Thursday, August 18, 2005

Science and Vedanta

some random musings :

The classical comment of Einstein about the Quantum mechanics is well known “God does not play dice”

But even more classical is the reply of Bohr to this “Stop telling God what he should do”

I have always wondered about the very word random. Is there really anything called “randomness”. Well statistics tells me so. If I toss a coin, the chance of a head or a tail falling is random is what it tells. But again is it really random?

I mean, if I can calculate my finger position, the initial velocity, coin shape, gravity etc etc, I can determine whether a head will come or a tail. But the situation soooo complex, that it is very difficult, almost practically impossible for me to predict it. So I call it “random”. But what I really mean by saying so is that the system is theoretically possible to predict, but practically impossible to predict.

Then we have our Heisenberg uncertainty theorem, which states that uncertainty is must in measuring the exact position and velocity. So this means that it is not just practically impossible, but also theoretically impossible for me to predict the result.

So does this imply that randomness exists? Not in my view, it only means randomness exists in measuring, not in the system itself. That is the system, the coin is following a law, an order, it is being deterministic. Only when we try to measure it, the system behaves differently, which is quite natural, as the observer is also now effecting the system (like an anthropologist is studying a primitive culture in the field, she assumes that her presence in the tribe is having a negligible effect on the behavior of the members. Sometimes we later discover that all she was measuring was the behavior of the tribe when it was being observed by the anthropologist.)

Hence can I say that every system is following an inherent order, which we are not able to measure, without affecting it. Now is this what the Vedanta call as rta ?

Before going lets us see what is the view of Vedanta (just my understanding, may be wrong) in this regard to the nature of the Absolute (or call it Reality or Brahman or God or Universe or whatever you want)

***text in this colour is quoting Swami Vivekananda from this talk on “Absolute and its manifestation”***

The Absolute has become the universe. By this is not only meant the material world, but the mental world, the spiritual world — heavens and earths, and in fact, everything that exists. Mind is the name of a change, and body the name of another change, and so on, and all these changes compose our universe. This Absolute has become the universe by coming through time, space, and causation. This is the central idea of Advaita. Time, space, and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen, and when It is seen on the lower side, It appears as the universe. Now we at once gather from this that in the Absolute there is neither time, space, nor causation. The idea of time cannot be there, seeing that there is no mind, no thought. The idea of space cannot be there, seeing that there is no external change. What you call motion and causation cannot exist where there is only One.

ie., the ONE reality, appears as one many when seen through the prism of “time, space, causation” So if only ‘one’ exists, how did many come. Shankara tells us that this is many is just an illusion. He gives the example of snake and rope. If you go into a dark room and there is a rope in that room. But due to darkness that rope appears to you as snake, and you start fearing. But there is no snake there, it just appears to be there.

But then does it mean that the snake is not there. That is also not true. While we feared, the snake was a reality to us. So it correct to say that the illusion of the snake is a conditional truth and a “subjective reality”

Hence the Reality, when conditioned by “time, space & causation” appears many, but this is a just a subjective reality, and fully real. Now what is this Reality? The Vedantist gives no other attributes to God except these three — that He is Infinite Existence, Infinite Knowledge, and Infinite Bliss, and he regards these three as One. Existence without knowledge and love cannot be; knowledge without love and love without knowledge cannot be. What we want is the harmony of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Infinite.

The essential conclusions we can draw are that there is only one reality. All the many we see are just apparently there on the surface. But beneath all of them, there is a substratum which connects all this ‘many’.

It was in this context that I was trying to correlate things in Vedanta and Science. According to Vedanta, there are no two independent things. All are inter-connected. There is an inner realty which permeates each corner of this universe. But this is not what the science we know tells. Two independent events ARE possible according to it. A change in something in one corner of universe need not affect some other thing in the other corner of the universe. Even if does, the effect cannot be instantaneous, but will have to travel at a speed less that velocity of light.

But the Bell’s theorem had some revolutionary ideas in this regard, and its parallels with Vedanta have been simply too many. (you may read this page on Bell’s theorem; even if you are not interested in Vedanta, this is a great read)

In short what it is that if the statistical predictions of quantum theory are true, an objective universe is incompatible with the law of local causes. David Bohm has done interesting research on this subject. Bohm called our everyday world of space, time and causality the explicate order. He proposed that underlying this everyday world is an interconnected one which he calls the implicate order. He used a number of analogies and images to discuss these two orders.

One such analogy is a hologram. To make a hologram we split a laser beam into two pieces with a half-silvered mirror. One piece goes straight to a photographic plate, the other bounces off the object and then goes to the plate. In order to reconstruct the image of the object we shine a laser beam through the developed plate: the three-dimensional image appears. Note that in some sense the hologram on the plate is an interference pattern between the beam that has experienced the thing and the beam that experienced no-thing.

One characteristic of a hologram is that down to at least a few grains of the silver in the plate, each piece of the plate contains the entire image. If we cut the plate in half we do not lose half the image; instead we lose resolution and the image becomes more fuzzy. Thus each piece of the plate contains the entire space of the object in an enfolded way; this is an analogy to the implicate order. When we reconstruct the image, we have unfolded the implicate order into an explicate one.

As the Chandogya Upanishad goes:
What is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm…
As large as the universe outside, even so large is the universe within the lotus of the heart.
Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, the moon, the lightning, and all the stars.
What is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm. (see this link for more parallels)

You may recall that for a chaotic system, very small changes in initial conditions leads to radically different trajectories. It turns out that for the double slit experiment for electrons, the motion of the electron after it has passed the slits is chaotic in just this sense. Thus, even small thermal fluctuations in the electron's interaction with the slits cause the electron's future motion to be unknowable to us, even though it is strictly deterministic. Thus it seems to us that the path of the electron is random, although in reality it is not.

This is how Bohm compares the explicate and implicate order:

Explicate ~ Implicate
parts make up the whole ~ whole makes up the parts
spatial separation ~ holographic
describable ~ "finger pointing to the moon”
things exist ~ 'thing' and 'no-thing' interfere
"ten thousand things" ~ illusion
spacetime ~ spectra

This is what precisely Vedanta says. We all have roots in the universe. Conscious mental activity exerts measurable effects on the physical world - a world that includes human bodies, organs, tissues, and cells. Mind becomes a legitimate factor in the unfolding of health and disease. The inter-penetration of all matter is the rule. The dividing line between life and non-life is illusory and arbitrary. For Bohm, order and unity are spread throughout the universe in a way which escapes our senses. In the same way that order and organization are spread throughout the hologram. Each part of the universe contains enough information to reconstitute the whole, so we search for something by knowing which we know everything- our own SELF. This is what the Upanishads tell us “that by knowing we know everything”. Here is one of the profoundest passages in Vedanta: "He that is the Essence of your soul, He is the Truth, He is the Self, thou art That, O Shvetaketu." This is what is meant by "Thou art God."

Another interesting theory is the “String Theory” It makes a lot of interesting and bold assertions. The most strange(?) is when it talks about 11 dimensions and the existence of parallel universes, which reminds me of the following verse from Devi Mahatyam (Chandi) "With a single glance of her, thousands and thousands of universes roll forwards, and thousands and thousands are destroyed" For me initially the plurality of the word "universe" in this verse appeared absurd, as even if something new props up, it will just become part of the universe. Not anymore.

Another interesting thing about string theory is that it proposes the existence of 11 dimensions, of which 4 happened to form this universe. Some different set might have formed some different universe.

Now what are the implications of it? The first point is that string theory thus in my view will always remain a theory, and never be proved experimentally as the very word experiment assumes it to be done in this world of 4 dimensions. We cannot generate some other dimensions in this world of which has these set of dimensions.

Man can never understand something about which he has never experienced. An analogy either given or, either formed in the brain is essential for a man to understand something. All the mathematics may be there, but we are never going to understand either meaning or the implications. So can I dare to say that modern physics has gone to ends where it is almost impossible for you to go, without properly trying to focus of the very basic tool of understanding - "our own mind". So the fine tuning of the mind becomes an essential element to further understand something which we have never experienced in our daily life. This is what the Vedanta always emphasizes- that controlling the mind, removing the ego is the key to the understanding of the Reality.

Now coming back to where exactly we started- the discussion between Einstein and Bohr about whether God plays dice or not.

My take is God does play dice, but his is dice are more like the one's used by Shakuni in Mahabharata.

He does throw dice, but he gets the outcome ‘he wants’ (obviously he has to if he has to be God). But all the time making us feel that everything Random/coincidence

There is inherent order in this Universe, rta. To follow the Dharma is to fine tune ourselves to this cosmic order, and be in harmony with it.


Blogger Unsane said...


3:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home