Thursday, November 12, 2015

Modelling Outside our Frame of Reference and Creation

This is less about science and more about the philosophy of explanations.

Quantum Theory and to a lesser extent General Relativity involve throwing away everyday assumptions and intuition based on everyday experience.

Quantum Theory works beautifully mathematically but is seemingly impossible to conceptualize.

General Relativity is easy enough to conceptualize but involves counter-intuitive departures from everyday expectation.

Regarding Quantum theory, Niels Bohr, a pioneer in the field, stated (I quote from Jim Baggott's 'The Quantum Story'- excellent if narrative more than attempting mathematical rigour):

These (quantum mechanical electron orbital) models have been deduced, or if you prefer, guessed, from experiments, not from theoretical calculations. I hope that they describe the structure of atoms as well, but only as well, as is possible in the descriptive language of classical physics. We must be clear that, when it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry. The poet, too, is not nearly so concerned with describing facts as with creating images and establishing mental connections.'

There remains a great deal of truth in this statement. Quantum Theory plays by certain mathematical rules, and does so with beautiful precision. For the discoverers of the rules, there must have been quite a bit of exhilaration involved along the way. This is clear in the writings of say Heisenberg. However, attempts to understand the behaviour of the Quantum scale world have failed to pull it into an everyday intuitively-correct framework of logic. That is to say, our mental picture of what is really happening in the Quantum world fails to crystallize out, to the exasperation of many. 

The dynamics of reality are clearly bigger than our conceptual abilities.

Why do atheists try to patronize God then? Surely it is the most ridiculously patronizing and doomed exercise imaginable. Even if a person says they don't believe in him, hypothesize him. It is still daft to try to work him out.

When it comes to origins (carefully avoiding the emotive and suggestive word 'creation'), somehow the descriptions of how the Big Bang happened seem to me to be exercises in delusion. Maybe that is because I don't understand a lot of the maths and concepts well enough. Or maybe I am registering the analytic mind stretching itself further than it can sanely and reliably go. 

I believe in creation. By God. In six time periods or ages. I don't know how he did it in the rigorous, analytical sense.

Read Genesis 1 and 2. He uses poetry to describe how he did it; for the same reasons Bohr alludes to in the quote above. A connective picture illustrating certain points deemed by the author to be important using a framework familiar to the recipients. An exercise in necessary condescension from a Greater Mind to a lesser.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Beginnings, the flow of time, and cosmology

I am not a great mathematician. I am not a great physicist. I have learned a bit of both. However, I have a bit of fun reading cosmological theories.

Some people are wonderful at abstract conceptualization. I admire the founding figures of 20th century physics, the Schrodingers, Diracs and Einsteins. I do not have too much trouble at least starting to get my head round Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, and I understand the magnificence of their correlations with directly observed simple phenomena such as atomic spectra and time dilation.

However, Big Bang cosmology seems to require philosophical abstractions of such a degree that we have completely lost touch with everyday reality.

We conceptualize out from a zone of familiarity. Our zone of familiarity from birth entails 3 spatial dimensions and a consciousness that registers time as a dimensional one way arrow experienced as an infinitesimal 'position', our ever present instant. We draw back our every abstraction and equate it to this familiar framework.

Space Time expanded from a singularity, we are told. Where exactly was the singularity? What did space expand into? Expand is a term which assumes the existence of space. Time 'started'. Start is something that happens at a point in time. How can time start? What was there before time? What does before mean if there is no time?  

If my statements are meaningless, then so are these terms when used by cosmologists.

Bottom Line: The created cannot conceptualize the Eternal and Infinite.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Variables and Consciousness

'Variables' means something to most people. They are a concept, of course. I am going to use the terms 'variable, 'parameter' and 'concept' loosely and somewhat interchangeably here, because I cannot think of better words to explain myself. Variables are things we attach a, variable, value to. The value could be numerical, or it could be a description of how strongly an abstract variable like 'determination' is displayed by a person. We would say that a person displays 'limited' determination or 'strong' determination in achieving goals, for example. There are variables in maths, physics, chemistry. There are variables in economics. There are also less tangible, more subjective variables, belonging to spheres such as sociology, art, psychology, or morality. Examples? Virtue, evil, success, beauty.

Hitler's idea of evil was different from most non-Nazis. A Greenpeace member's idea of a virtuous or successful life might differ from that of an investment banker. 'Evil' and 'success' are subjective concepts and variables, in men's minds at least. But that is an aside. My point is that there are variables which have meaning for the human mind and are abstract rather than concise and concrete, like those of say physics.

Life is rich with variables,or parameters. Those variables associated with the physical, material framework of our existence, belong to the 'hard' sciences and mathematics. We are inclined to see these as having a reality even if there was no human or similar life. Things like spatial position, relative time, angular momentum, charge, quantum spin state, electrical resistance. All these would have existence, most would say, even if we were not present to observe and evaluate them.

However, as I said, there are also those variables associated with consciousness. Things like plausibility, accountability, attractiveness, approval. These are all variables by which humans measure other people or situations. It can be argued very strongly that these concepts are products of consciousness and have no meaning apart from the presence of conscious entities like man. They are relational variables (in the psychological sense of the phrase). We 'measure' them, or put a value on them, in order to evaluate people and circumstances. But they require consciousness, and a relational and emotional life, in order to have any meaning whatsoever. Yet we use these concepts, and attach values to them, quite routinely. 'Mary has a very plausible reason for not being able to attend next week' etc. The abstract concept here is of course 'plausibility'.

Some variables associated with consciousness relate to how positive life around us seems. Beauty, interest, pleasure are all things we seek. They have no concrete means of measurement, no consensus agreement on their values. Yet they are very important to us. 'I find Alan interesting'. 'Paris is the most beautiful city I have ever been to' etc etc.

Where do these variables come from? Did they evolve within us as simple chemical responses of the mind? This would be the position of most evolutionists and scientific reductionists.

If so, those variables have no meaning if you take conscious entities like us out of the picture. If there were no people or higher animals to experience these concepts, these concepts would vanish. They were not there until we were there.

If that is the case, you cannot invoke them to explain how we got here! Here I am looking at the line of evolutionary processes which supposedly produced conscious beings. I know evolution can take place in 'molecular machines', organisms with no consciousness (as far as we know); I'm not talking about that here. I'm talking about conscious struggles for survival. Think about this. It makes no sense for us to need 'fear of death' or 'will to survive' as being already there to explain how we gained 'life and consciousness'.

The need for survival springs from 'the will to live'. The will itself, and the sense of self or individuality, are abstract concepts or variables associated with conscious life. We have just called on an aspect of consciousness to describe how consciousness evolved.

This is clearly nonsense, yet evolution by natural selection hinges on it, when attempting to explain advanced life, using these types of argument  all the time. We retrospectively attribute conscious attributes to inanimate matter or extremely primitive organisations of matter to describe how it attained consciousness. The question, of course, is 'Which came first?':

Attribute of Consciousness OR Consciousness.

If you think the attributes of consciousness were already there in the background, before us, then Who possessed them and defined them 'in the beginning'??!!