Thursday, February 4, 2021

Fundamentals, Ten Keys To Reality 

The book would be better titled "10 Keys to Physics and Physicalist Reality", although the real purpose appears to be "how to convince those inconvenienced by souls that they don't have one". 

Frank is a pure materialist -- it is all "space, time, and matter". He likes to borrow phrases from Christianity, eg "born again", and apply them to materialism. One must be "born again" -- to a "complimentary" reality. Bohr first introduced complementarity --  "it is BOTH a wave and a particle", which always reminds me of the "New Shimmer", which is BOTH a dessert topping and a floor wax! 

Complementarity can be understood as the physics version of dialectics -- the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable understanding of seemingly contradictory information and views. You dialectically can have your cake and eat it too!

Arnold Sommerfeld claimed (p 206); "It is clear that complementarity overthrows the scholastic ontology. What is truth? We pose Pilates question not in a  skeptical, non-scientific sense, but rather in the confidence that further work on this new situation will lead to a deeper understanding of the physical and mental world". 

If you want to understand "scholastic ontology", which is supposedly "overthrown", this would be a start. Ontology is about "what is" ... what "actually exists", what it means to exist, what category it is, the subject of universals, etc. --like quantum physics,  it is hard to pin down -- it is metaphysics. To attempt to simplify. it is pretty much a "world view" that has roughly three model/ontological positions: 

  1. Realism says there is an external reality independent of human perception. ie. if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, it still makes a sound. 
  2. Idealism says that reality can only be understood via the human mind and socially constructed meanings -- the unheard tree does not make a sound, and thinking it does shows you are corrupted by the patriarchy. 
  3. Materialism says there is ONLY the material world! Spirit and consciousness are illusions. Reality is all just meaningless random "stuff", including YOU! 
The scholastics were Christian thinkers who sought to understand general philosophical problems like faith, reason, will, intellect, realism, nominalism,  etc, and what could be "known" (epistemology). 

The book seems to present a fairly reachable high level understanding of the current "Standard Model" of physics -- Big Bang, Quantum Physics, quarks,  uncertainty principle, etc -- "reality" is just a complex arrangement of "mass, charge, spin" in Frank's mind. (assuming he has a mind -- true materialism calls the existence of "mind" into question!)

Where the book fails is that it is really just description of "stuff" ("matter", particles, forces, etc) that tries to lure one into thinking that if you explain the things we can observe and measure, that is all there is -- ie, placing  your faith in materialism is "being born again". We "know" there isn't anything beyond the observed because we have not observed it -- we "know" there are no black swans because we have not seen one! (there are, there is a book by that title that I read prior to blogging everything)

Of course we really don't know that, anymore than we can know if we have a wave or particle prior to observation. Honest faith in godless materialism philosophically "resolves" to determinism -- human choice - "Free Will" is collateral damage. Frank isn't comfortable with that, so on page 218 he declares that materialistic determinism and free will both exist through the principle of complementarity.  

However, on page 225, he decides that since you have read this book, the evidence for scientific fundamentalism is overwhelming and indisputable. "To deny it is dishonest. To ignore it is foolish." He goes on to deny that there is such a thing as a soul, but then at the bottom of page 227 he asserts that; "When we see ourselves as patterns in matter, it is natural to draw our circle of kinship very far and wide indeed". 

"Natural"? Frank has just provided a view of the MECHANISM of the universe -- he did not say WHY. The answer to why is a matter of faith, no different from the faith of materialism. I believe heaven and hell both exist, and our faith resolves our destination. I can believe that material exists and with the addition of the secret sauce of consciousness/will, it can build cool stuff and blow it up -- scientific materialism will never tell us whether to build a bomb or an MRI.

If you want to understand the current state of physics a bit better, this book is fine, just ignore the metaphysics, Frank didn't get a Nobel there. I'd recommend "The Fabric Of the Cosmos" as a better choice. 

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