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Thursday, November 10, 2005

How Far Down the Rabbit Hole?

All the way. No question. No hesitation.

So I went to see What The Bleep Do We Know last night. My life is not sufficiently strange. Not sufficiently intense. Not sufficiently full of synchronicities. I was hoping for a revelation or an epiphany or something. I was a little disappointed. Perhaps the revelation is not in the movie but in the way I perceived it.

The movie was more interesting than most movies I see, it had some cool parts, and I am glad I saw it. Of course, I was never not going to see it. It was one of those forgone conclusions. However, parts of it were a little annoying, a little boring, a little lacking in content.

I like many of the concepts presented (perception = reality, creating your own reality)...but there was not enough detail for me. However, the thing that really bugged me was the religious-like attitude of the "experts" towards the various new paradigms: "I Am God, We Are One", "Quantum Theory and Spirituality" etc. Their attitude seemed to be that the old ways are wrong and that their new paradigm is right. It was particularly unpalatable when the movie also seemed to be trying to communicate the message of "there is no wrong." Personally I think there is no wrong, but that's just me. Anyway, who are proponents of "you create of your own reality" to say that "there are no wrongs?" Or am I just being pedantic?

Still. It could be a life-changing movie for many people. And it could be a good introduction to various spiritual/quantum-physics/consciousnnes topics for non-scientific and non-spiritual types. It is just that I am relatively well read in the areas in question, so I didn't learn a lot content wise. But like I said before, perhaps that is not why I went to the movie.

Having said all that, I am sure it will be a magical movie for many...and that is what matters. Anything that is magical for someone, anyone, is a good thing. There are doors behind doors and truths behind truths.

Is this another version of "The Tao of Physics" or "The Dancing Wu-Li Masters"?
When someone starts invoking quantum mechanics and its connections to mysticism and spritiuality to explain consciousness it is time to start running fast in the opposite direction. There is always some point in the middle where things get a bit hazy, hands are waved and magical leaps occur to tie everything together.
Even a scientist as well-respected as Roger Penrose (look him up) has theorized that quantum mechanical effects could be taking part in consciousness. But he is one of those who has argued (e.g., in "The Emperor's New Mind") that consciousness can not be explained by a physical algorithmic process. His argument is wrong though. I may have blogged about it in the past -- I'll have to look it up
Hey Chefen,

Why would you run in the opposite direction?

I don't because I like that part where they wave their hands and poof pull a rabbit from a hat. I like it because it is funny/fun and because I like non-mainstream ideas. I guess it's because I have mostly discarded my scientist hat and treat science more like entertainment.

I have never been sure what "consciousness" exactly. The definitions I have read seem very unsatisfactory.

I like my mind, but it is very hard to think about mind/consciousness objectively when it is my mind/consciousness doing the thinking. I have been practicing meditation recently and one of the exercises is to watch my thoughts. And then to be aware of the observer (ie the part of you that is watching your thoughts).

The Emperor's New Mind looks interesting.
I suspect Chefan runs in the other direction because far too many people have taken the far too easy route of looking at all of the mysterious aspects of quantum physics (and it *is* really mysterious) and saying, Yes, this mysteriousness is just like Eastern philosophy.

Yup, it sure is strange, but why should phenomena which occur at a scale many times smaller than our experience seem anything other than mysterious?
David's last comments are pretty much on the spot.

Penrose, while a good scientist in some areas, takes huge liberties when he strays into these fields. The Emperor's New Mind has loads of stuff about QM but then he takes huge and dubious leaps to tie it to consciousness, based mostly on a misunderstanding of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem to claim that consciousness is mysteriously non-algorithmic and must therefore be some sort of quantum computer. Unfortunately there is more and more reason to believe that the brain is not remotely like a quantum computer. I think in the next few years medical science will slowly unravel the mysteries of the brain without jumping in the deepend of esoteric theoretical physics from the start.

The problem with basing a spirituality or whatever on science is that inevitably the science changes and is superseded. The deterministic nature of Newtonian physics meshed very nicely with the idea of a God setting everything in motion under certain rules. Then quantum physics overturned it all. Now people see some dualism between Eastern philosophies and Quantum mechanics. A proper unification of relativity and QM, with a quantum theory of gravity, will probably sink that ship as well.
I have been thinking about this..but the thought is still unresolved and it doesn't look like it is going to clarify itself anytime soon. The start of the thought goes like this:

Why is basing spirituality on science a problem? We base lots of other things on sciencee and the evolution of scientific ideas doesn't stop us.

Presumably whether you base spirituality on science or something else, it is going to evolve anyway. Cause things just change.
Basing spirituality on science would be great. But that would then mean someone should be able to come up with hypotheses for "spiritual phenomena" and others should be able to design experiments to confirm or refute those hypotheses. And then those effects that were confirmed would no longer be "paranormal" but "normal".

The thing is, I think any experiments which have been designed to investigate spiritual matters in a truly scientific way have -- at best -- come back as inconclusive, and have usually come back as negative.

I think a lot of those who are spiritual would resist subjecting spirituality to science. Are you familiar with James Randi? He's a dude who has a one million dollar challenge open to anyone who can prove "paranormal" occurrences in an objective manner.

Consciousness seems to be an observation of how the mind operates: based one's observations, one is free to make choices and to give interpretations and meanings to the quality of of living. This seems to be the humanistic description. Beyond this the questions concerning a pure consciousness behind the humanistic one is frought with a wall that seems impentetreble: does pure consciousness direct and interpenetrate the material universe, or is it separate? Religions try to present answers based on belief and deduction, but what we don't have is a portal from here to "there", an interface that is both speculative, hypothetical, and scientific; otherwise we haven't gotten anywhere and we continue the split: agonstic, athethist, belivers, materialists. I know some of the questions to ask, but like the rest of humankind I remain stumped.
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