Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Speed of Light

"The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment - and confirmed the result.
The experiments have been carried out by the Opera collaboration - short for Oscillation Project with Emulsion (T)racking Apparatus.
It hinges on sending bunches of neutrinos created at the Cern facility (actually produced as decays within a long bunch of protons produced at Cern) through 730km (454 miles) of rock to a giant detector at the INFN-Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy.
When the Opera team ran the improved experiment 20 times, they found almost exactly the same result.
'This is reinforcing the previous finding and ruling out some possible systematic errors which could have in principle been affecting it,' said Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.
'We didn't think they were, and now we have the proof,' he told BBC News. 'This is reassuring that it's not the end of the story.'"

If this proves to be true, it would have serious consequences. If the speed of light is not the limit, it would shake the principles of modern science. We would probably have to discard the Theory of Relativity. So everything written in Metaphysics Part IV of this blog would be void too. But the consequences could even go farther and affect quantum physics too. In this case we would effectively be thrown back to the 19th century and Newton physics as the best approximation to physical reality.
It's still to early for such a radical judgement, but modern science is in serious problems now. Physics could be far more complex as we assumed.
But we still have to wait for further verifications of the Opera measurements, which may take about one year or more. Then we will see if the Theory of Relativity can be adjusted to the new observations or has to be completely discarded. There might be something really big ahead of us and we might just have  scratched the surface. Or mya be it was just a systematic error of measurement. We will see.
But one thing is already sure: Modern physics has become to much dominated by speculations of theoreticla physics without enough experimental proof. Physics needs to rethink its approach. There are too many theories (String Theory, Superstring Theory, Big Bang Theory, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Black Holes and other singularities) without any experimental or observational proof. We have to go back to what we actually know and can observe instead of making new speculations based on previous speculations.
We have for example never observed a Black Hole, but the theory of Black Holes has spawned entire branches of physics. It is highly speculative to assume that the density of mass can be infinite. May be there is an upper limit, a so far unknown property of space itself (e.g. the density of Neutron Stars, which are among the most dense objects that have really be observed). We have not understood gravity, but we try to extrapolate by playing with numbers and speculate about singularities inside Black Holes and at the beginning of the universe. This is not how science should work. We have to calm down a little bit.

May be light speed is not the maximum speed, may be there is no such thing as an event horizon and the universe is bigger than we think. We will soon know more.
Meanwhile we should limit ourselves to what we actually know.

Considering the recent discoveries, there will be no further posts  in this blog on the topic of Metaphysics until the issue of light speed has been clarified. So let's get back to rather earthly topics.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Metaphysics Part VIII - Reality

What is reality? What are the requirements for something to be called "real"?
Let's consider an example. Would we call the tragical events at the end of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' real events? - Certainly not, because they were not historical. There were no persons called Romeo and Juliet in 16th century Verona who committed suicide because of their love.
However couldn't there be such a couple in a parallel world, which is completely separate from our world and unknown to us? The events of Shakespeare's novel are certainly consistent and theoretically possible. If nobody from this other world of Romeo and Juliet would ever visit our world and nobody from our would ever visit the world of Romeo and Juliet and no event in each world would ever affect the events in the other world, what would be the requirement for this other world to be considered 'real'?
We could say that it would only be real, if there was also some kind of consciousness in this other world that would be able to experience the events in this world. But even this requirement would be questionable. Is experience by a consciousness a requirement of reality? At least it seems to be a reasonable definition. Otherwise we would have to consider everything, which is theoretically possible and consistent in itself as real. Limiting reality to things that directly or indirectly affect the experience of a consciousness makes therefore sense.
However we have to ask, what makes another consciousness real for us? Would another consciousness in a world whose events never affect us and which is not affected by any events in our world be considered real? Such a consciousness would not even be in any time-related relation to us. It would neither be before, after or at the same time as us, because the concept of time is based on causality. Earlier events affect later events and can therefore be put in a temporal sequence. Event A is earlier than event B and may somehow affect the later event. Events or objects in two separate worlds that never affect each other cannot be put into a temporal order. There is no earlier and later because the temporal order of both events can never be compared and is therefore meaningless.
In the same way two separate consciousnesses in two separate words that never affect each other can never be put into a temporal order. None of the experiences of one consciousness can be considered earlier or later than the experience of the other consciousness. How can we therefore call the consciousness in this other separate world real or not real at all? What is the difference between these distinctions? In fact there is no difference at all. The concept of some consciousness in another completely separate word being real or not real is meaningless, because either option would make no difference for our consciousness. And the distinction between two things that are not different is meaningless, just as the distinction between mercury and quicksilver is meaningless. Mercury is quicksilver. Language allows us to call on thing quicksilver and the other one mercury but in reality it would still be the same. Therefore this linguistic distinction makes no sense. 
It is the same with reality. We can linguistically distinguish between something in a completely separate world that does not affect our world and that our world does not affect being real or not real. But this distinction makes no sense. It means the same. There is no difference between both statements making them meaningless.

Reality is always a subjective concept. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet are not real in our world but Juliet is real in Romeo's world, although this statement is meaningless for us since Romeo is not real for us either. He might be real in another possible world, which is separate from us, but the distinction if such a possible world exists or not is also meaningless. If such a world is separate from us and there is never any form of interaction with us, then it is always not real and any further statement is meaningless.
Even the question if Romeo has a consciousness in such a possible separate world is meaningless, because consciousness is also subjective. One consciousness is completely separate from another one. There is no way how a consciousness will ever affect another one. My pain is not your pain, and your pain is not mine. You cannot feel anybody else’s pain. He can tell you that he feels pain and you might see him crying or reacting to a perceived pain but he might also just pretend to feel pain or be programmed to express pain under particular circumstances. His pain is not real for you. The distinction of him consciously experiencing pain or not experiencing it and just mechanically expressing pain is meaningless, because there is no difference between it. His pain is not part of your world and will never be. This pain is not more real for you than the pain felt or not felt in another possible world. The consciousness of others is not part of your reality. And there is no objective reality that would be universally valid. Reality is only a subjective concept.

This concept is far more basic then it looks like because it affects everything, our entire understanding of the world.
Commonly we think in objective concepts. But this is only a theoretical concept that has nothing to do with reality.

If two people look at a football field, which is in our objective model rectangular with angles of 90°. Both observers sit or stand in different positions around the football field. Neither of them sees a rectangular field but they see the playing field with the corner next to them and the opposite corner each measuring an angle close to 180° and the two other angles being extremely small. Since the perspective of each observer is different, they see all different angles. However both observers are sure that they are looking at a rectangular field, although they can’t observe it. Even if they went down right to one corner of the playing field to measure its angle, they would get this angle right but the other three angles would be distorted and differ from 90°. In fact nobody has ever experienced a football field having exactly 90°. It is distorted from any angle we look at it. The rectangular field is actually not real at all. It is a construction in our brain, a model that allows us to make calculations and estimates easier in order to orientate us in the environment. But this objective world, which has no particular observer and where the observer is only placed into it like a figure on a chessboard does mot exist. It is a model derived from our actual observations, which form the primary reality.

So the objectivist or materialist point of view is actually completely unscientific. They believe in the existence of an objective materialist world, where a soul or consciousness is only an illusion resulting from mechanical processes in the objective world denying any validity to subjectivism. However none of them has ever seen this objective world. Their only real observation was from their subjective perspective. So they derived a theoretical objective model in their mind and gave it more validity than their actual observation, which it is derived from. This results in some kind of circular logic that denies the existence of consciousness proving itself from its own conclusions without being based on direct observations. We observe actually only our mind and conclude that the images in our mind have some exterior reality as a cause. The objectivist assumes the exterior world as a given fact and doubts the subjective observation of the images in his own mind that led to the assumption of an exterior world in the first place.

Reality is the subjective distorted football field that each observer can perceive. The objective rectangular field is not real. It can never be observed. It is an abstract model in our mind that helps us to predict how reality will change when we change the relative position in which the observed object is oriented to us. What is real is the way the object is perceived. This is the real world. And our consciousness is the center of the world. What can never be perceived, either directly or through its consequences, is not real.   

If we accept this, we suddenly see that there is no actually difference between the different interpretations of quantum physics. The Copenhagen Interpretation means nothing different from the Many Worlds Interpretation. Every other possible world that departs from our world of reality in every moment is not real for us. The distinction between these other worlds existing or not is meaningless. Since they are separate from us and don't affect us they are not real anymore. They are not real just as anything else that can't affect our subjective world is not real for us. The other worlds of the Many Worlds Interpretation are not real in any way since there is no common universal reality where they can substantiate their 'realness'. The separate worlds of the Many Worlds Interpretation will never join together in some way. They are separate forever and therefore not real for us. Whatever we can't experience is always not real. Any further distinction between different forms of not being real is meaningless.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Metaphysics Part VII - Life and Beyond

Soul and Death

What are we? What is our essence? What is our self?
The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics has already answered these questions to us. We are the center of observation. We are not part of the world, we don’t come out of the world, we create the world by our observation. We don’t depend on the physical world; the physical world depends on us. Without us as observers, the physical world would not be real.
We are located where past and future meet, where the wave function collapses, where possibilities become reality.
The past is the reality that cannot be changed, the future are the possibilities that have not become real yet. We are the present. The present is part of our essence. This is why consciousness cannot be imagined without time. This is why we have knowledge of time without the need of any physical senses. It is part of us.
We are what turns the possibilities of the wave function into reality. We are what creates past out of future.

But when we look back into the physical past, we notice that we have a beginning, that there was a moment, we call birth, when our existence in the physical world started.
So fearful we look into the future, when our physical existence will end, the moment of death. Therefore the question that worries us most is: Will it all end with death? Is there a way of existence beyond death? It seems far more important to us than the equally difficult question: Was there a way of existence before birth?
It is hard to investigate such questions, sine there are so strong emotions involved - the ultimate existential fear. But let’s try to look at the facts without emotions, without false hopes and self-delusions. 
What is death? Death is the coincidence of physical circumstances that make it impossible to maintain our existence in the physical world. It is the destruction of the physical body, which is the center of our observation of the physical world. The destruction of the physical body makes further observation of the physical world impossible for us. But does this include the end of our self, the end of the observer?
Physics is actually not able to define the concept of the observer, as it is introduced by the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. This means the physical world is not able to explain, where the observer comes from and what it is. On the other hand we have seen that it is the observer that explains the physical reality. So the physical world somehow depends on the observer. But does this mean that the physical world is really incapable of having any influence on the observer?
We know that we can have a strong influence on the observer by destroying the physical senses of the body. Nevertheless the observer persists, even if we destroy his ears and eyes and any other perceptive organ of the body. But we can also have a strong influence of the ability to think by using drugs or destroying particular parts of the brain. So there seems to be some kind of influence from the physical world on the observer.
But all these examples were superficial. The process of thinking is a physical process of the body, while perception itself is different from this process. Can we completely destroy the perceptive capability of the observer by physical means? How far does the influence of the physical world on the observer actually go?
Let’s look at the most extreme situations that we can imagine, and we will see that there is some very strange mechanism in nature.
Whenever we are exposed to some really extreme negative qualia, like extreme pain, shock or horror; something happens. We become unconscious. We become suddenly disconnected from the perception of the physical world. The observer gets unplugged from the physical world in order to spare him an extremely negative experience. There is some kind of safety mechanism that protects our consciousness, when things turn really bad.
How can we explain this mechanism?
It is an illusion to think that there may be some scientific explanation for this mechanism, because consciousness cannot be fully explained by science, for the simple reason that the observer is not explained by quantum mechanics. So it is impossible to explain, why observation suddenly stops. We simply have to accept the fact that the observer is protected against really unpleasant perceptions. 
For the survival in the physical world such an inbuilt safety mechanism doesn’t actually make much sense. In a situation of extreme pain, it would be helpful to be fully awake and alert to be able to do something against the cause of the pain, instead of being unconscious and helpless. So why does such a safety mechanism exist, if it is not helpful? Obviously it is more important to protect the consciousness against the experience of pain than ensuring the survival of the body in the physical world. The convenience of the consciousness is given a mysterious priority over the survival of the body. There is an inbuilt safety mechanism that protects the observer from extremely unpleasant experiences. Can we therefore conclude that the survival of the physical body is not vital for the observer himself?
But where does the observer go, when he is not connected with the physical world anymore?
The answer to this question is not that difficult as it appears. In fact we all know the answer to this question quite well from our own experience. Because the observer disconnects himself from the physical world in regular intervals of more or less 18 hours. It is what happens when we sleep. Every night our consciousness disconnects from the physical world and is not present in the body. And nevertheless the consciousness returns every morning unharmed back into the physical body. We experience it every night that our consciousness is quite well able to exist without being connected with a physical body, although we don’t remember what happens with it in this state, since our physical memory is part of the physical body.
Sleep itself is a strange phenomenon. It has no biological explanation. Nevertheless most animals need to sleep. The purpose of sleep is not regeneration or the need to recover energy. In this case we would just have to eat more in order to have enough energy available to stay awake for 24 hours a day. However a human who is deprived of sleep will become more and more psychotic and finally die after about 11 days without sleep, as some Nazi experiments during World War II proved. So obviously sleep is vital for the consciousness, although there has not been found any evident physiological necessity for sleep. Sleep is even dangerous for the organism, since the lack of alertness exposes it to predators and turns it into an easy victim. This contradiction cannot be explained. The mysterious reason for the need to sleep can obviously not be found in the physical world. It must have to do something with the nature of consciousness itself. There is a need for the consciousness to withdraw from the physical world in regular intervals. It cannot stay in the physical world for an extended period of time.
Considering all these observations we can conclude that consciousness can indeed exist without a permanent connection to the physical world. We don’t know where the consciousness is and what it does, while it is not present in the physical body, but it is there somewhere, because it is able to return to the body after it has been disconnected from it.
But what happens, if there is no functioning body anymore, where it can return to, which is the situation that we call “death”? Since the consciousness can exist in a disconnected state from the body, and seems to be protected by inbuilt safety mechanism against any harm that is done to the body, it is reasonable to assume that consciousness does not cease to exist along with the body, which it is temporarily connected with. We don’t know where it is after death or what it does, but given the analogy to what happens during sleep, it cannot be much different from what it does, every night. Sleep and death both mean the same – the disconnection of consciousness from the physical world. In one case it has the possibility to return to the same physical body, in the other case it has not. This is the only difference between both states.
So death does not mean the end of our consciousness, just as sleep does not mean it. There is no reason to fear death more than we fear sleep each night. Neither death nor sleep is a diminished state of reality. The opposite is true. Reality is created by consciousness, not by the physical world. Consciousness is real and the physical world is its product. So when our consciousness is connected with the physical world it is actually not awake, it is in a dream that it is permanently creating. Since during death and sleep consciousness is not held captive by the physical world, which it has created itself, these states come closer to the state of being really awake. When we think that we are awake, we are actually dreaming and living in a self-created world with a limited grade of reality, while sleep and death are the exits out of this dream.
But whatever happens, when we are dead or asleep is unknown to us during our dream in the physical world.

The Meaning of Life

Considering that life in the physical world is not ultimately real, shouldn’t we been eager to leave this world as soon as possible, since there is no obvious sense in the physical existence?
This might be a wrong conclusion. There is absolutely no reason to assume that existence independent from the physical world is in any way more pleasant or worthwhile. Fact is that we return every morning back into the physical world. And there must be a reason for it. If there was a reason to prefer existence disconnected from the physical world to our current existence here, then it would not make sense for our consciousness to return back into this world again and again. It is unlikely that the physical world is some kind of malevolent prison for our consciousness, since there is some kind of safety-mechanism that withdraws our consciousness from the physical world when things get too ugly here. It is obviously taken care of our well-being while our consciousness is present in the physical world. So it is plausible to assume that there are benevolent reasons for our presence in the physical world. Being disconnected from the physical world may involve a higher grade of awareness, but this reality seems either to be far worse (boring, miserable, depressing or whatever) than our existence in the physical world or there are other unknown reasons that require our presence in the physical world. Our consciousness would not return into the physical world every morning, if it would not be worthwhile.
So even if we cannot say, what the meaning of our life in the physical world may be, we can be quite sure that there are good reasons for it to be just like it is. It would be a bad idea to aspire escaping from the physical world.
Therefore all efforts of Eastern religions to leave the world and enter Nirvana by meditation or other techniques are a wrong approach and work against the actual sense of life whatever it may be. We should not try to overcome our physical existence, but welcome it. Rejecting life and the physical world occurs out of ignorance.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Metaphysics Part VI - Materialism or Idealism?

Dream and Reality

To understand the concept of creating reality by observation, it is helpful to compare it with the process of dreaming. The physical world has more in common with our dreams than with the materialist concept of objective physical reality. In our dreams we create the world of the dream. We are not aware of it and believe this world to be real. We think we are subjected to it and mostly helpless victims of whatever happens to us in the dream. Only when we wake up, we suddenly become aware that we created the world of our dream ourselves subconsciously. Nothing in our dream was real, when we didn’t observe it. All the things and persons that we saw, all the events that occurred were only real as our observation. Our observation intentionally and subconsciously created them. In fact we controlled the dream without knowing it. 
The physical world is surprisingly similar to this situation. The difference is that the world of our dreams is created completely subjective, while the physical world is inter-subjective. In our dreams we are actually the only observer, while there are many observers in the physical world. Whatever we observe in the physical world, it must not contradict with the perception of other observers. Therefore there are certain rules to obey in the physical world. These rules are the probabilities of Schrödinger´s wave function. Furthermore we cannot change the state of an object after the wave function has already collapsed by the observation of another observer. The observers limit each other in their control over the physical world. We can intentionally create the outcome of an event in the physical world within the limits of the wave function, but we cannot control the outcome of an event that has already been observed either by us or by another observer. Within these limitations we control the physical world that surrounds us, like we control our dreams.

Consciousness and Body

The dualism of our self as mind and body was realized by all human civilizations from the earliest days of human history on and even before. It has been a main problem of philosophy. Are we essentially mind or body or both?
The belief that we are essentially a body and that the mind can be explained as a body function, is called materialism. The belief that we are essentially mind and that the body is an illusion or an idea of the mind, is called idealism. And the concept that body and mind are from distinct worlds, the physical world and the spiritual world, and have somehow been united to form living beings is called dualism. However it has been unclear how body and mind relate to each other (body-mind-problem) and which of them controls the other one. Is there such a thing as a free will? Or are all our actions subject of our biological needs?
From what we have learned now, we can try to answer these questions.
Apparently the materialist worldview has been proven wrong by quantum mechanics. The state of a particle depends on the observer. When there is no observer, particles have no particular state and remain as a wave function of probabilities with all possible states in superposition to each other. Therefore matter does not exist by its own virtue and only has a distinct state by observation. And since matter itself is not real, the fundament of the materialist concept has crumbled.
However the physical world is not totally an illusion. The mind does not arbitrarily create the physical world as a hallucination. The observer only controls the state of the particles of matter within the limitations of their wave function. This finally gives us an idea how body and mind interact and how our mind exercises control over our body.
As far as the extremities of our body are concerned, biology and medicine have discovered how electrical impulses in our nervous system make muscles contract and cause the movement of our extremities. In the same way sensations like pain are conducted by the nervous system from our extremities to the brain. So we have obviously only indirect control over the extremities of our body using biophysical mechanisms. Our control can easily be neutralized by external physical means like physical restrictions of our movement or severing nerve fibers so that we lose control of parts of our body.
Therefore we can conclude that the interaction between our mind and our body does not take place in the extremities of our body. They are simply part of the physical environment and not actually part of our self.
When we examine the structure of our nervous system, we find out that all electrical impulses that it conducts are centralized in our brain. Therefore somewhere within the brain there must be the place, where the interaction between mind and physical world takes place. It is inside the brain, where the measurements of our perceptive organs take place. It is the place in the physical world, where observation occurs. In some way our mind is able to observe the electrical impulses from our nervous system. And by observing them, we control them. If we look at the biochemical processes that take place at the synapses, where the nerves touch each other and where information is transmitted, we get indeed into a range where quantum mechanics becomes relevant. What exactly occurs within the molecules of the biochemical transmitters that travel between the microscopic gaps of the synapses of our nerve cells does not follow the macroscopic determinism. Its outcome is non-deterministic and only limited by the wave function of atomic and sub-atomic particles. If we assume that the observer intentionally determines the state of these particles by his observation, we have found the mechanism how our mind controls our body. Controlling the quantum mechanical processes in the synapses of our brain means controlling our body. And while our control of our physical environment is limited by other observers who already caused the collapse of the wave functions of almost all particles in the world around us, we are the only observer in the small area of the synapses in our brain. Only we control the collapse of the wave function there by our observation, because we are the only observer. This is why we have control over our body, but we don’t have in the same way full control over our environment. Only in or brain we are the only observers. Outside our brain, even in our own body, there are other observers. There are blood cells, body cells, and microorganisms. We don’t know what they observe. We don’t know what all the billions of macrophages in our blood vessels observe, what they feel, what they perceive. This is why we are limited there. We have only limited control there by the nerve impulses that work deterministically on a macroscopic scale. 
Macroscopic processes are not that easily controlled by observation, because they have many observers. The state of their particles is to a large extent already determined; their wave function has already collapsed into distinct states. This is why most macroscopic processes seem to be deterministic to us. We are not the first to observe them. They have already been observed, either earlier by us or by others. Their particles have already distinct states. There is not much space for randomness.


We have seen that the nature of the universe is not objective; it is subjective, or inter-subjective, if we assume that there are more than one observer. This is a very important fact. Actually it is quite obvious, because the way the universe is perceived is subjective. If the universe would be completely objective, then no point of view would stand out. The universe would be perceived from a third person view. But in reality we perceive the universe in a first person view. This means we don’t know how others perceive the world. We can only see it from our point of view. The concept of "qualia" is a subjective concept. It is limited to our own personal perception. 
What are qualia?
Qualia are all kind of perceptions, pain, lust, colors etc. We cannot describe them to others. This means we can give names to them, but we can’t know that others perceive them in the same way as we do.
Let’s take the color "red" for example. We can tell somebody that cherries are red, and the other will agree with us, but we can not be sure, if the other one has the same impression of red as we have. Maybe he has the impression that we call "blue". But since he calls his impression of blue "red", he will also say that a cherry is red, even if the impression that he has equals our impression of "blue". This is why colors for example are considered to be qualia. In fact we know for certain that not all human beings perceive colors the same way. There are people who are red-green colorblind. And only some sophisticated tests can reveal this abnormal perception. The person is not aware that he perceives red differently than other people. He still calls the color in which cherries appear to him "red". Nevertheless, it is not the same perception that others have.
This is the nature of qualia. It is a subjective perception. It cannot be described objectively.
This is just one example for the fact that the world is not objective. Quantum mechanics has taught us that the world is in an undefined state of probabilities, when no observer is present. The Schrödinger equation has no single solution. Only an observer can cause the Schrödinger wave function to collapse and an event to become "real". As long as the event is not observed, it is nothing but a possibility. 
And the Theory of Relativity has also shown us that the laws of classical physics only apply to the world as it is seen from the point of view of one observer. There is a huge difference in how two observers perceive the world if they are moving with relativistic speed in relation to each other. The world and the experience of time and space of one observer contradicts the world of the other observer, and there is no absolute and objective scale or coordinate system, which would allow us to make absolute and objective measurements. Every observer takes his own coordinate system of time and space with him. 
So if we take some space where only two observers are present, and they stand back to back to each other with focus of their attention directed into opposite directions, then this means that the space between them is actually in an undefined, unreal state. Their two subjective realities are separated by an area, which is not real. We can say that they live in two separate and independent realities (left picture).

This is why one observer cannot know, what the other observer perceives. This is the reason why our perception of the universe is from a first person point of view, not from a neutral and objective third person point of view. There is no objective point of view because there is no "reality" in the space between the two observers. Only when the observers turn their attention to each other, their perception overlaps and their realities become linked to each other.
So we see that the assumptions of one common reality is an illusion. There are only separate subjective realities, which sometimes may overlap (right picture).
This has far-reaching consequences. It means that the premises of all pantheistic religions are false. There is no such thing as "Oneness". We are not parts of one single Self, as many Eastern philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism assume. There is no such thing as the one common reality, the common self, which is the origin of all of us. In fact we are completely separate. We don’t share the same reality. Every individual supposed there are more than one, lives in its own separate reality. Separateness and subjectivity are the ultimate truth. Objectivity is an illusion. It is an illusion to please our fear of ultimate loneliness.
So any ideology or religion based on collectivism is based on an illusion. We are not part of something higher, a community or an all-compassing unity of the universe. We are individual observers. Sometimes our field of observation can be temporarily linked to the observation of other observers, but we will always be separate. Observers cannot merge with each other. They are always separate centers of observation, separate by their very nature.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Metaphysics Part V - Indeterminism

Random or Intention

Now another question arises: How is it determined into which of all possible states the wave function will collapse? Is the wave function collapse random? Is it intentional? Is it determined by a third person or another unknown instance?
We are getting now into an area, which is speculation rather than science. Nevertheless we have logic as tool to investigate the different possibilities, even if there is currently no way to prove our conclusions experimentally.
When the wave function collapses, for example the decay of atoms of a radioactive isotope, it happens in a unpredictable way. This means we cannot say in advance, which atom will decay. All atoms have the same probability to decay, none of them is standing out or somehow preferred. If the atoms were not completely equal and interchangeable in this aspect and it was somehow predictable, which atom is the first to decay, we would immediately have our classic deterministic worldview back, which we just got rid of. So this is obviously not the case. 
However an observer will see particular atom decay. So why is it this atom and not another one? Is the observer intentionally causing that this and not another one decays, as some people claim? So is the observer able to create reality intentionally? Or does it happen randomly without any causality? Or perhaps is it determined by somebody else, e.g. by a god or some higher instance?
According to the Copenhagen Interpretation it is the act of observation that causes the collapse of the wave function. So if it was a third party, another instance that determined into which state the wave function collapses, what would the observer be needed for? The wave function could collapse into this particular state without the act of observation. But we have seen in the above-mentioned experiments, that observation is needed, and without an observer, the wave function does not collapse. Therefore we can exclude the involvement of any third party like a god or any other higher instance. 
So we are left with the question, whether the decision is randomly or influenced by the intention of the observer. But what is randomness? Is randomness a thinkable concept? How can a particular event take place, if all possible events are totally equal in all its aspects, and no possible event stands out in any way?
This is a philosophical question, and we would have to abandon causality, if we accept the concept of true randomness. And this is a tricky thing. Abandon causality means giving up the rules. We would even threaten the principles of logic. It is difficult to accept this idea and one would rather feel inclined to give up the Copenhagen Interpretation entirely in favor of the Many-Worlds Interpretation, which would be far more plausible, since it doesn't require the concept of randomness and acausality.
The assumption that the collapse of the wave function is intentionally caused by the observer is far more elegant and plausible. It would also provide an answer to several other philosophical problems like the free will and the question how our consciousness and the physical body relate to each other. 
But there is another good reason to assume that the collapse of the wave function is caused intentionally by the observer. From the experiments above we have learned that causality does not work, as we believed. The concept of cause and effect is actually reversed. It is not the event that causes the effect of observation. It is the observation that causes the event. Without the observation, there is simply no event that could be observed. It is the observation that creates the event. Therefore observing is no passive process; it is an active process. The observation itself is the cause; the collapse of the wave function, i.e. the particular event that we observe, is only the effect. 
If the observer was subjected to the randomness of the collapse of the wave function, he would not play an active role in this process and could not be the cause of anything. Therefore we have most likely to discard the concept of true randomness.

But supposed an observer can intentionally cause the collapse of the wave function, does this mean he can control the outcome of any event he observes?
The limitation of this control would naturally be the wave function of the environment and the collapses caused by other observers.


Furthermore we must not forget the concept of probability. Not all possible outcomes are equal. Some of them are preferred by the wave function. The world of quantum mechanics not only consists of possibilities, it consists of probabilities. Particular outcomes are preferred over others. Certain events are more likely to occur than others. It does not mean that a certain outcome is somehow predetermined, it may happen or it may not happen. It is just more likely to happen than others. In our example of the decay of an atom, it does not mean that an isotope with a half-life of one our will necessarily decay within two hours, it only means a certain probability for this event to occur. It is still possible that the atom does not decay after two hours or even after a whole day; this outcome just gets increasingly unlikely.
So if we assume that every outcome is caused by observation, unlikely outcomes are certainly harder to observe than more likely outcomes. May be it needs some more effort by the observer in order to observe an unlikely outcome.
If the observer can really intentionally influence a certain outcome, then it would require some stronger intention to observe a rather unlikely event. This raises the question, if we can strengthen our intention in order to make unlikely things happen. May be this strength is what some people call "faith", faith that is able to move mountains according to the bible, faith that manifests itself in the so called "placebo"-effect in medicine. 
Since the whole universe is subject to probabilities, hardly anything would be impossible, it may just be very, very unlikely. And it may depend on our faith, if it can become real or not.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Metaphysics Part IV - Theory of Relativity

The concept of independent fields of reality can also help us to understand the paradox that led to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which is the other important pillar of modern physics that revolutionarily replaced the old paradigms of Newton’s mechanics.
It is the observation that light has always the same velocity; no matter if the light source is moving or not that contradicted the traditional worldview of classical physics.  Surprisingly the speed of a light source does not add to the speed of light, although a second observer moving together with the light source can measure that the light is emitted with the same speed as if the light source was not moving. Therefore it cannot be determined if the first observer who sees the light source moving relative to him, is moving himself or the light source is moving. There is no absolute movement. Every movement can only be defined relative to a reference system, i.e. a particular observer.
As a result moving objects experience an effect called time dilatation. This means the time of a moving object is passing slower than of an object, which stands still in relation to the observer.
For example the clock in a spaceship that moves with relativistic speed is slower than a clock on earth. To illustrate this effect, let’s make a simple thought experiment.

Mr. Smith on Earth wants to send a parcel to his friend on a planet in Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 light-years away from Earth. An interstellar courier service advertises to be able to deliver any parcel in less than 2 years and 3 months to Alpha Centauri. So on October 1, 2997 Mr. Smith gives the parcel to the captain of the courier spaceship expecting it to be delivered before New Year 3000.

The captain takes the parcel on board his spaceship and accelerates it to what he measure to be twice the speed of light, confident that he is going to deliver the parcel in time.
After 6 months, on April 1, 2998 according to the board calendar the spaceship passes the periphery of the Oort cloud behind which is about one light-year away from Earth. So the captain of the courier ship concludes that he has successfully traveled 23% of the trip in just 6 months and will therefore arrive in time on Alpha Centauri.
However an observatory on Earth is watching his trip and calculates that the spaceship is only traveling at a speed of 89 % light speed. 

As expected according to Einstein’s Theory of relativity, nothing can travel faster than light. So the courier spaceship will not be able to do this either. But since the courier is traveling with relativistic velocity, time is passing slower on board of the spaceship. Therefore he measures a far higher speed than the observer on Earth. This speed is called proper velocity and is the distance as it appears to an observer on Earth divided by the time passing on board the spaceship.
The equation for the proper velocity (ω) is:

w is the proper velocity the time passed on Earth
v is the speed of the spacecraft in relation to Earth
c is the speed of light (~299,792 km/s)

In order to reach a proper velocity of twice the speed of light (ω = 2c) as the captain of the courier ship calculated he needs an actual velocity of 89% (Ö0.8) the speed of light measured from Earth, as we can see, when we replace the variable v with Ö0.8   c. 

When the courier spaceship reaches Alpha Centauri, the board calendar shows December 7, 2999 more than 3 weeks before New Year 3000. So the captain concludes that he made the trip from Earth to Alpha Centauri in 2.185 years as expected. But when he delivers the parcel to Mr. Smith’s friend, the calendar on Alpha Centauri as well as the calendar on Earth shows August 21, 3002, more than 2 ½ years after the promised delivery time.

Of course Mr. Smith and his friend are upset about the delayed delivery and file a complaint, while the captain of the courier ship refuses any responsibility and insists that the parcel was delivered in time.
When the case goes to the interstellar court, the captain of the courier spacecraft proves his point with the spaceship’s logbook and the board calendar, which both confirm that the parcel was delivered in time, while Mr. Smiths friend can prove that he received the parcel not before August 3002, over 2 ½ years too late.
So what decision would an objective and neutral judge make?
Is the spaceship captain right? Is Mr. Smith’s friend right? Are both of them wrong? Can’t there be only one truth?

No, in fact both of them are right. 
There is no objective truth and no objective reality. There are only subjective realities.
In the world of the courier ship only 2.185 years have passed, but on Alpha Centauri and Earth 4.886 years have passed. There is no objective time. There is only subjective time, because there is only subjective reality. 
The subjective world of the spaceship has been consistent with itself and always followed classic Newtonian mechanics. In the same way the world of the two planets Earth and Alpha Centauri has been consistent and followed classic Newtonian mechanics. But when the courier ship accelerated to relativistic speed, its world disconnected from the other world. And when it connected again with the world of the stationary planets after arriving on Alpha Centauri, the world where it arrived was not consistent anymore with the world it left, because both worlds were disconnected for too long time. The two time scales of both worlds have been distorted and didn’t fit together anymore using the Newtonian laws of physics. The relativistic effect of time dilatation has disrupted the common reality between both worlds. So suddenly two contradictory statements about the duration of the trip from Earth to Alpha Centauri can both be true contradicting the basic laws of logic.
Of course the statement of the captain of the courier ship is not true in the reality sphere of Mr. Smith’s friend, just as the statement of Mr. Smith’s friend is not true in the reality sphere of the spaceship. In each world for itself the laws of logic have not been violated. The problem results from the fact that we are talking about two different realities, two subjective realities. There is no objective reality. Outside of each observer’s reality sphere, there is no reality, as it is commonly understood. Every observer, every consciousness is a world in itself. He exists in his own world. He is the center of his world. There is no objective reality between the different worlds of the observers. Only his own world is real for every observer.
Sometimes the different worlds touch and overlap each other. Then the observers interact with each other. Then we get the phenomenon as described above. Real is only what an observer observes himself. The world ends, where his observation ends.

With the simple assumption that every observer is the center of an independent world, we can simplify our concept of the universe. We can explain all the phenomena that the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics try to describe under the assumption of a common universe for all observers. But without the concept of a common objective reality, everything becomes suddenly easier.
And it changes our view of the world. We are not one out of myriads of beings in a huge common world. We are the center of the world – the center of our world. But our world is everything, which is. There is no reality beyond the limits of our world. There are possibilities, and there may be other worlds, but we are independent from them, and we don’t share a common concept of reality.
This view of the world suddenly gives our self a much higher importance. We are not a small object in a vast objective universe, we are the center of the world, and there is no such thing as an objective universe.
Our observation is what makes things become real. Without our self as observer, the world cannot be. Without our self as observer, there are only undetermined possibilities as described by the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Metaphysics Part III - Creating Reality

We have found out that the physical world itself is not real; it becomes real by observation. This coincides with a very basic phenomenon that is often overlooked. When talking about science, we talk a bout the physical world from an objective point of view, let's say from a neutral third person perspective. However we have never experienced the world in an objective way. We always see the world from a certain point of view. And this is what the world in fact is; it is subjective. The world is no objective reality. It is a subjective reality. We create it originating from our point of view, simply by viewing it. Therefore we are not observers moving around in a real existing objective world; the world is instead the rather undefined field of possibilities between the countless subjective fields of reality that we create around us. The size of this field of reality, which surrounds us, is limited by the range of our perception. The space where these fields of reality of different observers touch each other is the field of intersubjective reality.

The blurred space between the different fields of subjective reality created by the observers is in a non-real, undefined state, whose possibilities are determined by the wave function in order to prevent contradictory events in the fields of reality, where the wave function collapses into distinct states. So when subjective fields of reality merge into an intersubjective field of reality, it can never happen that the observers create contradictory events by their observation. As soon as the wave function has collapsed, it has a clearly defined state. The observation by a second observer doesn't have any influence on this state anymore. So both observers always see the same, and every observation they make in their subjective field of reality is consistent with the subjective field of reality of any other observer. Observers don't create reality in an arbitrary way, they simply make the wave function collapse into one possible state, which is described by the Schrödinger equation.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Metaphysics Part II - Quantum Physical Explanation

Quantum mechanics explains these phenomena in the following way: The location or the state of the particle is described by a wave function, which was first discovered by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1926. 

Y(r,t) is the wavefunction, which is the probability amplitude for different configurations of the system.
ħ is Planck's constant divided by 2π.
Ĥ is the Hamiltonian operator

This wave function does not give a particular location for the particle in our experiment. Nevertheless we can detect the particle at a distinct location when it is measured by arriving on the screen. 
Schrödinger described this paradox in a thought experiment involving a cat.

Schrödinger’s Cat

“A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device: in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat mixed or smeared out in equal parts.”

If we don't attribute the quality of being an observer by itself to the cat, it would indeed mean that the cat is at the same time dead and alive as long as we don't come back to check the actual state of the cat. In the real world we would actually never see a half-dead, half-alive cat. The cat would either live or be dead, when we return to observe the outcome of the experiment.

How can this contradiction between the Schrödinger equation and the physical world that we observe be interpreted?
Today's physics has currently several possible explanations for the paradoxes described in the experiments above. The two most common ones are the Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many-World-Interpretation. Most physicists are inclined to accept the Copenhagen Interpretation, however we should have a short look at the alternative explanation, which is also supported by many scientists.


According to this interpretation in each case of a non-deterministic event, this means when the wave function of the Schrödinger equation offers more than one possible outcome, our world splits in distinct parallel worlds. In the case of the double-slit experiment the world would split in one world where the particle passes through the left slit and another one where the particle passes through the right slit. For a short period of time the two worlds are still interconnected and can interact with each other, so that we get the resulting interference pattern on the screen. But then the worlds are irreversibly separated and continue their own path of events.
So in one world Schrödinger's cat would die, in the other one it would survive. Depending on which world we are, we would see the one or the other outcome.
Since such non-deterministic events occur in an incredible number every millisecond, the universe would permanently split in an uncountable number of parallel universes where every possible outcome of events occurs. Everything, which is only remotely possible, would therefore happen somewhere in some of the almost infinite number of alternative universes.
This may sound like a strange idea from a science fiction novel, but it has a certain advantage over the mainstream Copenhagen Interpretation. It does not need to introduce the only vaguely described concept of measurement or observation and does not need to explain how it stands out from the non-observed world. 

Nevertheless most physicists today prefer the Copenhagen Interpretation to explain the phenomena of quantum mechanics.

Copenhagen Interpretation

The Copenhagen Interpretation can be summarized as the statement that the process of observation (measurement) causes a collapse of the wave function, which then results in a distinct state of an object. In our example of the double-slit experiment this means, that the particle has no distinct path through the slits, while it is not observed. But as soon as we measure the location of the particle and put a detector at the slit, which tells us, where the particle passes through, the wave function collapses, the particle gets a distinct location and consequently there is no interference pattern created on the screen.
While the world is just a wave function of possibilities with different probabilities, this means not actually real, when unobserved; the act of observation makes it suddenly become real and taking a distinct state and a distinct location. The wave function collapse is what makes things become real. Before this collapse the world is just a field of probabilities.
In the case of our cat, it would indeed be dead and alive at the same time, as long as it is not observed (supposed we don't count the cat itself as an observer). Then suddenly it takes a distinct state caused by the fact that we observe it after coming back. It means the cat is not really there, when nobody looks. It is only there as a cat in a particular state, when we look at it.
Following this interpretation it means that the world is not actually real. It is a huge field of probabilities. It becomes only real due to our observation. We are creating the world by observing it. So it is not, as many materialists believe, that we depend on the physical world, that our consciousness is the result of the physical world. Quantum mechanics has shown that the physical world depends on us. The physical world is the result of our consciousness.
We are now entering an interpretation of quantum mechanics, which goes even further than the Copenhagen Interpretation. This interpretation is called "Consciousness causes collapse". It seems to be the logical consequence of the Copenhagen Interpretation. Because the Copenhagen Interpretation falls short of explaining its essential question: What is "observation"? When is something observed, when is it unobserved?
The "Consciousness causes collapse" interpretation answers this question by introducing the concept of consciousness. It also solves the philosophical and religious questions, what consciousness actually is. According to this interpretation, consciousness is what causes the wave function collapse. 
So finally we can answer the question: Who has a soul, only humans, or also animals and plants? The answer is: Whatever can cause the collapse of the wave function. 
The only problem with this answer is that there is no way to find out, if somebody or something can cause the collapse of the wave function by himself alone or if it just collapsed after we looked to find out the result of the experiment. Since we cannot think about a way to prove it experimentally, the "Consciousness causes collapse" interpretation is often considered to be pseudoscientific and rather belonging into the field of philosophy than physics. 
In the next part let's therefore forget the concept of "consciousness" for a moment and go back to the Copenhagen Interpretation and its implications.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Metaphysics Part I - The Nature of Light and Matter

It is a common misconception to take the physical world for real. Out of this misconception physics is considered hard science because it deals with the real facts of nature. Idealistic concepts like the mind and the soul or things like that are considered speculation at best and not actually scientific facts.
However modern science teaches us that this is not true. This view of the world, which is still common among the majority of people living today, is based on Newton's mechanical and deterministic worldview. The world was somehow considered to be a giant, immensely complex mechanism, consisting of distinct things or particles that interact in a way together that can mathematically be calculated and predicted. This is how most people still believe the world to be.
However since the beginning of the 20th century and the discovery of quantum mechanics, this worldview has turned out to be wrong.  
It has more and more become clear that the physical world is actually not so real as it was supposed to be. It does not consist of distinct things. Nothing that we see or feel in the physical world actually exists, when we are not looking. It is not really there. It only is there, while we look at it.
This is one of the most mysterious and surprising discoveries in the history of science; and strangely enough very few people are aware of this fact and its consequences, even among physicists. And this is not some metaphysical theory; it has been proven by some simple experiments.

Double-Slit Experiment

The key experiment of modern physics that changed our understanding of the world is the double-slit experiment. It was first set up to prove the wave nature of light, but it turned out to have some amazing results.
In this experiment a beam of light is sent through two slits, which are close together. Then the resulting light pattern is observed on a screen (picture on the right).
If light simply consisted of particles, we would expect to get two vertical lines on the screen, one for each slit. However what we actually get is an interference pattern resulting from the light waves passing through the two slits and interacting with each other.
The second picture on the right explains how two waves originate, one at each slit, and create an interference pattern, just as we would expect it, when we throw two stones into water. The result is a major number of vertical lines on the screen depending on the distance of the two slits from each other.

The experiment was first considered to be a proof of the wave nature of the light, since particles would behave in a different way. Nevertheless this experiment can be done in the same way with electron beams and even beams of larger objects like atoms. Since electrons are matter and not simply light waves, it was not easy to understand what this means.
On the other hand the physicists knew that even light always comes in individual and separate units, called photons. So those who believed that light consists of distinct particles didn't give up that easily.
The experiment was modified and the intensity of the beam was dimmed down, so that only one electron (or photon) at a time passed through the slit. The individual particle could later be observed arriving on the screen, so that there was evidently only one particle at a time in this experiment.
However the outcome of this experiment was even more surprising, because it made no sense at all, given the worldview of classical physics.
The particles passed through the slits one by one, but over time they still built up an interference pattern on the screen (see below).

How can interference happen, when there is only a single particle at any given moment of time? Which other particle could it interact with, considering that any kind of interference is by definition an interaction between at least two things or waves and there was no second particle in the experiment?
A particle was supposed to pass either through one slit or the other or neither of them. But the interference pattern indicated that it passed through both of them in order to interact with itself. Nevertheless the particle did not split in two, because it still arrived as a single particle on the screen on the other side. Only the statistic pattern indicated that there must have been an interaction. Otherwise we would not see these interference lines.
To investigate this phenomenon further, the scientists had to have a closer look through which of the two slits the particle actually passed. But when they installed a detector at one of the slits in order to determine exactly where the particle went through, the interference pattern simply didn't show up. The photons were cheating. As soon as the scientists had a closer look, what the photons were actually doing, when passing through the double slit, they didn't do anything special, and the surprising phenomenon did not show up on the screen. It was like the photons or electrons knew that they were observed, and therefore they didn't do their secret trick anymore.
This is called the observer-effect. It means the fact that there is an observer, changes the way, particles behave.
When nobody was looking, the particle did not pass through a particular slit, neither the right one nor the left one. It went through both of them at the same time in order to create the interference. This obviously means the particle was at no distinct location.

While we are talking here about microscopic distances between the two slits, there is another experiment, which proves that the location of a particle cannot be determined even in macroscopic scales.

Interferometer Experiment

The interferometer below consists of a light source, two fully reflecting mirrors and two semi-transparent mirrors. A semi-transparent mirror is a piece of glass, which reflects 50% of the light, while it passes through the other 50% of the light. Or when we talk about photons, we can say: Half of the photons pass through and the other half is reflected. Which of both events happens, is totally random.

So in our experiment light is first emitted by the light source. When it hits the semi-transparent mirror one half of the light passes through, while the other half is reflected towards mirror A. The light beams are then respectively reflected at the mirrors A and B towards the semi-transparent mirror 2. Half of the light passes again through this beam splitter, while the other half is reflected. So we would expect half of the light being detected at screen A, while the other half would be detected at screen B. But this is not what happens. In fact only at screen B, light can be detected. No light arrives at screen A. Light never passes through the path indicated by the dotted line.
Why does this occur?

To understand this experiment, we have to know that the phase of light is shifted a quarter of a wavelength, when it is reflected, while it isn't shifted, when it passes through the semi-transparent mirror. We need also to understand the principles of interference.
If we have two coherent light waves, which are totally in phase, they amplify each other. This means their resulting amplitude is added (see below). We call this constructive interference.

If we have two coherent light waves, whose phase is shifted half of the wavelength, then they cancel each other out, because each peak of one wave goes just together with a trough of the other wave, so that they nullify each other (see below). This is called destructive interference.

Now let’s go back to our interferometer experiment and see how the phase of the light waves are shifted and the result of it.

There are four theoretically possible paths the light can take:
  1. Passing straight through semi-transparent mirror 1, being reflected at mirror B, passing straight through semi-transparent mirror 2 and arriving at screen A (reflected once)
  2. Passing straight through semi-transparent mirror 1, being reflected at mirror B, being reflected at semi-transparent mirror 2 and arriving at screen B (reflected twice)
  3. Being reflected at semi-transparent mirror 1, being reflected at mirror A, passing straight through semi-transparent mirror 2 and arriving at screen B (reflected twice)
  4. Being reflected at semi-transparent mirror 1, being reflected at mirror A, being reflected at semi-transparent mirror 2 and arriving at screen A (reflected three times)

Each time the beam is reflected it causes a phase shift of ¼ wavelength. Therefore both possible paths that will take the light to screen B (path 2+3) are shifted 2 x ¼ wavelength (total phase-shift ½ wavelength). Since both beams are shifted in the same way, they are still totally in phase relatively to each other. This means they amplify each other and we have a constructive interference.
On the other hand the two possible paths that lead to screen A (path 1+4) are reflected either once or three times. This means one of them has a total phase shift of ¼ wavelength and the other one has undergone a total phase-shift of ¾ wavelength. Relatively to each other it means that they are ½ wavelength phase-shifted. And as we have seen above this means they cancel each other out. Therefore we will never see any light at screen A.

Now let's modify the experiment a little bit and dim the light beam down like in the double-slit experiment, so that only one photon at a time passes through the experiment. What will happen? We would expect that the photon can take any of the four paths described above. If it takes path 1 it cannot be cancelled out by a photon taking path 4, because it is the only photon, which is in the interferometer at this moment.
Nevertheless in reality no photon will ever be detected at screen A. All photons arrive at screen B. How is this possible? How can the photon be cancelled out passing through path 1 and 4, when there is no other photon present in the interferometer?
The only possible explanation is that the photon takes no particular path. It passes through all paths at the same time and then causes an interference with itself. This means that the photon has no distinct location, when it passes through the interferometer. 
In quantum physics this is called "superposition". It means that all possible locations of the photon are superposed on each other. They are equally valid locations. The photon takes the path of mirror A at the same time as it takes the path of mirror B.
The concept of physical reality becomes obsolete. The location of the photon on the path through mirror A is as real as the location on the path through mirror B.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Religion Part V - Strategies to Overcome Religion

The best way to assess if a certain strategy may be successful or not is looking at history. A successful strategy should always have historical examples. If it has not, it is highly unlikely that it will have success. We have seen how older religions have been replaced by newer ones throughout history. These examples should allow us to predict, which strategies may be applied to overcome the spread of the religious virus in society.

Strategies likely to fail:
New belief systems are always built upon existing ones. There is no historical example of a completely new religion replacing an older one. Even when one religion spreads into the territory of another one it always integrates formal elements of the native religion.
A direct confrontation of religion by strict atheism rejecting any kind of superstituos rituals can therefore not succeed. Several attempts were done, one during the French Revolution (e.g. Marquis de Sade), another one by 19th century philosophers like Nietzsche and more recently by Communism (e.g. the Maoist Cultural Revolution in China). They have all failed. They have all overestimated the human capability to use reason and logic.

The use of force
During human history several attempts have been made to drive back a religion by the use of brutal force. Most of them have failed. Some of them were successful but only combined with genocide and a massive colonization of people with the new religion (examples: the Conquista of Latin America, the spread of the Islamic Caliphate in the 7th century).
Examples for these failures are:
  • The ill-fated persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire
  • The meanwhile reversed Islamic occupation of Spain, India and the Balkans
  • The Mongol storm that crushed the Islamic Caliphate with ease but couldn't destroy the religion
  • The Crusades
  • The systematic execution of clerics during the French Revolution
  • The suppression or religion in the former Soviet Union and Cuba

Although the use of brutal force has always some effect, the effect in the above examples was only short-termed and soon reversed, usually after a century.

Strategies likely to succeed:
Not attacking existing deities
Newer religions never abolished the older deities but integrated them into their belief system.
  • Moses made the pagan demon Yahweh into his monotheistic god
  • Christianity integrated the Jewish god but not the Ewish laws
  • Islam integrated the pagan moon god Allah and made the pagan shrine in Mecca (kaaba) the center of the cult
  • Hinduism continued the polytheistic worship of the former folk religion
  • Taoism and Confucianism never denied the existence of the gods of the former Chinese folk religion
  • Greek philosophers like Plato, Epicurus, Pythagoras and Aristotle never rejected the traditional Greek gods.

Integrating former religious rituals giving them a new meaning
  • Christianity integrated the complete pagan Roman liturgy changing the holy Sabbath to the sacred day of the god Sol Invictus (Sunday). They furthermore integrated the pagan holiday as Christmas.
  • Islam integrated the pagan pilgrimage to the kaaba.
  • Taoism and Confucianism maintain temples without worshiping any gods.

Shifting the focus from worshiping gods to philosophy
The non-religious Greek philosophers as well as Eastern philosophies like Buddhism simply shifted all their focus from worshiping gods to philosophical teaching. They never opposed polytheistic cults; they simply made them more and more irrelevant.

Ignoring formal religious affiliation
We should stop giving formal religious affiliation any significance. For every religious virus it is essential to manifest itself by having a clearly defined distinction from other religious viruses or the absence of any such virus. Otherwise it would cease being a distinct entity. Therefore when we accept the categorization of humans in religions affiliations we have already given into the virus.
If we ignore the whole concept of formal religious, then nobody infected by these viruses can claim his religion as an excuse for his irrational behavior. We must not accept the reference to religious laws as an answer.
The concept of distinct religious affiliations does not even exist in China. To ask a Chinese which religion he belongs to, would not make much sense for him. Even if he recognizes the three traditional Chinese philosophies Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism he would not understand why he would have to identify exclusively with a particular one of them. Just like a European is usually familiar with the different European philosophic schools (e.g. existentialism, positivism, humanism, etc.,), but would not consider himself necessarily to be affiliated to a particular one of them. Strict affiliation to a particular school of thinking only occurs in religion, it rarely occurs in philosophy.
If formal affiliation to a particular religion becomes irrelevant, religion will more and more be replaced by philosophy, and odd religious teachings will only have historical significance without people adhering to them. 

Applying successful strategies in today's world
Rationalism can only succeed today if past mistakes are avoided (radical atheism, forceful suppression of religion) and lessons learned from history are applied.
Some humanist organizations seem to have understood these principles and have started to offer quasi-religious services like weddings and funeral services to their members. And even those Westerners who are not formal members of this kind of humanist organizations are actually living according to these principles in their daily lives. Most people in the West still go to church for weddings and funerals or on especial occasions like Christmas, but humanist philosophy has replaced religious teachings in their daily lives. So in the industrialized countries (Western Countries, China, Japan, India etc.) the majority is certainly on the right track. One day religion will become irrelevant without formally being abolished.

In the Islamic world however the situation is different. Islam has gone through severe crises during the last centuries bringing the religion to the edge of total collapse. Islam successively lost Spain, India, the Balkans and has recently been surpassed by Christianity in Africa. The Islamic Empire lost every single war during the last centuries resulting in the final defeat during World War I and the abolishment of the Caliphate. Kemalism has banned Islamic culture including clothing and Arabic writing and replaced it with Western culture.
But then the situation changed. Through a lucky political coincidence conservative Muslim leaders gained control over the vast natural oil resources in the Middle East, which are essential for the functioning of the industrialized world and therefore a source of almost unlimited financial wealth. The conservative Muslim leaders used this money to promote a revival of Islam taking a radical turn from the development in the rest of the world. They knew that in order to survive Islam had to take a radically opposed stance to everybody else in the world. Whatever the civilized world came up with, Islam had to take the exactly opposite stance. It became the religion of total opposition.
The civilized world introduced Human Rights; Islam rejected them. The civilized world wanted equality of men and women; Islam promoted inequality and increased the oppression of women. The civilized world wanted sexual liberalism; Islam opposed it with Puritanism. The civilized world rejected violence; Islam glorified violence and became a cult of terrorism. The civilized world wanted tolerance; Islam preached intolerance as supreme maxim. Islam became a movement of anti-civilization, sometimes even rejecting schools, television, music, sports, any kind of modern technology and basic scientific facts.

These phenomena are Islam's desperate struggle for survival in a modern world where there is no place for obsolete religions anymore. They are not intrinsic to this religion but they have made it the currently worst and most virulent religion of all.

Different ideas have surfaced how to deal with the current anti-civilization cult of Islam, which at the moment seems to be incapable to coexist peacefully with any other human culture. They range from trying to reform Islam over confinement in their countries to more radical and violent approaches.
The way how Islam is organized with a ban on personal interpretation of the scriptures and immutability of Allah's word, which is manifested in the quran make real reforms difficult. The Shiite sect of the Alevis have developed a very progressive philosophy but are considered heretical by all other Muslims. Currently there is no moderate movement within the Islamic community visible.
The idea of confinement and strict isolation of the Islamic world would, even if possible in spite of the globalization of today's world, create a long-term conflict that would sooner or later result in war. Considering that Islamic countries have already acquired nuclear weapons (Pakistan) or are about to do so in the near future (Iran), this would create a very dangerous situation in the future.
The future outcome of the conflict between Islam and the civilized world will depend on how long the flow of money from the oil-rich countries in the Arabic world will continue. Without this permanent funding, the radicalization of the Islamic world will not be able to continue.
The strategy how to deal with Islam needs to be based on the above examples of successful historic approaches regarding religion.
It will not be possible to get rid of Allah, Mohammed and the quran. It will only be possible to shift the focus away from the worship of Allah towards a rather humanist philosophy. Modern concepts within Mohammed's teachings need to be emphasized (even if they are historically wrong and have never existed as such). Attacking Islamic symbols would be fruitless. The formal elements of older religions can hardly be changed, only the content can be replaced.
An important move would also be ignoring Islam as religious affiliation just as any other religion. Not giving Islamic rules any special consideration and accepting Islam as a justification, but questioning every single Muslim why he thinks he has to do thing the halal way and not differently, this would help making religion irrelevant and replacing it with philosophy.
If somebody thinks he cannot eat pork for example, then he must be required to explain his personal reasons ever and ever again without accepting the rules of his religion as a sufficient reason. This way people are forced to re-think why they act in a particular way and they start to decide in every single case, if it is right, wrong or unimportant.
If we take away any importance from a religious denomination, including but not limited to Islam, then everything what defines Islam and makes it to the virulent phenomenon that it is, would just slowly fade away. There would be no need to abolish this religion or forcefully convert 1.2 billion people, it would simply become meaningless.

So it is not helpful to teach or inform anybody outside of Islam about this religion. This only helps the virus to define itself. It is irrelevant what a 1400 years ago arbitrarily invented teaching has to say about a particular issue, it is only relevant what a particular human being thinks about this issue today. We have to understand that religion is a concept alien to human nature. We are no Muslims or Christians or Hindus, we are only humans. Distinguishing is the beginning of discrimination.

Islam has the potential to spearhead a radical neo-Luddite movement that could destroy all achievements of our civilization. The fate of Islam will be central for the future of religion in general.
If everybody gets rid of the religious classifications in his mind, then religion disappears alone. It is only in our mind. Let's not permit the virus to make us think in the way it would like us to think.