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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Under Siege

Ok, this is a response to a subscriber's comment on One Song, which is the signature piece to this blog.

It's a piece that I spent 15 months researching, just that one piece alone, and is in many ways the coming together of many years of work.  It fuses a new, cutting edge breakthrough in neuroscience with a new interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, which itself took me many years to piece together.

Here's the comment:


Have you considered excising the section on Quantum Mechanics into it's own thing separate from One Song? Without testing to back it up I feel it weakens the piece as a whole. At least that's what many seem to choke on when reading this for the first time.

"Deepak Chopra shit" is a phrase I've seen more than once.


Ok, look.

I think that doing a special piece on Quantum Mechanics would be a great thing.  I've got a lot more on it, including some new potential experiments complete with clear predictions.

It's on the list, and I'm sure I'll get to it at some point.  The big reason I'm not rushing to it is that what I think I need right now is a trained physicist to work with.  I've taken the Edinburgh Interpretation so far I think that it's pretty clear there may be something to it, and if there is, it's easy enough to test for.

When that happens, great.  As for now?  I just don't think there's an audience for it, I don't think anyone particularly cares that much.

The Deepak Chopra thing however is a much bigger issue.  I run into it all the time - but not so far from trained physicists.  I've run this piece past a few physicists, including a friend of mine who is doing his PhD in a University here in Edinburgh.  What he said after reading One Song was - literally, these are his words - "This is nothing like Deepak Chopra", and he was very surprised that people would make that connection.  Initially, when I mentioned that people do make that connection, he didn't immediately believe me.

But they do.  They make it all the time.  And this is because what Deepak Chopra has done (and not just him, although he's the one who's made his name with this stuff) is to basically cobble ideas from Quantum Mechanics onto a very conventional Indian Mysticism framework.

I honestly don't know if he realises how damaging this is.  Just the title of a book called "Quantum Healing" is like, to anyone with a genuine respect for and interest in science, a red-hot needle to the eye.

It's strange, because what he's actually talking about are things like unity, peace, and coming together.  But his work is profoundly divisive.  I don't know if he intends it that way, I'd be surprised if he did - but it is as divisive as divisive gets.  Under the guise of bringing together Eastern philosophy and Western science, he has instead massively alienated vast numbers of people.  People who are involved in science, yes - but also the millions of people who respect it, and don't feel it should be used cheaply.

For anyone who respects the science, this is going to really rile them up, and this is why I feel his work is profoundly counterproductive.

All it does is build a siege mentality in the people who respect science to any kind of work that links the insights coming from the Quantum experiments with human life.

And worse still - it makes them feel that anyone who has any respect for Eastern thought is not to be trusted and must be opposed.

Quantum Mechanics, in physics, has quite a strong parallel to evolutionary theory in biology, in this sense.  In both cases, ideological, mystical theories abound, especially on the internet.

With Biology, magical, woolly thinking forms around evolutionary theory, and we call it Creationism.  This creates a kind of siege mentality among many people who do care about evolutionary science, and what science is, and anyone raising new ideas about evolution does often have to deal with huge amounts of flak because of this.

I wrote a piece a long time ago about a new process that accounts for non-linear evolutionary change, within what's called a fully microevolutionary framework.  This means that it accounts, fully, for the long-term stability of certain species, and the rapid changes undergone by others.  An organism that remains static for millions of years while it's habitat changes around it is a serious problem for classical evolutionary theory - and one that Creationists have been quick to seize upon.

I've found a potential solution for it - but can't get a biologist to look at the solution, let alone test it, because they seem (honestly, this is what it looks like from outside) so intent on defending evolutionary theory that they flinch at the idea of improving it.

Again, I'm not trying to pick a fight here.  And believe me, I understand - but that is what my experience has been.

And this isn't because they're bad people - but because there is a pervading sense of "reason under siege" - and the killer irony is that in this siege mentality, as in any siege mentality, reason is the first thing out the window.

The evolution piece I did may be wrong - but it is very clear.  It makes clear predictions of the fossil record - basically, if it's true there will be a certain pattern to all evolutionary change that can be statistically mapped.

And it's even better than that - it's not even a case of having to statistically map it (the fossil record's pretty sketchy in places).  To disprove my evolutionary theory (which I have given the catchy title of 'mutative feedback') all you need to do is find a single fossil, anywhere, in all of history, that falls outside that pattern.

That is extremely falsifiable, extremely easy to disprove.

And if it's right - pay attention here - if it's right, and any biologist or paleontologist takes a look and does some research for it, it will make their career, for life.

Honestly.  But again - pay attention - this isn't to say "kneel before Zod, this theory is amazing."

It's to say this if it is right, it is seismic.  And if it's not right, it will be very easy to disprove that.  Very easy. Literally, a trained paleontologist could probably disprove it in a day.

Here's a link to the evolution piece if anyone's interested - and if there are any biologists or paleontologists interested in taking a look, please take a look, tell me what you think, and if you're interested in working with me on a paper, I will make time for that as a matter of some urgency.

Now, just as there is a state of intellectual siege around evolution in biology, there is also a state of intellectual siege around Quantum Mechanics in physics.

It's slightly different because Creationists often just flat-out deny evolution, whereas Quantum Mechanics isn't so much denied as 'co-opted' into a syncretic hodge-podge of self-help and new-age thought.

But the effect is the same - the corruption of science.

And so because of this, people are on high alert, very high alert about anything to do with Quantum Mechanics that isn't written in equations and sanctioned by Harvard.

But the problem is that - as I see it - the main issues of Quantum Mechanics are philosophical, not mathematical.  Make sense of the reality of things, and the equations will follow.  Start trying to stitch together all the equations, and all you get is a godless mess of numbers that is so complex it can never be tested, and so is not scientific.  And that, basically, is string theory.

Now the failings of string theory is something we're not going to get into here - others have done massively, massively better work.  The luminary physicist Wolfgang Pauli had a brilliant saying about it that cuts right to the heart of problem - he said it was "not even wrong".

Just a mass of numbers, all just swimming around looking very elegant and pretty, attracting a lot of funding and producing a lot of PhDs.

This is not science.  It is daydreaming on a calculator.

So let's come back to One Song, and take a look at the conjecture I've put together there.

If we say that because certain authors have ignored the spirit of science, and strip-mined Quantum theory for marketing buzzwords to adorn their very conventional new age/self help schtick, then what are we to do in response?

Are we to say - well, let's just cede Quantum mechanics.  Let's just ignore the insights coming from those experiments because someone's being a charlatan.

And then shall we go on to write nasty websites about them?  To attack them?  To mock them?  To tell them to shut up?

Is that what we want?  To silence them?  Is that the best we can hope for?

There's a piece of American wisdom that I keep coming back to.

In freedom of speech, is silencing people the answer to bad speech?

No.  It's good speech.  Good speech is the answer to bad speech.

It's for someone to actually take up the challenge that the new age gurus never took up, and genuinely fuse insights from science, humanity, and all traditions of philosophy, not just Indian, into one coherent, smooth whole that can genuinely be tested?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding Quantum Mechanics?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding what the brain is fundamentally doing?

That opens up a totally new paradigm for understanding humanity itself?  And reality itself?

I mean, can you see what I'm getting at?  If someone wants to judge my work on the work of pseudo-scientific authors who's work I do not reference, do not respect, do not follow, and have no control over?

That's on them.  And I don't blame them for being jumpy around the issue, there's a lot of very sloppy work out there.

But to go from that to say that all philosophy that uses the insights into reality coming from the Quantum experiments to shed new light on what is going on with reality, life, human beings - to say that all this is automatically sloppy?

That's a stunning victory for the charlatans, and our skepticism has turned into cynicism, and lost the integrity and thirst for truth that made it a worthwhile thing in the first place.

It's a hard thing to say, but it is.  And it might seem incomprehensible to many that I would take this attitude - but I'm not here to apologise for someone else's mistakes.  I make enough of my own, apologising for them takes up enough of my time already.

Lots of very interesting work has been done on Quantum Mechanics - but nobody has ever proposed any interpretation of these experiments that

A) Makes perfect, non-contradictory sense of the Schrodinger's Cat problem (this is the main issue with Copenhagen).

B) Doesn't resort to any metaphysical element of any kind (this is the main problem with the Von Neumann interpretation).

C) Makes clear, testable predictions of all possible Quantum Experiments (this is the main problem with the 'Multiple Worlds' interpretation, which is genuinely untestable).

The Edinburgh Interpretation does all three.  Makes sense of the cat, no metaphysics, testable.

Now just a word about testing.  Someone might say "well, this doesn't have testing to back it up" - but that misses the point.  In fact, it misses the point of what science fundamentally is.

Science is conjecture, it is speculation.  It's not logic, it's not a chain of reasoning.  It's conjecture, all of it, the whole thing.  Every piece of science, every theory, every equation, everything.  Absolutely everything.

What makes science different from just normal conjecture is another element, which is testing.

But pay attention here, because it is vanishingly rare that people actually understand how testing works in science.

It's not a case of testing to prove the theory.  You can never prove a theory.  Ever.  That's not what theories are, that's not how theories work.  No theory, ever, can ever be proven.  I remember reading a book by Stephen Hawking where he makes this point - it's the building of models (which is a kind of speculation) that...

...and pay attention....

Don't get disproved no matter how much you test.

Do you understand?

This is the difference, and it eludes almost everyone, and that's why very few people truly understand what science really is.

It's not proving things through test.

It's speculating, and attempting to disprove that speculation through test.

And that means that the best speculations, the most scientific, are not the ones with the most equations, or that look the cleverest.

They're the ones that are easy to disprove.  The ones that make striking and clear predictions of what will happen in an experiment, or in a series of experiments.

Now, as far as that goes, I think the Quantum Mechanics section here is fine.  It's a clear speculation - like all scientific hypotheses - that makes very clear, extremely ambitious, highly risky and easily testable predictions of all possible Quantum experiments.

You tell me if Deepak Chopra has anything like that in his box of tricks.

Now look - I am happy, delighted and frankly, hungry, for genuine criticism from physicists who specialise in this area.  So far I've got a huge amount of criticism for the physics section of this piece - but nothing of any substance from ANYONE who specialises in physics.

None.  I've had physicists point out incidental issues where I didn't describe the Copenhagen interpretation with enough clarity.  It was quite a serious sourcing issue - I didn't have sufficient distinction between the Von Neumann and Copenhagen interpretations.  I resolved this immediately.  It's fine now.

But nothing, literally no problem, nothing in any way systemic, has ever been raised about the core idea, the actual Edinburgh Interpretation.

Now this isn't even to say that there aren't problems.  There may well be.

But I honestly haven't heard any yet, and try as I might (and I've tried very hard for a while now) I can't find any.  Literally none.

Now, finally - why is it here?  Why is it in this place?  Why not just sever it from the Neuroscience part if it's causing such a ruckus?

Well, because One Song isn't just about the illusion of self.  It's about reality as well.  Illusion and reality.  The two aspects - not just one.

The contour of the illusion is the first part.

The contour of reality is the second.

The way to resolve the agony and delusion of the human condition itself by bringing these elements together with a new clarity on the core mechanics of their relationship?

That's the third part.  You can't have the third part if you remove either one of the previous two.

Well, - ha!  I could... but then without explaining the reality of the united nature of being and occurrence, I'd have to talk... get this, this is funny - in metaphysical terms about the undivided nature of reality...

And then I actually would be committing the same errors that the new age thinkers are.

Between not offending people who aren't engaging with what's being said anyway because they're busy fighting a battle that I'm not involved in, or actually making the mistakes they're accusing me of, I'll let those who wish to take offence, take offence.  Perhaps one day they'll relax, and come back to it.  Probably not, but that's the best I can hope for, and the limit of what I can do.

It is a sad thing that I even need to write this.  I wish that it weren't necessary, but it is.

I hope that it goes at least some way toward getting at least some people to consider what I'm saying based on its own merits.

As I've said elsewhere, and I'll say all over again - if anyone reading this actually is a physicist who has training in Quantum Mechanics, hit me up.  Send me an email.  Don't just write something in a blog comment, give me a way to get back to you.

If anyone knows someone who is a physicist, get their opinion on One Song.  Actually put it in front of them, let them have a say.  And if there is some major problem with it, wonderful, let's find out what it is, find out how it's a problem, and leverage that to get deeper, and closer to the truth.

If this is wrong - this interpretation - then at least it might be interestingly wrong, and shed some new light on things.

But if it's right, this is a game-changer.  Honest to God.  If I've got this right, anyone working with me, as a physicist, to clarify this, set it up and publish a paper about it, would make their career, for life.

If it's right.  That's all I'm saying - if it's right.  And I think it is, and if it's not right, it's very easy to disprove.

And even then, it might not be worthless.  Because if it does get disproven, then we'll be able to see how it gets disproven, and see something new.

My door is so open to offers of collaboration that it is literally off the hinges and lying on the floor.

I don't know what else to say, but I hope this clears things up a little.

Thanks for the comment, and I hope I haven't bored you too much.

I hope you like the photoshop job I did at the top though.  Took me far longer than it should have.

Totally worth it.

Much love.

1 comment:

  1. Just got a comment here from someone who has in fact raised a very salient issue about the Quantum experiments I propose in One Song.

    As such, and with much grumbling, I will do what has been suggested, and excise the QM section from One Song, pending serious maintenance of the experimental section.

    I have put together a detailed response to the comment itself, which I have put up as a new post at the following link, if you're interested in reading it: