The Ultimate Comment could be described as having a sciento-mysticist theme, the word being a portmanteau of science and mysticism. It holds that there are mystical, unknowable secrets, but that they can be discovered and confirmed through the advance of science-driven technology, such as the invention of the internet or LSD-25, and on a long enough timescale will eventually satisfy the scientist desire to be experimentally proven.
Similarity between all sophisticated, honest inquiry into truth, whether mystical or mathematical-scientific
As Pope Bob has pointed out*, Mysticism does not stand alongside Religion in opposition to Science. Rather Mysticism & Science are allies standing in opposition to Religion. Mysticism & Science both trust the sovereign individual to make his own investigation into What's What, to accept only that which can be confirmed empirically and to apply reason and logic to experiential knowledge. Religion, on the other hand, expects the individual to base his view of What's What on authority and faith. We could even say that Mysticism is an investigation of consciousness in the same way that Science is an investigation of the material world.
*Reference: he said it in that documentary about him.
In science you set up specific conditions in the external world and observe the result. In mysticism, you set up specific conditions in the nervous system and observe the result. In this view, science and mysticism are equally valid investigatory methods. (This equality is only in the game of truth-investigating. Mysticism has the bonus feature of abolishing suffering. Science has the bonus of creating technology.)
See Charles' Tart's formulation of this point here, starting from the last paragraph of page 6.
Similarity between the conclusions of mysticism and mathematical science
Mystics generally say stuff about -
- The primacy of consciousness. In contradixion to a position we can call "naive realism", "reality" is not something "out there", experienced by consciousness
- Transcendent being outside of space and time
Schrodinger was pretty strong on the aul' non-duality. "The multiplicity is only apparent. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not of the Upanishads only. The mystical experience of the union with God regularly leads to this view" (What Is Life?, written in Dublin in 1943)
Anton Zeilinger says in discussion with the Dalai Lama, "Maybe knowledge is as fundamental, or even more fundamental than reality" (he later clarifies that by "reality" here he means "material reality").
It's about the science, and the love, and that physics we call quantum.
This 2007 paper from Nature starts by saying that "According to Bellâ€™s theorem, any theory that is based on the joint assumption of realism and locality... is at variance with certain quantum predictions... thus rendering local realistic theories untenable... Therefore it is reasonable to consider the violation of local realism a well established fact".
Ok, so: Bell's theorem prohibits theories that state both
- things have objective reality
- there is no spooky action at a distance.
This leaves three valid kinds of theory -
- Theories that give up the notion of objective reality (I understand that the Copenhagen interpretation does this)
- Theories that accept spooky action at a distance (generally called "non-local hidden variable theories")
- Theories that give up the idea of objective reality and accept spooky action at a distance.
The paper linked to above is an experimental falsification of non-local hidden variable theories. This makes it very hard to sustain the notion that there is an objective, mind-independent reality that determines our experiences.
Conventional Buddhism describes universe as -
- Without distinct "selves" or agencies
- Without boundaries or distinctions of any kind
- Made of consciousness that is not individual (not "my consciousness" or "your consciousness")
- Beyond space
- Beyond time
Beyond the shocking revelations of quantum mechanics, other sciences validate aspects of mystical teachings. Findings from neuroscience (and some systems of psychology, like family psychology) show that our sense of a singular, coherent self is illusory. (There was a good New Scientist survey of this: 1.) Ecology attacks our common notion of independent existence.
It's not "mysticism vs science". Mysticism&science are together screaming at us that our common view of individuality, realism and locality are wrong.
What are the possible positions?
It's bogus to say that "religion" is one position, "science" is another, and we must choose. It's more complex than that. "Science vs religion" is a 0-dimensional model (meaning it is binary, like a point that can be on or off). We can upgrade to a 2-dimensional model:
- Fundamentalist scientists - Scientists who are True Believers and refuse to listen to criticism of their theories. James Randi, Richard Dawkins etc. fit in this category, as well as many scientists in every speciality.
- Fundamentalist religious people
- Inquiring scientists - Who are open to their theories being critiqued and falsified.
- Inquiring religious people - Who analyze their ideas, and root out delusions and mistakes in their views. This self-critique is absolutely necessary to genuine progress on the mystical path.
This model has religious-scientific on one axis and openminded-closedminded on the other. The more interesting question than, "Are you scientific or religious?" then becomes "Are you willing to put your beliefs to the test, try to falsify them, and keep inquiring, accepting that there is a great deal you do not know, or, on the other hand, are you gonna assert that you already know it all and greet contradictory evidence with ad hoc dismissal and anger?"
Another way of modelling it is -
- The unexamined view
- The view revealed by examination
The first of these holds that I am an individual person, an entity in a universe consisting of entities, and that I have my unique intentions and perceptions that interact with that world. The examined view is the view of any neuroscientist, any psychologist, any linguist, any Buddhist, any ecologist, any yogi, any sociologist, any Taoist, any Theosophist, any physicist: it states that the "I" is part of the whole and the sense of separateness is an illusion caused by a quirk of normal human cognition.
Collected sciento-mystic works
- Andrew Newberg - "Neurotheology". Look into this guy's work; he's got it going on.
- Brian Josephson - 2
- 'The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism' by Fritjof Capra - an extraordinary book doing exactly what it says in the subtitle.\
- Tony Smith's website includes writings on Sufi physics, Vodou physics
- Anandavala - Awesome website about reality by a mathematician-mystic.
Some random notes about quantum biology that don't really belong on this page
"The universe described by quantum physics is nonlocal, wholistic, monistic and interconnected, like the world described by mystics." "Yeah, but that only applies to subatomic functioning and has no relevance to our daily lives." "But what if biological systems use quantum effects? What would that imply?":
- Experimental long-lived entanglement of two macroscopic objects.
- Probing the limits of the quantum world - Zeilinger again. Entire organic molecules entangled.
- Quantum entanglement in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes - Quantum effects are used in photosynthesizing
- Luca Turin believes that the sense of smell uses quantum effects - http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061204/full/news061204-10.html - In short, some animals can smell the difference between isotopes of the same substance. This can't be explained by chemistry, because isotopes behave identically chemically.
- Seth Lloyd on Quantum Life - video. Deals with photosynthesis in bacteria, smell, and bird-homing. He concludes by saying that we've only been finding out about quantum effects in biological systems for the past 3 years, so we're probably just scratching the surface; in the years ahead we're likely to find them all over biology.
- Plenary debate: quantum effects in biologyâ€•trivial or not? - Zeilinger, Hameroff etc. Good point (bottom of p. 7) that the make-or-break question is whether quantum entanglement can be maintained for long enough (i.e. about 0.1millisecond or so) at high enough temperatures to affect biological processes. Max Tegmark is always arguing that quantum decoherence happens to quickly for it to have any relevance to biology; Hameroff calculates that it'd take much longer (p. 11). Zeilinger basically argues that he views his job as a quantum physicist to convince other scientists that the world is quantum, not Newtonian. "There is no reason not to have quantum superpositions of living systems" He also says that one day someone will send a bacterium through a double-slit. Can't not quote Hameroff from page 15: "the psychedelic experience might use quantum information". Paul Davies makes a good point on page 18: quantum information-processing is known to be very powerful, so in Nature's intricate information-processing system - Life - it would be surprising if quantum computation wasn't being used.
- Nobel prizewinner in physics: Biological Utilisation of Quantum Nonlocality
- 3 - Report on quantum biology workshop and interviews with participants.
Obviously the Hameroff-Penrose theory is quantum biology; similar quantum effects to those happening in photosynthesizing bacteria, smell receptors etc. are happening in the human brain (specifically the microtubules) and are responsible for consciousness.