Author Topic: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words  (Read 7684 times)

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #45 on: June 07, 2016, 06:36:04 pm »
A Right View is seeing two sides of the same coin at all times.  That is equanimity... :namaste:

I find modern physics quite amazing, yet also perplexing. Our mind gives us the impression that a particular object, such as a rock or a lump of steel, is hard and solid, yet modern physics seems to imply (from my layman's perspective) that such apparently solid objects consist of myriads of tiny particles and/or  'bundles of energy' vibrating in a field, and that the amount of solid matter in the object, in terms of protons and neutrons, occupies a very tiny portion of the object's size and space.

Such views of modern physics seem to be in accord with the general Buddhist view that things in reality are not what they appear to be and that the mind constantly tricks us.

However, I get the impression that the phenomenon of mind or consciousness is still a mystery among physicists and neuroscientists.

If energy and matter are two sides of the same coin, then perhaps mind, energy and matter are the three sides of a three-sided coin.  ;D

I'm reminded here of another great mystery of modern physics, the nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
I find it astounding when I read claims that possibly 95% of the stuff that surrounds us (matter and energy) is currently invisible and undetectable. We seem to have a long way to go before we fully understand the true nature of our surroundings.

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #46 on: July 03, 2016, 06:44:58 pm »
When I posted my answer to the question “What is the fundamental reason why the speed of light is constant in all frames of reference” on Quora (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-fundamental-reason-why-the-speed-of-light-is-constant-in-all-frames-of-reference/answer/Kenneth-Chan-102), there was comment about my answer, involving the function of nerve cells, as follows:

“Electrical signals do not travel at the speed of light, so I am skeptical right off the bat because of that wrong assumption. They generally travel at anywhere between 50–99% of the speed of light. Can you provide any evidence that you were “approved by Kip Thorne”? That’s the only other claim here that might make this more than armchair physics, and it seems conspicuously like an appeal to authority.” (end of quote)

I realize that this kind of thinking may become a source of misunderstanding, so I am reproducing, here, my reply to this comment, which is as follows:

The electrical impulse along the axon of the nerve cell, of course, does not travel at the speed of light. Movement of the sodium and potassium ions, however, causes a disturbance in the surrounding electrical field, and it is this disturbance that is transmitted at the speed of light, to other charged particles (and that continues the electrical impulse along the axon by causing further movement of ions). All that is required is the fact that the functioning of the nerve cells does depend on this speed of light.

The paper of mine that was approved for publication by Professor Kip S Thorne is entitled “Time and Space” and it was published in the ISPE book “Thinking on the Edge” (Agamemnon Press 1993). On the copyright page, it is stated in print that Professor Kip S Thorne is the physics consultant for the book. The publisher informed me that, out of 16 papers on physics, Professor Thorne only approved one for publication, and that was my paper “Time and Space.”

The publisher also informed me, many years ago, that John Wheeler had also read the book and gave favorable comments on it. I also have a letter from Physics Nobel Laureate, Nicolaas Bloembergen, thanking me for a copy of my paper “Time and Space” and stating that it was very clearly written with “a fresh point of view on the concepts of special relativity.” My paper has thus been read by prominent physicists and no one has ever found a flaw in the paper.

The preprint version (1988) of “Time and Space” can be found here: http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/time-and-space/. Note that this paper provides a mathematical derivation of the Lorentz Transformation Equations, as well as a mathematical resolution of the twin paradox, based purely on the understanding that our science is a science of what we experience as human observers. Therefore, my explanation of why the speed of light is constant is not based on an appeal to authority; it is based on an analysis that can be shown to be logically and mathematically correct at every step. It is thus a conclusion that cannot be avoided.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 02:52:32 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #47 on: July 04, 2016, 04:15:44 am »
An interesting thread, and one that constantly reappears in the science vs revealed knowledge argument. As both a science teacher and a Buddhist I've thought about it quite a lot. Interestingly, I became a Buddhist through science. I wanted a, none chemical, way of changing how I experienced the world, so took up meditation as a kind of experiment using myself as the guinea pig. I did this without going to a Buddhist center because I'd had enough of religion telling me what to think. Imagine my surprise when something happened- you really shouldn't fool around with something as powerful and permanent as meditation.

Anyway, I'm glad I did or I would have missed out on the years I spent at the Buddhist center I finally went to on discovering the path to enlightenment. To get back to the point- I'm still aware of the revealed/logically arrived at knowledge dilemma. When I've had moments of insight, the emotional  dimension can be pretty overwhelming, so I understand why people who have gone through stuff like that are so persuasive of their view that knowledge can be gained in this way. It can, but it's not science. The type of knowledge doesn't overlap in as much as you only get to have a different relationship with the world- you don't get given plans for a starship.

Part of my earlier meditations included using knowledge of cutting edge areas as part of the meditation- the kind of stuff included in this thread. I also used images of other galaxies and star formation via Hubble and other websites. These visualizations worked for me with my science background as lots of new stuff was contradictory to everything I had learned in school, and pretty counter-intuitive. A bit like Zen koans, they worked on me by chipping away at certainties, until I could let go of my attachment to them.

They are still scientific facts, and only open to scientific refutation. Although I too saw lots of references to modern science in ancient texts, that's really no surprise to anyone who has had insight experiences. The truth is the truth, so it's inevitable that deep insight will catch glimpses of the nature of the universe. But that's all it is, a glimpse of scientific 'reality'. Science works on this reality a different way, using different language. You can't use the language of one to describe the 'reality' of the other. Vague scientific sounding statements are meaningless to science, although they may be of use to some at their stage along the path I guess.

A gift to me on following my public ceremony on becoming a Buddhist was a card-mounted quotation that I still keep on my personal shrine at home. It is by the Tibetan teacher Tarthang Tulki, on Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light: "The energy of human consciousness  may share an affinity with light that we do not yet understand. Turning towards that light, we may find it the source of all our inspiration and creativity." But it isn't science. I don't for one second think that is useful for anything to do with science. It's just a wonderful saying to keep on my shrine.

For me, then, relativity doesn't support anything but those parts of science it deals with. It's counter intuitive, but it works when applied to the calculations. If it doesn't support the calculations, it ain't science. Buddha's words don't need supporting. They point to a path to follow, not knowledge to understand. That's the job of other areas of human experience.



“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #48 on: July 04, 2016, 08:22:52 am »
An interesting thread, and one that constantly reappears in the science vs revealed knowledge argument.

Thank you, stillpointdancer, for your interesting post. There is much that we can talk about here. What I do not understand is why you feel that there is actually a sort of dichotomy in the quest for truth. In other words, why is there a need for a “science vs revealed knowledge” argument? I fail to see why there should be this dichotomy at all. The quest for truth is an all-encompassing one, and to split it up into segments is, to me, an artificiality that, in reality, does not exist. Let us look more closely at this point.

The quest for the truth is a path of verification. There are different approaches that can be taken, but they all must progress by verification. Scientific verification via scientific equipment works very well in the domain where they can operate, and that is in the material world. We cannot replace this scientific verification by claiming that so-called “revealed knowledge,” appearing in our minds, can supersede and override the data that the scientific machines can record. Surely no one claims things like that; it would be ridiculous. I am certainly not aware that Buddhism claims anything of this kind. So there is no “science vs revealed knowledge” problem here.

There are, however, areas where contemporary science cannot operate at all, because scientific equipment simply cannot function there. The most obvious area of this kind is that of consciousness. There is no scientific equipment that can detect or measure consciousness directly. And no scientific equipment of this kind means no scientific data on consciousness. And no scientific data means no scientific theory on consciousness. And that means scientists actually know next-to-nothing about consciousness!

The only way to probe consciousness is to use the mind, and that is where meditation, and the transformation of our mind into a more effective probe in the quest for the truth, come into play. Again, there is no “science vs revealed knowledge” problem, since contemporary science cannot even function here. So there is, again, no dichotomy. Also, knowledge or insight gained from meditation and the transformation of our mind, is actually gained by verification. We verify by directly experiencing the truth.

There is a reason why I highlight the fact that relativity proves our science to be actually a science of what we experience, and not a science of a universe that is independent of us as observers. To begin with, this is a truth that even data from scientific equipment points to, and this needs to be acknowledged by scientists. Even more important, this forces the scientists to finally acknowledge that consciousness is more than an unimportant secondary phenomenon that is derived purely from matter. This unwarranted assumption by scientists is not supported by scientific evidence, and can now be shown to be actually a distortion of the truth. Unfortunately, this assumption by scientists has misled a large part of the human population into neglecting the mind and its development. This is a tragedy and needs to be stopped.

The quest for truth and understanding needs to be an all-encompassing effort where we make use of whatever tools or abilities that are available to us. To me, there is no dichotomy here. This quest for truth and understanding is also the means to save sentient beings from suffering, and it should not be hampered by wrong assumptions concerning the role of the conscious mind in our reality.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2016, 08:25:40 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #49 on: July 04, 2016, 11:04:44 am »
An interesting thread, and one that constantly reappears in the science vs revealed knowledge argument.

Thank you, stillpointdancer, for your interesting post. There is much that we can talk about here. What I do not understand is why you feel that there is actually a sort of dichotomy in the quest for truth. In other words, why is there a need for a “science vs revealed knowledge” argument? I fail to see why there should be this dichotomy at all. The quest for truth is an all-encompassing one, and to split it up into segments is, to me, an artificiality that, in reality, does not exist. Let us look more closely at this point.

The quest for truth and understanding needs to be an all-encompassing effort where we make use of whatever tools or abilities that are available to us. To me, there is no dichotomy here. This quest for truth and understanding is also the means to save sentient beings from suffering, and it should not be hampered by wrong assumptions concerning the role of the conscious mind in our reality.

Good point. I don't know what other people think, but for me there are different kinds of truth. The truth of mathematics, of science of music, of sociology, and so on. I think it's more than a philosophical stance for me, it's looking at the very nature of truth and authority. A truth 'revealed' or gained via religious practices is not the same as a truth derived from science. That is not to denigrate it, rather to say that there are different ways of looking at the world- different ways of illuminating it. But if I was going to sit in a rocket and be shot into orbit, I would rather it be the result of people from a scientific and technological background rather than from, say, a group of artists who 'knew' what color the ship should be, but not what fuel to use (apologies to Douglas Adams there!).

On the other hand, if I want to explore the meaning of life, I don't think that's the remit of scientists. That's where the 'truth' of what it means to be alive is up for grabs. The Buddhist approach to this, for me, is that there is no revealed knowledge to be gained at all, but an attempt to be made to change your relationship with the world. We meditate and study the Dharma in order to change what there is in ourselves holding us back from seeing the world as an enlightened being.

I don't really think there is a difference between you and me on this, but rather that I'm pointing out the background context of other religions claiming knowledge of the 'truth'. Which is why I'm a Buddhist.

Where I might take issue is your view that scientists have 'misled a large part of the human population into neglecting the mind and its development'. No, I can't think of any instances of that, but would love to read some if you can give them to me. It might give me an idea of where you are coming from.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Kenneth Chan

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #50 on: July 04, 2016, 06:35:35 pm »
A truth 'revealed' or gained via religious practices is not the same as a truth derived from science.

I think we are basically in agreement here, but there is a problem with the terminology. Rather than a “revealed knowledge vs science” question, I would phrase it as a “blind faith vs verification” question. Then, there is no debate whatsoever; verification wins, hands down. Blindly believing in things may not just be misleading; it can be positively dangerous, and lead people to do crazy things!

To me, the true spiritual path is a path of verification. We progress by verifying for ourselves, through a transformation of our being and our mind, the higher and higher spiritual truths. This verification is done by a direct experience of the truth. This is essentially the Buddhist approach, and blind faith is actually not required.
 
Where I might take issue is your view that scientists have 'misled a large part of the human population into neglecting the mind and its development'. No, I can't think of any instances of that, but would love to read some if you can give them to me. It might give me an idea of where you are coming from.

Science is absolutely fine so long as scientists stick to the principle of verification as the basis for what they claim. Unfortunately they do not always do that. Because of their desire to appear like the all-knowing masters of the universe, they often refuse to admit ignorance when that is actually the case. They then make up assumptions and claim that it is science! This is particularly true when it comes to mind and consciousness, and it is here that they completely mislead people.

Take a look at this article about Ajahn Brahm, a Theravada Buddhist monk, who actually studied physics at Cambridge University (http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/ajahn-brahm-religion-and-science-we-must-abandon-the-superstition-of-materialism). Let me quote here what he says:

“Modern science is dogmatic. I’ve known that ever since science has denied the existence of consciousness as an independent entity apart from the brain. Any reasonable scientist who puts aside their dogma would have to admit that consciousness is all-powerful.” (end of quote)

There is now concrete scientific evidence that Ajahn Brahm is correct. Both relativity and quantum physics show that our science is actually a science of what we experience, and not a science of a universe “out there” that is independent of our conscious experience as observers. Hence, consciousness plays a central role in our science, and cannot be dismissed as something derived purely from matter. Unfortunately, scientists still repeatedly try to denigrate the role of consciousness, even though there is no scientific evidence to back them up!

What I have been trying to point out on this thread is that, in fact, relativity exists only because our science is actually a science of what we experience. How time and space manifest actually depends on the observer, to the point that it does not even make sense to talk of time and space if there are no human observers. Scientists thus need to acknowledge the central role of the conscious mind in science, and Ajahn Brahm is absolutely right in saying that “we must abandon the superstition of materialism.”

Let me reproduce, here, the closing paragraph of my article “Why Relativity Exists” (http://kenneth-chan.com/physics/why-relativity-exists/) which is essentially a call to physicists to face up to reality and finally heed what their own science is now telling them:

A science that ignores consciousness, or artificially relegates the conscious mind to that of a secondary—and hence, unimportant—phenomenon, is actually an incomplete science. All our scientific data relies on the conscious mind as a necessary component. Both relativity and quantum physics tell us that we cannot blindly assume that the conscious mind—that experiences what constitutes our scientific data—has no effect on the nature of the data itself. So a discipline that willfully chooses to ignore the conscious mind as a vital component of our reality, must be viewed, at best, as an artificially restricted discipline, or, at worst, as a distortion of the truth.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 02:45:32 am by Kenneth Chan »

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #51 on: July 04, 2016, 06:42:17 pm »

Good point. I don't know what other people think, but for me there are different kinds of truth. The truth of mathematics, of science of music, of sociology, and so on. I think it's more than a philosophical stance for me, it's looking at the very nature of truth and authority. A truth 'revealed' or gained via religious practices is not the same as a truth derived from science. That is not to denigrate it, rather to say that there are different ways of looking at the world- different ways of illuminating it. But if I was going to sit in a rocket and be shot into orbit, I would rather it be the result of people from a scientific and technological background rather than from, say, a group of artists who 'knew' what color the ship should be, but not what fuel to use (apologies to Douglas Adams there!).


I'm getting a sense of confusion in your above comment. Surely, there is only one kind or type of truth, but there are many different degrees of truth, depending on the nature and complexity of the subject under examination, and the scale of precision required.

Many subjects have so many interconnected variables, which also sometimes exert their influence over relatively long time frames, that it can be impossible to apply the scientific method with it's essential requirement of 'potential falsifiability' based upon repeated experimentation and observations under various conditions.

Psychology, biology, sociology, economics and climate change, are some of those subjects which include a great deal of uncertainty due to the difficulty, and sometimes impossibility, of applying the full and rigorous scientific methodology under sufficiently controlled conditions.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #52 on: July 05, 2016, 11:57:20 am »



I'm getting a sense of confusion in your above comment. Surely, there is only one kind or type of truth, but there are many different degrees of truth, depending on the nature and complexity of the subject under examination, and the scale of precision required.

Many subjects have so many interconnected variables, which also sometimes exert their influence over relatively long time frames, that it can be impossible to apply the scientific method with it's essential requirement of 'potential falsifiability' based upon repeated experimentation and observations under various conditions.

Psychology, biology, sociology, economics and climate change, are some of those subjects which include a great deal of uncertainty due to the difficulty, and sometimes impossibility, of applying the full and rigorous scientific methodology under sufficiently controlled conditions.
[/quote]

Yep, you are right. Sliding scales of degrees of 'truth' depending on the degree of rigor in the science in question. I think I meant that each 'subject' still has something unique to offer when it comes to trying to make sense of the world, so still worth looking at them. A piece of music, a poem or a painting can say something about the world, even without any 'science' to it at all. It may have 'truth' in it, but not to the same degree as 'truth' from one of the hard sciences.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #53 on: July 05, 2016, 07:05:31 pm »
Quote
Yep, you are right. Sliding scales of degrees of 'truth' depending on the degree of rigor in the science in question. I think I meant that each 'subject' still has something unique to offer when it comes to trying to make sense of the world, so still worth looking at them. A piece of music, a poem or a painting can say something about the world, even without any 'science' to it at all. It may have 'truth' in it, but not to the same degree as 'truth' from one of the hard sciences.

I wonder if subjects such as music, poetry, painting and art in general, say anything truthful about the 'world', as in the 'so-called' external reality, or is it the case that such subjects are limited to descriptions of the illusory nature of the human condition of greed, ego, vanity, power-seeking conflicts, love, hate, and sensual pleasures.

I'm reminded here of those famous last lines of the poem by John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn.

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all   
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

Now I find such a sentiment very endearing and very fanciful, and I would certainly wish it were true, but I think in reality it is not true. On the other hand, the Buddhist view that life involves suffering, from birth to death, does seem to be true, and an undeniable reality, but I'm not sure that that truth is beautiful.

On second thoughts, perhaps the realisation of the beauty in the truth that life involves suffering, helps to dispel the suffering.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2016, 07:23:43 pm by VincentRJ »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #54 on: July 07, 2016, 08:23:02 am »

I wonder if subjects such as music, poetry, painting and art in general, say anything truthful about the 'world', as in the 'so-called' external reality, or is it the case that such subjects are limited to descriptions of the illusory nature of the human condition of greed, ego, vanity, power-seeking conflicts, love, hate, and sensual pleasures.

I'm reminded here of those famous last lines of the poem by John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn.

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all   
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

Now I find such a sentiment very endearing and very fanciful, and I would certainly wish it were true, but I think in reality it is not true. On the other hand, the Buddhist view that life involves suffering, from birth to death, does seem to be true, and an undeniable reality, but I'm not sure that that truth is beautiful.

On second thoughts, perhaps the realisation of the beauty in the truth that life involves suffering, helps to dispel the suffering.

I was doing research for a book on insight, so I read up on the place of visionaries in the scheme of things- religion, art, and so on. Maybe the value in a lot of the stuff they came up with lies not so much with any new 'knowledge' they came up with, but with the impact it has on others. Your Keats example about beauty is interesting. Although fanciful, it has a haunting quality that lasts long after you have read it, and perhaps changes you in a way that lesser poetry doesn't.
 
The poem is a kind of visualization practice, isn't it? Especially in the way it contrasts the illustration on the urn as an everlasting scene, with that of real life that changes and decays. I like:
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
Very Buddhist, as a visualization. Would you like things to be like that, or does the 'nor ever bid the spring adieu' send a shiver down your back, as it does mine, that they can never move on to summer? Maybe like the Gods on the wheel who are so 'happy' that they see no reason to follow the path and move on. They cannot see that nothing lasts forever, and that no matter how happy you are, unless you become enlightened you are doomed to stay on the wheel forever.

For me, the lines:
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
can be a call to think of something beyond our experience. For us, a hint of the insight still to come, the perfect understanding we get with enlightenment?

Not that the poem talks about Buddhism, but maybe shows some understanding of the importance of reflecting on impermanence. What about the poem, visualizing the urn and its images, as similar to Buddhist visualization practice when we use an image of the wheel? Maybe the value of such a poem is that we can get to a 'truth' that may not have been intended?
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Relativity Supports Buddha's Words
« Reply #55 on: July 08, 2016, 05:41:39 am »
Thanks for your insightful comments on the poem, Stillpointdancer. Just one small point, which I hope is not too nit-picking. You describe the following couplet,

"Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;"

as very Buddhist, as a visualization. Would you like things to be like that, or does the 'nor ever bid the spring adieu' send a shiver down your back, as it does mine, that they can never move on to summer?

It occurs to me that in Greece, as opposed to more northern countries, the summers are rather hot. Spring might be considered an ideal temperature. (wink)

 


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