Some science behind the scenes

Science as religion

Over the past hundred plus years men of science have attempted to wrest themselves away from the confines and the straitjacket that religion had become and put together a view of the universe that was not based on belief or dogma, but based on observation.  The aim was laudable, but it has failed.  Science has become the very belief system it sought to wrest itself from, and it has the added disadvantage that by ignoring the past almost entirely, it has thrown baby out with bathwater.

As a religion, science has its ardent followers, its prophets, and its fanatics.  People are said to believe what the scientists tells them.  Non-believers are ridiculed – and worse.

Where the original aim was to be open minded and use observations coupled with hypotheses, we appear to have sunk to belief systems which have not been based on many if any observations.  I quote:

this is called quark confinement and may explain why free quarks have never been seen experimentally”

Most of the beliefs are based on hypotheses which believers have then tried their best to prove.  This probably accounts for why there are so many different theories.

The Matter Myth – Paul Davies/John Gribbin

At the heart of scientific method is the construction of theories.  Scientific theories are essentially models of the real world… a lot of vocabulary of science concerns the models rather than the reality.  For example, scientists often use the word ‘discovery’ to refer to some purely theoretical ‘advance’.  Thus, one often hears it said that Stephen Hawking ‘discovered’ that black holes are not black, but emit heat radiation.  The statement refers solely to a mathematical investigation.  Nobody has yet seen a black hole, much less detected any heat radiation from one.

The aim of the religion

 The goal of Science as a religion over the past one hundred years of so has to provide, a unified field theory.  The term was coined by Albert Einstein who attempted to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism.

The way they have tackled this has been to start from the known forces – gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, electro-magnetic force and so on and then try to unify them.  In effect, they want to unite all of the fundamental forces between elementary particles [so only at the physical level] under one umbrella.  This requires the existence of a single ‘field’.

Thus we can think of ‘field’ as meaning close to the same concept described as ‘energy’ and also described by all the other religions in this section, BUT and it is an enormous but, the description and definition has to exist in the physical world.  There is no acceptance of an underlying force or software based existence.

This is like saying, we accept the existence of Microsoft’s Word, Microsoft’s Xcel spreadsheet, the Google search engine and  Norton security program, but we are certain that the answer to how they all work is hidden in the innards of my computer.

There is no accepted ‘unified field theory’ in physics.  Much money has been spent in trying to establish what it is.  As one physicist has put it ‘it remains an open line of research’.

The Theory of Everything

Even more ambitious is the search for ‘A Theory of Everything’.  The theory of everything (TOE) is purported to be a theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. So ‘ambitious’ might be an under statement.

The term probably originated in the cycle of Stanisław Lem's science fiction stories of the 1960s.  One character - a great-grandfather of Ijon Tichy -  worked on the "General Theory of Everything" in the story. Physicist John Ellis, however, claims to have introduced the term into the technical literature in an article in Nature in 1986.

Initially, the term was used in a less than serious way, to describe the huge numbers of overgeneralized theories that emerged at this time. Over time, however, the term stuck – particularly in the quantum physics community - and eventually started to be used seriously to describe a theory that would unify or explain through a single model the theories of all fundamental interactions of nature.

This is like saying, we accept the existence of all word processing systems, all  spreadsheet systems, all search engines, all security and anti-virus programs, we also accept the existence of all the payroll systems in the world, all the accounting systems, the traffic control systems, the health administration systems, the insurance systems , the investment systems, the banking systems the manufacturing systems, the water management systems, the chemical process systems, the nuclear control systems, the telecommunication systems ………….. but we are certain that the answer to how they all work is hidden in the innards of everyone’s computer.

To quote “There have been many ‘theories of everything’ proposed by theoretical physicists over the last century, but none have been confirmed experimentally”.

Physics versus mathematics

Starting from the forces and trying to unite them via particles, is possibly not a good idea in formulating either a ‘unified field force’ or a ‘theory of everything’. 

Bill Bryson
Particle physics … [has discovered] well over 150 particle [types] with a further 100 or so suspected, but unfortunately it is very difficult to understand the relationships of all these particles.  For example there are pions, antipions, muons, antineutrinos, fermions, gluons, leptons, bosons, photons.  But none of these in the physical world has a lifetime of any note .. for example the average lifetime of a muon is 2.603 x 10 [to the –8] seconds, the pion decay into photons with an average lifetime of about 0.8 x 10 [to the –16] seconds.

It has also not been helped by the fact that theoretical physicists of the past 100 years or so appear to have started with the belief that every generation before it had got it wrong.

I have read some of the latest books on physics to get up to speed on this and according to these books Newton was wrong, Euclid was wrong, Pythagoras was wrong, even Einstein was wrong!  Mostly they were wrong because unless they were wrong, the new hypothesis could not be right.

The plethora of theories

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here is the world, sound as a nut, not the smallest piece of chaos left, never a stitch nor an end, not a mark of haste; or botching, or second thought; but the theory of the world is a thing of shreds and patches

I will openly admit that reading the literature on theoretical physics left me despairing.  I briefly did physics at university before deciding mathematics and computing seemed more practical and logical.  I thank my lucky stars I made this decision.  The overall impression this science gives is that it has totally lost its way. Some of the theories were just simply bizarre.  One theoretical physicist whose book I read, even quoted Star Trek stories as proof!  At times it seemed more smoke magic, mirrors and occult than the occult!

And the number of theories is enormous.  In the past 100 years or so we have had the following theories and note that this is not an exhaustive list by any means, it is but a tiny fraction of the total:

  • Gunnar Nordström -  [a Finnish theoretical physicist] - is best remembered for his theory of gravitation, which was an early competitor of general relativity.  In 1914 Nordström introduced an additional space dimension to his theory, which simultaneously described gravity and electromagnetism. This was the first of extra dimensional theories
  • The  Kaluza–Klein theory (or KK theory, for short) is another model that seeks to unify the two fundamental forces of gravitation and electromagnetism. The theory was first published in 1921 and was proposed by the mathematician Theodor Kaluza who extended general relativity to a five-dimensional spacetime
  • Grand Unification, grand unified theory, or GUT refers to any of several very similar unified field theories or models in physics that predicts that at extremely high energies (above 1014 GeV), the electromagnetic, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear forces are fused into a single unified field.  Beyond grand unification, the physicists working on this theory want to ‘merge gravity with the other three gauge symmetries into a theory of everything’
  • Yang-Mills theory  - I shall quote Wikipedia.  “is a gauge theory of quantum field theory based on the SU(N) group. It was formulated by Yang and Mills in 1954 in an effort to extend the original concept of gauge theory for an Abelian group, as was quantum electrodynamics, to the case of a nonabelian group with the intention to get an explanation for strong interactions. This initial idea was not a success as the quanta of the Yang-Mills field must be massless in order to maintain gauge invariance but such massless particles should have had long range effects that are not seen in experiments. So, the idea was put aside till the start of 1960 when the concept of breaking of symmetry in massless theories, initially due to Jeffrey Goldstone,  Yoichiro Nambu and Giovanni Jona-Lasinio, with particles acquiring mass in this way, was put forward
  • Weinberg-Salam theory -  Weinburg is an American physicist who together with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow showed how the weak force and electromagnetic force could be unified.  This required the existence of n dimensions
  • The Standard Modelis a theory of three of the four known fundamental interactions and the elementary particles that take part in these interactions. These particles ‘make up all visible matter in the universe’. The standard model is a gauge theory of the electroweak and strong interactions with the gauge group.  Again I quote “The Standard Model does not describe gravity, so it is necessarily incomplete.  When attempts are made to splice Einstein’s theory with the Standard Model, the resulting theory gives nonsensical answers .. it is also very ugly because it crudely splices three very different interactions together.  In fact, it is so ugly and contrived that even its creators are a bit embarrassed.  They are the first to apologise for its short comings and admit it cannot be the final theory” [Michio Kaku – himself a theoretical physicist]
  • Supergravity theory - combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity -  “in supergravity, the supersymmetry is a local symmetry (in contrast to non-gravitational supersymmetric theories, such as the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM)).”  Again to quote Wikipedia

“ Supergravity, also called SUGRA, was initially proposed as a four-dimensional theory in 1976 by Daniel Z. Freedman, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen and Sergio Ferrara at Stony Brook University, but was quickly generalized to many different theories in various numbers of dimensions and greater number (N) of supersymmetry charges. Supergravity theories with N>1 are usually referred to as extended supergravity (SUEGRA). Some supergravity theories were shown to be equivalent to certain higher-dimensional supergravity theories via dimensional reduction(e.g. N=1 11 dimensional supergravity is dimensionally reduced on S7 to N=8 d=4 SUGRA)”

It would not be so bad, if theoretical physicists agreed with each other at a certain moment in time, but they don’t now and they haven’t for most of the past 100 or so years.  They aren’t united in their view of what exists.  Harvard’s Howard Georgi once wrote:

Steve Weinberg returning from Texas
Brings dimensions galore to perplex us
But the extra ones all
Are rolled up in a ball
So tiny it never affects us

 He is probably closest to the truth - spiritually ........

Bill Bryson
The term for the basic particle is a quark (up, down, strange, charm, top, bottom).  The Standard Model consists of 6 quarks, 6 leptons, 5 bosons, Higgs boson, plus 3 or 4 physical forces – strong, weak, nuclear forces and electromagnetism.  But many particle physicists feel the whole model is unwieldy and not helpful  … Leon Lederman ‘It is too complicated, it has too many arbitrary parameters’ …. Richard Feynman ‘we are stuck with a theory .. and we do know that it is a little wrong or at least incomplete’

As has been said..............

“the half life of a theory of sub-atomic physics is only 2 years”

If the quotes above are not sufficient to provide examples, I will use the Standard Model as an example of the complexity of the theories being proposed, again I quote, ‘the Standard Model consists of

  • 36 quarks coming in 6 flavours and 3 colours together with antimatter counterparts
  • 8 Yang-Mills fields to describe the gluons which bind the quarks
  • 4 Yang-Mills fields to describe the weak and electromagnetic forces
  • 6 types of leptons to describe the weak interactions -  – muon, electron, tau lepton and neutrino counterparts
  • a large number of Higgs particles needed to ‘fudge’ the masses and constants describing the particle
  • at least 19 arbitrary constants invented by scientists not determined by theory

 I was reminded over and over again, of what a computer scientist friend of mine once said might happen if a theoretical physicist was given the job of working out how a computer worked.  How it managed to produce such stunning and amazing results – all those forces and all those functions! 

First of course they would open it up and take it all to bits – then they would describe its contents ‘Well it looks as though there are 3,452 circuit boards and 456 valves, and 234 transistors and …..................’

Michio Kaku – Hyperspace
The deeper we probe into the nature of subatomic particles the more particles we find.  The current zoo of  subatomic particles numbers several hundred and their properties fill entire volumes.  Even with the Standard Model we are left with a bewildering number of elementary particles

Materialism does not work.

In contrast

 One of the perhaps most extraordinary things we found, once we had a framework in place with which to classify the texts, is that mystic movements the world over agree on how the spiritual world is organised and formed and how it ‘works’ - if works is the right word. 

The terminology may at times be confusing and different and occasionally just one mystic movement may provide an insight which no other movements do.  On the whole however, the sources on this site  – selected on the basis that they would know because they are mystics or geniuses or indigenous peoples with a long history of ‘knowing’ or drug users with direct experience – they all agree.

What is ‘known’ by the spiritually aware is consistent and coherent across the world and across time.

There is only one ‘religion’ that is completely out of step with this reality.  The world of science.  By denying the possibility that ‘spirit’  exists they have effectively created a view totally out of step with the past and the probably 30% of the population that has had direct experience together with the other unknown percentage that believe anyway.

Not all scientists, I want to stress, have this view, they are not materialists, they are closet spiritualists, whose carefully phrased language and beautifully expressed comments betray to those who understand, exactly where they stand.  But to admit to being anything else other than a materialist in the scientific world is tantamount to killing off your career.  It is the career equivalent of being burned at the stake and many who have been brave enough to state their beliefs have faced the present day equivalent of the Inquisition – torture by derision, public humiliation and peer ridicule.

Why is there such a reaction against any form of spiritual world existing? 

In the first place I don’t think the promoters of spiritualism help their cause.  Spiritualism can be seen as ‘clubby’, exclusive, impractical in the world we live in, and at times downright dangerous.  The misery created by so called ‘voodou spells’ for example, is no joke.  Some so-called alternative medicine does you harm.  There are charlatans and con men and woman in the world of the pseudo spiritual.  But then there are charlatans and con men and women in the world of the materialist – ask anyone who has a so called  ‘financial advisor’.

It is as if we have two opposites battling it out – what I believe the materialists call the ‘airy fairies’ and ‘tree huggers’ and what the spiritualists call  - well perhaps we’d better leave this one alone!

It might be better if we thought less of the battle lines and more about moral imperatives.

There is a middle way though.

If the scientific community just accepted the existence of a spiritual world, they might actually find their job easier. 

There are scientists who are already doing it.  Whilst we do not advocate the use of drugs on this site there are scientists ingesting plants to tap into the spiritual world to find out about the properties of plants, their medicinal properties and their structure.  The opportunities for research are actually quite exciting.  Take a poppy, ‘see a poppy’.

And, as I have said, there are a fair number of closet science spiritualists.  Believers in the spiritual world.

To those in science who know and who have always known, let me say – you are not alone,  an estimated 1 in 10 people have the natural ability without any aids to ‘experience’  this spiritual world, so every time you get in a tube or tram look round and know you are not alone.  Furthermore, by current estimates 30% of the population have had mechanism induced experiences which also ensure they ‘know’.  So go out for a meal with your friends and you may find there you are not alone.

Finally, an ever larger percentage ‘knows’ because they have faith.  They have not had experience, but they are sufficiently aware and astute to recognise that the universe operates in a way that cannot be explained by stating that there is no spiritual world. Deep down inside they know it has to be there, because so much is inexplicable without it.

Fighting the good fight

 There will be resistance to the acceptance of the spiritual world.  It is likely to be vociferous, often sarcastic, ego-centric and aggressive.  It will also probably be irrational.  It may become personal – as often the person who has no leg to stand on from a logical point of view attacks the speaker instead.

Look for the phrase ‘intuitively obvious’.  As in, ‘but it is intuitively obvious that the world is flat’ or ‘it is intuitively obvious that the universe cannot be operated by software, it is operated by chemical and biological systems’.  When I was the Research Director for one consultancy, I had to go and see a lot of software suppliers and this phrase was wheeled out with such monotonous regularity when I asked them how their product did something I almost laughed when they said it. 

The answer is of course “that it may be ‘intuitively obvious’ to you sunshine, but it needs to be explained in logical terms to me”.

Another well-worn phrase is that a proof or explanation is ‘elegant’.  Nope, that won’t do as an argument either.  Models displaying the latest fashions on cat- walks are elegant, proofs aren’t elegant.  Arguments and proofs can be practical and work,  or not as the case may be; but they aren’t elegant.  Elegant means they are all show, flimsy, insubstantial, and expensive.

I also recognise, however, that most of the arguments which will be thrown at those who believe there to be a spiritual world, will be that much more strident and desperate because the opposing arguments  threaten a belief system.  There will be real desperation involved in the way those beliefs will be defended, and that desperation will be born from fear, fear at the loss of something that underpinned their whole life.

John Buchan

An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support

I have noticed that people who don’t admit to a spiritual world tend to be a bit fearful anyway.  The spending sprees, the binge drinking, the mock bonhomie, the need for constant social contact, the ‘recreational drug taking’, the sheer mad busyness of their lives - the constant need to go go go, all these are compensations for a rather sad and lonely existence.  Cut yourself off from the spiritual world, deny its existence and what is left – this physical world - can seem an enormously hostile and lonely place.

So there is a case to be made for compassion for those who fight and fight and fight to  maintain NOTHING IS THERE.  Theirs is not a happy world.

Eventually I suspect, you will find that the view of the materialistic will be washed away in a wave of understanding.  They are already, I believe, a minority.  It is just that they tend to be the loudest.

 In time, their era will seem a distant unfortunate blip in the continuum that has been the spiritual world of the believer for thousands of years.

Observations

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