Ask Dr. SETI ®
by Dan Duda
from the December, 2015 issue of Penn Central,
the monthly newsletter of Central PA Mensa,
used by permission
I’m still amazed at how often scientific pronouncements are presented in a way that suggests we really know what’s going on. However, when you consult the real giants a different worldview emerges. Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Eddington, and more, have a more specific opinion about what science can actually tell us. They tend to feel that science is infallible only within limited and well-defined ranges. Science oversteps its bounds when it makes pronouncements beyond the focus of the original study. For example, according to Einstein:
“…you could not be a scientist if you did not know that the external world existed in reality, but that knowledge is not gained by any process of reasoning. It is a direct perception and, therefore, in its nature akin to what we call faith.”
Einstein did get into trouble, however, when he opted to trust his perceptions over one set of scientific results. “Entanglement” is one of the spookiest realities of the universe. In fact, it caused Einstein to abandon quantum physics, a field he was largely responsible for founding, because “physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions as a distance.” But the hypothesis and the scientific results behind entanglement called for acceptance of the idea that somehow, someway, time and space do not exist.
Ah Ha! If you’re new to these ideas you’re saying ‘no time and space, that’s ridiculous!’ Congratulations. You see eye to eye with Uncle Albert. Unfortunately, technology has caught up with the paradox (EPR) that Einstein and two colleagues used to “prove” quantum science couldn’t be an accurate picture of reality—and he lost the argument.
The EPR Paradox was one of Einstein’s famous thought experiments. Through it he proved that, if quantum mechanics is accurate, an action taken on one particle would automatically and instantly affect another particle—even if the pair were separated by a distance of billions of light years. The requirement is that the particles would have to have been “entangled” at some point in their histories. This would of course violate Einstein’s speed limit (nothing can move faster than the speed of light). In essence—this suggests that, in some way, neither time nor space exist.
So you think it can’t get any weirder, right? But wait, there’s more. A continuation of research on the subject by Alain Aspect and more recently Anton Zealander is showing us a whole new world of “bizarre.” “Now we are beginning to see that quantum mechanics might actually exclude the possibility of mind independent reality, and already does exclude a reality that resembles our usual concept of such.” (Aspect). In other words, anything that we think exists, is actually just a result of what we think—a figment of our imagination (did you ever think that cliché would be taken so literally?)
Now, enter the world of Zen. There are so many puns related to the concept that we are “one with everything.” But that seems to be where quantum science is taking us. Buddhists suggest that man’s confusion begins as soon as we give something a name. “Facts come in pairs at the very least, for a single body is inconceivable apart from a space in which it hangs. Definitions, setting bounds, delineation—these are always acts of division and thus of duality, for as soon as a boundary is defined, it has two sides.”
When I first encountered these ideas I just knew they were ludicrous bloviations spewed by would-be philosophers educated beyond their intelligence and possessed of too much time on their hands. But as I pursued my real interests in science it began to dawn on me that the advance of particle physics and mathematics were on a collision course with these very ideas. I’m still convinced that we really know nothing—that what seems so real to our senses is not only suspect, but possibly totally wrong. In the immortal words of Yasutani Roshi (author of The Three Pillars of Zen):
“The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there.”
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this page last updated 6 February 2016
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