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Copyright © 2009 Ray Dickenson
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Absolute or Relative

yin or yang

Warring ideas about `reality' - such as materialism vs. idealismabsolute vs. relativeparticle vs. wave.

Each seem to be `hard and fast' positions - just like opposite sides in a war.

And it doesn't stop there, - reductionism vs. holismwalled vs. openproperty vs. commons, and their (logical?) extensions,  slavery vs. liberty.

Examine them and you'll find distinct types of thinkers, people, on each of the opposing sides - in some cases two individuals have starred in several of these `wars' at the same time.

For example, in the absolutist vs. relativist dispute, Newton was also a believer in `particles', and a materialist. ref-01  He had to choose absolutism, to make his `Laws of Motion' look sensible.

While Leibniz, ref-02 arguably a deeper thinker, was a relativist and `idealist'.

Then Young, another versatile and deep thinker, proved that the wave theory ref-03  apparently won out over particles - but that argument wasn't over.

Let's be a bit daring - let's speculate that they're all the same war, only being fought on different battle-fields.  In which dispute can we expect to find more facts than hot air?

Right - in the last few decades we've gotten a huge amount of evidence on the particle versus waves debate in physics.

Yet, all that evidence got us nowhere, despite the strong positions taken - Einstein got a Nobel prize for his `particle-istic' photo-electric effect, and Richard Feynmen went further, writing emphatically that "light comes in particles, not waves, particles" - in `QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter'.

[ Although Feynman said (in `QED')  "You see, my students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does", and he also wrote "One does not, by knowing all the physical laws as we know them today, immediately obtain an understanding of anything much" - in `The Character of Physical Law'. ]

So, despite all `opinion', there is no agreement over particles vs. waves.  No one has `won' that war.  Why?  Haven't we gotten closer to a view of `reality'?

Nope - if anything the view is even more confusing - our scientists are getting plenty of `information' but they can't make any sense of it.

In fact the most `successful' new area of science - quantum - only works because they use a mathematical cheating called `re-normalization'.

That just allows them to ignore something in quantum results which tells us that there is a huge unknown force in the universe.  I.e. - Its power and `instantaneous' velocities are hinted at, and represented, by the `impossible infinities' in most results.

Human science can't understand or deal with that - so, for the time being, they ignore it. ref-04

Should we care about that?

Well, one thing we should know - we can't trust `opinion' or what people `want'.  John D Barrow was recently forced to conclude, about all our present `theories' - "Eventually, they will all be shown to be wrong".

But uselessly, in the past people have voted to control nature, and even mathematics (they voted to make `pi' an easier number, like 3 - but `pi' didn't care!).

So we need to care!  In fact it's beginning to look like the war - maybe each and all of those wars - is simply a big mistake.  Due to the fact that an anthropoid ape (us) is trying to understand the universe while using an ape's brain.

Light cannot be a wave, nor can it be a particle.  Because a wave can't behave like a particle,  and a particle can't behave like a wave.  Finito.

But photons (light) and electrons (matter) can do both. ref-05

So photons - and by extension matter - are not waves or particles - they are something else.  And, this is the scary bit, they are something we have no words for, not even a hazy concept.

The ape brain has reached its limit (maybe).

That ape (us) has always used the illusions of physicality  (which, perhaps fatally misleading us, are always ref-06 communicated to our brains by photons ref-07)  to convince itself that it is either standing in a valley (materialist) or on a mountain-top (idealist).

Whereas the truth could be very different.  We now know that photons aren't what we thought - and neither is matter.

Our real universe, and even our surroundings, might be such that an ape can't yet imagine, or even tolerate - as the phrase `being all at sea' shows us.

[Because we apes still naturally tend to fear the wide, deep waters. ref-08]

Further references:

"Everything we sense is an illusion to a degree"

"there are many reasons to assume an observed world differs from the world as it is"

"There could be other classical worlds completely different from ours"

* footnote -   Like the scary feeling we get - when seeing the final scene of Lem's `Solaris' - of being `alone on an alien ocean'.

illustration - detail from "Yin Yang" by

20th Cent.


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