Posts Categorized: Science

The Faith-Based Science of Neil deGrasse Tyson—It Needs Correcting

 

By Deepak Chopra, MD

Peacekeepers entering war zones frequently find that both sides are angry and intransigent, to the point that even mentioning peace causes tempers to flare. This has been the situation with the debate—now worn out to the point of exhaustion—between science and religion. There are ways to bring peace, but they are stymied by militant partisans.

 

The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson broke out from his warm persona as our national science explainer in 2014 when he stated, in line with previous opinions, that philosophy was useless, telling an interviewer, “My concern here is that the philosophers believe they are actually asking deep questions about nature. And to the scientist it’s, what are you doing? Why are you concerning yourself with the meaning of meaning?”

 

The reason that more people got upset over his remarks goes beyond the small and dwindling coterie of professional philosophers. DeGrasse Tyson was arguing in broad terms that science is the only avenue to truth and that inner inquiry was an obstruction to uncovering the secrets of reality. He believes, science requires no acts of faith and therefore is the only reliable guide to knowledge.

 

Millions of people would agree—after all, modern civilization was built upon the foundation of science and technology. But deGrasse Tyson doesn’t realize that his brand of simplistic materialism runs exactly counter to the insights of quantum physics beginning a century ago, when the reliable structure of space, time, matter, and energy was completely undermined. This is no longer the stale, exhausted war between science and religion or between science and philosophy. The nature of reality, unknown to so-called naïve realists, has become increasingly mysterious.

 

DeGrasse Tyson places himself in the camp of naïve realism, the belief that what the senses report is fact, that raw data, once systematized and explained, establishes the physical universe as the basis of everything real. That is actually an act of faith. The great pioneering physicist Max Planck, who coined the term “quantum,” insisted that “mind is the matrix of matter.” He elaborated on the point speaking to a London reporter in 1931: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”

 

The fact that the observer affects what he observes, links mind and matter, although precisely how is still debated. DeGrasse Tyson recently dragged my name into his combative attitude, labeling me as a suspicious character who threw around big words to disguise my own ignorance. But having written several books on the nature of consciousness, I feel like a peacekeeper rather than a combatant.  One role DeGrasse Tyson has adopted is a kind of “There’s nothing to see here, folks. Just move on.” He represents the happy face of a unified scientific community marching hand-in-hand toward the ultimate explanation of everything.

 

The problem with such an attitude is its combination of willful ignorance and outdated science. The salient points are these:

  1. Physicists find themselves more baffled than ever about the nature of the universe, thanks to the discovery of dark matter and energy, which contradicts many previously held assumptions.
  2. The holy grail of science, the sought-after Theory of everything, is farther than ever from being achieved. This has led to a deep rift and much doubt among theorists—see Stephen Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow. In explaining their M-Theory, they use the phrase “model-based reality.”
  3. The traditional way for dealing with consciousness has been for science to ignore it, be suspicious of the entire subjective realm, and ridicule anyone who brought up the subject. This attitude, encapsulated in the phrase, “Shut up and calculate,” is a mask for ignorance about the nature of the mind. Like it or not, science is a mode of explanation that rests upon experience, just as other modes of explanation do.
  4. Without understanding consciousness, science as pure physicalism may be reaching a dead end. Once you arrive at the quantum vacuum state, the void from which time, space, matter, and energy emerged, there is no more data to harvest. Across an uncrossable horizon lies the “nothing that gave rise to everything.” A new mode of explanation based on consciousness offers a way past this barrier. But about this deGrasse Tyson knows nothing.
  5. Pride in being a know-nothing is gradually fading among far-seeing scientists. In an influential Scientific American article in 2014, the prominent British physicist George Ellis knocked the scientific attack on philosophy. Ellis’s central point was that the assumptions behind science are metaphysical to begin with, yet practitioners of science remain woefully ignorant of this fact. Both opposing camps, the one that derives creation from material forces and the one that derives creation from an invisible transcendent agent of mind, are making philosophical statements, not proven statements of fact.

 

Taken altogether, these points, which are well known in and out of science, are not quackery or suspicious anti-science attitudes promulgated by exponents of woo woo.  I can shrug off unfair denigration, but deGrasse Tyson needs to get past his faith-based view of science. Instead of disparaging better thinkers than himself, he should join the peacekeeping mission that might, at long last, repair a division that needs healing, not misplaced antagonisms.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos.  Other recent  books  include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and  Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicinewww.deepakchopra.com 

 

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The Ultimate Self-Help: Upgrading the Illusion

By Deepak Chopra, MD

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The phrase “personal reality” has a range of meanings, and most people would begin with their situation, the place where they find themselves. There’s a natural impulse to improve the situation, whatever it happens to be. If your situation lacks enough money, satisfying work, a loving relationship, and so on, it will improve your personal reality to work on those things. That’s about as far as society tells us we can go. On a larger scale, one person can make a minuscule difference by casting a vote for President or deciding to recycle, but big or small, personal reality has a big outer component, consisting of the external world, other people, natural forces, and so on.

 

It seems so obvious that there is a “big” reality compared to which anyone’s “small” reality is fairly insignificant. But this small reality is personal, so we all spend a huge amount of time and effort trying to upgrade it–all of our life, in fact. So it’s mystifying to run into the world’s wisdom traditions, which perversely turn this whole idea upside down, claiming that the “big” reality is actually a snare, a trap, an illusion. That’s the gist of the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Buddhism, different as they are when taken as religions. In my new book, You Are the Universe , written with physicist Menas Kafatos, we look very closely at how to upgrade personal reality from the ground up, a process that begins with solving the whole mystery of reality.

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Where Do You Call Home? A Cosmic Answer

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD

Home is a charged word for everyone, a source of emotion that’s intimately associated with feeling safe and loved, of belonging. When asked “Where is home?” people reply with a country or city, perhaps a specific street address. Almost no one says “My home is the universe.” But for scientists trying to explain cosmic issues, the fact that the universe is the ultimate home where human life arose poses some huge mysteries. In our book You Are the Universe , we explore these mysteries, but that’s really secondary to something more important. We aim to show that the universe exists to be the home of human beings.

In other words, we take the universe personally. Such a position sounds at first blush like a totally wrong-headed stance. The universe, whether viewed by the naked eye or through the Hubble telescope, presents itself as a vast space where some three trillion galaxies, by the latest estimates, are rushing away from one another at high speed, where spacetime is being stretched out, carrying along every object embedded in it. This picture is so well established that many people, including trained physicists, assume that new discoveries will basically just fill in the blanks. It’s not as if we need a totally new definition of the cosmos.

But in fact we do, and there’s a growing sense among scientists that this is true. Even those who accept the inflationary model of the universe (a model based upon the reality of the big bang 13.7 billion years ago) realize that the fundamental components of reality–space, time, matter, and energy–remain mysterious. In fact, it’s the breakdown at the most fundamental levels that causes the universe to be very different from what the eye or telescope sees.

The word “breakdown” must be taken seriously here. The New York Times ran an article over a year ago on the crisis in physics, and quite publicly Stephen Hawking has been exploring the a cracks in a unified Theory of Everything (the holy grail of physics at least since the lifetime of Einstein).  Hawking is prone to quotes like the following: “I don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what it is. Reality is not a quality you can test with litmus paper.” The fact that the most advanced theories about space, time, matter, and energy don’t necessarily match reality opens the way for looking at reality very differently.

Our different view is that the universe is trapped in a paradox. On the one hand, everyone holds that the universe developed after the big bang in keeping with random events, whether those events are the collision of two helium atoms or two galaxies. There is no plan or design, no predetermined purpose in creation, and ultimately no meaning to why things happen as they do. On the other hand, and this is where paradox reigns, the universe is the perfect home for human life to have evolved on Earth. In fact, the universe is so incredibly precise in allowing life and intelligence that randomness just does not fit the bill.

The evidence for this side of the paradox begins with what is known in cosmology as the fine-tuning problem. After the big bang, there was a precarious balance of natural forces. Given a change one way or another by less than one part in a billion, the infant universe could have collapsed in on itself or, at the opposite extreme, flown apart so fast that atoms and molecules would never had developed. If the laws of nuclear physics were slightly different, a collapsing supernova could not occur and the heavy elements which are essential to our bodies could not have formed in the cauldron of stellar collapse. Other more arcane disasters and distortions were also possible, but the upshot is that the constants that keep the universe intact are meshed together so finely as to defy any random explanation.

Human life needed a home to evolve in, meaning a planet, which in turn needed a solar system, which in turn needed stars, interstellar dust, viable stable atoms, and so forth, all the way down the line to the big bang. It’s very suspicious that there were no hitches along the way. Very small hitches would have made it impossible for the most complex molecule in the known cosmos–human DNA, with its 3 billion base pairs–to evolve.

To compound the paradox, there are other enormous gaps in the models we apply every day to explain reality, among them:

  • No one knows what came before the big bang because “before” implies time, and time didn’t necessarily exist before the moment of creation. In fact, the very question only makes sense when time exists, not “before” time existed.
  • In a similar way, no one knows what lies outside the universe, because “outside” applies to space in the sense of a box that has an inside and outside, whereas such space can’t apply before the big bang occurred. How can there be space outside space?
  • No one knows where cause-and-effect came from. Cause and effect both depend on something happening “before” to cause something else “after.” This ties us to a linear scheme that can’t step outside time, even though we can compute mathematically that the quantum world doesn’t seem to work by linear cause and effect–perhaps not any kind of cause and effect.
  • No one knows where meaning came from. If the universe evolved by random events that are meaningless, how did we humans arrive at meaning, purpose, design, and the concept of evolution? These concepts are fundamental everyday realities. This problem of locating the origin of meaning is tied to an even bigger one:  no one can explain how an unconscious universe came up with consciousness. It’s not as if the ordinary molecules of salt, water, sugar, and other basic components of the brain suddenly learned to think.

Our book delves into the details of these baffling mysteries, but where a physicist might consider them abstract puzzles to which advanced mathematics must be applied, the mismatch between theory and reality concerns everyone. We don’t know why the universe is our home or even what “home” means in the larger sense. No one would put money down on a house built of materials the builder can’t describe or tell where they came from. Yet we have bought into a conception of the cosmos with exactly those flaws. In fact, far from looking out at a physical universe filled with stars the way a box of chocolates is filled with truffles, we are actually looking out at a conception, a human artifact that we alone are responsible for. That’s a mystery worth pondering if we ever hope to find out who we really are.

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor UCSD Medical School, researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are You Are the Universe co-authored with Menas Kafatos, PhD, and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.   discoveringyourcosmicself.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 16 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

 

Originally Published by The  San Francisco Chronicle

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Why You and the Universe Are One

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By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD.

It takes a lot to overturn the accepted view of reality, but it doesn’t take a lot to begin. The accepted view of reality holds that human beings exist in the context of a vast physical universe “out there.” Only an extreme mystic would doubt this description, but all of us should. Sir John Eccles, a famous British neurologist and Nobel laureate, declared, “I want you to realize that there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound – nothing of this kind; no textures, no patterns, no beauty, no scent.” What Eccles means is that all the qualities of Nature, from the luxurious scent of a rose to the sting of a wasp and the taste of honey, are produced by human beings. Erwin Schrödinger, one of the main founders of quantum mechanics, said essentially the same thing when he declared that photons, quanta of light, have no color, such properties arise in the biology of perception.

 

Those are remarkable statements, all the more because they are all-inclusive. The most distant galaxies billions of light years away, have no reality without you, because everything that makes any galaxy real— with the multitude of stars with their heat, emitted light, and masses, the positions of the distant galaxies in space and the velocity that carries each distant galaxy away at enormous speed—requires a human observer with a human nervous system.  If no one existed to experience heat, light, mass, and so on, nothing could be real as we know it. If the qualities of Nature are a human construct arising from human experiences, the existence of the physical universe “out there” must be seriously questioned–and along with it, our participation in such a universe.

 

When you break experience down into its tiniest ingredients, the physicality of everything begins to vanish. The story we keep telling ourselves depends on reality “out there” having a physical explanation, but it doesn’t. For example, we depend on sight to navigate through the world. No matter what you see “out there”—an apple, cloud, mountain, or tree—light bouncing off the object makes it visible, but how? No one knows. What makes seeing totally mysterious can be summed up in a few undeniable facts:

 

  • Photons, the quanta of light, are invisible. They aren’t bright, even though you see sunlight as bright.
  • The brain has essentially zero light inside it, being a dark mass of oatmeal-textured cells enveloped in a fluid that is not terribly different from sea water. (There are extremely faint traces of photon activity in the brain, but the optic nerve doesn’t transmit photons to the visual cortex.)
  • Because there is no light to speak off in the brain, there are no pictures or images, either. When you imagine the face of a loved one, nowhere in the brain does that face exist like a photograph. How do action potentials in neuron electric firings become conscious awareness, no one knows.

 

At present no one can explain how invisible photons being converted to chemical reactions and faint electrical impulses in the brain creates the three-dimensional reality we all take for granted. Brain scans pick up the electrical activity, which is why an fMRI contains patches of brightness and color. So something is going on in the brain. But the actual nature of sight itself is mysterious. One thing is known, however. The creation of sight is done by you. Without you, the entire world—and the vast universe extending in all directions—can’t exist.

 

Expand this known fact to everything you experience, and every quality of life requires human participation. “Requires” means two things, first, that experience is the ground state of everything, including the activity of doing science, and second, that every quality is a human construct derived from experiences of individuals in human species. Another species with a different nervous system would participate in the universe in a way completely unknown to us with our human nervous system.

 

Physics has had decades to process the insight of John Archibald Wheeler, the eminent American physicist, general relativist and quantum physicist, who originated the notion of a “participatory universe,” a cosmos in which all of us are embedded as co-creators, replacing the accepted universe “out there,” which is separate from us. Wheeler used the image of children with their noses pressed against a bakery window to describe the view that kept the observer separate from the thing being observed. But in a fully participatory universe, the observer and the thing observed are one.

 

You are one with the universe because you experience Nature in your awareness, and there is no other source for reality as we know it. If anything is real that cannot enter human consciousness, we will never know it. How would we even know it? Even if we resort to abstract mathematics which might infer the existence of realities beyond our ability to sense them or measure them, we should realize that mathematics itself, albeit the most refined one, is tied to human observers. It takes a mathematician to understand mathematics. To summarize,

 

  • The universe we live in is a human construct, including everything in it.
  • All activity takes place in consciousness. If you want to point at where the stars are, there is no physical location, because consciousness isn’t a “thing.”
  • The brain isn’t the seat of consciousness but acts more like a radio receiver, and perhaps emitter, translating conscious activity into physical correlates. (The radio receiver metaphor describes the feedback loop between mind and brain, which are actually not separate but part of the same complementary activity in consciousness.)
  • To understand our true participation in the universe, we must learn much more about awareness and how it turns mind into matter and vice versa.

 

These are difficult truths for mainstream scientists to accept, and some would react to them with skepticism, disbelief, or anger. But following the other track of explanation, beginning with physical objects “out there,” fails utterly to explain how we are conscious to begin with. That’s why in scattered pockets, some physicists are beginning to talk about a conscious universe, where consciousness is a given throughout Nature. In fact, the founders of quantum mechanics a century ago agreed more with this view, having understood that quantum mechanics implies observation and agency of mind. In our upcoming book You Are the Universewe call it the human universe, emphasizing where the whole construct comes from. As we will see in future posts, once you realize that you and the universe are one, the whole journey of being human shifts radically.

(To be cont.)

 

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Clinical Professor UCSD Medical School, researcher, Neurology and Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.  www.deepakchopra.com

 

Menas C. Kafatos is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He is a quantum physicist, cosmologist, and climate impacts researcher and works extensively on consciousness. He holds seminars and workshops for individuals, health and mental professionals, practitioners of contemplative traditions, and corporations on the natural laws that apply everywhere and are the foundations of the universe, for well-being and success. His doctoral thesis advisor was the renowned M.I.T. professor Philip Morrison who studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer. He has authored 315+ articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including The Conscious Universe (Springer), Looking In, Seeing Out (Theosophical Publishing House), and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, You Are the Universe (Harmony). He maintains a Huffington Post blog. You can learn more at http://www.menaskafatos.com 

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Why the Physical Universe Needs Mental Glue

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Jennifer Nielsen, PhD candidate

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Robber barons in the 19th century were so rich that they didn’t have to do things the way ordinary people do. If they wanted to live in a French chateau or an Italian palazzo, for example, they didn’t have to build one from scratch. Instead a chateau or palazzo could be dismantled in Europe, its parts carefully numbered and packed into crates, and then shipped to America to be reassembled on the spot.

If you wanted to ship the universe somewhere else, you could try to do something similar. You’d need four crates labeled time, space, matter, and energy—the basics for taking apart the universe. To save shipping costs, you could try to cut these down to their bare constituents at the quantum level. But when the Fed Ex man shows up, he would scratch his head. “I can’t ship this,” he’d says. “You squeezed everything down, too far. There’s no stuff in these crates.” This is a fanciful summary of the basic quandary created by the quantum revolution of a century ago. When space, time, matter and energy are studied at the very smallest level, they cease to behave as the familiar parts of reality that we think we know. (more…)

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