Friday, August 11, 2017

Where did this universe come from?

A member of the Vedanta Society listserv  wrote:

The question becomes "where did this physical mundane universe actually come from?"
The big bang? Quantum vacuum? This already assumes a physical reality. There might be a simpler explanation.

First, a small caveat. There are times when I prefer to use the word "cosmos" rather than "universe," in respect to the Everett/Wheeler/Deutsch theory that our cosmos is actually made up (at each time) of an infinite collection of three dimensional objects we see as "universes". Reality is trickier than that, but already our understanding in physics is rich enough that I need to know which question you are interested in:

(1) Why do we seem to see the particular three-dimensional "universe" object we now see, out of all the many such objects which exist?

(2) Where did the larger cosmos, and the mathematical "law of everything", actually come from?

My guess is that you meant to choose (2), but then there is a further caveat. I would not use the word "mundane" to describe the cosmos. The cosmos includes not only ordinary familiar types of matter (electrons, protons, neutrons, photons), but dark matter and other things -- enough to provide the material substance for life and intelligence and consciousness to evolve at levels above that of the mundane human body. STRICTLY AS A MATTER OF SEMANTICS, we may or may not choose to view the cosmos itself as a kind of mind in itself, depending on how we feel about the equations; the equations are real, the fuzzy labels people argue about much less so. Not "mundane" as many of us have used that term for a long time. 


So then, your question (as I understand it): where did this incredible cosmos come from?

My questions: how can we make sense of this question, and what is the right way to approach it?

Always when we pose a fundamental theory, the question of "WHY is it true?" effectively asks for a more fundamental theory. As you hint, this easily gets into an empty infinite regress, whether we talk about it in words or in mathematics. Certainly I am DEEPLY interested right now in looking for such a more fundamental theory, one step deeper than Modified or Markovian QED ( At some time, it may or may not be worthwhile to try to probe one level even deeper than what I am looking for now (if an empirical basis is found for doing so), but for now that one deep step is enough of a challenge, even though the gross qualitative ideas seem clear and detailed enough. (We all can emit lots of fuzzy words, but that is neither here nor there.) 

For myself, I would be ready to respond with intense thought in reaction to real empirical clues EITHER from the physics lab OR from veridical paranormal experience. (Ancient holy texts I do not treat as solid evidence, given how they contradict each other anyway. I view them all as evidence more like dreams, which at best call for lots of filtering, testing and probing analysis of where they came from.) At present, I do not see any serious clues to any specific need for a model beyond Lagrange-Euler equations operating over ordinary curved Minkowski space, now that I understand better how such models work. 

That is the logical response as I see it. But I still see two entertaining images which may be worth mentioning.

Many decades ago, I came to a small party hosted by Professor Albritton, head of the Harvard philosophy department (which combined a typical Anglo-American analytic base with a deep interest in the larger history of philosophy). Someone asked him what it all means in the end, what it has to say to the rest of us. He knocked his hand on the wall, and said (roughly) : "Well, we have agonized a lot over whether we should accept THIS all as real or not. Mainly we do.." To accept reality and life, for all their complexities, or not. Or as Nietzsche once said, to say "yes" or "no" to life itself. Or as Valliant once said, whether to get rid of nonsense defense mechanisms like denial, and to move on. 

I have often heard people debate "Is God male or female or transgender?" The minute I hear such things, I picture a huge fetus (a bit like the one in the movie 2001), a fetus speculating about the sex life of its parents. There are better things for a fetus brain to think about. Such speculations remind me of a neural network I once trained to solve a generalized maze problem, which initially wasted ever so much time in relatively unproductive oscillations, due to trying to optimize the weights which were less important to its current stage of learning. A system more self-aware, modeling its larger progress, could move much faster. To express our own life and our own nature, we too need to make better use of true self-awareness, and try not to follow the empty paths of so many ... whatever. (I remember a yoga teacher who talked about the "river of ice" so many get caught in, made much icier by delusions of... whatveer.)

Best of luck,


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