Traditional Science, Quantum Physics, and Simulated Worlds

In my last article, it may have seemed like I was against science or at least against modern science. That is far from the case. I like science a lot. If it were not for science, I would not be at my computer writing this article. The natural world is an extremely fascinating place, and I am glad that there are people researching and teaching us about it.

What I do have difficulty with is the modern philosophy surrounding science. Science, or the study of the natural world, has been around at least as as far back as we have written records, and most likely had been around long before that. I have written articles discussing Traditional Science and how it is different than Modern Science, but in a very real sense, science is just science. If an atheist scientist, a Christian scientist, a Muslim scientist, or a Jewish scientist mix the same chemicals together, they will all get the same results. Eratosthenes of Cyrene was able to calculate the circumference of the Earth as far back as the 3rd Century B.C.E., and his calculation was in error by about 10 to 15%, depending on the value of the stade, the ancient unit of measurement he used. Yet, in 2012, when the modern scientist, Anthony Abreu Mora, used Eratosthenes’ formula with more accurate data, his result was in error by only 0.16%.

Rather than using the terms Traditional Science and Modern Science, it would probably be more accurate to say Traditional Philosophy and Modern Philosophy. It is from philosophy that the rules for how science is practiced and the beliefs about what science can tell us are derived. The philosophy surrounding science has undergone vast changes over the centuries.

Traditional/Platonic Thought

Let us start by looking at Traditional Philosophy as transmitted to us by Plato. While this philosophy is often called Platonian, Plato did not claim to be its originator. Plato said that he was transmitting what he had learned from his teacher, Socrates, who in turn said that he was transmitting wisdom from his own teachers.

Traditional Thought

In Traditional thought, as transmitted by Plato, there is Fundamental Truth. This Truth lies outside of the world. We learn about Truth through revealed knowledge and through our intuition. Revealed knowledge is knowledge that is given to us from outside of the world. An example of revealed knowledge is the astrological axiom, “as above, so below.” This came from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. The intuition referred to is not the lunar faculty that is often called intuition in the modern world, but the solar faculty that comes from our Heart.

When investigating the natural world, or engaging in scientific inquiry, it is permissible, and indeed, desirable, to use knowledge of Fundamental Truth obtained by revelation or intuition in interpreting the results of such inquiry. On the other hand, it is not permissible to use the results of scientific inquiry as knowledge of Fundamental Truth. If the results of scientific inquiry conflicted with knowledge of Fundamental Truth, that was to be expected. Fundamental Truth belonged to the perfect world of the Divine. Scientific inquiry merely revealed facts about the imperfect world of flux and change.

Aristotelian Thought

While Plato claimed to be merely transmitting knowledge from his teachers, his student, Aristotle departed from his teachings in significant ways.

Aristotelian ThoughtWhile Aristotle still believed in Fundamental Truth, according to his teachings, the natural world was intertwined with that Truth to a significant degree. The enmeshment of the two in this philosophy was so great that one should expect scientific inquiry to reveal the same information that was obtained through revealed knowledge and intuition. Because of this, if the results of research and observation of the material world conflicted with what was thought to be known about Fundamental Truth, this could cast our knowledge of Fundamental Truth into doubt. Knowledge could flow in both directions. Reason was the way in which we could arbitrate differences between our scientific knowledge and our knowledge of Fundamental Truth.

Christian Philosophy

Christian philosophers in the Middle Ages largely adopted Aristotelian philosophy.

Christian Philosophy

The main difference was that in Christian philosophy, conflicts between our knowledge of Fundamental Truth and scientific inquiry were to be arbitrated by Church doctrine and dogma rather than reason. This is why Galileo came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. It was not just that the heliocentric model of the solar system challenged Church doctrine, but also that Galileo attempted to give his own interpretation of the Bible based on his findings.

William of Ockham and Nominalism

A few centuries before Galileo, William of Ockham developed the philosophy known as nominalism.

Nominalism

William of Ockham denied the existence of Fundamental Truth, except for the existence of God, and he also denied that science could tell us anything about God. By the same token, the study of God could tell us nothing about the material world. In effect, Ockham’s philosophy placed an impenetrable barrier between the study of the Divine and the study of the natural world.

Modern Scientific Thought

This brings us to the current state of modern scientific thought.

Modern Scientific Thought

In the Modern world, the generally accepted academic model is that scientific inquiry is the beginning of knowledge. There is no recognition of revealed knowledge or tradition. Intuition is considered untrustworthy. The rules by which scientific inquiry can be conducted are quite strict.

It is also widely believed that we can derive truth from scientific inquiry using reason. This truth does not rise to the level of Fundamental Truth, and further inquiry may, and often does, change what we believe to be true.

Quantum Physics

A good example of how scientific inquiry has changed what we believe to be true is in the discipline of quantum physics. For a few centuries after the Enlightenment, there was general consensus as to the mechanics of how things operated in the world. This consensus is now known as Newtonian physics or classical physics, after the famous scientist, Isaac Newton. The problem is that it has now been discovered that Newtonian physics do not work everywhere or all the time. When things get very very small, very very large, or very very fast, the laws of Newtonian physics get thrown out the window.

The most famous experiment in the field of quantum physics concerns the nature of light. This experiment was designed to test whether light was made of particles or if it was a wave, and involved sending light through two slits. If light was a wave, it should go through both slits, and if was made of particles, the individual particles would go through one slit or another.

Light Slit ExperimentThis experiment yielded strange results. If no one measured the light passing through the slits, light would act like a wave and go through both. If someone did measure each of the slits, light would seem to change into particles, each of which going through one hole or another. It seemed as if light would know whether or not it was being measured, and would change its properties accordingly.

This spawned the field of quantum mechanics or quantum physics, and it seems that the more they research in this field, the stranger and stranger things become.

Simulated Worlds

Let us put the confusing world of quantum physics aside for the moment and talk about simulated worlds. Modern technology has reached the level of sophistication that we have created game worlds that mimic the world we live in. In some of these worlds, activity takes place even during times when no human is actively participating in the world. It is conceivable that these games could reach the level of advancement that the characters in these games become conscious.

simulated world

This has led to the hypothesis that the world we live in may actually be a simulated world made by more advanced beings. For reasons that I have to admit that I do not fully understand, if we are able to create a simulated world in which the characters are conscious, we are more likely than not to live in a simulated world ourselves.

In the simulated game worlds that we create, in order to save computer memory, the world takes shape as characters interact with it. For example, light would not have to take on definite properties until it was measured, which is exactly what happens in the experiment discussed above. This would also explain many other things that have been discovered in quantum mechanics.

The World Illusion

This brings us full circle to Traditional/ Platonic Thought. Traditions throughout the world, East and West, teach that the world we live in is an illusion, and that the Real World exists outside of it. Many spiritual traditions teach ways to escape the World Illusion.

The rules of modern science do not allow us to consider these Traditional teachings, but the rules of Traditional Science not only allow us to consider them, they require it. It could be said that this shows that the methods of modern science will indeed lead us to Truth, but I do not know that this is exactly accurate. In Traditional teachings, those who seek after Truth earnestly and diligently will find it. The path to Liberation is open to all. It is not the methodology of seeking that is the key, but the intention and desire.

Interestingly enough, many proponents of modern science seem to ignore what is being discovered using their own rules.

William of Ockham and His Razor, The Religion of the Modern Scientific Establishment

In a series of articles I wrote several years ago, I proposed that the practice of astrology would be best served by grounding it in the framework of a traditional science. In this series of articles, I suggested that the study of astrology be grounded in essentialist metaphysical philosophy and thealogical principles. But doesn’t that involve religion? Yes, it does. I would argue, however, that the current establishments teaching and governing the modern sciences are also operating out of a religion; a very different religion from the ones that the practitioners of traditional sciences were grounded in, but a religion, nonetheless.

What is Religion?

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of religion is:

1. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

   1.1 A particular system of faith and worship.

   1.2 A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.

The Miriam-Webster definition of religion is:

1 a : the state of a religious
   b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
       (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

By these definitions, however, particularly the Oxford one, one could argue that some Eastern traditions, such as Buddhism, do not qualify as religions. It may also be hard to include many Ancient and Classical “pagan” religions, traditions, and philosophies under this definition. Even within modern Christian denominations, there is a heavy debate with respect to whether Christianity should be based upon “faith” or “works.” Those denominations centered on “works” may have trouble with the Oxford definition, while those centered on “faith” may have trouble with the Miriam-Webster one.

While a precise definition that would encompass everything that most of us would consider religion is difficult, I propose that a working definition for the purposes of this article could be: a set of shared fundamental beliefs about what is true that are not derived from empirical evidence or observation.

What is Science?

Unlike the case of religion, the Oxford English dictionary provides a workable definition of science that is usable for this discussion:

The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

This definition is large enough to encompass the Traditional Sciences, such as alchemy and cosmology, and the Modern ones, such as chemistry and physics.

The Relationship Between Science and Religion

EuclidWhile proponents and practitioners of the Modern Sciences tend to claim that their beliefs about what is true are based entirely on observation, experimentation, and rational analysis derived from observation and experimentation, such a claim is impossible.  Even in the very logical and rational discipline of Geometry, one must begin with fundamental beliefs which cannot be tested through observation or experimentation.  For example, we believe that a straight line which extends infinitely long in either direction can exist. There is no way that a human being could ever test this belief, yet without this belief the study of Geometry would be impossible. In around 300 B.C., the foundational textbook for Geometry, Elements, which is attributed to Euclid, identified 10 fundamental beliefs that formed the basis for all of Geometry.

There is no discipline in any modern or traditional science that does not at its source rely upon untestable beliefs.  Even the existence of the world we live in must rest upon a belief. In his famous thought experiment, René Decartes concluded that if a demon had captured him and set about to deceive him and to create and place him in a illusory world, he would have no way to uncover that deception. The popular science fiction series, the Matrix, is based on such a scenario, with conscious and intelligent machines taking the place of demons. The only conclusion he could reach with any certainty was “cognito, ergo sum,” or in English, “I think, therefore I am.” The reason he could feel certain of this was that if he was thinking, there must be something doing the thinking. Thus the only thing he could be certain of was his own existence.

While I believe that there are many flaws in Cartesian philosophy, his thought experiments demonstrated the limits of knowledge that we can obtain with experimentation and observation. On some level, the starting point of any scientific inquiry will be a set of untestable beliefs. That is unavoidable. The difference between Traditional and Modern scientists is in the set of untestable beliefs that they accept and that form the foundation and allowed boundaries for further inquiry.

Types of Reason

In order to guard against the uncertainty of the information obtainable through our senses, Enlightenment philosophers have extolled reason as the way to obtain knowledge of truth. The most basic type of reasoning is deductive reasoning. An example of this type reasoning is as follows:

  1. All cats are animals.
  2. Fluffy is a cat.
  3. Therefore, Fluffy is an animal.

FluffyIf the premises are true, and the logic is correct, we will invariably come to a sound conclusion. The difficulty is that the knowledge we can obtain from deductive reasoning is limited in scope.

Another form of reasoning is inductive reasoning, which is the derivation of general principles from specific observations. Most empirical sciences regularly employ inductive reasoning. For example, we have observed many cats that give birth to live kittens, and we have not observed any that lay eggs; therefore, we are allowed to conclude that mother cats give birth to live kittens and do not lay eggs. It is possible that someday, someone will observe a cat that lays eggs, but we can consider that possibility highly unlikely. Inductive reasoning is less certain than deductive reasoning, but it is still allowable.

Deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning are staples of both modern and traditional sciences, and neither of these types of reasoning require the need to turn to beliefs that are not self-evident or fundamental in scope, such as the theoretical possibility of a straight line or the existence of the natural world.

The difference between the rules of practice for the modern and traditional sciences is in how to handle matters that are not amenable to either deductive or inductive reasoning, and how to decide between competing hypotheses with respect to explanations as to the nature of things or how the world works. When there are competing hypotheses in these matters, it is human nature to come up with “ad hoc excuses” to save a theory, many of which can not be tested, and so there must be criteria by which to judge and decide between them.

In these cases, practitioners of traditional sciences turned to traditionally accepted metaphysical principles and to revealed knowledge to sort between competing theories. Now, a reader could argue that it was traditionally accepted that the Earth was the center of the Solar System, and that this was proven to be wrong. The problem with this argument is that when the geocentric model of the Solar System was prevalent, traditional knowledge had already been broken. Aristotelian principles represented a major break from tradition, as did Christian philosophy. Admittedly, having a broken tradition severely limits our ability to revive traditional science, but I believe we can still proceed cautiously, so long as we act with humility, honestly admitting to the level of certainty that is possible to us.

Inference to the Best Explanation and Occam’s Razor

Whereas practitioners of traditional sciences would turn to traditional doctrine and metaphysics to examine matters not amenable to deductive or inductive reasoning, most modern scientific disciplines handle such matters by employing what is known as abductive reasoning, or “inference to the best explanation.” This practice does not attempt to achieve certainty, it purportedly only seeks to determine the most likely explanation for a given natural phenomenon.

According to accepted practice as taught by the current scientific establishment, the best explanation is one that is testable, has the widest scope, is the simplest, and is conservative in that it adheres to already established theories. The first difficulty with this form of reasoning is that by definition, it will only consider theories that are testable. Now, of course, for a theory to be examined by science, traditional or modern, it must be testable, and it is perfectly logical and acceptable to confine one’s research to that which can be tested; however, there is no basis other than belief to consider a testable theory better than an untestable one.   Of course, it makes sense to guard against “ad hoc” excuses for theories, especially if these excuses turn the theory from a testable one to an untestable one; however, there are traditional teachings, such as the proto-element of Aethyr, that make no claims as to be testable by material means.

Even more problematic is the requirement of simplicity. At first glance, this would seem to be a good criterion, and it is known as “Occam’s razor,” after William of Ockham, an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher who lived between about 1287 and 1347. It is commonly thought that this doctrine teaches that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is most likely correct. I am not sure how such a doctrine could be verified, but it seems reasonable on the surface. Of course, this also begs the question as to what is meant by simplest.

William of OckhamThis is where the problem lies. It could be said that the simplest explanation is the one that involves the fewest assumptions. That seems logical as well. There is more, however. The most famous version of the doctrine of Occam’s Razor comes not from William of Ockham himself, but from a later philosopher, John Punch in 1639, which states, “Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate,” or in English, “Entities are not to be multiplied without necessity.” This doctrine has been expanded to exclude anything but observable natural phenomena from consideration as possible explanations.

It is said that with respect to the scientific method, Occam’s razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the fact that the scientific establishment teaches this practice at all speaks to a system of belief. This belief system rules out any explanation that can not be tested empirically out of hand, and it heavily favors explanations that are purely material.

The Problem

Ordinarily, I would not concern myself with the belief system of anyone else, but in the modern West, many practitioners of science claim to be the sole arbiters of truth, and the words “according to science” are treated with the same reverence as “from the mouth of God.” While there are some who will admit to the limitations of their field, there are others who will make proclamations about matters that are outside the purvue of any science, traditional or modern, such as the existence of God, the soul, or Free Will.

Furthermore, when information obtained through scientific investigation is transmitted to laity, there is no distinction between information obtained through direct observation, deduction, induction, or “inference to the best explanation.” All of these are treated as if they have the same reliability.

The situation becomes more complicated with respect to  those who do not accept the doctrines of the modern scientific establishment. Sensing, correctly, that their beliefs will not be given fair consideration, they often abandon reason altogether. Lay people who do believe in the doctrines of modern scientific establishment will respond by attacking those who do not, without real understanding of what science can tell us and what it can not. These debates within the laity are argued with the fervor of debates surrounding theology.

A current example of such a debate can be found surrounding what is commonly referred to as “the Mandela Effect.” The Mandela Effect got its name from the fact that there are many people who claim to have clear memories that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the late ’80’s or early ’90’s, even though he later became President of South Africa and lived until 2013.  In addition to this rather major discrepancy, there are many minor ones, such as movie quotes and names of children’s books. There are people who believe that these discrepancies have been caused by a change in the timeline or a shift to an alternate universe. There are others that believe that these discrepancies are simply tricks of the mind or false memories.

If one researches this online, it is impossible to get any objective view on the subject. Those who believe it is a change in the timeline claim to have “proof” based on the possibility of alternate timelines as proposed by quantum mechanics, and they point to research in quantum mechanics currently being performed by CERN as a possible cause of the shift in timelines. Those who do not believe that there has been a change in the timeline claim that the theory has been “debunked” because of known and predictable vagaries in our memories.

The reality is that the Mandela Effect has neither been “proved” nor “debunked.” I do not even know how it could be tested. It may be caused by a change in the timeline; it may be false memories. The truth of the matter is that despite the confidence by which people make their claims, no one really knows.

Summary

In this article, I have discussed how, despite claims to the contrary, the teachers and proponents of modern science base their teachings in a system of beliefs. Some of these beliefs are unavoidable and fundamental, like the belief in the existence of our reality, while others go beyond the scope of science’s domain.  I have examined three types of reasoning, deductive, inductive, and abductive, and discussed how the allowance of abductive reasoning reveals a belief system, and how these forms of reasoning tend to be treated as if they were equal when findings based on them are conveyed to the laity . I have also discussed how this practice creates a culture of discord among laity as shown in the controversy surrounding the “Mandela Effect.”