Physics’ View Of Reality
One may talk about ultimate reality from many perspectives, depending on one's point of view and beliefs. In Chapter 2 we explored how the findings of modern science, especially modern physics, superseded the mechanical worldview of Newton and his followers. Of all the sciences, physics has devoted the most effort to understanding the universe and developing descriptive models of it.
Physics (from the Greek word physis, meaning nature) is defined in dictionaries as the science that deals with matter, energy, motion, force, sound, electricity and the laws governing these natural phenomena. It is very important to keep in mind that modern physics looks at only a small slice of reality. Some purists believe that physics should confine itself only to those phenomena of nature which can be described with mathematical formulas. Whether or not we are that restrictive, we must note than many aspects of reality cannot appropriately be examined by physics.
The phenomenon of life, to say nothing of its wonders such as love and courage and justice and freedom, is not amenable to examination by physics except in terms of matter, energy, motion, force and natural laws. Religious faith and God are meaningless in the narrow circle of physics. Yet because physicists seem to "know so much about the universe," their authoritative writings about reality and other truth-claims have had enormous impact on Western Civilization’s views of reality, especially in the 20th Century. Physicists when writing books also slip on occasion from physics into philosophy, without warning the reader and, in some cases, with erroneous or misleading consequences.
Scientific Theory And Models
One of the most popular books about physics in recent years was Stephen Hawking's A Brief History Of Time. That it was so popular says much about the public's fascination with understanding our vast universe, and we can draw some insights from its contents.
"In order to talk about the nature of the universe and to discuss questions such as whether it has a beginning or an end, you have to be clear about what scientific theory is," Hawking says . "I shall take the simple-minded view that a theory is just a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, and a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations we make. It exists only in our minds and does not have any reality (whatever that might mean). A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations." He cites as an example Newton's theory of gravity, which as we saw in Chapter 2, "predicts the motions of the sun, the moon, and the planets to a high degree of accuracy."
But as Hawking notes, "Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. . . . The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe. However, the approach most scientists [Author’s note: more precisely, physicists] actually follow is to separate the problem into two parts. First, there are the laws that tell us how the universe changes with time. (If we know what the universe is like at any one time, these physical laws tell us how it will look at any later time.) Second, there is the question of the initial state of the universe. Some people feel that science should be concerned only with the first part; they regard the question of the initial situation as a matter for metaphysics or religion. They would say that God, being omnipotent, could have started the universe off any way he wanted. That may be so, but in that case he also could have made it develop in a completely arbitrary way. Yet it appears that he chose to make it evolve in a very regular way according to certain laws. It therefore seems equally reasonable to suppose that there are also laws governing the initial state."
Sliding From Physics Into Metaphysics
In the passage above, Hawking reveals important points about contemporary physics' view of the universe and of reality, as well as his own personal beliefs. For the physicist as physicist, whatever his beliefs as a person might be, the physics-view of the universe can only be regarded as a theory. Yet certain theories which appear to be always reliable in predicting "how the universe changes with time" are called laws, without stopping to question how there can be laws or where they came from.
Hawking, one of the most brilliant Nobel prize-winning scientists since Einstein, also admits that he believes "it appears that he [God] chose to make it [the universe] evolve in a very regular way according to certain laws." This observation cannot be made within the confines of physics. Here is a good example of the physicist sliding beyond his expertise as a physicist and making a claim suitable for metaphysics, some other branch of philosophy, or religion. This is because "God" and "laws" are not observable with the senses. In fact, the "evolution" of the universe is not objectively observable either. These are assumptions, theories or beliefs that go beyond physics – Aristotle's term for this kind of discourse, "metaphysics," would be more appropriate.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that explores the nature and existence of reality at its ultimate level, dealing with characteristics that apply throughout the entire universe. Metaphysics is thus an appropriate context in which to discuss ultimate reality. Although there is much more we can say about features of the universe besides ultimate reality, in these next few chapters that is what we will be dealing with: the nature of reality at its ultimate level.
Stephen Hawking is perfectly free to speak in terms of metaphysics. His whole professional life has been on the edge of cosmology, thinking about what makes the universe tick. And as a brilliant physicist, he is no doubt a more careful thinker than most of us. But when he goes from speaking scientifically as a physicist, with his white lab coat on as it were, to speaking philosophically about metaphysics, it is all too easy for the reader to follow along gullibly, accepting what Hawking says as the truth. But keep in mind that what he says as far as metaphysics is concerned is highly arbitrary and needs to be approached with a great deal of caution. Truth in physics, which must be judged by the standards of scientific method and mathematics, and truth in metaphysics, which is judged by broader philosophical standards, are substantially different. Since I do not have Dr. Hawking's aura of credibility, I am going to try to persuade you with clear reason of a different point of view, a different view of ultimate reality.
Covertly Clinging To Old Beliefs
It seems that Whitehead's observation about scientists still holds. That is, physicists and other scientists must believe in an orderly universe, and overtly or covertly in a Creator, in order to carry on their science with any hope at all that what they are doing is worthwhile. If the universe is not orderly and ultimately understandable, then science is a folly, with no more claim to truth than fiction-writing.
But now, as opposed to Newton's era, it is not fashionable for physicists to speak too openly about God. They can allude to Him, somewhat tongue-in-cheek as Hawking does above, but they must keep Him in his place. It is all right to believe in an orderly universe, and even to admit the possibility that God or some other supreme being created the universe, but a physicist who claimed in a professional meeting or paper that some scientific phenomenon was an act of God or caused by God would probably be laughed at by his colleagues. In other words, modern physicists are playing the same game Newton played, figuring out what makes the universe tick, but they have one change in the rules – they cannot speak seriously about God while they're speaking seriously about physics!
This is most unfortunate and one of the primary reasons why the scientific-materialistic worldview holds our civilization in such a powerful grip, in much the same way that the Roman Catholic Church dictated acceptable thought and expression in Galileo's era.
Cutting Out God-Talk
After discussing the Big Bang and other theories of the beginning of the universe, Hawking acknowledges, "We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us ordinary mortals. It seems better to employ the principle of economy known as Occam's razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed."
"Not of much interest to us ordinary mortals" is Hawking’s way of stating, with all due respect to the man's unquestionable brilliance, that "this is not of much interest to me and others who agree with me." But what is the effect on the unsuspecting reader? To be taken in by this put-down, perhaps, as we chalk up one more point on the scoreboard for scientific materialism. As we shall see, there is an alternative point of view, an alternative view of reality, that takes both physics and God, science and religion, equally seriously.
Hawking acknowledges that it may be possible for God or some other supernatural being to know the future. But science cannot accept that possibility because science is limited to that which can be observed by our senses and instruments. This does not mean that non-scientists are limited in their beliefs to what can be observed, but again, what science says is so often accepted as final truth for all circumstances.
It doesn't have to be that way. Let us strike a blow against scientific materialism, the physicist’s picture of the universe and reality, by challenging something all physicists seem to hold dear: belief in natural law. In so doing, I have no intention of challenging the value of physics in our society. On the contrary, I believe it has made and continues to make an enormous contribution to the advance of civilization. I once wanted to be a physicist myself. I have enormous respect for Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck and many other great physicists. The problem is this: Physics as physics deals with only a limited segment of reality and becomes very inadequate when used to explain ultimate reality. A good example of this concerns the concept of natural law.
What Is A Law Of Physics?
A law in physics is a statement of how natural phenomena occur with a high degree of probability and predictability. Newton's laws of motion are a good example. In a future chapter, you will read about the laws of thermodynamics. A law supposedly applies to a given set of phenomena virtually 100 percent of the time. Any observations which do not fit the law are considered an anomaly – they are set aside as an unexplained quirk in the data. Finally, if new evidence becomes overwhelming, and a new law can be formulated which takes into account all observed phenomena including the "quirks," then old laws may be replaced with new ones. As we have seen, Einstein, Heisenberg and others mounted so much contrary evidence, all backed with the precise mathematics of advanced physics, that Newton's laws were finally seen as limited to a certain class of phenomena, the motion of ordinary objects at ordinary speeds, and not applicable to subatomic or near-light-speed motion.
But where do laws come from, how do they exist? You can't see laws with your senses or detect them with instruments. So technically, the reality or true existence of laws lies outside the bounds of physics or any other science.
Now if you're trained in science, you're probably thinking, "Wait a minute here. Physics does not make metaphysical claims, granted, but a law is simply a theory or rule that is considered to apply with a high degree of probability to a certain class of phenomena. A theory is accepted as law when it applies or fits the data in every observed instance. If another theory is shown to work better, the old law-theory is abandoned."
If you're thinking that, I'm not getting through to you. My question is, How are laws possible? Why is it that you can perform the same experiment over and over and get the same results? Why is it that many laws can be expressed in terms of precise mathematics? And how is mathematics possible?
There is only one answer to these questions: "Because the universe is orderly." As Alfred North Whitehead and others have said, if scientists didn't believe this, they couldn't do their jobs. If the same experiment produced different results every time, if one set of numbers fit the data one day and another very different set of numbers fit the same data the next, if the universe were so obtuse that it never yielded up its secrets, there would be no scientists today, at least no sane or satisfied ones. It would be as hopeless as the alchemist's dream of turning lead into gold.
Laws Of Nature?
Some scientists have claimed that laws are in nature, hence the term "natural law." Nature is defined in Webster's Dictionary as "the material world, esp. as surrounding man and existing independently of his activities" and as "the universe, with all its phenomena." In other words, if you take everything in the universe that exists independently of human beings, what you are left with is "nature." (The careful reader will realize that this is a metaphysical claim.) Laws are out there, supposedly, in "nature," waiting to be discovered – BUT – they are not according to this definition products of mankind. (For example, a man-made law would be, "It is illegal to park in front of a fire hydrant.")
Other thinkers believe laws are all products of the human mind. Hawking implied such a claim when he said above, "a theory is just a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations we make. It exists only in our minds and does not have any reality (whatever that might mean)."
The Three Options
When we ask, "How can a law exist?" or "How can a law be real?" there are only three possible answers:
(1) Laws exist as physical quantities such as matter and energy in space-time.
(2) Laws have no physical existence – they exist only in our minds and have no reality.
(3) Laws are real but exist as something besides matter and energy in space-time.
The problem with option #1 is, if laws existed as physical quantities, they could be measured in some way, either directly or with instruments. Of course a law written on paper or etched in stone exists as physical reality, but the symbols in which it is transcribed have nothing whatever to do with its law-fulness. You can write anything on paper or in stone – that doesn't make it true or accurate.
The problem with option #2, which is probably the one most widely held by contemporary physicists, is that if laws exist only in our minds, how can they possibly control phenomena? Can we think a thought like "E=mc2" and – bingo! – it becomes true? Suppose we wake up one morning and say, "Naah, today I'm going to think E=mc4. Gosh, will those guys running nuclear reactors have a wild and crazy day!"
Again the conscientious scientist objects: "Quit trying to confuse the reader. Physical phenomena exist in nature. Laws exist in our minds. Laws are only attempts to use language to accurately describe what is observed in nature." If that is what you are thinking, you still don't get it.
Granted, the words or symbols which we use for laws, mathematics and other forms of abstract human thought are in our minds, and as such have a certain arbitrary quality. We could for instance imagine that in some foreign language E=mc2 is translated *#%$@ – the meaning would be the same, just a different language.
But how are phenomena lawful? Where in those whirling masses of atomic particles and flashes of electromagnetic radiation do laws exist? Where does the order which makes certain events predictable, certain laws widely applicable, exist? Where does the law hit the matter, as in, where does the rubber hit the road? Is this order an illusion with no reality, is it composed of matter and energy in space-time, or is it something else?
I sincerely and profoundly believe, of the three options above, that option #3 is most plausible, because as you have seen, it is possible to shoot holes through option #1 and option #2.
The "New" Reality: Order
I believe there is another dimension to reality besides matter and energy, space and time. I believe order is real. Einstein has already demonstrated that all matter (mass) exists as a form of energy. And so all reality is composed of only three things: order, energy and God.
There you have it: The most important thought in this whole book. And I will devote the rest of these pages to attempting to persuade you to accept this one understanding as the basis of a whole new view of reality, which I call Ordergonics, as a much more preferable, functional and logical alternative to materialism or any other view of reality which claims to be viable today.
The Proof Of A New View Of Reality
In order to prove to you that Ordergonics’s claim is true, I have two alternatives:
• Deductive reasoning, which involves deriving valid conclusions from prior propositions which are accepted as self-evidently true. The validity of conclusions in deductive reasoning depends on following proper form, including obeying certain laws of logic. (The reality of the laws of logic is very similar to the realities of the laws of physics.)
• Inductive reasoning, which involves building a case for a truth claim based on observed facts. Whereas deductive logic allows drawing conclusions which are necessarily true, so long as proper form is followed, inductive logic depends on probability, such as "there is a 50% chance of rain tomorrow." Generally inductive proof requires numerous examples of relevant observed facts in order to be convincing. It is the fundamental principle of scientific observation. In courts of law, prosecuting attorneys must use a great deal of relevant evidence to prove to a jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that an accused person is guilty as charged. Although some deductive reasoning may be involved within the attorney’s argument, the cumulative, convincing weight of the evidence is usually inductive.
Using Both Forms Of Proof
In this book, I will use both deductive and inductive reasoning in an effort to prove to you that the primary claim of Ordergonics given above is true. Most of the time I will be marshaling many different examples of the ultimate reality of order and energy, including some very interesting and relevant insights from modern science and information theory, in an effort to prove to you that order has a uniquely ultimate level of reality, on the same level of energy. And once you get comfortable with accepting that something "invisible" is real, you may also find it more comfortable to accept or advocate the claim that God is the third great reality of the universe – if indeed you need such proof.
Other tests of a good theory which philosophers use include the test of internal consistency, which means that different parts of a lengthy argument must not be in disagreement, and the test of simplicity. This latter test, sometimes called the Law of Parsimony or Occam’s Razor, was beautifully stated by Einstein: "Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." One great advantage of the system of Ordergonics is that it involves accepting the reality of only three things. To use a little deductive reasoning here:
If everything were composed of one thing, everything would be the same.
Everything is not the same.
Therefore everything is not composed of one thing.
The mystic’s claim, "All things are one," must be understood to mean, "All things have something in common," as indeed they do—they have order and energy in common. If it is understood to mean, "All things are one thing," it would obviously be false.
It would be possible to make the claim, "Everything is composed of order and energy," and leave God out of the picture entirely. Indeed, once I became aware of the difficulty of selling a book that makes a controversial religious claim compared with selling a totally secular book, I gave serious thought to leaving discussion of God to the final chapter. A book limited to order and energy would be simpler and perhaps more widely acceptable. But I had to come to terms with the fact that my concept of order is seriously impaired, if not meaningless, without simultaneous realization that God makes the order, does the ordering.
Before moving level by level through existence, from subatomic particles to world civilization, I would like to explain some of the fundamental claims of Ordergonics in terms of the reality of energy, order and God.
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