What’s (the) Matter?
Erwin Schroedinger, Albert Einstein and Chief Dan George get together in a longhouse on the Northwest Pacific coast to compare notes on science and reality and ‘what’s the matter’. The following is a transcript of their dialogue; .
Chief Dan George: Welcome, Erwin, Albert, let us start by paying tribute to the rocks which make Turtle Island possible for us to sit together here, patient bearers of moss and bird droppings (… mind yourself there, Erwin), we salute you, and we salute as well all of the four-leggeds, two-leggeds, rooted and winged ones, the running waters that transport us, the fresh winds that breathe life into us, and the sun now shining brightly above us which warms our brows and brings flowers from the earth to brighten our spirits. We are but strands in this web-of-life though our proud words often take us captive and have us strut about as if we were its owners.
Einstein: Well said, Chief Dan. The interdependence of the strands in the web reminds us that motion is relative. When three or more bodies move under one another’s simultaneous mutual influence, it is mathematically impossible to solve for the motion of any particular body. It is all ‘relative’.
Schroedinger: Chief Dan, your invocation resonates with me as well, though I have always had some difficulty with your allusion to the material aspect, the ‘strands’ in the web. Surely it is the holes in the web that are in a natural precedence.
Chief Dan George: Your point is well taken, Erwin, and it is a point that is missed by most people. But I should have to take you inside the native languages, into our oral tradition to share such understanding since your English and German languages are based on noun and verbs which do not deal well with that which is invisible and non-material, as is the Spirit of Nature, the Great Harmony from whence all material things emerge and which inhabits and animates the behaviour of all things.
Einstein: The equivalence of energy and matter would seem to open the door to reconciling our views across our very different cultures. In field theory, matter is a secondary phenomenon. As I and my co-author Leonard Infeld say in ‘The Evolution of physics; “Could we not reject the concept of matter and build a pure field physics? What impresses our senses as matter is really a great concentration of energy into a comparatively small space. We could regard matter as the regions in space where the field is extremely strong. In this way a new philosophical background could be created. . . . A thrown stone is, from this point of view, a changing field, where the states of the greatest field intensity travel through space with the velocity of the stone.” The concentration of energy that ‘matter’ is, is visible to us, though the field is, in essence, invisible and non-material.
Chief Dan George: My own experience accords with what you say. When the great storms of late summer come to us from out of the vastness of the ocean, radial arms made of dense cloud spiral out from the storm centre while the surrounding air, and the air in the very centre of the storm seems clear. But there is much power in the clear air, just as there is in the swift, clear-flowing water within which the whirlpool forms. Like all things and like ourselves, we draw our form, our power and our direction from the invisible flow that includes all things and which is the source of all things. Our people call it ‘the wind that was always there’.
Schroedinger: Those of us who worked as western scientists, inquiring into the innermost secrets of Nature from the scientific point of view very nearly arrived at a theory, the essence of which would have been fully consistent with the view of your aboriginal peoples, but this was unfortunately subverted by those that could not let go of their attachment to material foundations. Instead of accepting that invisible, non-material resonant-energy-charged space was the source of all, as suggested by the Quantum Wave Equation, Werner Heisenberg, the author of ‘Quantum Mechanics’ in matrix form, supported by others, insisted that there were two equivalent ways to understand the world dynamic, by way of particles and by way of waves.
Chief Dan George: Are you saying that some were in favour of acknowledging that matter is secondary to ‘the wind that was always there’, as is the ‘redman’s’ view?
Schroedinger: Indeed that was the case, though I was in a small minority on this issue and though I disagreed with the ‘dual particle/wave’ interpretation that emerged. The others, including Albert, prevailed. And those who accepted this interpretation were left with a paradox where we could use either particles or waves to explain observed/experienced phenomena depending on which one seemed to explain things more easily. As I said; “What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances). … Let me say at the outset, that … I am opposing not a few special statements of quantum physics held today (1950s), I am opposing as it were the whole of it, I am opposing its basic views that have been shaped 25 years ago, when Max Born put forward his probability interpretation, which was accepted by almost everybody.”
Einstein: While what Erwin is saying about the historical unfolding is true, it should be remembered that science must not be confused with ‘reality’. Our scientific views are formulated using mathematics and “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
Schroedinger: You see, Chief Dan, we scientists are a slippery lot when it comes to defending our own viewpoints. Albert is also known for his statement; “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” By the time a person sorts through the web of conceptual sophistry that scientists throw at him, the meaning he hoped to extract has slipped through the webbing and vanished. What’s more important than the claims of which theory is ‘more truthful’ is how well a theory is supported by our experience.
Chief Dan George: Yes, I have always had difficulty following the discussions of physicists. For example, Albert, you have said that ‘The environment is everything that isn’t me” which made me wonder whether you saw yourself as being apart from Nature.
Einstein: Yes, in a way. As I have also said: “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Schroedinger: I think, Albert, out of respect for our hosts, that you might better have qualified this view of ‘humans’, of being ‘separated from the rest’ as the view of ‘Western humans’. Not only are many aboriginal traditionalists doing why we would aspire to do, in the Eastern view, as in the Upanishads, people openly acknowledge this human tendency to feel ‘separated from the rest’ and the teachings are there to practice ‘becoming one with everything’. The feeling of “separation from the rest” associates with the thought that our mind is ‘our own mind’ and that it is exclusive to us.
Chief Dan George: You divide the world into West and East but the aboriginals peoples are everywhere in the world and the warnings of this delusion of being ‘separated from the rest’ permeate our traditional teachings. As I have said; “O Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds. I come to you as one of your many children. I need your strength and your wisdom. Make me strong not to be superior to my brother, but to be able to fight my greatest energy: ‘Myself’”
Schroedinger: Excuse the ignorance of my previous remark. Chief Dan, your view seems very close to my own. As I have said; “Mind is, by its very nature, a singulare tantum. I should say; the overall number of minds is just one. I venture to call it indestructible since it has a peculiar timetable, namely mind is always now. There is really no before and after for mind. There is only a now that includes memories and expectations. But I grant that our language is not quite adequate to express this… “
Einstein: That spacetime is a continuum is also something I believe. Our separate identity derives from our sense that our lives have absolute beginnings and endings in time. As I said in regard to a friend who passed away before me; “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Chief Dan George: It seems as if there is much agreement amongst us as to the one-ness of this space we share inclusion in. Yet science continues to proceed in a fragmented way, how can this be?. Does this in any way relate to your objections, Erwin, with the Copenhagen Interpretation that you just so vigorously objected to?
Schroedinger: Indeed it does. Probabilities are used like to preserve material particles at the most fundamental level of the theoretical model, in much the same way the ‘epicycles’ were used to preserve Ptolemy’s geocentric world view. Instead of accepting that the wave structure of space is primary and matter secondary, the use of probabilities as to the whereabouts of the particles blurs the certainty associated with locally existing material objects (particles) sufficiently so as to make the particle nature of dynamics seem to be a peer with the wave nature of dynamics. But particles are not peers to waves, waves are the parenting medium of particles. An analogy would be to say that the flow of the atmosphere can be interpreted either in terms of the invisible pressure field or the visible material dynamics of particles of water (water molecules). But, as we know, the movement of local visible material particles is secondary to the invisible, non-material pressure and thermal-energy flow-fields.
Einstein: Yes, there is truth in what Erwin is saying. I tried to explain this in the context of ‘curved space’. Thermal fields from solar irradiance, acting on the atmosphere in an irregular way due to cloud cover and obliquity etc, cause expansion in the curved space of the atmosphere which wraps around the sphere of the earth and is already pressured up by the ‘tamp’ of gravity. In such a curved space situation, expansion is at the same time compression due to what I call ‘reciprocal disposition’; i.e. the atmosphere wraps over and around the earth ‘into itself’; i.e. there is a conjugate relation between the dynamics of the storm-cell-inhabitants and the dynamics of the atmosphere-habitat. Thus, to seek to understand storm-cell behaviour as a local phenomena in standard ‘rectangular space’, it might as well be within a flat infinite slab of atmosphere which corresponds to a sphere of infinite radius, a special case where the reciprocal disposition or conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation is not to be found. Yet this curved space conjugate relation is key to the evolution of the dynamic forms in the earth’s atmosphere, and this conjugate relation is the very essence of wave dynamics, for waves are, at the same time, inside-outward pushing and outside-inward pushing.
Schroedinger: Ernst Mach was a mentor to Albert and I and many others on issues of relativity and he captured this conjugate relation between matter-as-inhabitant and space-as-habitat very concisely in his principle of the relativity of space and matter; “The habitat-dynamic conditions the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.” It is our Western habit to ignore this conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation, though it is general in the universe, and to assume, instead, that we will be able to understand dynamic phenomena by understanding visible, local material dynamics such as the dynamics of visible, local storm-cells, such inquiry being indifferent to whether the storm-cells lie in a flat infinite slab of atmosphere or in the curved space atmosphere of a small or large planet. However, as you can imagine, the continuing evolution of dynamic forms such as storm-cells which reside in a finite and unbounded curved space such as the earth’s atmosphere, is fundamentally influenced by this conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation.
Chief Dan George: This sounds very much like the understanding in our native tradition. Our people also speak of this ‘reciprocal responsibility’ and this ‘spacetime continuum’ in terms such as the following; “You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.” In the hunter-prey reciprocal relation, the hunter seeks his prey and the prey offers itself to the hunter. The hunter’s first responsibility is to sing, dance and pray, to become a worthy recipient of the sacrifice of the hunted. His second responsibility is to sing, dance and pray the willing sacrifice back to life, fulfilling the spiritual obligation. The third responsibility is to take as little as is required for physical and spiritual survival and to avoid wasting any part of the sacrifice. Wasted sacrifice is sacrilege, the transformation of the sacred to the profane.
Einstein: What you speak of here implies the connection between space, time and material movement. I must confess that my examples of such things have too often been in terms of people in rocketships firing off into open space where there is no way to visualize the conjugate space-matter relation. There is a practical reason for this that Johannes Kepler pointed out is common to the academies where we are in the habit of ‘choosing not that which is most true but that which is most easy’, for the purpose of explanation. I might also have chosen to illustrate the relation of time and space by the analogy of a ship circling the earth. The passage of time would be measured in units of circumnavigating the globe. But as time passed, the people on the ship would see things they previously jettisoned and they would smell the lingering fumes of their prior travel and would realize that they were breathing in their own exhaust, in the manner that the fish drinks in his own affluent. As I have already mentioned, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. We are inclusions in a continually transforming spacetime continuum and there is nothing that material forms can do that escapes the conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation, this thing that you call the ‘strand-and-the-web’.
Schroedinger: This point is important because it brings out the limitations of our visual senses and the folly of depending on the visible and material for our understanding of the world. The fisherman who receives the fish, receives a collection of the sun’s rays, for fish feed on plankton and plankton feed on algae and algae feed on the light of the sun by way of photosynthesis, and all this lies in the fisherman’s hands as he holds the still-squirming fish. The Chinese fisherman understands that his trained cormorant can extend his human reach by getting to places he cannot get to in the gathering of nature’s delectables. If he considers the cormorant to be an extension of himself, as in a ‘web-of-life’ then the fish is also an important ‘member of the team’ since the fish can gather nutrients that man not only cannot get to, but can gather and transform them in a manner that would be impossible for humans to do. If we lived on a rocky planet permeated with tunnels of a size too small for us to enter, the only place where the vegetal nutrients grew, those smaller animals that had such access that were ‘prey’ to our ‘hunting’ would surely be understood as our brothers and team-mates, collecting goodies for us in a basket called ‘themselves’ that they delivered up for us.
Chief Dan George: Woe be it to the humans on such a planet if they were to shoot such generous friends en masse and let them rot in the sun like westward moving colonizers shot buffalo on the plains, for such fellow creatures are delivery systems from all points in the vast resource of nature that we could otherwise access with only the greatest difficulty, if at all. This folly, whereby we spit upon ourselves by spitting on the earth, derives from our reliance on what is visible to us, for there is much that we humans cannot see. We blind ourselves to the deeper reality when we try to understand the world in terms of ‘what things do’. A knowledge of ‘what man does’, does not inform us as to how ‘what he does’ changes the habitat that he depends upon and that he has emerged from, and which continues to orchestrate his individual and collective behaviour. As you say, the fish swallows his own effluents, man breathes his own exhausts. There is a circle here wherein the habitat orchestrates man’s behaviour and man’s behaviour changes the habitat and the habitat orchestrates man’s behaviour. This view of the world is very much ‘at odds’ with the view of man against a passive background, a view that exalts man’s ‘intelligent behaviours’ which, meanwhile, are without acknowledgement of his conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation.
Einstein: Yes, this ignorance of our conjugate relation with space leads to intolerable tensions as developed between Europe and Germany under the harsh terms of the WWI Treaty of Versailles, and it is out of these invisible and non-material spatial tensions that aberrant behaviours are bred. Like caged animals, people whose tensions arise from the faceless abusive nonlocality of an oppressive space will seek out something, someone to bite. Western man who is oppressed by his own collective actions through the mediative role of the space he is included in, is not satisfied with notions of an invisible non-material cause of his pain and will invent a local visible causal agency and declare war against it, aligning the masses to the purpose of eliminating the alleged ‘local cause’. In my view; “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
Chief Dan George: Strong words indeed, and well-placed they are. While conflict emerges amongst animals of a common breed and amongst men, there are in nature, with the exception of those human cultures that deny their inherent conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation, no forms of organisation that gather to seek the annihilation of particular others. For in that contention that sets visible, material agents of one colour in a win/lose death struggle with visible material agents of another colour, the profane treatment of the invisible, non-material mother-space is ignored, even to the point that destruction that is collateral to such conflict would render it unfit for the continuing provenance and sustenance of human children and grandchildren.
Schroedinger: Once again the imagery of caged animals is fitting. The caged ones, not accepting that their suffering originates from deprivation of access to invisible, nonlocal non-material space, they seek something local, visible and tangible to ‘bite back’, whatever is conveniently at hand. This has been western man’s dysfunction. The courts in France prior to the summer of 1789 would not be persuaded that the violence that men were doing in the streets, directed towards the authorities, came from anything other than the men themselves. The Judges and prosecutors were unwilling to accept that invisible and non-material tensions in the centrally-controlled space of France, that associated with abusive taxation and inequitable distribution of food were the ‘upstream’ primary source of the violence, and that those men who ‘explosively released their pent up stresses’ could be likened to earthquakes that explosively release pent up stresses in the earth. Nowhere in the universe can we find a case where there is not an invisible, nonlocal, non-material ‘upstream’ source of visible, material, dynamic behaviour, the latter attracting our human attention because ‘it is’ local, visible and material and thus available to our ‘visual sensing’ capacities. Our feeling experience is what informs us when we are in a ‘caged animal’ space. Not all pain comes from visible material agents that are physically doing something to us. The closing down of the normal opening of spatial possibility is also painful and there is no local visible material causal agent to point to in this case.
Einstein: As you said previously, Erwin, “What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances).” which accords with my earlier statement; “What impresses our senses as matter is really a great concentration of energy into a comparatively small space. We could regard matter as the regions in space where the field is extremely strong.” In other words, what we regard as local material systems are analogous to convection cells in a fluid-flow, the sort of flow that associates with a resonant-energy-charged space. As with a multiplicity of storm-cells in the atmosphere, each of these cells experiences a reciprocal dynamic relation (conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation) with the space it is included in, thus each storm-cell in a reciprocal dynamic relation with each other. When we move from a world view of local visible material inhabitants in absolute fixed and empty habitat-space to ‘relativity’ and a world view where a conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation applies, we move from the evolutionary theory of Darwin with its internal local-forcing to the evolutionary theory of Lamarck, with its nonlocal-spatial ‘cause excitatrice’.
Chief Dan George: Your words and conceptual images become very complicated for me, but my intuition is that we are on the same path to understanding. I have read Nietzsche and I agree with his view that science has been ‘anthroporphism’. Because western men see themselves as ‘local, independently existing material systems’, notionally equipped with their own locally originating (internal process-driven and purpose-directed) behaviours, the white man has imputed this God-like local ‘first cause’ power to organisms and cells and genes and to all those visible forms in the web-of-life that attract his attention due to his relative size and situation. When he catches a fish, the size of the fish is important because it adds to his stature as a hunter/fisherman and to the extensibility of his eating pleasure. He does not revel in the remarkable ability of the fish to collect the suns rays by collecting plankton that collect algae and bacteria and bringing this all to him, he who is ill-equipped to gather and feast on sun rays directly. Science would formerly say that man is at ‘the top of the food chain’ without mention of the participative, mediative role of space. Similarly, man’s breathing of his own exhaust would eventually suffocate him if it were not for mediation by the web-of-life that transforms his exhaust, as best it can, into fresh consumables. Of course, his ignoring of this circular relation is leading to dirtier and dirtier exhausts that are overwhelming the recycling capacities of nature.
Schroedinger: There are those that believe that the modern findings in science; ‘relativity’ and ‘quantum theory’, apply only to the minute details of the world dynamic and are of no consequence to the dynamics of our everyday lives, but nothing could be farther from the truth. These findings suggest the incompleteness of our western acculturated way of understanding the world and the greater completeness of the aboriginal traditional way of understanding the world, for which you, Chief Dan, have been an active modern spokesperson. In the East, there is the parable of the wind, flag and mind, … which is it that moves first? The answer in the Eastern philosophy is that they all move together. This would seem to connect ‘mind’ with movement and suggest that, since movement in nature is a dynamic-unity, ‘mind’ is also a dynamic unity. We each tend to view the world from our unique and particular situational inclusion in it; that is, from our unique and particular visual vantage point and experiencing of it. But is the world that we extend it in space and time in our mind really ‘the world’? As Nietzsche points out, the world experienced by other organisms would highlight very different views and experiences, yet it makes no sense to conclude that we each have separate minds. If you would indulge me for a moment, since I think that there is a very important issue for us here, I would like to expound for a moment on ‘The Oneness of Mind’ as I have done in a written work by the same name; “There is obviously only one alternative [to multiple minds], namely the unification of the minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not only of the Upanishads. The mystically experienced union with God regularly entails this attitude unless it is opposed by strong existing prejudices; this means that it is less easily accepted in the West than in the East.
… The doctrine of identity can claim that it is clinched by the empirical fact that consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular. Not only has none of us ever experienced more than one consciousness, but there is also no trace of circumstantial evidence of this ever happening in the world. If I say that there cannot be more than one consciousness in the same mind, this seems like a blunt tautology — we are quite unable to imagine the contrary. … Mind is, by its very nature, a singulare tantum. I should say; the overall number of minds is just one. I venture to call it indestructible since it has a peculiar timetable, namely mind is always now. There is really no before and after for mind. There is only a now that includes memories and expectations. But I grant that our language is not quite adequate to express this, and I also grant, should anyone wish to state it, that I am now talking religion, not science.
Sherrington says: “Man’s mind is a recent product of our planet’s side.”
I agree, naturally. If the first word (man’s) were left out, I would not. It would seem queer, not to say ridiculous, to think that the contemplating, conscious mind that alone reflects the becoming of the world should have made its appearance only at some time in the course of this “becoming” should have appeared contingently, associated with the very special biological contraption which, in itself, quite obviously discharges the task of facilitating certain forms of life in maintaining themselves, thus favoring their preservation and propagation: forms of life that were latecomers and have been preceded by many others that maintained themselves without that particular contraption (a brain). Only a small fraction of them (if you count by species) have embarked on ‘getting themselves a brain.’ And before that happened, should it all have been a performance to empty stalls? Nay, may we call a world that nobody contemplates even that? When an archeologist reconstructs a city or a culture long bygone, he is interested in human life in the past, in actions, sensations, thoughts, feelings, in joy and sorrow of humans, displayed there and then. But a world, existing for many millions of years without any mind being aware of it, contemplating it, is it anything at all? Has it existed? For do not let us forget: to say, as we did, that the becoming of the world is reflected in a conscious mind is but a cliché, a phrase, a metaphor that has become familiar to us. The world is given but once. Nothing is reflected. The original and the mirror image are identical. The world extended in space and time is but our representation (Vorstellung). Experience does not give us the slightest clue of its being anything besides that—as Berkeley was well aware.
… Most painful is the absolute silence of all our scientific investigations toward our questions concerning the meaning and scope of the whole display [the physical world picture]. The more attentively we watch it, the more aimless and foolish it appears to be. The show that is going on obviously acquires a meaning only in regard to the mind that contemplates it. But what science tells us about this relationship is patently absurd: as if mind had only been produced by that very display that it is now watching and would pass away with it when the sun finally cools down and the earth has been turned into a desert of ice and snow.”
Einstein: Erwin, I am happy to give you my indulgence in your propounding on such matters. As I have said; “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”
Chief Dan George: Religion that is personal and derives directly from the wonder and amazement of being included in Nature most surely deserves our contemplation and our indulgence in hearing others speak of their engaging with the sacred space we all inhabit, but a note of caution here; Our people have a saying; “When the white man came, we had the land and they had the bibles. Now they have the land and we have the bibles.” But I recognize that in seeking to discover the commonalities between our aboriginal traditions and the understandings gleaned from that place where both of you have been, where Western science ‘bottoms out’ in ‘religion’, it is common for you to use words that ‘split understanding into two parts’, ‘science’ and ‘religion’ even though ‘understanding’ can only be tapped in the continuing ‘now’ of our experience. While we recognize the goodness of Jesus and the good intentions of the Christian religion, we who remain true to our traditions find the many different interpretations of the bible confusing. We do not understand how the Christian elders could teach that; “God said to them, … Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
Schroedinger: I understand your confusion. There are many apparent contradictions in the early writings, including two versions of Genesis, one in which Lilith was Adam’s first wife and was his equal (made of the same material), a ‘geometry’ in which ‘space’, the ‘female’ aspect of dynamics, would have been understood as ‘active’ in the conjugate relation rather than passive. However, it was further written that Lilith was banished (and demonized) and that Eve was Adam’s second wife, made from Adam’s rib so that she would be passive. This became accepted as the starting point in the story of Genesis in the Christian bible, though not in the Kaballah and other ancient scriptures. Who knows how these ideas have shaped Western thinking but it’s certain that they did have and continue to have influence.
Chief Dan George: Since there is much we three agree on, could we summarize why it is that the religious and philosophical implications that derive from relativity and quantum physics are not, as you would say, ‘becoming mainstream’?
Einstein: I can give you an example of what’s holding us up. When Henri Poincaré, who was one of the pioneering minds on ‘relativity’ published the statement in ‘Science and Hypothesis’ that ‘It is non-sense to say that the earth rotates’, people were confused and very few ‘understood’. He had to follow up and give a more elaborated explanation in a later book, ‘The Value of Science’. The problem is that while the ‘word’ ‘earth’ persists, the earth is continually in flux as it always has been. And it is included in the continuing flux of the resonant-energy-charged space of the solar system and universe. Only by notionally removing all of the mutually influencing relationships between the earth and the dynamic space it is included in, could we attribute the earth’s rotation to ‘the earth’. To claim that ‘the earth rotates’ we imply at the same time that space is absolute, infinite and empty, the ‘reference frame’ which the earth ‘is rotating in’. This is ‘idealisation’ that does not ‘fit’ with the notion of matter-energy equivalence, where the earth-space relationship would be similar to the convection-cell – flow relationship. But the ‘mental adjustment’ that is needed here, to acknowledge that the statement ‘the earth rotates’ is nonsense, … does not stop there, it applies to all things, including human beings. The relationship between space and matter, is reciprocal or ‘conjugate’ as Max Erst described it. Common statements which connote ‘local sourcing’ of behaviour of material things are thus invalidated. Just as it will be with difficulty that we will get people to stop saying ‘the earth rotates’, to it is with our everyday language where we speak about things or people as if they had ‘their own locally-sourced’ behaviour.
Schroedinger: What Albert says is correct. The still-emerging earth is the child of the resonant-energy-charged space (wave-space) that it is included in. These spatial relationships that we ‘drop out’ when we say ‘the earth rotates’ associate with the parenting field which is constantly at work ‘raising’ its child, the earth. This parenting field is nonlocal (everywhere at the same time as the gravity field is), invisible, non-material. This is a major shift in viewing how the world works.
Chief Dan George: If I am understanding you both correctly, you are saying that local visible material behaviours such as ‘the earth rotates’ are not ‘real’ but are instead, as you say Erwin ‘schaumkommen’ or ‘appearances’ and the real or primary source of such dynamics is a nonlocal, invisible, non-material wave field, the genius or spirit of nature?
Einstein, Schroedinger (together): Yes, that’s correct!
Chief Dan George: How does this tie back to your disappointment, Erwin, with the probability-based interpretation of quantum theory?
Schroedinger: In a scientific-thinking culture, after one comes up with a theory, we use it to correct our experience. When our experiencing of what is actually unfolding departs from our theoretically-given expectation, we refer to the departure as a ‘random event’. This is the conceptual foundation of ‘probability’. If an explorer is descending a river hoping to reach the distant ocean, and, coming to a fork in the river, decides to take the branch to the right, but at that moment his paddle breaks and before he can free up his spare paddle, he is swept down the left fork. Farther down, in the community where the river meets the ocean, he takes a wife and they raise a family. Later, he meets a beautiful native princess who lives in a village on the branch not taken. He then claims that his life’s trajectory was radically altered by ‘random chance’, the breaking of his paddle at an inopportune time. The point is that he doesn’t ‘really’ have his own ‘life trajectory’ any more than a sailboat in a raging ocean has its own ‘trajectory’. The dynamic of the inhabitant is, in reality, orchestrated by the dynamics of the habitat, the inhabitant is NOT IN CONTROL of his own movement. His movement is not ‘locally-sourced’ from within him (only his intention or theoretical expectation is locally-sourced and that is purely ‘theory’ or ‘idealisation’ that should not be confused for reality). He is like the sailboat that derives its form, its power and its steerage from the dynamic space it is included in, rather than the powerboat that is designed to have its own locally-originating (internal process-driven and internal knowledge and purpose-directed) behaviour. The powerboat (or powerboat-person) claims to have ‘his own trajectory’ but when it is pushed off course by a rogue wave, this is referred to as a ‘random event’, and then we say ‘what are the probabilities of this happening?’. Random events are nothing other than departures from our expectations or ‘theories’.
Chief Dan George: Now you are talking like the redman! When the white man came, we were amazed by his egoism and his absurd beliefs in powers that he attributed to himself. By observing the growth of plants, the regions and soils they flourished in, the relation of their growth phases to phases of the season, his behaviour was orchestrated by these habitat-dynamics in a manner that might be called ‘man’s farming behaviour’. He pulled particular plants and seeds out from their natural web of relations and replanted them in straight linear rows within a imaginary line-bounded rectangular area he called ‘his farm’. He then claimed that HE was producing foodcrops, never mind the millions of years that Nature had invested in developing the plants and the soil prior to man’s arrival. In the year that a thunderstorm came and destroyed his crops, he called this ‘a random act’ or ‘an act of God’ simply because it was a departure from HIS ‘locally-sourced expectations’. So, I understand this notion that ‘scientific-thinking man uses his theory to correct his experience’, and I understand, as well, your objections to ‘random chance’ and ‘probabilities’ since they are nothing more than a mathematical scheme for dealing with ‘departures from theory’. Like the explorer in your story, the breaking of the paddle only becomes a ‘random event’ that alters the unfolding trajectory of the man’s life, if one believes that individuals really have their own ‘trajectories’ or ‘orbits’.
Schroedinger: As I said in “What is Life?”, egoism is for those who live in a world of their own, “egoism in any kind of community becomes a destructive vice. An animal that embarks on forming communities without greatly restricting egoism will perish.” The community nests within the dynamic space of nature (nature’s all-one community) and we, as individuals, nest within the dynamic space of community. Like the sailboat in the stormy ocean, our inhabitant-dynamic is orchestrated by the habitat-dynamic. Certainly the wiggly trajectory showing on the sailboat’s GPS system (which is relative to an absolute fixed reference space frame) gives a simple rendering of the movement of the sailboat, but the trajectory is not determined by the sailboat. Like the storm cell that inhabits the turbulent flow of the atmosphere, the inhabitant-dynamic is the result of the turbulent habitat-dynamic, NOT the cause of it. There is no such thing as locally-sourced behaviour. It is illusion.
Chief Dan George: In what we might call ‘aboriginal physics’ we have devised a ‘humility quiz’ which is there to remind us of how our ego inverts, in our minds, the natural order of things. Instead of the farmer letting himself stay stuck in his belief that his farming behaviour originates locally within him and is driven by his internal processes, his knowledge, and his intention/purpose, inducing him to claim that it is ‘him’ that is causing the production of foodcrops, the quiz is for him to ‘re-ground himself’ in the reality that what he does is orchestrated by the dynamics of space he is situationally included in, that he is a sailboater who draws his form, power-drive and steerage from nature rather than a powerboater with his own onboard power and steerage who determines his own trajectory and considers departures from it to be ‘noise’ associated with ‘random chance’.
Einstein: Those of us who pursued deeper and deeper inquiry into the nature of things by way of ‘physics’, beyond Newton’s world where space was considered nothing other than absolute infinite void populated by local, absolutely existing particles and material structures that formed from the time-based material actions/interactions; … we all ‘hit the wall’ with respect to having to change our world view radically, which in turn radically impacted our view of ourselves. Prior to that, our world view had been based on ‘common sense’, and as I said some time ago; “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” In other words, our world view starts off in early adulthood as acculturated prejudices. This ‘common sense’ that comes bundled in with a Western acculturation is still alive and doing well. It took more than a century in the Western world for the Copernican heliocentric world view to subsume the Ptolemaian geocentric world view, and it may take more time than that for the world view of ‘the new physics’, wherein ‘local visible material dynamics’ are exposed as illusion and subsumed by ‘nonlocal invisible non-material dynamics’.
Schroedinger: As Albert said; “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” and I would agree if we prefixed the word ‘Material’ to his assertion. And I do not mean to claim that wavefields are the ultimate reality, merely that they are ‘more real’ that our notions of ‘local material organisms’, notionally equipped with their own locally originating (internal-process driven, internal knowledge and purpose-directed) behaviours. If we are able to assimilate this revised view, then, as I have said elsewhere; “you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon mother earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you.”
Chief Dan George: Well, we seem to have come to a common place in our understanding. That is, we are agreed that locally-sourced material dynamics is illusion, that the primary source of dynamic behaviour is nonlocal, invisible and non-material. Further, we agree that ‘egoism’ attaches to the notion that human behaviour is locally-forced by ‘ourselves’ so that for the Western culture to radically shift in the direction implied by ‘the new physics’, ‘humility’ will be a necessary catalyst, the cultivating of which is not part of ‘common sense’ understanding in the prevailing Western culture. In any case, before you leave I would like to take you over, in my war canoe, to a nearby island for an experience that may be of interest to you.
[[In the course of paddling out to the island, the canoe is nearly capsized by a friendly Orca rising up beneath it. Chief Dan muses; “Should we consider this experience as a ‘departure’ from our expectations or theoretical predictions, as something that has ‘interfered’ with our lives, since it is ‘spatially-sourced’ rather than ‘locally-sourced’? We certainly ‘acted quickly’ to restore balance, … or is that ‘reacted quickly’? Is our behaviour driven by our visible local dynamics or is our behaviour orchestrated by unexpected invisible (beneath the surface) nonlocal dynamics? Perhaps the ‘noise’ in our lives should be redefined in the un-inverted terms of departures from our embrace of natural experience due to our expectations or ‘theories’]]
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In the letters they exchanged after their meeting, the trio of Chief Dan George, Erwin Schroedinger and Albert Einstein reflected on their canoe crossing and the uniqueness of this experience. Schroedinger cited Heraclitus; “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and he’s not the same man.” They agreed that ‘probability’ is based on ‘relative frequency of occurrence’ which is in turn based on the notion of ‘repetition’. But, since ‘repetition’ is not ‘real’ but ‘idealization’, ‘probability’ is founded on idealization; i.e. it is not founded on ‘reality’, since the reality is that repetition is impossible. Similarly, they noted that the notion of a ‘random event’ or ‘improbable occurrence’ derives its meaning relative to an ‘expected value’ which is once more based on ‘repetition’, the ‘expected value’ being the ‘averaged result’ where the same experiment was performed a large number of times.
They agreed that ‘repeating the SAME experiment’ was impossible since nature is a ceaselessly innovating unfolding continuum, characterized by fields, such as gravity, which are ‘everywhere at the same time’. Nevertheless, they concluded, we do intellectually come up with an ‘expected value’ when we contemplate an ‘experiment’ such as a canoe crossing from one body of land to another. When our ‘expected value’ is ‘not realized’ as was the case when the Orca tipped the canoe, there is the sense of ‘departure from the expected value’ even though the ‘expected value’ is purely ‘idealization’ or ‘theory’ based on the impossible notion of ‘repetition’. Thus it turns out that we tend to give ‘grounding precedence’ to ‘theory’ and in an inverted kind of thinking, we regard ‘real life experience’ as ‘departure from our expectation’, or ‘noise’ or ‘randomness’ (improbable occurrence).
They concluded that the origin of this unnatural inversion in understanding derives from the notion of the ‘repetition of experience’ which is a contradiction or oxymoron since ‘experience’ cannot be repeated. What the ‘idea’ of repetition does is to take a multiplicity of different unfoldings, each with their own conjugate habitat-inhabitant relation, and to ‘composite them’ in such a way as to superimpose and add together (constructive interference) the inhabitant-dynamics (the ‘signal’), thereby attenuating (by destructive interference) the habitat-dynamic (the ‘noise’). The uniqueness of our inhabitant-experience that derives from our situational inclusion in the dynamic-habitat is thus notionally reduced to a one-sided inhabitant-experience, a coin-toss that does not depend on the particulars of the dynamics of the space it is flipped in.
For example, storm-cells (e.g. hurricanes) in the atmosphere are the RESULT of (are ‘spatially-sourced by) the flow of the atmosphere. They are not a locally-sourced dynamic, but arise from non-homogeneous thermal fields that give rise to spatial pressure differences. Since the fluid air is confined laterally by the finite but unbounded spherical space that covers the sphere of the earth, and vertically by the ‘tamp’ of gravity, the natural movement towards resolving the pressure differentials leads to rising and descending flows. The hotter rising flows push apart as they attain lower pressure allowing them to expand at higher altitude, forming the ‘roofs’ of adjacent cells and the cooled descending flows expand as they heat up , forming the ‘floors’ of the adjacent cells. While these cells are formed by nonlocal, invisible, non-material spatial-forcing, we are tempted to home in on their ‘common visual imagery’ and thus to think of them as ‘local, visible, material dynamic phenomena’; i.e. as local systems with their own locally originating (internal-process driven) behaviour. This ‘portrayal’ implies that they, as local systems, are the source of their own ‘local agency’, implying that they move through space in time, rather than they are emergent spatial-relational features.
The trio recognized that it was this train of thinking that had Galileo come up with the idea of formulating laws for the motion of material objects as if they were in a vacuum, since the particulars of the dynamic space in which the ‘experiments’ were conducted ‘disturbed the results’; i.e. intuitively, the experimenter aimed to extract from the results of the experiments, laws governing ‘what local things do’ and reasoned that, when repeated, the results would replicate if one could ‘remove the influence’ of the continually changing dynamics of the space the experiments were being conducted in. If the removal of such influence could not practically be arranged (vacuums are hard, in fact, impossible, to come by), then one could nevertheless assume what the results would have been, had the experiments been ‘conducted in a void space’. Once equipped with the laws of motion in terms of ‘what things do’ if there were no spatial-forcing of their dynamics, predictions can be made irrespective of the actual spatial-forcing of their dynamics. After the reality of the hurricane being an emergent spatial-relational flow-feature is subsumed by the notion that it is a ‘local system’ with ‘its own locally-originating behaviour’ that gives rise to ‘its trajectory’, then peculiarities in its trajectory will be said to be caused by ‘random events’. The sourcing of change thus shifts from ‘spatial-sourcing’ to ‘local sourcing’ secondarily modified by ‘random events’. Similarly, the spatial sourcing of experience to the ‘in-the-now’ child-like experient in the canoe nudged by the Orca, shifts, by way of the spatial-influence-cancelling notion of expectation, to the notional local agency of the canoe and canoers driving their passage from mainland to island and secondarily modified by a ‘random event’.
They realized that as they stood on the mainland looking out towards the island and preparing for the canoe trip, they were ‘ahead of themselves’, so to speak, having already made the crossing, multiple times, in their mind and they had the ‘expected result’ in hand (an ‘uneventful passage to the island’ driven by their own ‘local agency’). For the child of no experience, the trip would be ‘in the now’ which is where one fully experiences one’s unique and particular situational inclusion in the dynamic space of nature. There are no ‘departures’ from expectations, only an experiencing of a dynamic spatial unfolding that is ‘just as it is’. Being bumped from below by an Orca would be just that, not some ‘departure’ from theory-based ‘expectation’ called ‘an uneventful passage to the island’.
Their correspondence delved rather deeply into the philosophical issues of probability and this ‘Editor’s Note’ provides only very abbreviated coverage of their discussion.
Probability is “a measure of how likely it is that some event will occur; a number expressing the ratio of favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible”. It is a scheme for developing ‘expectations’ rather than a scheme for ‘describing our experience’. We develop expectations by considering all the possible results of an experiment and the relative likelihood of particular results. Of course, if our experience of the world is sparse (e.g. if we have never before canoed where Orca’s roam) then our ‘expectations’ will be more error-prone and the potential for departures of experience from expectations will be larger. Again, the child of little experience, experiences ‘in the now’ without measuring the gap between expectations and the actual unfolding habitat-inhabitant dynamic. Statements of the sort “Did you see what happened to us in the canoe, with the Orca …” … “This never happened to me before”, … imply that we regard our lives as a sequence of experiences that play out ‘over time’. Such a view of life experience is not compatible with the view that we are all included in a common spatial-dynamic that unfolds in the continuing now.
The notion of ‘replication’ as in ‘scientific experiment’ notionally splits us out of the dynamic, continually transforming space of now and re-renders us, in our mind’s eye, as absolute, locally-existing systems whose life experience is understood in terms of a time sequence of encounters between ourselves as ‘local systems with our own local agency’ and ‘what we see in front of us’. Standing on the shore contemplating the canoe crossing to the island gives us the impression that life is out in front of us; i.e. that ‘life’ is the process of moving forward to engage with the future as it approaches and engulfs us to become the present. Our expectations form in terms of these linear-time-sequences; i.e. what are the probabilities that this will be a ‘safe passage’. We answer our own query; “most likely, it will be a safe and uneventful passage”.
Evidently, we regard the world of our (theoretical) expectations, the world of visual objects such as ourselves and the canoe, and their ‘apparently’ locally-sourced dynamics, as ‘primary’ or ‘signal’ and the unanticipated spatially-sourced bumps (departures from expectations) as ‘secondary’ or ‘noise’. We essentially invert the natural precedence of ‘reality’ and ‘idealisation’, thanks to our ability to notionally collect together ‘similar experience sequences’ and ‘stack them together’ so that the dynamics of visual objects add together and the spatial-relational particulars which are essential to ‘in-the-now’ experiencing, cancel out. This leaves the impression that the dynamics of the locally visible objects are ‘locally-sourced’, when the reality is that they are spatially-sourced.
This unnatural inverting of reality and idealisation is something that a child of little experience cannot do, and thus she retains, for the moment, her ‘in-the-now’ experiencing which is rich in spatial-situational uniqueness, as ‘reality’. Later on, her experience may seem to become ‘routine’ by way of the notion of ‘repetition’ and ‘expectation’; e.g. another breakfast to make, another laundry load to do, another marital embrace just like the last one, etc. etc. Her life may become a life of ‘no surprises’ because of the notion of ‘repetition’ and ‘expectation’. If there was some mix-up and she woke up in the middle of marital embrace with ‘the wrong husband’, her childlike in-the-now experiencing would likely be re-awakened. The unexpected would be restored to its natural ‘Heraclitean’ precedence as the primary reality. The unexpected is not ‘random or improbable occurrence’ but a reverting (un-inverting) to ‘in-the-now’ experiencing wherein one is acutely aware of being situationally included in an unfolding spatial dynamic.
No experience is ever truly ‘repeated’, but our desire to ‘predict results’ so that we ‘know what to expect’ has us bring together different experiences (or experiments) and stack them together to bring out ‘what is common in them’ (the visible local features) and cancel out ‘what is not common in them’ (the invisible spatial-circumstances). This can make our life experience a boring drudgery even though we live in a beautiful habitat whose beauty is ceaselessly innovatively unfolding. We can walk right through this beauty with our eyes focused on the approaching launderette, reflecting on the hundreds of times we have made this passage, thinking that ‘this is my life, my reality’. The lovely smelling roses around and underfoot become like Orcas that never break the surface of the grey seas. We can paddle our canoe with our eyes focused on the featureless water ahead and the approaching island shore, thinking that ‘this is my life, my reality’, insensitive and unattuned to the reefs we are gliding over cloaked in an amazing variety of colourful marine creatures.
Probability is “a measure of how likely it is that some local, visible, material event will occur; a number expressing the ratio of favorable cases to the whole number of cases possible”. It is a scheme for developing ‘expectations’ rather than a scheme for ‘describing experience’. The electron, in this probabilistic way of viewing, is the ultimate in bored housewives;
In their final exchange, all agreed with Einstein that; “as far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” and also with Schroedinger; “What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances).”
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