“All along this time, explanations become complex, overcomplicated… but resist until the environment becomes favourable to the great jump.”
1: THE CARTESIAN DUALISM.
Today Descartes’ ingenuous idea that is at the origin of our scientific culture seems obvious. But it is the result of its great success; four centuries of discoveries and innumerable applications opening new perspectives overshadow the revolutionary concept that led Descartes to distinguish matter from what is immaterial: the realm of objects that occupy space from the other that is invisible because it belongs to pure thought. Before Descartes the universe was alive; animals could be prosecuted because of inadequate behaviour; a natural disaster could be assigned to a malevolent intention that could bring its author to be burned at the stake: the paradigm of these days allowed magic to act on the material world by the thought only. It was obviously impossible to acquire objective and reliable knowledge about a material world that was subject to somebody’s intentions.
But Descartes built an impervious wall between matter and thought, while admitting as an aside a mysterious link that should remain secret! He created the scientific methodology in order to apply mathematical logic to the search for reliable answers to questions we could ask about the material world only; which doesn’t remove for him the importance of the immaterial realm which constitutes a specific attribute of our species. Animals became machines unable to think and our body also. But he postulates an immaterial soul that is a gift from the creator and which is our true nature. It is our soul that gives us free-choice, reason, emotions… and manages our material organism.
Due to the success of the scientific methodology, the philosophers who became scientists, changed progressively their world’s image. At the end of the 19th century the cartesian Dualism turned into a Materialistic Monism: only matter is real and thoughts emerge from the material brain; the soul fades out! Because of concentrating on quantifiable objects and procedures, scientists materialise the realm of thoughts, in a way. They become convinced that an adequate analysis of the quantifiable workings of a brain could open one day the immaterial realm to science. We could enter in one’s thoughts in a way, and, why not, build thinking robots.
But this view confuses correlations with causality! It isn’t because a measurable electrical activity in a specific area of a brain is correlated with an emotion or a thought that it necessarily is its cause! Nothing forbids it to be only a consequence of the emotion or the thought! We would find the same correlation if Henry Bergson was right and the brain would only be a sort of antenna able to pick up thoughts out of an immaterial realm, but able to trigger physical reactions in our material world.
« A cloth is joint to the nail to which it is hooked; it falls if the nail is pulled up; it moves if the nail moves (…) it doesn’t follow that every feature of the nail corresponds to a feature of the cloth, neither that the nail is the same as the cloth; and even less so that the nail and the cloth are one only thing. » Matter and Memory: 1896
What would Descartes think if he could come back today? Would he accept a Materialistic Monism?
The loss of Dualism would not be the only source of amazement for Descartes. He would surely be very amazed by the modification of our civilisation’s values.
2: A COLLATERAL DAMAGE DUE TO SCIENCE’S OBJECTIVITY.
For a result to be considered as scientific, it shouldn’t be dependent on the subject who found it; the experimenter has to become insignificant since, in an ideal world, even an appropriately programmed robot should be able to achieve exactly the same results in the absence of any human. And after four centuries of letting the experimenter become insignificant, the scientists in their great majority, finished by loosing all significance to the world, life and humanity! The scientists forget that this insignificance was only part of the methodology and not a reality.
« The scientific world-picture vouchsafes a very complete understanding of all that happens — it makes it just a little too understandable. It allows you to imagine the total display as that of a mechanical clockwork which, for all that science knows, could go on just the same as it does, without there being consciousness, will, endeavor, pain and delight and responsibility connected with it — though they actually are. And the reason for this disconcerting situation is just this: that for the purpose of constructing the picture of the external world, we have used the greatly simplifying device of cutting our own personality out, removing it; hence it is gone, it has evaporated, it is ostensibly not needed.
In particular, and most importantly, this is the reason why the scientific worldview contains of itself no ethical values, no esthetic values, not a word about our own ultimate scope or destination, and no God, if you please. Whence came I and whither go I? » Nature and the Greeks (1954) Erwin Schrödinger.
What would Descartes think of this evolution if he could come back today?!
3: THE OVERWHELMING SUCCESS OF THE METHOD OF SCIENCE.
Even if he his in good part at the origin of the scientific methodology, Descartes would perhaps be amazed to discover how much it shapes today our Western Culture. He would acknowledge the soundness of his choice and would enthusiastically discover our world. To concentrate on the material realm only and to consider it as real, independently of the observer, led to astounding discoveries that shape today a completely different world than the one he lived in.
Astrophysics would show him a series of copernican revolutions that followed the first one he experienced: the Earth just abandoned its privileged position in the center of the universe in favour of the Sun. Which conserved the place until the beginning of the 20th century when, abruptly, it was found lost on the fringe of a branch of a gigantic galaxy, itself relativized between billions of other ones in an immensely large universe.
Descartes would be glad to understand how much his postulate was potentially rich. The exploration of the physical reality showed how far it is from the picture our common sense gives us. Einstein’s space-time is not what common sense tells it is. Common sense fools us! The world we perceive and understand instinctively is not the real world discovered by scientists! The latter remains completely incomprehensible, even to the physicists who describe it! They can only understand the abstract mathematics that describe its nature, but can’t understand their discoveries through their common sense that isn’t a faithful counselor for this question.
Since the beginning of the 20th century there is an accumulation of very disturbing results that profoundly defy the world’s image we live in!
« Is it possible that Nature is as absurd as it seems in these atomic experimentations? » Werner Heisenberg: Physics and Philosophy: 1958.
Space and Time are the absolute fundamental foundations of the world we perceive and in which we live. This world’s image is so rich, precise and real that we forget it is subjective only! It is totally created in our brain out of myriads of perceptions that are dissected, analyzed then coded by our sense organs, in a totally automatic and unconscious way. Nearly always this subjective image is exquisitely well adapted to our needs in order to live in the best possible conditions in the real world. Rarely do we observe a discrepancy between our image and reality; for this to happen we have to induce our senses in error through optical or hearing illusions…
The foundations on which our common sense relies to understand the world lost their solidity: space and time became relative! They are elastic; and therefore they are not perceived similarly by everyone! An event can take place before another one for an observer and after the same one for another observer! What a profound abnormality! Descartes’ method let us build a logic world but how weird… very far from what our common sense teaches us unconsciously, beginning with our birth and even beyond since our world’s image is shaped by the culture and the discoveries of our ancestors.
« The hope that new experiments will lead us back to objective events in time and space is about as well founded as the hope of discovering the end of the world in the unexplored regions of the Antarctic. Some physicists would prefer to come back to the idea of an objective real world whose smallest parts exist objectively in the same sense as stones or trees exist independently of whether we observe them. This however is impossible. » Werner Heisenberg Physics and Philosophy: 1958
4: THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORLD IMAGE.
We feel we live in the world, but actually we live in an image of the world. And this image is a model only; a map, not a territory! A legacy from birth continuously enriched by experience through the working behind the scene of an instinctive engine that nourishes the common sense.
Natural selection favours the individuals best adapted to perform a fast and adequate analysis out of the informations perceived from the environment. It doesn’t favour the most « real », the most true perception of the world, but the most useful one! Our perception organs display an infinitesimal and flawed part of a hypothetical reality that only science and philosophy can help us to imagine… partly.
Let’s identify with our brain for a while. It is enclosed in a dark box, well protected from the world in which it has the responsibility to adapt us in the best possible way. But only myriads of short electrical impulses enter the brain, coming from specialized cells reacting to light, pressure, specific molecules… The environment has to be reconstructed out of electrical impulses that will be decoded then associated through huge neural networks in charge of giving a meaning to them. The brain is a superb engine working in order to give meaning through a spate of prioritised associations that we begin to imitate through Artificial Intelligence. The brain’s vital goal is to understand our environment in the fastest and best possible way; it must be able to react rapidly and fittingly. To do that, it works out perceptions to build a map of the world and compare it with what instincts and experience can offer in order to give it a meaning. The result is the common sense that is neither objective, nor universal, even if we feel instinctively that it is. Common sense is responsible for our survival, not for giving us an exhaustive and truthful image of an hypothetical reality outside us.
An event that isn’t compatible with our world’s image is felt as very disturbing, even frightful! The first reaction would be a rejection of it in the world already well known, a tentative to bring back everything in an understandable and predictable world in favor of survival.
Scientists are maybe the most prone to reject disturbing events because they are trained to be critical in their work. A critical mind is one of the fundamentals of the scientific methodology but it can be sterilizing if one doesn’t take in account an instinctive rejection of what isn’t compatible with common sense. Sometimes this reaction is so powerful that it becomes contrary to the scientific methodology that puts experience before theory!
«Doubting is fruitful, at the condition of doubting about ones doubt. » Didier Norton.
5: A COLLECTION OF ABNORMALITIES.
After trying very hard to find a solution without success, Max Planck publishes an equation adapted to what physicists find in their experiments but completely absurd! The equation suggests that energy quantities can only change according to whole natural numbers: 1, 2, 3…
The date is december 1900. Planck doesn’t really believe he found a real solution to the problem, just a tentative way to describe mathematically what remains incomprehensible for the common sense. He is convinced physicists will find a way to bring understanding to their discoveries. But physicist continue to find results defying the common sense… until today; and nothing seems to give hope in finding a sensible explanation in the future!
We perceive a continuous world when physicists discover a quantized world, pixellized in a way! In the world of atoms and molecules there is no slopes, only stairs! A particle that looses or gains energy does so abruptly, disappearing from a stair step at once and appearing on another stair step immediately, never finding itself in between! Profound abnormality!
Matter which builds reality and us with it, is 99,999999999999% emptiness! It seems solid but isn’t really. Electrons repel violently each other and a mysterious law forbids two of them to have the same attributes; that’s why matter seems hard, but it is essentially void! Profound abnormality!
Common sense allows to measure at once the position and the velocity of a vehicle. It’s impossible to know at once and precisely these two properties for particles or atoms. Whatever means implemented, each progress towards more precision in one property will automatically diminish the precision on the other one. Profound abnormality!
Common sense lets us understand the movement of a stone thrown towards a pond then the waves on the surface of the water after the splash. A stone occupies a defined space when a wave can potentially cover a very large space. Nothing is more different from a particle than a wave! But particles, atoms, molecules… every matter is at once particulate and wavy, depending on the way the observer measures it! Profound abnormality!
Common sense convinces us that the Moon is in the sky even if nobody looks at it. But in the world of atoms and molecules nothing is real unless it is observed! Only an interaction with a tool able to measure them can give them the characteristic we find indispensable in order to describe a real object: movement, direction, spin… Profound abnormality!
Common sense convinces us that an empty box contains nothing, not even air if it has been pumped out. Nevertheless physicists discover that the void is full of energy and virtual particles that appear then disappear continuously. Profound abnormality!
Time and space seem to have nothing in common. We live in a space described by a length, a width, a depth in which objects exist through time that flows from past to future. Yet time and space can’t be separated and are part of a forth dimension that we can’t perceive as such. Profound abnormality!
6: ABNORMALITIES AND PARADIGMS
In his fundamental work in 1962, the historian of sciences: Thomas Kühn, described how scientists agree implicitly on a blueprint that will circumscribe their imagination and in which they will be able to understand their results. This agreement is implicit because it is the world’s image built instinctively. Einstein already, before Kühn, understood that in reality theory came before experiments, and not the other way out as scientific rationality would suggest!
Heisenberg told how astonished he has been when Einstein notified exactly the reverse of what he expected! They were walking after a lecture given by Heisenberg about his experiments on quantum physics; Einstein didn’t agree with their interpretation. It’s much later that Heisenberg understood with Einstein how much the inspiration, the choice of an experimental protocol… are linked implicitly but powerfully, to the conceptual blueprint in which the theoretician or the experimentalist finds himself. This frame became the paradigm described by Kühn and it directs the way we understand the world in which we evolve. With other world’s images, other ideas would have inspired the theoreticians and the experimentalists. Other attributes would have been tested to give, eventually, very different conclusions than the ones that are dominant today!
To change a paradigm takes much time, notably because it is difficult to act on the fundamental instincts that make us able to understand our environment: the world’s image we inherited at birth and then through our experience and our culture. Abnormalities accumulate… They are prone to complicated explanations. Ptolemaïc ancient Greece understood the planets orbits through very complicated epicycles… and the copernican revolution greatly simplified this understanding.
Much time and an accumulation of disturbing abnormalities are needed to prepare a leap in the dark: a new world’s image: a new paradigm has to be ready. It is like if a fish had to jump out of its jar: it could survive only if a new aquarium were ready near the old one. Time is needed to prepare, enrich and consolidate a new paradigm before becoming able to accept the drastic changes of the world’s image that our instinct leads us to build. All along this time, explanations become complex, overcomplicated… but resist until the environment becomes favourable to the great jump.
The copernican solution to the weirdness of the planets’ orbits took time because a paradigm had to be changed. The Earth wasn’t anymore in the center of the universe: the Sun took its place. And Copernic then Kepler tried this solution to simplify their calculations of the orbits.
Today, physicists are still puzzled, more than a century after the creation of Quantum Mechanics in 1900 and Bohr’s atom in the 1920s. They try to understand the shoking abnormalities that accumulated continuously since a century. They try to understand their experimental results in a way that is compatible with the understanding of the nature of reality given by our common sense: a material world made of discrete particles with specific properties. Specific properties that shouldn’t be modified by non-local events; objective properties that shouldn’t be prone to modifications resulting from observation only; particles that shouldn’t change their state without being touched, heated, illuminated… The problems began especially from the moment the results of experiments weren’t anymore compatible with the cartesian separation between object and subject!
7: WHAT THE QUANTUM DISRUPTION CHANGES.
Even if the Quantum Disruption began more than a century now, there are still some physicists who hope that a savior will one day dissolve the abnormalities displayed in the microcosm in the classicism of the macrocosm! Yet these abnormalities accumulate, especially since the second half of the 20th century. Since some physicists decided to explore the weird microcosm with critical eye but open mind to a change of paradigm.
While waiting for a savior who will bring back the microcosm in the reassuring materiality of the macrocosm, some physicists call upon a Multiverse in which an infinity of universes would explain that, by chance only, we live in the only one in which all physical constants are particularly adapted to the apparition of life and intelligence. They seem to forget that, in order to eliminate the disturbing dualism between the quantum and the classical worlds, to dilute the weirdness of an universe born from nothing… they postulate an infinity of universes! All born from nothing too, of course!
But if we remain objective and open-minded, we are brought to accept the abnormalities and reconsider our paradigm because it can’t take them into account. What are the principal abnormalities that we discussed in the first part of this work?
– The world isn’t continuous but made out of quanta of matter-energy, and probably of quanta of time and space as well.
– There is no absolute simultaneity: two events that are simultaneous for an observer can appear differently for another observer. Space and time are differently elastic for different observers.
– The properties of an object measured by an observer depend of his experimental choices: they have no independent reality; absolute objectivity is impossible.
– We can describe the evolution of the properties of an object through space and time after having measured them. But the equation we use has to do with wave functions which can interfere in a way we cannot understand in our world composed of material particles. These equations bring in weird unreal mathematical objects like the square root of -1. And finally, these equations give us only probabilities, never certainties: only a physical measure will give the values looked for.
«But if the ultimate physical reality corresponds to the wave function, then what sort of beast is a wave function? What’s made of? What’s Hilbert space made of? As far as we know, nothing: they seem to be purely mathematical objects! » Max Tegmark “Our Mathematical Universe”: 2014
– We can’t find all the properties of an object with great precision. When the precision on one property grows, the precision on a conjugate one diminishes.
– Objects can behave as if they were entangled in a-local and a-temporal relationship. As if there were a parallel reality conjugated to ours and through which objects could be linked without being separated by space and time.
– Matter and energy are two different and exchangeable forms of the same reality. With its form as energy field, matter seems to be defined but not manifested. It’s only when there are interactions that matter-energy manifests itself with measurable properties.
«This idea that there’s a bunch of numbers at each point in space-time is quite deep, and I think it’s telling us something not merely about our description of reality, but about reality itself (…) a field is just this: something represented by numbers at each point in space-time. » Max Tegmark “Our Mathematical Universe”: 2014
Galileo was the first to describe the universe through its language: mathematics. Four centuries of discoveries lead to the description of the nature of the universe: mathematic! It’s not only a convenient way to describe it: mathematics has become the fundamental reality of the universe, as Plato or Pythagorus thought it was!
And yet we perceive a real physical world with plenty of different sensations, very far from abstract mathematical formulas; how come? It’s probably due to the new dualism: the association between a fundamental purely mathematical reality which calculates the reality that is ours: the physical one.
8. A NEW DUALISM: SIMULISM.
Descartes’s dualism helped create Science but has been deeply shaken up by it afterwards. First, dualism melt in a materialistic monism, then reappeared in the inescapable duality that separates the quantum world from the classical one. But this new duality is unsharp; it isn’t really defined by an objective boundary between the microcosm (the realm of particles, atoms, molecules…) and the macrocosm (the world we perceive in our everyday life). Interactions are continuous through the two realms; the conditions in which the measurements are made are more important than the size of the object that is measured. The order with which the measurements are made determine the evolution of the wave function that describes the quantum object. The dualism that distinguish microcosm from macrocosm doesn’t make a difference between the objects that take a place in space and time from the ones that exist only in the realm of thoughts. The observer and his consciousness seem to intervene in the determination of quantum properties. This new duality that separates the quantum world from the classical one has to be placed in a very different context than the one Descartes chose four centuries ago.
The microcosm doesn’t show definite properties unless it is observed. It evolves in a completely different reality than we do. Space and time aren’t the obstacles they are in our realm. What we perceive as well defined objects in our reality (Physical Reality) seem to manifest themselves out of another reality we can describe with mathematics (Mathematical Reality) involving imaginary numbers and wave functions. In this weird realm objects evolve and interfere in a way only waves could interfere in our realm.
(Quantum phenomena) « support the view that non-material principles can steer the material world. » Antoine Suarez; http://www.quantumphil.org
Thus the realm of objects that occupy space and time isn’t the fundamental realm, but depends on a realm in which space and time haven’t the reality we find for them in ours. In the fundamental reality space and time have only a mathematical existence. Reciprocally, the mathematical properties that describe physical objects can be influenced by the events that happen to them in the physical world. It is no more possible to separate the world of objects from the world of thoughts as Descartes did. Today Physics describes two worlds that aren’t separated from one another as Descartes postulated, because the one we perceive is a reflection from the other, itself under the influence of the first. The world that seems concrete to us – and which is, in a sense – seems to arise out of another, purely mathematical one. Physicist David Bohm named the world we perceive « the Explicite Reality » that is an emanation from another one: « the Implicite Reality ». Plato defined our world as the one of shadows that depends on another world which is the true reality.
Some philosophies (Hinduism, Yoga…) describe this duality between a reality that is manifested, thus perceived, but secondary to a fundamental reality that isn’t manifested, although it has enough properties to be considered as real. An image of this duality could be found in Physics’ concept of matter-energy fields. Empty space can potentially act on a specific object that moves through it, as if space is structured in a way that can express itself only in specific conditions: A non-manifested (Implicite) versus manifested (Explicite) dualism. The world we perceive would be an illusion built out of a deeper but not-manifested reality.
Simulism could explain such a quantum dualism. Perceived reality would be the result of calculations that are displayed only when there is an interaction with a physical (material) or organic (living) object. It’s the collapse of the wave function introduced by the « School of Copenhagen ». Perceived reality is relational and isn’t based on objects with physical properties independent from the act of perception. What we perceive as independent objects defined by specific properties are only limited expressions in our space-time, of purely mathematical attributes that follow the wave function discovered by Physics.
… « we live in a RELATIONAL REALITY, in the sense that the properties of the world around us stem not from properties of its ultimate building blocks, but from the relations between these building blocks. » Max Tegmark “Our Mathematical Universe”: 2014
Plato’s realm of Ideas, Bohm’s Implicite Reality… would be a simulation mathematical software and the display of the results of calculations would be the reality we perceive: Plato’s shadows or Bohm’s Explicite Reality. Physicist Wolfgang Pauli would maybe be satisfied with a paradigm that would integrate this fundamental concept of simulation. He tried with psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung to understand the origin of synchronicity. He wrote:
« The most satisfying would be that (…) Physics and Psychics could be considered as complementary aspects of one reality. » “ Synchronicity: an a-causal connecting Principle. “ 1952.
Simulism doesn’t make a difference between matter and thought: both are reflections of a more fundamental reality that is virtual and purely mathematical; the one Pauli used to think about.
« psyche and matter are governed by common, neutral, not in themselves ascertainable ordering principles. » Atom and Archetype: The Pauli/Jung Letters, 1932-1958.
Finally, would Descartes be a dualist today? Yes, but…
He would maybe define a world that is perceived and another one, more fundamental, which would create our perceived reality. The first realm would put together objects and thoughts coming from the working of the material brain. Thoughts could be separated in two types, according to whether they are directly generated by the material brain, or by the more fundamental, a-local and a-temporal quantum realm. The first could belong to the « mind » and the second, to the intuition or the « soul » since they come from outside the limits of the material body. The organic brain would be able to create thoughts and to perceive intuitions. Its first job would be attributed to the mind, the second one to the Subconscious, still so mysterious.
Cartesian dualism which defines the realm of objects and the realm of thoughts would have evolved in two new realities. The first one would be a hybrid since it associates an aspect which has an extension in space-time: the objects, to another, immaterial but that comes from the first through the analysis of perceptions: the mental working of the organic brain. The other realm would be a-local and a-temporal: a purely mathematical realm.
Physical Reality associates matter-energy and its emergent abilities that are emotions and thoughts. The underlying a-local and a-temporal Mathematical Reality could be understood as a software running continuously in the background to define properties that are essentially relational and describing a reality that is indivisible because it obeys only to wave functions. The illusion of an objective world composed of independent objects would be the result of the collapse of the wave functions calculated for a discrete place of space-time… Maybe when there is an interaction with the Subconscious, a soul, which belongs to the Mathematical Reality but could also have an influence on the mind, the result of the working of the material brain?