Manifesto of an Amateur Scientist


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This essay is a compilation of ideas, opinions, and conjectures from two previous essays, "Is Science Solving the Reality Riddle," and "Order, Chaos, and the End of Reductionism" and two other essays, "Are We All Alone?" and "Teachings from Near Death Experiences." Among other things, the author concludes that current scientific theories are incomplete and limit our understanding of nature in a fundamental way, current evolutionary theory is wrong, and a new evolutionary paradigm is needed to explain the physical and mental evolutionary processes.

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Manifesto of an Amateur Scientist

  1. 1. Manifesto of an Amateur Scientist By John Winders z ↔ z 2 + c
  2. 2. Note to my readers: You can access this essay and my other essays directly instead of through this website, by visiting the Amateur Scientist Essays website at the following URL: You are free to download and share all of my essays without any restrictions, although it would be very nice to credit my work when making direct quotes.
  3. 3. Note: The figure on the cover page is a three-dimensional slice cut through a four-dimensional Julia set. It is generated from a simple quaternion feedback formula: z ↔ z2 + c In Is Science Solving the Reality Riddle? I raised some questions involving current scientific dogma and tentatively tried to answer some of my own questions. By the time I finished that essay, the fog of confusion had lifted a little, so I went ahead with Order, Chaos, and the End of Reductionism. The purpose of this essay is to write down some ideas and opinions that have since crystallized in my mind, before old age and senility make that an impossibility. I want to state up front that I'm not anti-science. As a retired engineer, I take pride in the fact that I've mastered at least some of the principles from the vast storehouse of accumulated scientific knowledge. Engineers are the problem solvers, but our profession owes a debt of gratitude to the scientists – the thinkers and dreamers – who have added so much to that storehouse. But even as we use scientific reductionism to solve many day-to-day problems, this approach can only give us a rough approximation of reality. The time has come for scientists to explore other avenues knowledge that will induce nature to reveal herself on her own terms – not ours. Here then, is a summary of my conjectures on these matters – Manifesto of an Amateur Scientist. 1. Quantum Physics and General Relativity Cannot Be Reconciled. For the past 100 years, science has labored under the yoke of two completely incompatible theories of reality: Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics. Today, there is a consensus among physicists that there should be, and there must be, one theory and one theory alone that explains all things from the tiniest quarks to galactic clusters and beyond to include the entire universe. An enormous amount of effort has been spent in trying to accomplish this by making relativity look more like quantum physics, or making quantum physics look more like relativity. The engineer in me asks, “Why bother?” Just a Newton's laws work exceptionally well within their prescribed limits, general relativity and quantum mechanics also work exceptionally well within theirs. These theories are incomplete, but do they have to be reconciled in order to serve a useful purpose? Can they even be reconciled? 2. Solutions to the General Relativity Field Equations Are Approximations. The field equations that Albert Einstein derived in 1915 are what I would call The (Almost) General Theory of Relativity. Einstein brilliantly saw an equivalence between linear acceleration and a gravitational field and used that as a first principle. Rotating motions were left as solutions to the field equations, but there was no fundamental equivalence built in for them. Consequently, when rotation is included in cases to be solved, anomalies and paradoxes appear in those solutions, including naked singularities revealed by rotating black holes, and time loops in rotating universes. On the other hand, an intrinsic state of spin (angular momentum) is incorporated into quantum mechanics from the very beginning. The solutions to the field equations of relativity also seem to break down at the Schwarzschild radius surrounding non-rotating black holes, and when cosmologists apply them to solving the state of thee entire universe. I suspect (although I can't prove) that those particular breakdowns occur because time and space are switching places. 3. Quantum Field Theory Cannot Be Derived from First Principles. Quantum physics is hugely successful, in particular quantum field theory, pioneered by Richard Feynman. Many predictions have been born out by experiment; most recently, the Higgs particle was uncovered in the debris of proton-proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider. This is an amazing track record. However, the theory is still very much ad hoc. Part of it relies on a very questionable mathematical procedure known as “renormalization” that subtracts infinity from infinity to arrive at finite values. Another undesirable feature is the requirement of plugging numerous physical constants into the field equations; those constants have arbitrary values that cannot be derived from first principles and seem to bear no relationships to one another.
  4. 4. 4. M-Theory Is Hopelessly Reductionist. Physicists hoped that string theory (or M-theory as its proponents refer to it) would unify general relativity with quantum mechanics. Physics is currently based reductionism, which hold the views that the whole is always equal to the sum of its parts. This might be the case in a perfectly linear universe where the wave functions of the parts interfere constructively and destructively to produce the tsunami wave function that represents the whole. Unfortunately, the universe is only linear as an approximation. M-theory is an extreme form of reductionism, taking the search for a unified theory in the wrong direction. 5. The Effect of Space and Time Is To Censor Information. In Reality Riddle, I made a conjecture that reality is made up of information. Everything that we call “solid” is mostly empty space. Empty space isn't really empty. And forces, which seem so powerful may simply be the tendency for the amount of information in the universe to increase. Erik Verlinde has proposed a theory of gravity based on entropy, and entropy and information are essentially the same thing. According to the holographic universe principle, the state of every volume in space is encoded by bits of information on the two-dimensional surface surrounding the volume. In other words, what we “see” in every volume is nothing more than the information encoded on a screen surrounding it. That screen has a finite capacity for storing information. Every observer is views the entire universe through a screen that surrounds the universe. Thus, by reciprocity, the amount of information that is available to the observer is limited. Space and time are incorporated into a mechanism that limits information that is knowable to an observer. Objects that are separated from us in space are also separated from us by time. The only “now” for us is right “here.” The farther away an object is, the less of its history is available to us. 6. Conflating Space and Time Is a Mistake – They Are Different Things. The universe creates information in the Now. The Past is simply a record of all the information that has ever been created. There is no information about the Future, so the Future does not exist; it is only a projection in our minds of what might become, based on what is happening and what has happened. We have the freedom to navigate among things that are scattered about us throughout space. We cannot visit the Past – we can only see the records of the past that survive in the Now – and of course we cannot visit the Future that doesn't exist. Therefore, we have only three degrees of freedom in our universe, not four. Space is not time and time is not space; they're different things. Hermann Minkowski invented the four-dimensional space-time continuum, and gave the temporal dimension the “imaginary” label i, equal to √-1, in order to distinguish time from the three “real” spatial dimensions. He had to make that distinction; otherwise, the mathematics wouldn't make any sense. Einstein enthusiastically adopted Minkowski space and used it to express special relativity in clean, elegant equations. He incorporated Minkowski space into general relativity, allowing gravity to bend it like it were a sheet of rubber. Later, quantum physicists like Richard Feynman, used Minkowski space into their models of particle interactions, showing particles from the “past” merging with antiparticles from the “future.” But if space and time are qualitatively different things, what happens when space-time becomes so distorted that time and space trade places? Then the equations give you event horizons around black holes, naked singularities, and time loops. 7. Cosmology Lacks a Sound Theoretical Basis and Sufficient Observational Data. The problem with cosmology is twofold: a) science doesn't yet have a true cosmological theory, and b) observational information is limited and distorted. First, I don't believe general relativity can serve as the basis for a cosmological theory because, as I stated earlier, it only gives approximate answers. Attempting to find solutions to the field equations that represent the entire universe will produce anomalies and paradoxes. A true cosmological theory is needed. Second, science lacks sufficient observational data because the perspective of overall scale becomes distorted when looking at the early universe through telescopes. Science currently accepts the premise of an expanding universe, and I have no argument with that premise. Our telescopes should then reveal
  5. 5. smaller spaces between distant galaxies than spaces between nearby galaxies, simply because the light from distant galaxies was emitted when those galaxies were closer together. But telescopes don't show that, so our 3-dimensional view of the “past” is severely distorted. Suppose a new form of radiation made it possible to “see” through the cosmic haze of the early universe all the way back to the big bang event itself. My conjecture is that the big bang would appear to fill the entire sky – a pinpoint object blown into cosmic dimensions. What then would we be looking at? Can our puny three-dimensional brains understand the big bang event within our limited mental framework of space and time? Are the field equations of general relativity up to the task of modeling the cosmos without breaking down and producing mathematical gibberish? Can the current version of quantum field theory be used to make predictions based on the conditions that existed during the first moments of creation? I don't think so. Without a working theory and good observational data, cosmology is, at best, science fiction. 8. The True Meaning of Second Law of Thermodynamics is Misunderstood. The second law of thermodynamics has given scientists fits of depression for more than a century. It seems to condemn the entire universe to a fate worse than death – heat death. In this final state, nothing changes; nothing can ever change, because all the available energy has been used up. Woe is us! But this state of mind stems from reductionist thinking. Entropy just measures the available degrees of freedom of a system: S = k Log W, where S is entropy, k is Boltzmann's constant, and W are the number of degrees of freedom, or microstates a system may have. The number W is astoundingly large for most systems. Raise the temperature of one gram of water to the boiling point. It has a total entropy of 7.35 Joule/ºK, which translates into W = 10 7.35/k . This number is monstrously large: it is one followed by 1023 zeros. If you wrote down that number as 1,000,000, … etc., on letter-sized sheets of paper with five thousand zeros on each page, it would require a stack of paper over one trillion miles thick. The universe has a voracious appetite for more degrees of freedom; it is what causes the universe to expand, information to increase, and it is the very force that drives creation forward. This is my version of the Universal Prime Directive behind every law: “Every change maximizes the total degrees of freedom of the universe.” 9. Entropy and Information Are the Same Thing. Claude Shannon was a brilliant engineer, who worked on breaking secret codes in WWII and studied information in detail after the war at Bell Labs. He came to the conclusion that information and entropy are the same thing, and I believe him. You can't tell whether information is “good” or “bad” by looking at it. In fact, a good secret code is one where the message you're sending looks just like random noise. In Order, Chaos, I wrote a little illustration about building a wall with the “Mona Lisa” encoded on it. From an information theory perspective, it had the same information as a random pile of bricks. At Bell Labs, Claude Shannon wasn't particularly interested in the content of the information transmitted through cables or space. He just wanted to make sure messages got through without any of the bits changing along the way. Entropy and information don't have attributes like “good” or “bad.” Entropy isn't “negative information,” as some authors contend. 10. Creative Processes Are Emergent and Chaotic. In the process of maximizing the total degrees of freedom, various processes emerge according to the present state of the universe. A closed system will try to maximize the total degrees of freedom, but it can only occupy ones that are available to it in its present state. As systems become more complex, additional pathways open up to an increasing number of available states. These pathways are modes of change – creative processes – and they are fundamentally nonlinear and chaotic. Strangely, chaotic processes also produce order. Moreover, in the face of the randomizing influence of entropy, order can arise only through processes of self organization. Every self-organizing process requires three things: the system has degrees of freedom available to it, the system is in a state of non-equilibrium, and the process possesses some degree of non-linearity.
  6. 6. 11. We Live in a Fractal Universe. My conjecture is that 3-dimensional space is, at least in principle, infinite, and it is a boundary between order and chaos in a higher-dimensional space. It is where the creative forces are played out in the universe. An infinite 3-dimensional fractal borderline can be created mathematically using quaternions, which are 4-dimensional objects. I can offer no proof of this conjecture; it is based mostly on the fact that fractals have self-similarity that repeats the pattern of the whole down to the smallest dimensions of the fractal. If the universe were a 3-dimensional fractal space, it would project fractal-like features down to the microscopic level, which is what is actually observed. Currently, scientists believe there is a limit to the smallness of objects that can exist in the universe – the Planck length. If true, this might place limits on both the complexity and the size of the universe. Interestingly, the Planck length is given by the formula lP = √ ħ G / c 3 , combining three fundamental constants in nature. Could those constants be mathematically derived from the fractal properties of the universe? If so, that would be a very nice proof of this conjecture. 12. Standard Evolutionary Theory Is Wrong. The theory of evolution is misunderstood – by both its advocates and its opponents. The opponents of evolution mistakenly invoke the second law of thermodynamics as proof that evolution would only produce random outcomes. That would be true if the evolutionary process were random, but it is not. Additionally, the second law only applies to closed systems, whereas all systems (except the universe itself) are open. On the other hand, the advocates of evolution make the same mistake by insisting that the process is, in fact, random. This is the reductionist paradigm, which is useful for analyzing the workings of mechanical clocks, but is hopelessly inadequate for explaining the complexity of the universe. When applied to evolution, reductionism piles one improbability on top of another until the whole edifice of creation becomes an absurdity. Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, points out the improbability of certain cellular structures such as flagella arising from random mutations. These structures require numerous sequential evolutionary changes to the DNA molecule to produce them, but none of those individual changes produce anything that could be called an advantage chosen through natural selection. 13. A New Paradigm of Evolution Is Required. Fortunately, having to choose between creationism (or intelligent design) and reductionist evolution is a false dichotomy. Evolution needs to be understood through the operation of chaotic processes, especially when it comes to biological systems. The universe operates on a hierarchy of laws that emerge as the state of a system, including the universe as a whole, changes. The “new” laws never contradict the “old” ones; however, the effects of the old laws become secondary or tertiary as the system evolves. Emergent laws and processes are not well understood, because they are chaotic. Reductionist thinking tends to define laws and processes by their effects. Newton's law of gravitation is defined entirely by a formula that describes the gravitational force: F = M1 M2 G/r2 . However, the entropic theory of gravitation stipulates that there is a tendency for massive objects to increase entropy (and the total degrees of freedom in the universe). They accomplish this by coming closer together. Chaotic processes cannot be defined by their effects, even if the effects are orderly. However, chaotic processes are repeatable; a pseudo-random number generator always generates the same string of pseudo-random numbers; a Mandelbrot set is always the same. 14. The Laws of the Universe Are Not Static – They Evolve. Science operates on the assumption that the laws of the universe are the same everywhere and at every time. The new evolutionary paradigm does not hold on to that assumption. Laws are best described as processes of change, which may or may not be chaotic. While everything obeys the Prime Directive of the Universe, it is possible or even likely that individual laws would be modified or superseded as conditions change. If the big bang theory is correct, the state of the universe was entirely different early in history. We have no way of knowing or even guessing which processes prevailed at that stage of its evolution.
  7. 7. 15. Life Is a Natural Process. As awesome as life certainly is, it can be at least partially understood as being a natural, and maybe inevitable, outcome of universal evolution. In short, life is a natural process. There may not be any hope of reducing that process into a set of mathematical equations, but that doesn't mean life is supernatural or that it defies scientific explanation. But I'm not saying that there isn't a bright line between living and non-living things exists, as many reductionists would say. There is a very bright line in my opinion, and life is much more than a collection of atoms or wave functions. There are significant qualitative differences between a collection of amino acids and a living bacterium. Again, it's a matter of a new set of laws emerging from complexity; living things are governed by laws that operate independently from quantum physics and Newtonian mechanics, but they are still in harmony with them; science doesn't yet understand these laws, nor can they be understood from a reductionist perspective. 16. Consciousness Emerges from Material Complexity and Undergoes a Separate Evolution. If there is a purpose or an “end state” of the universe, it may be the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness seems to have emerged from the material complexity, which means that material complexity is a sufficient condition for consciousness. The question is whether material complexity is also a necessary condition. If so, that may provide the rationale for having a universe in the first place. Consciousness has undergone, and may be undergoing an evolutionary cycle of its own. Richard Maurice Bucke describes the various mental states of an evolving human race. He said that until about 5,000 years ago, the majority of humankind existed in a state known as the bicameral mind; a mental state completely different than what we would call a “normal” state of mind. Over time, this state of consciousness was replaced by ordinary self consciousness. According to Bucke, humans undergo an evolutionary process from infancy toward adulthood, which starts as simple consciousness and ends in self consciousness. Beyond that level is cosmic consciousness, which is probably the same thing as what Buddhists call satori. A small percentage of humans have attained that state of consciousness, but Bucke believed it is becoming more common with each passing century and he listed many of the known cases. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin goes even further; he said that multiple human consciousnesses form the noosphere, a disembodied global consciousness, which in turn evolves toward a universal end state he calls the Omega Point. Teilhard's vision of the noosphere seems to have anticipated the world wide web that emerged in the technological age. 17. Consciousness May Surpass the Brain. Based on what was stated in the previous conjecture, it remains an open question whether or not consciousness can survive in a disembodied state. Reductionism would reject such a notion out of hand, because the whole – consciousness – could not possibly be the sum of its parts – the brain cells – simply because the whole wouldn't have any parts. However, if we accept the idea that new chaotic processes emerge when the underlying order reaches a sufficient level of complexity, then I don't think we can rule out the possibility that consciousness operates somewhat independently from the neural networks where it originates, and it continues to function in some manner even after the physical foundation is removed. Of course this gets into the realm of mysticism and immortality, which is currently outside science; however, new post-reductionist principles and laws may be discovered that will be incorporated into a scientific theory of consciousness. 18. Some of the Greatest Enemies of Science are Scientists. There is a growing hostility toward science in the 21st century, especially in America. Part this is fueled by religion, which is seen as being under attack by science. Part of this is driven by a political agenda orchestrated by “captains of industry” who see science as standing in their way of controlling, exploiting, and monetizing the Earth's precious resources. But some this is also due to pronouncements made by scientists themselves, which either turn out to be completely false or only partially true. It's bad enough that the vast majority of citizens and their leaders are scientifically ignorant, but it's even worse that scientifically-educated people are doing such a lousy job of
  8. 8. communicating science to the general population. As an engineer who is fairly well acquainted with scientific principles yet who is very much outside the scientific community, I can plainly see a fair amount of “group think” among scientists. On one hand, they often refuse to let go of current paradigms, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. History books supply many examples this. On the other hand, when one of them comes up with a half-baked theory that sounds good, many jump right on board without showing the slightest trace of skepticism. One example of this is the ozone depletion scare that led to a global ban of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1980s, causing a great deal of unnecessary economic disruption. This theory (at least the theory that was presented to the public) was “voodoo chemistry” where individual chlorine atoms released by CFCs destroy ozone molecules in the upper atmosphere, deplete the ozone layer, and expose everyone to deadly ultraviolet rays. But in order for this process to work, the rogue chlorine atoms weren't allowed to form any known stable compounds with oxygen; they had to be continuously recycled so they could eat more ozone. This effectively turns those atoms into catalysts that drive the reversible chemical reaction between oxygen and ozone only in the bad direction. Of course, such one-way catalysts are an impossibility, and I explained why that is so in much more detail in Appendix A of my essay Global Warming Is Real (Even if the Term “Greenhouse” is Bogus). Even if the ozone layer really were being adversely affected by man-made chemicals, the chemists did a terrible job of presenting a scientifically-credible theory to us, and I say shame on the scientific community for not calling them out on this. With friends like these, who needs enemies? It's no wonder that there are so many climate deniers and anti-evolutionists among us. 19. Science and Religion Will Someday Become the Same Thing. I have a great deal of respect for atheists who are intelligent, like Neil deGrasse Tyson and the late Carl Sagan, although I don't share most of their theological views. One of my favorite Tyson quotes is, “God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on.” He was referring to the “God of the gaps” hypothesis, which says things we attribute to God are merely those things we don't understand scientifically. When Sir Isaac Newton studied orbital motions involving more than two bodies, he concluded that the solar system is unstable. This led him to propose that God must occasionally nudge the planets back into their proper orbits. Pierre-Simon Laplace later analyzed this problem using better mathematical techniques and he found that the planetary orbits are, in fact, quasi-stable, based on nothing more than Newton's laws. After Laplace published his results, the emperor Napoleon asked him why he hadn't mentioned God in the analysis. Laplace supposedly replied, “Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.” Laplace wasn't stating he was an atheist; he just didn't need to invoke God in order to explain orbital mechanics. Yet I cringe when scientists make public pronouncements that God doesn't exist. All that does is inflame passions and turns religious people into enemies of science (and of progress). Also, you really can't say things like that if you're intellectually honest because you can't prove a negative. I accept the premise that God created and sustains the universe, but I'm referring to Thomas Jefferson's God, not the cruel, vengeful and capricious cartoon character that is worshiped in some churches. When scientists who deny God are asked what existed before the universe came into being, they are forced to state that the universe (in one form or another) always existed. Religious people respond with something very similar when asked what came before God: they say that God always existed. I hope that scientific study will finally uncover the Single Causal Factor that created and sustains the universe; we will find that it has always existed and it's the necessary and sufficient condition for everything; it will also be so profoundly obvious that nothing else is needed to explain it. Isn't that a pretty good description of God? 20. The Human Race Is Effectively Alone in the Universe. I think this the most important topic in this essay by far, because it influences our core philosophical and religious outlooks, how we perceive our purpose and place in the universe, and the way we relate to each other. Therefore, I'm going to devote several pages to this important topic instead of summarizing it in a single paragraph as I have done in other parts of this essay. I tried to approach
  9. 9. this question logically in my essay Are We All Alone? Using empirical evidence, I came away with the conclusion that we are effectively all alone. I broke the question down into three parts: 1) Are there spiritual or supernatural beings watching over us and protecting us? 2) Are intelligent beings from other planets actually making contact with us, or could they in the future? and 3) Is it possible for us to make non-physical contact with other intelligent beings through radio communication channels? I can't find much empirical evidence one way or the other regarding the first question. Believing in intelligent spiritual beings, benign or otherwise, are essentially articles of faith. These things simply aren't amenable to study using the scientific method. The idea of spiritual or supernatural beings who watch, guide, and sometimes intervene directly in human affairs seems to be very appealing and accepting them as real is part of human nature and central to most of the world's religions. In fact, it is belief in spiritual beings that separates religion from boilerplate philosophy. Many scientists completely reject these ideas out of hand because of the lack of experimental proof, but I think that may be a mistake. I think there may be some data to support the notion of a spiritual aspect to our existence, although the data are rather weak. For example, some near death experiences (NDEs) have been at least partially validated by medical workers who verified that certain activities that NDE subjects could have only seen while “out of body” actually did occur. Then there people who have provided details about previous lives, which were corroborated by others and could only have been known by those people if they had lived those previous lives. Based on this rather weak evidence, there seem to be higher moral or spiritual laws – in addition to the known physical laws – that operate in the universe. Beyond that, I can't be absolutely certain whether or not there are conscious spiritual entities who commune with us. Concerning the second question, I've concluded there is no possibility of making physical contact with advanced alien beings. This conclusion is based on logic, the physical laws of nature, and the vast distances between us and the home planets of potential advanced civilizations. Making a journey across these distances within the limited lifespan of an individual traveler would require transport at nearly the speed of light, which would require stupendous amounts of raw energy. Even if the technology for achieving that were possible, the journey would essentially be a one-way trip; after reaching earth, travelers would forever be temporally cut off from their home planet. Of course, the problem of interstellar space travel has been solved in science fiction novels. There we can find inter-dimensional beings who can enter the fourth dimension and materialize anywhere they choose, and “wormholes in space-time” that enable star travelers to bypass the normal physical limitations imposed by special relativity. Oddly enough, there are even a few supposedly well- educated physicists who embrace such ideas. Well, I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but “bypassing” the speed of light limitation, while being very convenient, would also entail violating the laws of causality. Nature simply will not allow that to happen – ever. End of story; case closed. Leaving inter-dimensional beings and wormholes behind, what could possibly motivate intelligent beings to undertake what is essentially a one-way journey? Only three things come to my mind: 1) to gather information about another civilization solely for the sake of knowledge itself, 2) to satisfy a hunger to help a dysfunctional civilization like ourselves avoid self destruction and to guide them along the evolutionary path toward a higher purpose, and 3) to undertake a campaign of conquest to invade a habitable planet like earth and subjugate or exterminate the native population. The first motive makes no sense because there is very little a hyper-advanced civilization could learn from people like us who have just recently emerged from the bronze age. Plus, there would be no way for those travelers to transmit any knowledge they could glean from us back to their home planet in anything resembling a timely fashion. But if aliens are only motivated by a desire to help us, then they must truly be altruistic, because they could never return to a “home” that is anything like the one they left. Only the third ominous possibility makes any logical sense; but if alien visitations have occurred and are occurring with invasion, conquest, and destruction in mind, then
  10. 10. those dire events would have already happened. Furthermore, none of the UFO conspiracy theories make any sense to me, because it would involve an extraordinary level of secrecy and global cooperation involving tens of thousands of people in every level of every government on earth. Humankind has never accomplished anything close to that level of cooperation in the past and we probably never will. Concerning the third question, the evidence available to me strongly suggests that there relatively few places in the Milky Way where advanced civilizations could exist. Our sun happens to be (at the present time) in a relatively empty space between two spiral arms. It is only in places like this where physical conditions are fairly benign. The vast majority of places in our galaxy are simply too hostile for life to survive. Most star systems in our galaxy are comprised of first-generation red dwarfs with planets (if any) that are comprised of hydrogen and helium. Those planets just don't have the right chemistry for life. Many of the second- and third-generation stars are giants that burn out too quickly; however, the long-lived medium-sized stars usually form multiple-star systems where it's impossible to maintain stable planetary orbits in the so-called “habitable zones.” The few remaining solitary sun-like stars that live in benign locations might have life-supporting planets, and recently astronomers have indirectly detected some interesting candidates for those. But then consider the earth, which enjoys the most favorable conditions possible for supporting life. Even here, life has been nearly extinguished on a number of occasions over the 4-billion year history of our planet. Mass extinctions usually leave some surviving primitive or microbial life behind, but then it's a very long evolutionary road back to the more advanced life forms. How many times over our sun's 8-billion year lifespan could evolution recur? Only very recently on earth has a single species, Homo sapiens, emerged with enough intelligence and inventiveness to begin to carry out interstellar communication. And based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, our species was almost driven to extinction two times before we developed any advanced technology at all. If humans did become extinct, would another species ascend to take our place? Maybe not. After all, there doesn't seem to be any requirement for life to be technologically advanced. Other animals, including our closest ape relatives, seem to be perfectly content living simple lives without feeling any pressure to walk upright and develop large brains. Based on all of this evidence, my guess – and I admit it's only a guess – is that there may be as few as 10 communicating civilizations in the entire Milky Way. Most or maybe all of those few civilizations would be scattered in those empty spaces between the spiral arms. The likelihood that any of them are close enough to earth to communicate with us using anything resembling current technology is vanishingly small. It's no wonder that the SETI Project is coming up blank. So my answer to the question is this: Yes, effectively we are all alone. Strangely, having come to this conclusion didn't make me discouraged or depressed. On the contrary, having the knowledge that we're all alone helps me focus on my 7 billion brothers and sisters who share this little blue life raft slowly drifting through the Milky Way. In my opinion, this is far better than wasting my time hoping and praying that some supernatural or extraterrestrial beings will fly down and take care of all our problems. One of the things that gives life some purpose is the realization that all we can really depend on is each other. 21. The Origin of the Universe Is a Mystery That Science Alone Is Not Able to Solve. One of the dictionary definitions of mystery is, “Any truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation.” I think “unknowable” pretty well sums up the origin of the universe. Within our particular universe, everything is linked through a chain of causation back through time. By reversing time, we can trace every causal chain in our universe all the way back to a common origin. At that point, the chains of causation simply end and that's where the mystery begins.
  11. 11. It's pretty obvious that the universe actually does have an origin. For example, we know the universe is expanding. Assuming that the universe is finite (whether it's bounded or unbounded), space is getting “bigger.” If we run the movie backwards, space gets “smaller” until space simply runs out at some point; then we arrive at the origin, also known as the “big bang.” Physicists say that the laws of physics break down at the big bang, which means the chain of causation as we know it ceases to exist. Even if you don't know anything about astronomy or an expanding universe, the second law of thermodynamics is all you need to prove there's an origin. As the universe evolves, irreversible processes create entropy, which cannot be destroyed. This is the same as saying that the universe accumulates information about itself while its history is being written. Again, assuming the universe is finite, there can only be a finite amount of entropy. Consequently, there was less total entropy yesterday than today, and there was less total entropy two days ago than yesterday. Running the movie backwards, entropy monotonically decreases until we flat run out of entropy and hit a zero-entropy void. Again, there is an origin with no prior history in sight. (Physicists seem to be befuddled as to why the universe started out in a low-entropy state. To me, it only makes sense that a universe with no history would contain very little information, and hence very little entropy. I guess I'm too dumb to understand why anyone would think that's odd.) Physicists hate the idea of a universe they can't explain, so they invent causes. Some of them are pretty creative. Take Lee Smolin's evolutionary universe. According to his theory, our universe emerged from a black hole in another universe, while other universes are born from black holes in our universe. Natural selection chooses universes that tend to produce lots of black holes because they produce more offspring than those that only produce a few. Since all such universes are causally linked, this might seem to solve the problem of origins, but it doesn't. If mother universes give birth to billions of daughters via black holes, the number of universes increases exponentially with each successive generation. Working backwards through these chains of causation, the number of universes diminishes exponentially until we arrive at The Mother of All Universes. The source universe of all these chains doesn't have a mother, so we're not really any further ahead in solving the problem of origins. An evolutionary universe model just kicks the can further down the road. In fact, any theory that purports to furnish a sufficient cause for our universe will suffer the same fate as Smolin's evolutionary universe model. The only way to avoid the problem is to accept that our universe just doesn't have a cause in the normal sense. Stephen Hawking came close to accepting it; he says the universe popped into existence as a random quantum fluctuation. But this requires laws of quantum physics in order for that to happen, so where did those quantum laws originate? Even proposing a quantum fluctuation in the beginning really doesn't solve the mystery. Let me propose the following principle: A logically self-consistent universe must exist for no other reason than it can exist. In other words, logical self-consistency is both the necessary and sufficient condition for existence. Along with the weak anthropic principle, this principle also explains why the fundamental constants of nature in our particular universe seem to be so finely-tuned for supporting intelligent life. Since every conceivable logically self-consistent universe must exist, a universe like ours that is capable of supporting intelligent life must exist. 22. Causality Underlies All Other Physical Laws in the Universe. The statement that causality underlies all physical laws might seem trivial, but a closer examination reveals some surprises. Conjecture 21 proposes that our universe, or any universe for that matter, rests entirely on logically self-consistency. Causality is a fundamental requirement for a logically self-consistent universe. As I stated in my essay Order, Chaos, and the End of Reductionism, Nature will do whatever is necessary to prevent any attempt to bypass or circumvent causality. (That is why Einstein's theory of general relativity is still incomplete – its field equations have solutions that permit time travel into the past, which violates causality. If general relativity were really complete, it would never allow such solutions to exist.)
  12. 12. The second law of thermodynamics is intimately tied to time and causality. The modern version of the second law states that the total entropy of a closed system can never decrease. According to Boltzmann's formula, entropy is equal to a constant, kB, times the logarithm of the number of microstates that correspond to a macroscopic state; i.e., a state that can be specified by temperature, pressure, density, etc. Claude Shannon, who founded information theory, realized that Boltzmann's formula shows that entropy is directly proportional to the number of information bits that are required to define (or bits contained within) a system. This led him to conclude that entropy and information are one and the same. It's not just that entropy and information are similar, or they share some of the same qualities; no, they're identical to each other. Some scientists seem unwilling to take Shannon's intellectual leap, so they hedge a bit and say that entropy is “hidden” information. Whatever. If information is hidden or encoded somehow, that doesn't change the fact that it's still information. Since the universe is a closed system, its total entropy cannot decrease. If you accept (as I do) that entropy and information are the same thing, this leads directly to the corollary that information cannot be destroyed. How is that linked to causality? The law is simple: What was done cannot be undone. Since information/entropy is a record of the past, destroying information would entail erasing the past, breaking the causal chain between the past and present. In other words, causality requires strict enforcement of the second law of thermodynamics. This also solves the mystery of time. Why is time irreversible, always pointing in the same direction, and why do humans “sense” the passage of time? Well, actually time is reversible at the quantum level, where interactions between fundamental particles can go either in forward or reverse. The arrow of time only exists at macroscopic scales where information is being generated (and permanently recorded). The reason humans sense the passage of time is because our individual consciousnesses are accumulating information as time moves forward. Our “sense” of time is simply our ability to remember the past and our inability to remember the future. Causality is manifested in other surprising ways. Recall the EPR paper and Bell's Theorem, discussed at length in my essay Is Science Solving the Reality Riddle? EPR thought they had discovered the big “gotcha!” that would nullify the interpretation of quantum physics of Niels Bohr, who stated that quantum states are indeterminate until they are measured. The reasoning EPR used in their paper was that Bohr's interpretation would allow, or actually require, faster-than-light transmission of information between two entangled systems when one of them is measured, a clear violation of causality. As it turned out, experiments based on Bell's Theorem proved that Bohr was right. Ironically, EPR's reasoning actually proves that quantum states must remain indeterminate until measured. Otherwise, quantum states would be predetermined through hidden variables, and a communication device based on the EPR paper actually could transmit faster-than-light signals between entangled systems. As it stands, Nature has arranged things so that an EPR device can only transmit faster-than-light “signals” that are random and undecipherable, which contain no information that could possibly alter history and violate causality. Can you appreciate the lengths that Nature will go, even at the quantum level, to prevent us from violating Her law of causality? 23. Biological Beings (Including Humans) Are Not Designed Creatures. It's apparent by reading Conjectures 12, 13, and 15, that I'm groping for answers concerning the origin of life and a complete theory of evolution. I'm not a biologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I've been doing a lot of thinking about these subjects lately, and I believe I may finally be on the right track (refer to Appendix G that was recently added to my essay Order, Chaos, and the End of Reductionism). At some point in almost every public debate between someone who embraces materialism and reductionism (usually a scientist) and someone who promotes theism and creationism (usually a member of the clergy), a false dichotomy arises: “My opponent's views cannot explain X, Y, or Z; therefore, you must accept my views as truth.” An average person who tries to evaluate such a
  13. 13. debate with an open mind is then forced to choose which person's views are least wrong. This is a terrible choice in my opinion because both views are fundamentally flawed. The theist/creationist often makes the mistake of invoking scripture. This automatically invites an attack by the opposite party, who proceeds to point out numerous scriptural falsehoods and discrepancies. On the other hand, the materialist/reductionist is often backed into a corner by not being able to properly address the problem of an origin (see Conjecture 21, above) or trying to defend the standard theory of evolution that is still incomplete. One of the favorite arguments used by theists/creationists consists of the statement, “Since the universe was created, there must be a Creator.” Beginning that sentence with the word since makes this argument a logical fallacy known as “begging the question.” Making the assumption that the universe was created is the same thing as assuming the conclusion that a Creator exists. There is no objective, testable evidence that the universe was created. (I think a plausible alternative to a created universe may be found in Conjecture 21.) A somewhat “softer” version of creationism is intelligent design. In Conjecture 12, I mentioned Michael Behe's analysis of certain biological features that he concludes can only have arisen by design. Having thought long and hard about this, I now realize that his views are wrong. Instead of pointing out the fallacies contained in Behe's analysis, I had unwittingly slipped into a reductionist mind set that supports the conclusion that evolution is driven by forces that are essentially random, thus creating a false dichotomy that supports Behe's ideas. It is now clear to me why the standard version of evolution is wrong, but gaining that insight also obviates the need for intelligent design. The critical insight came by looking at the function of DNA and considering how little information is actually contained within the human genome. It is estimated that whereas over 1042 bits of information would be required to replicate an entire human being, there are less than 1010 bits of information contained in the 46 chromosomes in the nucleus of a human cell. This discrepancy of 32 orders of magnitude can be resolved by understanding that the genome isn't a human blueprint; rather, it defines the process of human evolution from a single cell. Cellular differentiation occurring in an embryo and producing various tissues and organs, requires very intricate feedback loops, using chemical (and possibly electrical) communication among the cells through their cell membranes, and triggering chemical <If …Then> logical operators embedded in the DNA itself. This could also explain the phenomenon of embryonic recapitulation, where the human embryo goes through various stages of development that seem to resemble pre-human life forms. If the genome represents an assembly process instead of a complete blueprint, then the only way to arrive at the end product is to repeat all the evolutionary steps between one-celled organisms and human beings. Thus, the DNA code does not transcribe the final product – it defines the process that assembles it. Since there is no master design – not even in the DNA code itself – there is no logical necessity to have a Designer. 24. The Multiverse Theory is the Ultimate Cop Out. It's become fashionable in the 21st century to propose multiple universes as the answer to every unsolved problem of physics. I recently watched a YouTube video of Amir Aczel interviewing Brian Greene, who is one of the most renowned physicists/string theorists/cosmologists on this planet. Of course, Aczel is no slouch either, having written numerous books on mathematics, his primary field of expertise, as well as physics. Aczel challenged the idea of an infinite universe, pointing out that the universe isn't expanding into pre-existing space, but that space and time arose from the big bang and space is continuously expanding; thus, the universe must be finite. Greene, on the other hand, subscribes to the multiverse theory in which our “universe” is only part of an infinite space along with other “universes” that continually pop into existence. This redefines our
  14. 14. universe and reduces it from being “all there is” to merely “all we can observe.” The multiverse theory reminds me of an episode from the Seinfeld television series. In that episode, George Costanza has lost his job, his apartment, and his girlfriend; he has moved back in with his parents; his wardrobe consists of a shirt and sweatpants. The scene is in Jerry Seinfeld's apartment. Jerry: “Again with the sweatpants?” George: “They're comfortable.” Jerry: “Do you know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world, 'I give up.'” Multiple universes are like George's sweatpants; they're comfortable. By embracing a multiverse, you don't have to explain why this universe appears so finely-tuned to support life. In fact, you don't have to explain how or why this universe began in the first place. It's nothing more than a huge repository for ignorance like dark matter and dark energy; it's a place where physicists send unsolved problems to make them disappear. It's not even a theory in the scientific sense; its just an unproved, unprovable, and unfalsifiable idea. There's a name for a fact-free belief system based on such ideas: religion. A multiverse is no more plausible than “God did it” for explaining how and why our universe came into being. When Brian Greene and others articulate the multiverse concept, the message they're sending out to the world is, “I give up.” It's the ultimate cop out. I recently finished reading a book Hidden in Plain Sight by Andrew Thomas. I don't agree with everything the author says in that book, but I do agree with his main point: The universe is everything there is. Since the universe is all there is, there is no external measuring rod and no external clock that Nature can use to scale distances and times within the universe. All that Nature has to go on are relationships between objects inside the universe; in fact, there is only the inside and no outside. Therefore, the universe is all relative; space and time do not exist as independent objective entities, but only as a means for establishing relationships between objects. These are the concepts that serve as the very foundation of Einstein's theory of relativity. We're approaching the 100th anniversary of the general theory of relativity as I write this in 2014. Yet it's as if some physicists have learned nothing at all from his theory; they are still proposing infinite numbers of “universes” co-existing within an infinite external domain of space and time. Well here's the problem: You can have relativity or you can have a multiverse, but you can't have both. It's as if we've flashed back to a time before 1887 when scientists were still arguing over the physical properties of luminiferous ether. Today, scientists have proposed experiments to measure the “curvature” of space-time and to detect gravity waves propagating “through” space. Well, here's my prediction: When those space-time curvature and gravity-wave experiments are performed, nothing will be found, just as the Michelson–Morley experiments failed to find any trace of luminiferous ether. The reason why I'm confident about seeing negative results is that everything is relative: Space-time is not a “thing” that can be stretched, bent, or twisted by gravity waves, and there are no “straight” measuring rods you can line up with space-time to check its “curvature.” By the way, the multiverse theory provides an ontological argument for the existence of God. In fact, it provides an ontological basis for any god that can be imagined. The proponents of the multiverse hoped they could use it to neatly sidestep the requirement of a Designer; ironically it actually proves the opposite. 25. The Scientific Method Is Fatally Impaired by the Human Senses. Anything that the scientific method can prove or disprove relies on the human senses. The list of the human senses is usually limited to five: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. I would add two more senses to the list: space and time. Our sense of space is how we arrange objects in relation to ourselves. It is closely tied to our sense of sight, and I will show they are both inherently limited.
  15. 15. Our sense of time involves perception of motion between “moments” and the accumulation of information. Our mental concepts of space and time are inherently local and thus limited. When we look at something, the only thing we actually “see” is a tiny area in the center of our field of vision. If you stare at a distant object and extend your hands to the sides, you won't be able to clearly see your fingers. To really “see” an object, the eyes must rapidly and randomly scan over it and send tiny pieces of the object the brain, which stitches the pieces together into a composite mosaic image. The brain is able to do this through the spatial sense. It knows that a face consists of a nose located above a mouth with eyes on either side of the nose and a chin below the mouth. We think we “see” a complete face, but our eyes only send small bits and pieces of a mosaic to our brains in random order. What we “see” is mostly inferred from our spatial sense. Our most advanced scientific instruments are just extensions of the seven senses. The Hubble space telescope is an expanded version of our sense of sight, which is intimately tied to a localized sense of space and time. If we point the Hubble at a quasar and measure its distance as 13 billion light years, and point the Hubble at another quasar in the opposite direction and measure that distance as 13 billion light years, our brain assembles this information into a 3D diorama with two quasars 26 billion light years apart. But this picture is completely false. The light recorded by the Hubble emerged from those two quasars when the universe was 13 billion years younger than today's universe; therefore, those two images can only be separated, at most, by a couple of billion light years. Our brains use Hubble telescope images to construct a false 3D Cartesian diorama existing in the “now.” Large-scale reality is fundamentally distorted by our localized senses of space and time. We have no other way to interpret the Hubble data because the brain is completely constrained by its senses, which work together to project an inappropriate model of the cosmos. The scientific method, which has served us well since Isaac Newton's time, is reaching the end of its useful life. Probing farther and father into the cosmos provides us with nothing but a highly distorted picture of reality due to the inherent limitations of our senses, which were optimized for acquiring information about local objects and events. Probing further and further into the microscopic realm only yields quantum weirdness, which nobody can fully understand through a localized, macroscopic sense of space and time. Data from the LHC (large hadron collider) can only enlighten us to the extent that we can force the data to conform with a model of reality that our brains construct, which is a model intimately tied to – and limited by – our senses. Even if string theory eventually emerges as the Theory of Everything (which I seriously doubt), the scientific method will be utterly useless as a means of confirming it. As it stands, string theory is based upon the existence of 1-dimensional objects on the scale of a Planck length vibrating in 10 dimensions, but seven of those dimensions are completely inaccessible to us. Probing down to Planck scales would require stupendous amounts of energy that are simply not available to us using anything resembling our current level of engineering. The time is coming when scientists must finally concede that the scientific method has run its course because the human race has reached the limit of what can be understood through our senses. 26. The Entropic Universe Has a Purpose. I've essentially come around full circle to the first topic in this Manifesto; i.e., that quantum physics and general relativity cannot be reconciled. I think I now know why – or at least I see a glimmer of the answer. In my essay Teachings from Near Death Experiences, I explored the ongoing work of Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose on quantum consciousness, which has spanned the past 20 years. There is fairly conclusive evidence that consciousness does not emerge at the level of the synapses between neurons, nor does it consist entirely of brain-wave patterns. Consciousness is actually manifested at a much smaller scale: within protein structures known as microtubules in the cytoplasm of all living cells. Hameroff insists that even a single-celled animal, such as a
  16. 16. paramecium, exhibits a definite rudimentary consciousness without the benefit of a single neuron or synapse. According to the Hameroff-Penrose model, consciousness involves quantum entanglements that have fractal properties that descend down to the unimaginably small Planck scales. Macroscopic effects, which they call “moments of consciousness” occur when those entanglements decohere, on time scales on the order of 1/40th of a second. The Libet experiments, which show that conscious decisions precede the awareness of making those decisions, seem to substantiate this model. I believe it is no accident that structures in living cells exist at the precise scales that bridge between the atomic/subatomic quantum universe and the macroscopic universe. In order for life to fulfill its main purpose, those two universes must remain separate. This is why quantum physics and general relativity cannot and will not be fully reconciled, although they do not contradict each other. But what is that purpose? What we perceive as linear time does not exist at the level of quantum entanglement, where protoconsciousness occurs. Time emerges from entropy, which is strictly a feature of the classical universe. The work by Erik Verlinde shows that the classical laws of motion and gravity, along with how we perceive space and time, emerge from entropy. Examining consciousness in the dream state can provide some clues to understanding of consciousness that operates on the non-material plane and the purpose of the classical, material universe as it relates to consciousness. Dreams often lack the usual sequence of causality. Dreamers sometimes know what will happen next in a series of events, but they are powerless to change the outcome. In contrast, waking-state “moments of consciousness” in the Hameroff-Penrose model become “grounded” in a causal frame of reference – the entropic universe. According to the Hameroff-Penrose model, states of consciousness certainly can and probably do occur without microtubules, cells, life, or a universe for that matter. It's just that such a consciousness would lack qualia and purpose. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of life and why there is a physical universe as we know it: to enable conscious thoughts to be carried out as actions that have irreversible effects, giving consciousness purpose and meaning. In Conjecture 24, above, I stated that the multiverse theory is a cop out. I believe this is true more then ever. In the realm of quantum entanglement, anything and everything can exist simultaneously. But in order for consciousness and free will to have any purpose, they must also operate within the limits of a classical world of causes, effects, and consequences. A universe that splits off into ever-bifurcating universes has no sense of morality or purpose in my opinion. There is only one universe and there are no “do overs” here. A bad choice made today results in set of bad alternatives in the future. You may be able to get back on the original path with a lot of effort, but you can never erase what you did in a world of entropy. I raised the question of evil in my essay Are We All Alone? Here's my latest opinion on this matter. Our sense of right and wrong, good and evil are examples of qualia that result when a consciousness is grounded in an entropic universe through the mechanism of life. Evil doesn't really have a purpose, per se. But I've come to the conclusion that evil is unavoidable when intelligence and free will operate in a universe with entropy. It's the price we humans must pay to be human. 27. The “Block Universe” Model is Incompatible with Free Will. In the book Hidden in Plain Sight, by Andrew Thomas, the starting premise is that the universe is all there is; there are no external yardsticks that provide absolute measurements of space or clocks that provide absolute measurements of time. Chapter 3 is entitled “Space Is Not a Box” and Chapter 4 is entitled “Time Is Not a Clock,” and up till that point I kept thinking, “Right on! Here's a science author who really gets it!” Then I came to Chapter 5, entitled “The Block Universe” and became completely befuddled. In that chapter, Thomas completely contradicted everything he was telling us in the first four chapters.
  17. 17. In Chapter 5, a block universe is depicted schematically as a set of spacial coordinates (reduced from three to two), with a time coordinate pointing perpendicular to the spacial coordinates. This is supposed to represent “space-time” as a 3-dimensional block. Only two spacial coordinates are used because because a real “space-time” universe with three spacial coordinates would be a four dimensional block that would be difficult to depict in a book. Individual “events” in time are scattered as dots within the block. Events taking place over time would trace lines inside the block. There are a couple of problems with this model. First of all, the geometry of that block universe is Euclidean, whereas the geometry of space-time, as defined in Special Relativity, is hyperbolic. According to SR, if an object changes position, Δx, Δy, and Δz, over a time interval Δt as observed from any reference frame, then the distance ΔS traveled through space-time is invariant – the same – for all observers, where ΔS2 = c2 Δt2 – Δx2 – Δy2 – Δz2 . The minus signs in the expression for ΔS2 make the geometry of Minkowski space-time hyperbolic, not Euclidean. In order for objects to trace out lines in a Euclidean block universe, like the one depicted in Chapter 5 of Hidden in Plain Sight, all those minus signs would have to be changed to plus signs. The second problem with the block universe model is that time is treated as just another dimension, making the universe “eternal.” In other words, a Being having a god's eye view of the universe could – at least in principle – navigate through time like it was a spacial dimension and observe the future. This is very much like Laplace's determinism, where a Being with complete knowledge of the present state of the universe could use the laws of motion to extrapolate the present state into states in the distant past and future. But if such a thing were possible – even in principle – then free will cannot exist. Near the end of Chapter 5, Thomas himself acknowledges the problem of free will: “The idea that all of space and time is laid-out in one unchanging block might appear unsavoury [sic] to some people as it appears to deny the possibility of free will.” Exactly. However, a deterministic block universe doesn't just appear to deny the possibility of free will; logic demands it. (In the 16th century, John Calvin rightly concluded that the possibility of an omniscient Being eliminates the possibility of free will. Forced to choose between the Christian God and free will, Calvin chose God. This is the basis of Calivinism's doctrine of predestination, where human beings are essentially lifeless robots programmed to either accept or reject salvation.) A block universe that allows the possibility of an omniscient Being “might appear unsavory to some people” for a very good reason. It is that life is pointless when free choice is absent and everything has been programmed into the universe. The mere illusion of making choices isn't the same as making them, and therefore moral accountability is absent. How can we justify meting out rewards and punishments without accountability? Forced to choose between an omniscient Being and freedom, I'll choose freedom. So if God exists, I hope She's just as clueless about the future as I am. Conjecture #26, above, I stated that irreversibility generates entropy (information) and is necessary for a purposeful existence. Irreversibility also brings about chaos and unpredictability, which seems to be necessary for free will. A linear, deterministic block universe without any purpose or free will is a just a machine – a dead universe. 28. Black Holes Only Exist in the Imagination. Lately, the physics community is all abuzz over yet another apparent contradiction between general relativity and quantum physics. Nature usually does a pretty good job of isolating quantum mechanics from classical physics and/or patching over their differences. We don't need to calculate the quantum wave functions of the Sun, Moon, and Earth in order to predict solar eclipses; nor do we need to think about gravity when computing the scattering matrices of electrons. However, a black hole (a hypothetical object) is where quantum mechanics collides directly with classical physics, and this recently created a pretty messy situation known as the AMPS Firewall Paradox.
  18. 18. A while back, Stephen Hawking studied black holes from a thermodynamic perspective and concluded that black holes have entropy, so an event horizon has a positive temperature and emits black-body radiation. But he went further by stating that information is “lost” when an object falls into a black hole. This caused quite a stir among physicists, notably the indomitable Leonard Susskind, who insist that the conservation of information is an immutable law. After much hand waving, it was decided that the information isn't really lost; it's encoded onto a black hole's event horizon based on the holographic principle. Then Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski, and James Sully (AMPS) uncovered an apparent paradox involving Alice falling into a black hole, Bob staying outside the black hole, and their quantum wave functions entangling (or not). This sent the physics community spiraling into the so-called firewall crisis, which I admit I can't fully comprehend. I've always found the description of a classic black hole to be very unsettling (see my essay Is Science Solving the Reality Riddle – Trouble on the Horizon). According to popular science, the black hole's gravity literally tears space apart at the event horizon, making escape impossible. Despite much hand waving by some physicists, the black hole equations clearly show there really is a singularity at the event horizon, where denominators are zero; distances and accelerations there are infinite. But why would a singularity lurk in empty space? It sure looks like “spooky action at a distance” to me. It turns out that a brilliant Indian physicist by the name of Abhas Mitra has solved the puzzle. Re- examining the equations for black holes, Mitra discovered that you can indeed create a singularity with an event horizon surrounding it. The trouble is, you can only do this if the black hole's mass is zero! In other words, even though you can plug any large mass you want into an equation on the blackboard, you can't have a black hole with mass in reality. So with a proper understanding of general relativity, we see that there's no such thing as an event horizon surrounding a singularity (naked or otherwise), no Hawking radiation, and no information-loss paradox. Problem solved. See how Nature always elegantly intervenes to invalidate our flights of fancy that might violate Her fundamental principles? There is no need for quantum wormhole entanglements, à la Susskind, or nasty AMPS firewalls because there is no way of making a black hole in the first place. Predictably, the physics community is not enamored with Mitra's ideas. After all, scientists have spent almost 100 years contemplating black holes and basing really cool and radical theories on them. But recent astronomical data on so-called black hole candidates (BHCs) show they have stupendously large magnetic fields, which classic black holes simply cannot have. So it looks like Mitra is right. Even the legendary Stephen Hawking himself recently cast doubts on the existence of black holes, and has started calling them gray holes instead. Unfortunately, the absence of black holes is bad news for many current cosmological theories, especially ones like Lee Smolin's evolving universes, where mommy universes give birth to black holes that collapse into baby universes; a kind of genetic selection process that results in universes with lots of black holes and high probabilities of being friendly to intelligent life based on the anthropic principle [sic]. When elaborate thought experiments result in crazy paradoxes, these problems are often caused by the misapplication of physical laws by humans instead of the laws themselves. 29. A Simple Feedback Mechanism Resolves the Goldilocks Enigma. There are scores of so-called free parameters that constrain the physical universe, and it turns out that changing any of these by a couple of percentages would radically alter physics and chemistry to the point where biology, at least as we know it, would be impossible. It seems that these free parameters are very finely-tuned to make it possible for us to exist, which seems kind of arbitrary and odd. This is referred to as the Goldilocks enigma, and it deeply troubles scientists. It might be that these free parameters aren't really free after all, and that changing one of them entails changing all of them in such a way that physics remains life-friendly. However, this doesn't really solve the
  19. 19. enigma of why physics should be life-friendly in the first place. Or maybe there are a plethora of ways that “life” could exist without biology as we know it, but that's hard to imagine. Of course, the Goldilocks enigma gives creationists and intelligent designers all the validation they need for spinning their magical, supernatural myths. Physicists and cosmologists can't do much better; they took the easy way out by combining the multiverse concept with the anthropic principle, et voilà, the Goldilocks enigma is explained. The horrible multiverse idea seems to have originated with Hugh Everett's many worlds interpretation of quantum physics, inspired by Schrödinger's cat. Unbelievably, a poll taken in 1995 among 72 “leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists” revealed that almost 60% of them actually believed in some form of multiverse. In essence, this means 60% of leading scientists gave up on science and embraced an unfalsifiable theory that relies on a circular tautology, i.e., we exist because we're here, and a false dichotomy, i.e., free parameters either must have been selected through intelligent design (a proposal rejected out of hand by science), or else they must have been a complete accident. I found a more elegant way around the enigma based on a simple feedback mechanism. All you need is one axiom and all the rest flows from logic. The axiom originates with quantum physics, and while everything in our universe may not exhibit obvious quantum behavior, quantum physics still rules the roost. Within the realm where quantum rules do apply, a fundamental law is that nothing truly exists until or unless it is observed. For example, electrons are quantum particles, and when they boil away from a hot metal cathode in a vacuum, they become free electrons and accelerate toward a positively-charged phosphor screen. As free electrons, they exist only as wave functions. A raw wave function, Ψ, has a complex mathematical form so Ψ is not observable, hence electrons – as free particles – don't exist. For an electron to be observable, its wave function must “collapse.” By that, we mean Ψ is multiplied by it its complex conjugate, Ψ*, to produce a function comprised of real numbers that yields locational probabilities. Multiplying Ψ by Ψ* involves some non-linear device, like a phosphor screen that collects and amplifies an electron's energy and localizes it as an observable, visible dot. The rigid Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics would assert that the visible dot itself doesn't exist until some conscious observer actually comes along and sees it. (Of course, this relates to the Schrödinger's cat dilemma, and I'm not getting into that topic here – if you've read my other essays, you know how I feel about Schrödinger's cat.) I have a much more relaxed interpretation of quantum physics than Niels Bohr and his colleagues, i.e., quantum wave functions become real by rendering them observable, meaning that an object could have been observed even if it wasn't. Based on this criterion, the dot on the screen is real whether someone sees it or not. All classical, macroscopic objects are real because they are the result of myriad quantum wave functions that have been rendered observable by countless nonlinear interactions; thus, classical, macroscopic objects automatically satisfy the observability requirement in an easy, natural way. The Moon remains in the sky even when you look away from it. The proof of the feedback mechanism follows directly from ordinary logic: 1. For an object to exist, it must be observable (an axiom of quantum mechanics that objects do not exist unless they are observed has been experimentally verified using Bell's theorem). 2. For the universe to exist, objects within it must exist, and those objects must be observable. 3. For objects to be observable, subject-object relationships must be possible. 4. For subject-object relationships exist, conscious subjects must be possible. 5. For conscious subjects to make observations of physical objects, a physically means of sensing those objects must be possible; e.g., sensory nervous systems or their equivalents. 6. Therefore, for a physical universe to exist, physical objects and conscious beings that observe them with sensory nervous systems or their equivalents must be possible.
  20. 20. Notice I didn't say the universe had to have conscious beings with nervous systems, only that it had to be possible. Die-hard quantum physicists would have a serious problem with my “relaxed” approach, and insist that actual biological observers are a requirement. It doesn't matter to me, because the feedback process still works even if the Moon disappears when you stop looking at it. In fact, John Wheeler originally came up with the feedback idea, including it in the Big U model. Wheeler was about as hard-core as they come in insisting that actual observations are needed in order to make things exist. In Wheeler's Big U universe, the appearance of conscious observers literally creates the physical universe retroactively, bringing all the pre-biological stages, starting with the big bang, into existence. Of course, I consider this to be a feedback loop run amok, with biological beings acting as their own causal agents. This version of reality seems an awful like lot like Genesis 1:1-31 where the physical universe suddenly popped fully-formed into existence. The difference is that with the Big U, it was creatures like ourselves who popped it into existence. All of existence can be summarized by this equation: Existence ↔ Observability + Causality The double arrow indicates the feedback loop. Note that observability is a necessary condition for existence, but it is not a sufficient condition. Therefore, causality was included in the equation to bring order and sanity to the universe. Requiring causal agents assures that objects don't just spring into existence based solely on being observable. Engineers commonly use feedback to provide fine control and optimization, and the engineer in me finds the feedback mechanism in Wheeler's Big U model very satisfying. The only remaining question in my mind is whether the universe is truly optimized for life in a Goldilocks sense, or if it is just barely able to support life. Well, we don't see life forms from other planets landing on the White House lawn for breakfast with the president every morning. In fact, we don't see any evidence of biological activity on other planets in our own solar system, although the jury is still out on that question. But if you consider the dozens of free parameters that had to be set in order for life to be possible, you'd have to say that this feedback mechanism was a pretty effective way for tuning the system. So I'll go out on a limb and say that the universe we live in – the only universe that really counts – is probably as good as it gets in terms of being life-friendly. There is a sharp contrast between the feedback model and the prevailing multiverse models that are embraced by 60% of leading scientists. Parallel universes, and various multiverse models, including Lee Smolin's cosmological natural selection, all face the same obstacle. To reiterate, physical laws with a large set of free parameters having special values are required for conscious biological beings to appear naturally. Obtaining the “right” physics through chance alone would require multiple trials, along with some unexplained mechanism that forces each trial to have a variable (random) set of free parameters initially and then fixes those parameters as constants from then on. If the initial values of those parameters are unconstrained, an unimaginably large number of trials would have to occur to produce even a single “success.” Consequently, the vast majority of trials would be wasted on dead, failed universes. It's clear that the principle of Occam's razor would affirm a simple mechanism that virtually assures success on the very first try. 30. The Libet Experiment Does Not Prove Humans Are Cyborgs without Free Will. In Conjecture 16 of this essay, I said that consciousness emerges from physical complexity (in the form of nervous systems) and its evolution coincides with the evolution of the brain. Although this may be true, Conjecture 29 got me thinking about the chicken-and-egg question of whether consciousness really did arise from the physical universe or vice versa. I think the answer hinges on the true definition of consciousness, referred to as the “hard question” in psychology. My essay Teachings from Near Death Experiences explores whether consciousness is a physical process or something non-physical underlies it. According to reductionism, it is unequivocally physical because conventional science can't do non-physical experiments or come up with non-
  21. 21. physical theories. Thus scientists must conclude that consciousness is equivalent to thoughts and emotions, and those can be reduced to automatic electrochemical responses to the brain's environment, called brain waves, which can be observed using the EEG (electroencephalogram). Thus, the brain can no more make decisions than a lung or a kidney can, so consciousness and free will are illusions and humans are reduced to machine-like cyborgs. It is claimed the Libet experiment proves the above assertion. In that experiment, a timer is placed in front of a human subject. The subject is asked to push a button and take note of the exact time shown on the timer when the decision was made to push it. The subject's brain wave activity is continuously recorded by an EEG and correlated with the timer. In every instance, the EEG showed the subject “decided” to push the button about ½ second prior to the subject becoming aware of making the decision to push it. Scientists claim this ½ second time lag is “proof” that all thoughts – including ones about making decisions – are actually nothing more than automatic electrochemical brain processes that we have no control over. In my view, the experiment proves no such thing. The fact that the subject thinks he made a decision to push the button ½ second after brain wave patterns occurred does not prove that the brain wave patterns made that decision. All it shows is that there is an inherent time lag in our conscious awareness. But we already knew that; touching a hot stove induces motor reflexes before we become consciously aware of feeling any pain. The explanation of this experiment is that the subject (the consciousness observing thoughts and making decisions) cannot observe itself, so the only way to be consciously aware that a decision is being made is by observing brain wave patterns external to the consciousness itself. The brain waves that the subject observes and the EEG records may simply be the brain preparing to send a signal to the motor neurons to push the button. The consciousness becomes aware of those wave patterns ½ second later and misinterprets this as “making a decision” to push the button. We can easily demonstrate that the conscious mind can misinterpret brain wave patterns. Everyone has had a creepy déja vu experience, when information being directed into the memory is misinterpreted as information coming from the memory instead. This causes the feeling of experiencing something in the present that has also occurred in the past. We know this is just an illusion (contrary to certain New Age explanations) because we can never seem to pin down exactly when these experiences occurred in the past because déja vu memories just don't fit within the chronology of other memories. I'm convinced that a similar type of misunderstanding on the part of the subject of the Libet experiment leads to a false conclusion that decisions are just automatic physical responses that can be measured by an EEG. Of course, that interpretation relies on the assumption that all thoughts must have a physical basis, so this is a classic case of circular logic. It shows the need to weed out all hidden assumptions that are buried in our theories and experiments. If consciousness isn't just some physical phenomenon in the brain, what is it? Science is usually very reluctant to acknowledge non-physical things exist. Yet certain physical experiments only make sense using quantum mechanics, which doesn't appear to be very physical in the usual sense. My guess is that we might need some yet unknown non-physical process to explain consciousness. 31. Psi Phenomena Might Be Experimentally Confirmed as Quantum Entanglement. Scientists sometimes lapse into a bad habit of thinking about physics as being frame-dependent, i.e., a preexisting space and time (or more correctly space-time) in which objects exist and events occur. This, or course, is completely contrary to the principle of relativity where there is no universal frame of reference; instead, every observer defines their own unique reference frame. Space and time are needed only for establishing subject-object relationships. Stated bluntly, space and time simply don't exist in the absence of subject-object relationships. Although the very idea of “transcending space and time” gives material reductionists severe heartburn, that very thing does occur with quantum entanglement and it has been repeatedly proven experimentally to be true. My essay Is Science Solving the Reality Riddle? discussed experiments based on Bell's Theorem
  22. 22. and the Quantum Eraser in some detail. These experiments demonstrate the quantum states of entangled particles as having exceptionally strong correlation, and that correlation actually does transcend space and time. These experiments have to be carried out with exquisite care and precision, however. Quantum entanglement is a very delicate state and it can be disrupted by the slightest interaction with the environment, so it is difficult to maintain entanglement over any distances and time. Furthermore, the ability to detect statistically significant correlations between quantum states requires extremely delicate instruments and precise measurements. Nevertheless, the experiments clearly reveal that in the world of entangled particle pairs, space and time really doesn't exist – there is simply no subject-object relationship between them that can cause any space and time separation. We see those particles separated from each other by space and time, but they do not. There is one caveat concerning these experiments, however: They must not be carried out in any way that could violate causality. In other words, there can be no possibility of sending messages through space instantaneously or back to a previous time. If the experiment is set up in any way that might violate causality, it is certain to produce negative results. Turning to psi phenomena, it seems that most believers in psi phenomena aren't true scientists, and most scientists aren't true believers. Consequently, much of what passes as “psi research” is either haphazard and sloppily-executed by amateurs, or its success is undermined by science professionals who have a strong negative bias against the possibility of achieving success. Refer to the remote staring experiments independently carried out by Marilyn Schlitz and Richard Wiseman, discussed in my essay Teachings from Near Death Experiences. I'm convinced that if psi phenomena are real, they surely involve the physical brain in some unexplained manner. However, the physical connection may be at a much deeper level than electrochemical processes occurring in the synapses. If Roger Penrose's and Stuart Hameroff's theory is correct, consciousness (or more likely subconsciousness) involves quantum-level processes in sub-microscopic structures called microtubules within brain cells. In that case, anomalous psi phenomena, which are impossible according to material reductionism, might be experimentally confirmed as brain-to-brain quantum entanglement involving microtubules. Just as Bell's Theorem and Quantum Erasure experiments must be carried out meticulously and without any possibility of violating causality, psi experiments would have to be carried out with the same level of scientific rigor. Psi experiments should not try to beam fully-formed thoughts from subject to subject, or communicate messages instantaneously through space or backward in time – any attempt to defeat causality is doomed to failure. Instead, experiments should look for quantifiable, subconscious (non-subjective) responses in a subject that correlate with signals that are randomly-initiated from remote subjects. I believe the Schlitz remote staring experiments could serve as the model for these studies, although I doubt that achieving consistent, repeatable, positive results will be easy. See Appendix D of Teachings from Near Death Experiences for some innovative ideas about doing this. 32. Matter May Emerge from Consciousness Instead of the Other Way Around. In Conjectures 16 and 17, I posited that consciousness emerges from material complexity, whereupon it undergoes a separate existence and evolution. Based on information I've uncovered lately, I may be forced to rethink my position by considering the inverse of that hypothesis is true, namely that the material universe emerges from consciousness. Everyone knows that ordinary matter planets and stars are made of consist of atoms, which are made from elementary particles – quarks and electrons. At the level of elementary particles, quantum physics reigns. In fact, you might say that elementary particles are purely mathematical quantum wave functions, and these are no more more physical than cosines or logarithms. Although physicists have a pretty good handle on the rules that govern quantum waves functions, they can't tell us what quantum waves are made of. Nobody has ever measured, let alone seen, a quantum wave directly. Their existence can only be inferred by using them to compute probabilities that closely match indirect physical observations. String theory is no help at all. This is just an
  23. 23. attempt to turn non-physical quantum waves back into physical objects again, made of tiny vibrating strings. But that just raises the question of what kind of matter makes up the strings themselves. I find it kind of amusing that while modern physics furnishes laws that describe physical phenomena in detail, physicists don't seem to have any idea what the most basic physical elements consist of. The same is true of psychologists and neuroscientists. These experts have sliced and diced human consciousness into the id, ego, and superego, recorded and mapped brain-wave patterns, and divided the brain into functional regions like memory, emotion, and intellect. Yet nobody knows what consciousness really is. Of course, material reductionists will confidently supply a ready explanation: Consciousness is nothing more than electrochemical wave patterns in the brain, stimulated by sensory inputs from the environment over which we have no control. Nice try, but that still doesn't explain anything – it just redefines the problem. Then there is the artificial intelligence (AI) crowd, who insist that human consciousness is nothing more than a set of behaviors and habits that will eventually be imitated or duplicated by machines. In fact, a complete human personality could be uploaded from someone's brain into a machine and kept alive there indefinitely, rendering that person immortal. (This was the basic premise behind the movie “Transcendence” starring Johnny Depp.) AI experts believe that with sufficiently complicated electronic circuitry and sophisticated software, a machine will pass the Turing Test and render human brains obsolete within the next 10 to 20 years. So it seems that quantum physicists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and AI engineers all have something in common: They all are experts in highly-specialized fields involving some fundamental element they can't fully explain. I'm thinking that each of these fundamental elements is the same thing; i.e., consciousness, intelligence, and quantum waves are the same purely mathematical “mind stuff.” And since all observable phenomena emerge from quantum wave functions, all matter, energy, and forces may be made of mind stuff as well. Of course, this is what Eastern mysticism has been saying all along, and it also lines up with John Wheeler's “it from bit” model of reality. I have just one difficulty in accepting the idea that the entire physical universe consists of mental images: This idea tends to descend into solipsism, which I find disturbing. It's one thing to believe that non-living objects like tables and chairs are nothing but figments of my own mind, but how do other conscious beings fit into such a purely mental construction of reality? Or do they? If there are myriad conscious beings, how is it that others are imagining more or less the same version of reality that I am? Could it be that I am the only one who is imagining reality into existence? Of course, scientists reject out of hand any notion that the physical universe is mentally-constructed because there seems to be no way that science can test such an hypothesis. But maybe it's just because nobody's really tried. In light of Bell's experiment and the delayed choice experiment, it certainly seems that quantum physics is hinting at this possibility. 33. The Universe Is Not an Object and Is Therefore Inherently Unobservable. The scientific method is based upon observation. Every observation involves a subject (the observer) and an object (the observed). Cosmology is not science is because its practitioners are trying to “observe” something (the universe) that is not an object. An object can be only be observed from its exterior, and as stated numerous times in my essays, the universe doesn't have an exterior. Someone might object by saying that I can observe my living room from its interior, so why can't I observe the universe from its interior? The answer is that when you observe your living room's interior, you are actually observing the floor, ceiling and walls as objects with exteriors, and forming a mental picture of your living room as a box having an exterior delineated by those boundaries. Unlike your living room, the universe doesn't have boundaries or an exterior. More fundamentally, every observer is part of the universe and cannot be separated from it. No, I'm not having a kumbaya moment or a New Age revelation. I simply mean that being literally part of
  24. 24. the universe makes it impossible for anyone to make a normal subject-object observation of it. Since every observer has a unique perspective and all observers are simultaneously at the center of the universe, there would have to be as many universes as there are observers in order for subject- object relationships to exist. The consequence of this is that anything that scientists can ascertain about the universe as a whole through the process of observation is going to be fundamentally distorted and flawed. Here's an example of what I mean: Astronomers probe the universe using electromagnetic radiation over a wide range of frequencies, from radio to light to gamma rays. The formula for an electromagnetic wave front propagating through space is x2 + y2 + z2 – c2 t2 = 0. This equation defines a spherical surface expanding at the speed of light in 3-dimensional (x-y-z) space as t increases. It also describes a 4-dimensional object called a hyper-cone. A hyper-cone is impossible for us to visualize, so in order to represent this in a 3-dimensional diagram, one of the three spacial dimensions is eliminated: x2 + y2 – c2 t2 = 0. This equation defines a circle expanding at the speed of light in 2-dimensional (x-y) space as t increases. It also describes an object called a light cone, which reduces to a point at t = 0 and flares out as two cones in opposite directions for | t | > 0. Radius = (x2 + y2 ) ½ = c | t |. For t > 0, an observer's light cone encompasses everything in the future to which he is causally linked, and for t < 0, the observer's light cone encompasses everything in the past to which he is causally linked. Unfortunately, using light, or any other kind of electromagnetic radiation, an observer can “see” only the thin sliver of his past universe that lies along the surface of his light cone. What astronomers see (or seem to see) along these thin slivers using telescopes is a universe that is absolutely flat and is filled with galaxies that are all receding from us. These observations have led most astronomers to conclude that space itself expands over time, which has become the standard cosmological model: At some point between 13 and 14 billion years ago, everything that comprises “our” universe (everything that we are causally connected to) was compressed into a tiny singularity smaller than a proton. The problem with this model is that while our light cone expands into the past, our universe itself gets smaller. Logically, the surface encompassed by our light cone at some point in the past must have been larger than the entire universe, which of course is impossible. So while observations seem to show a universe that is both flat and expanding over time, it can be either one or the other, but logically it cannot be both. Nature seems to be playing games with us – presenting a picture of reality to us that is logically inconsistent. But actually, Nature is doing the very best She can to provide us with information that our puny brains can process. The problem isn't with Her, it's with us. We don't seem to grasp the fact that the universe isn't really an object because it has no exterior; the universe is inherently unobservable. So it's no wonder that any conclusions about the universe we draw through observations are going to be logically inconsistent. The question in my mind is whether an inherently unobservable universe can even be said to exist in the true sense of the word. 34. There Is Much More within Our Causal Patch than Meets the Eye. As shown in the previous section, the universe as a whole is not an object. As Sir Arthur Eddington once said, “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine – it is stranger than we can imagine.” It's wrong to think of space-time as an object; instead, space and time are degrees of separation that are required by the laws of relativity and causality. A hyper-cone, x2 + y2 + z2 – c2 t2 = 0, defines two causal patches. One patch, corresponding to t > 0, contains everything we can influence in the future. The other patch, corresponding to t < 0, contains everything that can influence us from the past. All our visual observations are limited to an ultra-thin sliver of reality lying along the outer surface of the t < 0 causal patch. If a 4-dimensional hyper-cone is impossible to visualize, you can still grasp the concept of causal patches by using only two spatial dimensions in the above equation, which reduces down to two cone-shaped causal patches that can be drawn on paper.