Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hinduism and Quantum Physics for Dummies

Hinduism and Quantum Physics for Dummies

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Let's get down straight to business. Someone once famously remarked 'Life is a book whose first and last pages are missing' Despite science having made so much progress it still has no answers to the most fundamental questions of life - Who're we? What is the origin of consciousness? Is death the end?

Scientists in the 21st century are mostly divided between two paradigms - Materialism and Advaita Vedanta (Monistic Idealism). Materialists have traditionally believed that the brain (matter) creates consciousness while the latter (Vedantins) believe that the universe is conscious and that consciousness (or Brahman/God) gives rise to the material universe. This, of course, is just the fundamental difference. This piece will only delve into the very basic fundamentals of these two paradigms.

Prominent Scientists who believe in Materialism: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss among others.

Prominent Scientists who believe in Advaita Vedanta: Sir Roger Penrose, Henry Stapp, Stuart Hameroff, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Dean Raddin, Rudy Tanzi, Hans Peter Duer, Menas Kafatos, Amit Goswami among others.

The materialists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss etc believe that the fundamental basis of the universe is matter (atoms & molecules) and all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) is the result of material interactions (upward causation). They believe that the brain (matter i.e. atoms & molecules) gives rise to consciousness (loosely termed soul). The Universe and all phenomena in it are random. How randomness creates such a finely tuned universe and intelligent life is of course left to one's wild imagination. To know more about this Godless philosophy pick up some of the works of the prominent materialists mentioned above. This TED talk by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake on the 'Science Delusion' (which is a must watch) will throw more light on the problems with materialism.

Astronomer Fred Hoyle once noted - 'The probability that random chance created life is roughly the same as the probability that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 707.'

According to the materialists the universe is a machine. That implies that we (individual components of the universe) are machines as well. But machines cannot process meaning and context like us. No computer algorithm can be written or has been written so far that can process meaning/context. That is why in the comments section of any YouTube video human intervention is required for marking comments as spam because a machine cannot process meaning/context on it's own and determine which comment is spam and which isn't. So if machines cannot process meaning/context and humans can, how exactly are we machines? Materialists also believe that as machines become more complex they'll be capable of producing subjective consciousness. I'm not sure what the implication of such a belief is but are they implying that after attaining consciousness the machines will be able to grow old and die like us? Some clarity would help.

Advaita Vedanta
Vedantins holds that consciousness (God), not matter, is the ground of all being (downward causation). It is monist because it holds that there is only one type of thing in the universe and idealist because it holds that the one thing to be consciousness. A movement called Non Duality based on the Advaita Vedanta philosophy which is the philosophy of monistic idealism has sprung up in the West and is challenging the philosophy of materialism. Advaita Vedanta is a school of Hindu philosophy and religious practice giving a unifying interpretation of the whole body of Upanishads. Advaita refers to the identity of the true self, Atman, which is pure consciousness and the highest reality, Brahman, which is also pure consciousness. It states - 'Pure Consciousness (Brahman or God) is the only reality. The universe is an illusion'. The Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Physics aligns itself well with the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.

Did you know that the founders of Quantum Physics were all Vedantists and credited the Vedas for many of their theories?

The founders of Quantum Physics were Vedantists

Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of Quantum Mechanics had a lifelong interest in Hinduism

The influence of Vedic Philosophy on Nikola Tesla's Understanding of Free Energy

Science and Spirituality: Heisenberg's mystical experience?

Where are memories stored?
Not that this is important to the discussion but the difference in beliefs of materialists and monistic idealists will throw light on the approach of both the paradigms. The materialists have a tendency to ascribe everything to the brain. What is the origin of consciousness? Brain. Where are memories stored? Brain. 'Where else could the memories be stored, in the bum?' would retort the materialist when questioned. Now this will come as a surprise to most of us because we're conditioned to believe that memories are stored in the brain but this cannot be proven scientifically. No neuroscientist can pin point the location in the brain where memories are stored. It is just a belief so far. What does the monistic idealist believe? Hear it from Deepak Chopra & Rudy Tanzi (Renowned Professor of Neurology at Harvard University) Memory and the Brain 

Eww, Deepak Chopra? That charlatan?
Please read the Editorial Reviews and then decide for yourself how much of a charlatan he is. The common perception is that he is a snake oil salesman who invents fuzzy pseudo scientific concepts/words to make spirituality compatible with science. If this is so, you might want to question why scientists who're at the top of their game support what he says in the reviews. Do your own research before jumping to a conclusion like I always do. 

Where is this Soul or Consciousness you talk about?
The materialists/biologists always ask 'But where is the soul'? True that science has no clue about the soul yet. We all know that atoms are 99.9999999999% empty space. That is where the consciousness is according to the monist idealists. And this consciousness permeates every single atom in the universe which means the universe itself is conscious. Hear what world renowned Psychaiatrist Stanislav Grof has to say - Brain, consciousness and Hinduism

Quantum Physics
Not many people know this but Quantum Physics is also known as the mystical branch of science. There are more than 10 interpretations of Quantum Physics and the most prominent of them which also includes consciousness is the Copenhagen interpretation which aligns itself well with the Vedanta Philosophy. Richard Feynman once quoted - 'If you think you understand quantum mechanics you don't understand quantum mechanics'. It has been close to a century since Schrodinger formulated the famous Schrodinger wave equation but scientists till date have no clue as to what Quantum Physics really is. This, as far as I'm concerned, only makes it amply clear that the key to understanding our universe is Quantum Physics.

The Problem of Gaps
There are gaps in our understanding of neuroscience/evolution/etc which are acknowledged by the materialists. Now these gaps wouldn't exist at all if matter was the fundamental basis of our existence. The reason there are gaps is because reality cannot be explained away by postulating matter to be the underlying reality of the universe. For instance, think of a chocolate. Does the image of the chocolate appear? Where does it appear? It isn't in your brain. So where is it? Materialism cannot explain this. The gaps clearly expose the materialist paradigm.

- Amit

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