely defined diagrams. The above could be a precise model of Cartwright's Dappled World. It is identical to Hawking's recent idea of model dependent realism.

    Dave

    --
    Dr. David A. Edwards
    Department of Mathematics
    University of Georgia
    Athens, Georgia 30602
    http://www.math.uga.edu/~davide/
    http://davidaedwards.tumblr.com/
    dedwards@math.uga.edu
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      Jul 16 2011: Hi Dave,

      I am not a mathematician so I don't have any understanding of the terms you used.

      However, I have always thought that mathematics was simply a precise method of describing something. It's just a very refined language. That is "1" is not "one;" it is an accurate description of "one." (And, yes, "one" is not "one" either.)

      So, as model dependent realism is just a term that refers to the accuracy of our models at predicting and, in a way, defining the world we see, it might be fruitful to focus on what is being described - in other words, "what is" - rather than simply focusing on refining our descriptions. And I know our descriptions are "more than that" they are theories that are testable (please allow for the imprecision of language - it is not, after all, math.)

      I have also thought that if a theory of everything would be predictive, and it would have to be, it would be a fun thought experiment to ask what it would have predicted for this moment if it had been developed at any time in the past.

      One of the things it would have predicted is, of course, you (assuming you are still alive.)

      This is, I think, an important "bit" that gets left out of hard science ("you.")

      How can we expect to come up with accurate descriptions if we leave out part (and an important part) of what it is we are describing.

      I understand why we do it. It is a messy problem (the "self") and we do have great success coming up with partial descriptions like classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, special relativity, and so on.

      But if we do want a "theory of everything," it will have to include, well, everything.

      I have considered learning maths to see if I can understand the descriptions better but I'm 56 and am currently learning Chinese and starting a new company so it might have to wait.

      I do think any theory will be much simpler than the ones we are currently considering. But that is the way of it isn't it - simplicity on the other side of complexity?
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        Jul 16 2011: QUOTE: "...Neal Stephenson's novel Anathem..."

        I googled it and it looks like a good book. I've asked my son to bring a copy the next time he comes to China.

        Interestingly, it is the one book of fiction he has read in years and he said he would read it again.

        Like father; like son, I guess. I don't read much fiction either.
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        Jul 16 2011: I haven't listened to any audio-books. I'll give it a try.
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      Jun 26 2011: Nice points, Jim.

      I'm going to read up more on the Model Dependent Realism of Stephen Hawking and the book.

      My concern is that all of our rational systems of study, e.g., mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc begin with a set of axioms, which are ASSUMED to be true. That ultimately implies a certain level of "faith" in some "rules" that are set down as the corner stones. And then the rest of the theorems and laws are "discovered" and proved on that edifice. Just like Godel's studies have proved the inconsistencies in the axioms in arithmetic and set theory.

      Einstein said something to the effect that the simpler the theory, the closer it is to the truth. Although I'm not an expert in any one of the sciences, from general reading I get the impression that the newer theories are more complicated than earlier ones, and seem to introduce too many contrived concepts.

      Is it possible that as we near the source, our way is not very clear, like tracking the source of the river Nile? Maybe in time some other brilliant chap will come around with some radical idea that will give a new direction to science leading to crisp and concise explanations.
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    Jun 24 2011: There is no such thing as "metaphysics". It is simply another term for "magic". If anything, it should be called "subphysics" ;)

    The struggle within many academicians does not stem from embracing science, but from overcoming all the fallacies and prejudices that they've been taught by a largely non-scientific or even anti-scientific culture. Critical Rationalism would have already been possible thousands of years ago if people had wanted to put challenging rationality over the primitive lust for pleasant emotions.

    So when dogmas like the geocentric worldview are finally brought down, then this is not really a step forward within science. For if these people had applied scientific reasoning, they wouldn't have ended up with the geocentric worldview in the first place. Instead, it is a step away from irrationality. So what is considered to be "progress" or even "revolutions" in knowledge is usually an approach to the point where a scientist would have started in the first place. Catching up to zero, if you want.

    In one psychology class, our professor read an abstract instruction and let us guess what it was for. No one recognized that it was merely a tutorial for how to wash your clothes. By abstracting the most mundane activities and processes you can create seemingly "deep" and "complex" texts. So if you describe in abstract terms how a child builds a sandcastle, you will end up with a description that fits Genesis surprisingly well. The trick is to let the viewer himself search for the most prestigious interpretations, a method that is frequently used in esotericism. One doesn't have to make an exact prophecy, on the contrary: Only if it is vague enough in key aspects will the customer find something that he can apply the prophecy to.

    So regarding your question, my answer is: No, science explanations of the universe do not tend more and more towards subphysics. We just increasingly accept the basic ideas of science after thousands of years of fighting them.
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      Jun 24 2011: Thanks!

      Science explains the "how" of things(i.e., descriptive knowledge), but not the "why" of things(i.e. essential knowledge). Why does an electron have the mass it has? Why did the Big Bang occur? What was there before matter as we know it, came into existence? To these questions, no quantitative answers can be given. Physicists say there was a "primeval particle soup", etc. which is all very abstract, because that is the point at which our explanations stop. Our logic and science are limited by our thought and our speech. How should we think and speak of that point where there was no speech or thought or space or time?

      There is an ultimate mystery to the origin of the universe. The scientific method of 'cause and effect' runs into absurd ad infinitum. Or there are ultimate singularities, like gravitational singularity, etc. Cosmologists are suggesting that the Big Bang was preceded by a Big Crunch and these two proceed in infinite cycles. This is exactly what Plato, Socrates and Eastern philosophy say. Time is cyclical, the universe is cyclical.

      You do make some good points. I am all for science, in fact I have always dreamed of becoming a theoretical physicist like Einstein or Feynman. However, I am realizing that the finite (i.e. human capabilities) cannot completely dissect the infinite(i.e. universe). Besides, science does not consider the influence of the subject. The essential nature of consciousness will remain a mystery, because we cannot go beyond consciousness to look at it objectively. We are within the field of consciousness and its action. A fish cannot give a completely objective view of water, because it can never get out of water.

      Personally, I have experienced that feeling of "naked" consciousness transitioning from wake to dream to deep sleep, which has left a profound impact on my view of the world. In "naked" consciousness, I am no longer "me, a person", but I know I exist. Such experiences need a meta-science, or a meta-physics.
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        Jun 25 2011: [Part 1/3]

        Hello Abhiram,

        that is a common argument, so I will point to a person who has addressed this much better than me. If you speak German, I can recommend the whole website to you: http://www.dittmar-online.net . It hasn't been updated since 2006, but it's a vast information pool nevertheless and possibly one of the best websites regarding religion in existence. Otherwise, running these two pages through Google Translate will have to be sufficient ( http://translate.google.de/?hl=de#de|en| ):
        http://www.dittmar-online.net/uber/hga.html#hga_interpretation
        http://www.dittmar-online.net/religion/erklaeren.html
        I would link to the translated page, but Google stopped translating it half way through. And I don't quote it because the postings here have a tight letter limit. So you better copy and paste on your own. I checked the automatical translation and it is of surprisingly good quality.

        I will nevertheless address this issue in my own words, too. The trick with the argument "Science describes, religion explains" is that it speaks of emotional 'explanations', not rational ones. You can 'explain' anything by calling out "Magic!" - which is basically what all major religions do, only they use the phrase "Goddidit!". Although this 'explanation' is completely useless, it is comforting to those who are distressed by the unknown. They are not a bit cleverer than before, but now they have a name for the unknown which grants the illusion of understanding and control. Sure, they still claim that magic is superhuman - otherwise they'd have to explain it, which they can't. But they believe that some beings can control it, and that they can influence these beings. One may not understand thunder, one may not understand the thundergod, but one believes that one can influence him and therefore exercise indirect control over the thunder.

        Yet this is no explanation of any kind. Only superstition. And while it provides an emotional benefit, this comes at a high cost.
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          Jun 25 2011: The best 'essay' about this topic I have read! I have been guilty of the same argument - why vs how - but am endeavouring to alter that attitude.

          I think there are still elements of our conscious existence that science does not satisfactorily explain for many people and faith can help fill this gap.

          The best statement I have come across regarding religion below:

          "Each religion, by the help of more or less myth, which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny."
          George Santayana
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          Jun 26 2011: Thanks again, Ray.

          I will need more time to read through your suggested articles and get back to you.

          Meanwhile, I never said to call everything "Magic!" and sit quiet. Also, I used "descriptive" and "essential" in their technical sense. "Essential" as in, what is of essence, like the overall view or the "cataclysmic" (??) view.

          "Descriptive" as in, what is in the details, "nit-picky", in a good sense. But we can only be "nit-picky" to a certain extent and not all the way.

          See reply to Part 2/3.
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          Jul 7 2011: Hi All,

          I just stumbled on this conversation and have only read a few paragraphs but I came across this:

          "You can 'explain' anything by calling out "Magic!" - which is basically what all major religions do, only they use the phrase "Goddidit!". Although this 'explanation' is completely useless, it is comforting to those who are distressed by the unknown. They are not a bit cleverer than before, but now they have a name for the unknown which grants the illusion of understanding and control. "

          This statement is "true" only if we assume (or know) God does not exist; or if we assume God exists but He/She/Ta cannot be known; or if we assume God exists, He/She/Ta can be known, but no one knows Him/Her/Ta.

          The statement would not be universally "true" if God exists and at least one person knows God exists. Naturally, it would still be true for, say, "the religious" who parrot doctrine or learned-belief.

          The problem, of course, is that everyone else (including, for example, philosophers) would have no way of knowing if a person saying "Goddidit" (great phrase!) simply believed in God or was perhaps the one the person in the universe who actually knows God exists.
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          Jul 7 2011: You may have arrived a little too late Mr. Jones - this topic seems to have cooled off. However, thanks for stopping by and reviving it.
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        Jun 25 2011: [Part 2/3]

        I put 'explanation' in quotation marks because I don't think that mere naming should account as an explanation at all. You haven't gained knowledge by naming thunder "thunder". You gain knowledge by understanding what properties, effects and causes thunder has. Giving the unknown a name is no substitute for knowledge at all, and adding fantasy stories to it makes it even worse. A believer in a thundergod has not only no knowledge about thunder, but additionally prejudices. His "knowledge sum" is below zero, so to speak!

        A scientist on the other side will never have all possible information about thunder, but he will take measures to avoid false beliefs (= catch up to zero) and furthermore try to gather reliable data from which he can draw valid conclusions.

        So the corrected argument reads: "Science explains the how and why of things, while Religion does neither."


        This does not only apply to religions, but to political ideologies as well. In that case, the argument can be: "Social science only describes the world, but Antisemitism explains it! Jewsdidit!" The difference is that Jews are real, so some things are actually done by Jews. However, even then (!) a non-prejudiced person still possesses more actual knowledge than the deluded fanatic who uses "Jewsdidit" as a word for "I don't know the cause". Knowing what one doesn't know is extremely important knowledge! So when I define that as the zero baseline of knowledge, then that locates most of humanity deep in the negative area.

        Beware of the false dilemma "Critical unprejudiced thinking doesn't explain that yet, therefore this arbitrary uncritical prejudice must be true!" That's a logical fallacy. It is quite the other way round: If Science can't explain something yet, then irrational ideologies can explain it *even less*. Well, at least as long as one binds "explanation" to rationality. If one decides that truth shall be what gives a pleasant feeling, then the situation is entirely different...
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          Jun 26 2011: "A scientist on the other side will never have all possible information about thunder..."

          That's exactly what I was saying. Even the most rational system of inquiry will run into a logical wilderness at some point because the tracing path of effect to cause is infinite.

          I appreciate your idea of "below zero and above zero" score for level of knowledge. I am not an adherent of the common organized religion. However, I have come to admit that some theories of "metaphysics" deal with topics that might be a "philosophy of science". In other words, we need to analyze and think deeply about the direction our sciences are going, and the methods of science.
        • Jul 7 2011: I agree with Abhiram 100%, he's actually the first person I've met who holds a similar world view as mine in that regard. I, too, am against organized religion, however belief in "over-science", so to speak, does not seem irrational to me at all. Science can only explain so much, and consciousness is one of them. Science is actually limited to our universe, and there's no denying that. Trying to find explanations than suit us for things that science never will be able to prove does not make us lesser than those who look only to science for answers. You going in that direction proves to me two things: the first is you do not understand the first thing about Spirituality, as it actually doesn't try at all to deal with questions relating to science. Question related to morality, for example, are part of that group. I am not talking of uneducated populistic religion here, however trying to figure out the ideal way to live one's life has nothing to do with science. Some things are beyond science. To me our great universe being chance does not seem logical. LOGICALLY I think there is some sort of intelligent being (out of time & space, as they are functions of the universe) that, because it's beyond the universe, is by nature ununderstandable to human beings. That does not make me at all impervious to knowledge. Problem arises when you try to describe said "creator" or try to understand it, not to mention speak in it's behalf. Logically the universe being created fits most from a logic standpoint. You being left-brained does not make spirituality less valid.

          Actually the biggest scientists have and still are debating the issue of consciousness, and no good answer has been found as of yet, and regardless, freedom of choice does not fit into causality in nature.

          When you dismiss the spiritual (the non-physical), you do nothing but narrow your mind.
          I would make this respectable, but you didn't seem to respect views unlike your own, and that's ALWAYS a dangerous path.
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          Jul 7 2011: Thanks, Guy, for a different and fresh perspective on this topic, and for sort of "reviving" it. :-)
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        Jun 25 2011: [Part 3/3]

        Philosophers have said many things. In fact, it is impossible to state anything that one couldn't link to a philosopher with some stretch. I have this mental exercise where I link a random information or solution to garbage containers. You have relationship problems because you take the job's stress home? Garbage tells you to separate things that don't belong together, as you separate glass from paper. You have relationship problems because you don't share your job stress? Garbage tells you to merge things that belong together, as you bring together magazines and newspapers. Heck, even cosmological insights are revealed: Look at recycling, and you will recognize the cyclical nature of Life, the Universe and Everything! Just another coincidence, or proof for the infinite wisdom and truth of Garbage? It seems my very dump knows more than all those fancy-schmancy philosophers of East and West! ;)

        Seriously, it makes a huge difference whether one starts with facts and then comes to a conclusion or whether starts with a conclusion and then looks for fitting facts: http://blog.cagle.com/2011/02/creationist-method/ . Only the latter approach allows me to find "proofs" for the power of Garbage. For good reason.


        And regarding the nature of consciousness, it is no mystery at all - at least to those who are willing to overcome their "sub-zero knowledge". As I wrote before, such struggles are rooted in the unjustified preassumptions and fallacies one commits. There *is* a critical-rational understanding of consciousness, but it is massively different from everything that "sub-zeros" have proposed as an answer. It's even impossible to phrase in "sub-zero terms".

        It may well be that in the sub-zero realm of knowledge, "magic" is the only escape to escape inconsistencies. But the mistake then lies in the decision to settle in the sub-zero realm in the first place. Those who don't share that decision don't have to bear the problems that result from it.
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          Jun 25 2011: You make salient points, Ray, but don't write off the power of myth (not religion) as a media for understanding ourselves and helping us with our identity.

          The great problem arises when folks take literally what is meant to be metaphor.

          I can recommend the book "The Hero with 1000 Faces" by Joseph Campbell which is a treatise on the variety of hero myths around the world and the possible reasons for their existence and purpose. Fascinating read.
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          Jun 26 2011: Again Ray, regarding the nature of consciousness, I have to cringe every time someone says there is nothing more than brain and neural activity.

          There are two aspects of it - the objective, which means an observer "throwing" his consciousness on things other than his own. But what about the subjective - when the observer tries to throw his consciousness on itself. Is that not a valid scientific inquiry? To know more about how the very process of consciousness works?

          To give an example, it's like other person's description of your face versus when you look in the mirror. There is always that question, that doubt of the objectivity of observations. Do you see yourself exactly as others see you? Similarly for consciousness, it's like thinking about thinking. It also has implications regarding the clinical definition of death. Permanent loss of consciousness is a symptom of death, but concluding loss of consciousness has been a slippery task.

          I have not come across science research yet that clarifies these aspects. If somebody has or knows some source of information, I'd be very grateful.
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        Jun 27 2011: @ Scott
        - It's awesome, isn't it? :) I deeply regret that the website isn't updated anymore. Unfortunately, I know no website of comparable quality. Which is clearly a call to fill *that* gap ;)
        - Fortifying the soul against what? Mortality as its destiny? The unjustified promise of eternal life is indeed a clear advantage of religions. But I never doubted such emotional benefits, on the contrary: I openly point out that it is absolutely necessary to be ready to prefer unpleasant truths over pleasant lies in order to be a scientist.
        - Most tales were actually meant to be taken literally, especially religious ones. And they were taken literally for the longest time. It is quite a recent development (historically speaking) that the old stories are being dismissed as fairy-tales...
        - How do you define "myth" as opposed to "religion"? What do you consider to be its power?
        - That's an interesting recommendation! I hadn't heard of this book before. The first two thoughts that came to my mind when reading the overview were SMBC and TVTropes.

        SMBC had this comic in April 2010: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1866#comic , humorously pointing out the common structure of children's fables. TVTropes on the other side has somehow perfectioned the opposite. They list all the clichés in movies and television, but with such a precision that almost every character has its own lemma. Samantha Carter, proficient in wormhole physics as well as in handling an FN P90 submachine-gun? Look up "Badass Bookworm". Or what about Pocahontas as a pacifist nature-lover who is promised to another man, but hooks up with the white hero? Clearly "The Chief's Daughter". In fact, the website has an article for pretty much everything from "Eye Awaken" over "Standard Female Grab Area" to "Protagonist-Centered Morality".

        So beware: Once you've started reading articles on TVTropes, you might not be able to stop! It feels like a long overdue defragmentation of lifelong story knowledge :)
  • Jul 20 2011: "I still think science is driven more by what we expect to find than some objective truth.. "I'd slightly amend that, Scott, to "I still think science is driven more by what 'we' want to find than some objective truth." How else can one explain the failure to acknowledge that light entertains a personal relationship with the observer? A man stands on the cusp of the globe facing the direction of its rotation and with the light of the sun shining on his back. The light will always hit him at its absolute same speed, taking account neither of the speed of the earth's rotation nor his own constant speed in the same direction. In other words, it is customised, indeed, personalised. In the light (sic) of this unambiguous fact, materialism is clearly not a metaphysical paradigm, but a nonsense; while the great, theist and Christian paradigm-changers of the last century were right; the prevailing, informal, but actual paradigm, unsurprisingly, plain wrong. It certainly ties in with Planck's remark: "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness."
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      Jul 23 2011: QUOTE: It certainly ties in with Planck's remark: "I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness."

      Thanks Paul, for quoting this here. I had never read it, and it makes a lot of sense.
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    Jul 17 2011: Abhiram, what about the possible connection between 11 dimensional superstring theory (http://bit.ly/SuperstringTheory) and the next dimension we seem to be peeking into as shown by NDE research and the Quantum Mind Theory?
  • Jul 2 2011: "Could it be possible that ultimately the universe is explained through the essential ideas of metaphysics? Will we find that after all there was a limit to objective and experimental study?"

    Absolutely. Max Planck could scarcely have expressed the matter more succinctly and unequivocally. No progress has been made since, with regard to the force he spoke of, of course, because it is clearly beyond the scope of empirical science, at least, as defined by our hegemonic Einsteinian "naive realists"/secular fundamentalists.

    "As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter."

    The impression I have had for a long time is that the further physicists have advanced, the more securely they are locked out by imponderable paradoxes, which, were they not real, would be oxymorons.

    The more intelligent scientists have accepted, at least privately (the corporate sponsors who fund the piper don't approve of discussions of quantum physics), that paradoxes are by definition imponderable, but must be accepted as mysteries, no less magical than the mysteries of the Christian faith. The "naive realists" proclaim to the effect that it is only a question of time before science will fathom all the secrets of the universe and beyond. I imagine it was to these that James Watson was referring when he remarked:

    "One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid."
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      Jul 6 2011: Thanks for your input, Paul.

      I like the term "naive realists". It shows the simplistic view of the "champions of science". An apt analogy is of a fish that cannot see its own back. It sees only what is in front and the sides.
  • J Ali

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    Jun 27 2011: IF the universe was eternal (think of it)........we would have never reached today....but we have...

    IF the universe was eternal, nothing would exist....

    Metaphysically speaking.
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    Jun 27 2011: Hello Abhiram,

    For the problem well-known as "Münchhausen-Trilemma".
    once again, I conveniently point to Herr Dittmar: http://www.dittmar-online.net/religion/zirkel/trilemma.html
    Circular reasoning does saves us not,
    just as regression leaves us to rot.
    And axioms, perhaps they provide relief?
    How could they? They're nothing but blind belief!
    Yet most people seem to decide for the latter;
    the choice is much easier if truth doesn't matter.
    But this is no option for those who are bound
    to verity, so if you're looking for ground.
    There is a solution, both useful and sound,
    that Critical Rationalism has found :)

    Sorry, I just felt like rhyming ^^ Regarding "Magic", developing the idea of a thundergod did not make people sit down and be quiet. Instead, they believed that they were able to try to win the sympathy and cooperation of the beings possessing influence on the weather (magicians, spirits, gods...). Recognizing the huge emotional benefit that stems from the supposed own control over fateful events is crucial to understanding the appeal of such superstition.

    How does neural activity contradict complex behavior and cognition from fixed action patterns to self-perception? What exactly makes you cringe?
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      Jun 28 2011: What makes me cringe is the fact that up until now, science has no undertaken to study deep subjective experiences. I'm not talking about psychology oe psychiatry, etc.

      The experience of utter and absolute consciousness, or "naked" consciousness seemingly has no purpose for survival or evolution. We can all make do with just the consciousness that builds our identity through association with people, places, activities, time. However, there is this experience of "timeless" and "identityless" consciousness that we all experience. One instance of this is during deep dreamless sleep, where no awareness of body, brain, self-identity exists. Only after waking, the deep content or satisfaction. See my now-closed question http://www.ted.com/conversations/3619/what_is_your_belief_regarding.html

      Such consciousness does not fall in the category of empirical objectivity. Thus it is rejected by science as false. But the existence of such a "naked, timeless awareness" has been uniformly documented through history. This is not associated with any God or religion.

      This is what is bothering me, that science does not accept the validity of subjective experiences, because they cannot provide external empirical evidence.
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    Jun 25 2011: No:

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/moon-tides-neil-degrasse-tyson/

    Tyson argues that the "outside the box" approach of physics has certain benefits. Without observations, it is 'just another story'. We need to think about possibilities (and look for alternatives), but that also implies we need to be able to discard them if they are proven to be wrong.

    I further suggest not to get into quantum mysticism. It is based on false understanding of quantum-mechanics. It is complete pseudoscience as a matter of fact.
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      Jun 26 2011: I propose the following possibility: Just like Einstein thought "outside the box", but other scientists of his time ridiculed his theory as day-dreaming, couldn't it be possible that these theories of metaphysics are untested stories, waiting for observations?

      When Einstein formulated his entire relativity theory based on thought experiments, and it was proven correct only 15 years later, why couldn't somebody venture to test these other theories, perhaps somebody from experimental psychology working with a theoretical physicist.

      Isn't it possible that these "outside the box" approaches cross paths at at least one point with so-called pseudo theories of metaphysics?
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        Jun 27 2011: I don't think what you say contradicts what I'm saying.

        I just think it is foolish to start believing in conjectures as though they were true.
        Belief systems based on such conjectures have a very low prior probability to be right (out of a 1000 options, maybe one or two?)

        As for testing: please do, and as much and as rigorous as possible.
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    Jun 25 2011: Abhiram, fellow Tedster John Mardlin posted a question about his favorite TED talk sentence "Just as quantum objects are defined by their relationships to other objects, so to are people defined by our connections to other people".

    So I posted this question:

    My long suspicion is this: the scientific bond of our humanity is maybe in the quantum nature of our hearts and minds and the possibility of its existence in another dimension.

    I think that since we don't have a complete knowledge of quantum mechanics yet and hence our knowledge of these matters is still a fringe of science, we can however think of the possibilities. I'm not a scientist so maybe a fellow tedster can help me here:

    1. Quantum Mind Theory - http://bit.ly/QuantumMIndTheory
    2. NDE research - http://bit.ly/NDEresearch
    3. Quantum Teleportation - http://bit.ly/QuantumTeleportation
    4. The nature of neutrino being able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected
    5. Our common ability to feel the emotion of our loved ones living in distant places