Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Does quantum physics confirm esoteric Hindusim?

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Jay Lakhani, head of the Hindu Council in the UK thinks it does, and says so in the new issue of New Humanist. Has he got his science right? Is he right that Hinduism had a sounder intimation about the real state of the world than materialism? Should questions always come in threes?
Answers below please.

Update - in our July issue, we asked physicist Mano Singham to respond. He says Lakhani gets the physics wrong.


decitrig said...

Seems pretty shallow - I counted two sentences that described the specifics of hindu metaphysics. The only concepts mentioned were Brahman, Asti and Bhati, none of which were explained beyond a simple translation. The author said these are "so incredibly close to what quantum and consciousness are revealing," but doesn't explain how they're close; this weakens the argument immensely.

I agree that quantum physics requires a fundamental shift in our deep understanding of the world - and it has. Clearly modern science has embraced the mysteries of quantum physics, otherwise projects like the LHC wouldn't exist. However, the reality of quantum physics has always underlay the material world, and the explicit discovery of it doesn't change a thing in everyday life. Our experience of the world is not quantum, so the search for an experiential intuition of quantum mechanics is an answer in search of a question.

Quantum physics holds answers for how to build a transistor or measuring spectra, but not for how to live with other human beings, or how to find ourselves in the world around us.

Christopher Gray said...

It's just a 'cognitive pun' as far as I can see.

A friend of mine, who is not scientifically trained, once said to me "You know, I've just been reading about Schrödinger's Cat, and it really resonates with everyday life: when you try to measure something in the quantum world, you change it, and it's just the same with any situation: just being there can change the situation because you always get involved in one way or another. If you bet on a horse then you change the odds slightly. If you go to a party, people talk to you who otherwise would not..."

My friend hadn't distinguished between metaphorical and literal meaning, and this leaves a lot of waffling and hand-waving room for somewhat New Agey articles like this one.

decitrig said...

@Christopher Gray

Also, I think what a lot of people miss when talking about the Cat is that it was originally intended to demonstrate the absurdity of quantum superposition, not explain it.

Eiskrystal said...

Materialism doesn't explain everything therefore Brahman?

So a tortured metaphor happens to vaguely fit when backfitted onto science. Woopty doo.I have 100 examples of how the Bible was before its time on science, therefore it's the one true religion. One Hundred!!!!

I like how by the end of the piece hinduism has explained everything, even stuff that doesn't ACTUALLY need an explanation.

Grokes said...

You know to disregard someone when they dishonestly misrepresent differing views:

Take one classic example from materialist philosopher Daniel Dennett, who argues that “conscious human minds are more-or-less serial virtual machines implemented inefficiently on the parallel hardware that evolution has provided for us.” This computer lingo is supposed to lull us into thinking that he has explained consciousness away.

Actually Dennet went to great lengths in Consciousness Explained to spell out in reasonably simple language what he meant. One can disagree with the analysis, but this is just lazy. And if the Lakhani had read the book, he wouldn't be wibbling about a slice of the brain (or a region in the brain) that generates consciousness.

As for the rest, plain old fashioned god of the gaps: Science can not explain [insert phenomena here] therefore we can make stuff up.

jay said...

(1) The thrust of the article was to challenge the paradigm of matter and not dish out detailed Hindu philosophy.

(2) What the article tried to show is that the gaps in the 'God of the Gaps' is far wider than expected and the brickwork of material science is struggling in three key areas.

(3) The reaction to the article is as expected: When a paradigm is challenged the reactions follow a set pattern: First ignore or redicule the challenge, second comes serious challenge from the mainstream and finally if the paradigm begins to crack up then comes acceptance of a new paradigm.


Eiskrystal said...

I can't help noticing that said "new paradigm" is already 3000 years old.

I am quite happy to lose the concept of matter to some new and exciting paradigm, but frankly the addition of religion adds nothing and shoehorns the new paradigm into an already outdated mould.

Edmund Kyberd said...

A trully brillian piece of self-delusion, with an adherence to a theological paradigm as strongly as he accuses conventional physicists of being attatched to materialisim. His writing also displays some fairly interesting misconceptions about what quantum physics actually explains.

Darrick Lim said...

I was actually moved to write a 1500 word rebuttal of Lakhani's esoteric woo-woo on my blog. Sorry if this comes across as crass self-promotion, but I'm genuinely interested in Jay's feedback and yours.

Please visit www.the-attempts.blogspot.com for a read. Thank you muchly!

Anonymous said...

if you all people are not convinced with the views of mr.lakhani please see the comments of neil bohr,heisenberg and schrodinger on esoteric hinduism.

Paul Sims said...

In our July issue, we have a response from physicist Mano Singham, in which he argues that Jay Lakhani gets the physics wrong. You can read it online here: http://newhumanist.org.uk/2336/material-errors