Sunday, July 6, 2008

Everlasting Frontier - 1

After you cut the emphasis on personal spirituality (whatever it means), Science and Religion are two different ways of looking at the world. There are opposing qualities built into each of these two world views, which can never be reconciled.

Science always puts great value on observation. It has an evershifting point of view which always incorporates the latest experimental data. Just to illustrate science's viewpoint on cosmology it has changed from flat earth to spherical earth with sun and moon orbiting it to a rotating earth orbiting around sun in the solar system amidst fixed stars to expanding universe resulting from Big Bang to (currently the best known estimate of) increasingly expanding universe. There is no guarantee that this position will not change. In science theories are just mathamatical models to assist prediction and understanding (maybe by compactifying knowledge). The status of experimental observation is supreme.

In contrast, Religion (or at least organized religions) has a fixed orthodoxy. It often makes very strong claims about origin of universe, life, consciousness, knowledge , morality and just about everything. Actually just about every claim of religion inevitably clashes with those of science. Very often in the past its claims have not been borne out by observations. A majority of us discards the religious claims even while carrying on with religion with undiminished conviction. Religion is a force to reckon with chiefly because its proponents hugely outnumber the science proponents. So much so that survey after survey reveals the large number of religious practitioners among the community of scientists. I like to think that often this support has political causes (and shades of cowardice), the thinking being that otherwise it may alienate scientists from public. But the tenacity of religious belief among scientists has always surprised me and I must accept that their faith is not a deceptive facade in majority of them. It really comes from some corner of heart only.

Given the huge chasm between them it seems clear to me that reconciliation is simply not possible. One has to give to the other. The formidable convincing power that science has is pitted against even more formidable emotional attatchment to religion. Some of the very intelligent people are busy furthering the aims of either of these two with all the effort that they are capable of. It is no secret on whose side I am.

It is interesting to note how the hottest frontier of this battlefield has changed with time. Let me concern only with the organized religions here. I mean all those religions going under the collective name of Christianity or Islam. The other main group of religions are Indic ones (meaning Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism etc). These ones are usually so amorphous as to cleverly dodge many skeptical enquiries. Any discussion/criticism of scientific position of these religions is easier and harder to do at the same time. I will discuss these religions later.

Since it made its debut during Ptolemic cosmology, Christianity has more or less plagiarized it as scriptural (how so unoriginal). At that time it must have sounded very high tech that God's book contains all the knowledge which is 'true'. Readers please note the political intentions and implications of this appropriation. The late comer Islam also did likewise. Too bad that cosmology was not much changed even then. During the late middle ages in europe there followed a turbulent and bloody war resulting from this orthodoxy with people who were intent on testing the claims themselves. We all know the burning of Copernicus and indictment of Gallileo. It seems clear that there must be many more who remained mute against this gangster like hold of theocracy. Islamic world was too steeped in Allah (or too scared to speak just like today) to question any dogma. We see that religion was cheifly fighting against the science of cosmology during those times. Since then the ground has shifted considerably. Now science holds unquestioned respect in this field. So much so that Pope (no less) thought it prudent to rescind the charges against Gallileo.

Since then a much more bloody battlefield has opened up after Darwin's theory of Natural Selection. This time other religions have also joined forces though not by any mutual collaboration. Islam and Hinduism are also now part of this war. I believe that this is probably the last frontier of this conflict. And no prizes for guessing who would eventually win.

We will talk about it in the next part.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Omnipresence / Eternalness Riddle - B :
Dimension of Space Time.

Note : This is a follow up to this post. Please don't bother about the precise meaning of mathematical terms I use. Trust me, they have the nicest intuitive meaning ! Just read on.

A one dimensional world cannot be observed 'simultaneously' while being 'inside' the world. Only a being of 'higher' dimensions can have such a global view. A two dimensional being can observe one dimensional world without being part of it, and can also 'intervene' in it without being restrained by the topology of it. Similarly to be able to intervene in our usual (3,1) dimensional space-time, a being must necessarily inhabit a world which embeds our world as a part of it. Such a world must be at least of dimension 5. Hence an omnipresent / eternal God must inhabit this 5-D world which straddles our world. So for such a God to exist, this Embedding postulate (i,e our world being embedded inside a higher dimensional space) must hold. Please note that truth of embedding postulate does not imply existence of God, but its falsity forbids it.

Suppose such a God exists, then we can contemplate of a God of even higher dimensions. So let us denote and grade such Gods as G(m,n), where m denotes the spatial dimension and n the temporal dimension of the world it inhabits. We also assume that m and n are the maximal dimensions that G(m,n) inhabits e.g, G(4,1) can possibly 'rule' our world since it has the ability to 'intervene' in our (3,1)-D world, but would be 'powerless' against G(5,1) or G(5,2) and so on. As of now we have scant evidence of any higher dimension inside which we are embedded. But to allow this postulate we have these possibilities -

  1. If our world is exactly minkowskian of dim (3, -1) - it means it has 3 spatial and one temporal dimension and is geometrically flat throughout - then there doesn't seem to be any way to detect its embedding inside a higher dimensional world. In this case the embedding postulate can be possibly verified only when divine intervention occurs and gives us proof of His existence, which hasn't happened indubitably so far. Thankfully for God, our world is known to be non-minkowskian. So the God hypothesis makes a dashing comeback !
  2. It makes much more sense to pose this 'embedding' riddle for a non-minkowskian space, which holds for our natural world. However, mathematically, it is possible to embed it in a huge number of ways in some higher dimension. Let us demand the embedding to be a smooth topological embedding (I mean that it is not an immersion, plz don't bother about these terms, if it doesn't make sense to you). Further we distinguish two embeddings only upto isometries of the ambient space, which is a very reasonable assumption (in future, we may possibly have to distinguish between orientation preserving and orientation reversing cases). We also demand that the ambient space be minkowskian. This is the nicest possible case.
    So to illustrate : since a Klein bottle can be embedded in 4D space, so if our universe were a Klein bottle (which is 2 dimensional), its ambient space would need minimum 4 dimensions to properly embed it. I highlight this example merely to point out that the ambient space need not be of just one dimension higher.

  3. The third case is when the ambient space is not minkowskian, but embedded in a higher dimensional space, which in turn is again embedded higher up, until we reach a minkowskian space. Let us assume that this embedding stops after a finite number of such embeddings.
  4. For the fourth case, we assume that embeddings never stops. By this we mean that never in the chain we get a minkowskian space. Please note from case 1 that a minkowskian space effectively neutralizes the embedding postulate and no need to further investigate. Getting a minkowskian space is tantamount to stopping of this chain.
  5. Fifth, we assume that the chain stops but the final space is still non-minkowskian. This final minkowskian space has a stand alone spooky existence not needing any ambient space to exist. I find this case the strangest.
Note : The reason I am discounting non trivial isometric immersions is that, then the topology of the space would not be the same as that of its ambient space (actually strictly finer), forbidding the God to intervene. I mean the intervention is also assumed to be topologically smooth.

We will continue ...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The riddle of Omnipresence / Eternalness - A

We would like to dissect the purported omnipresence and eternalness of God. Taken together it means that God is present at all places and at all times. How do we make sense of such a crazy idea ? How do we begin analyzing it ?

Let us ask some questions first. Can God view the future as well as past at the same time (I am not sure what it means) ? Maybe he can go to any moment of past or future at will ? If so can he visit his own beginning ? Suppose he does, then at that *moment* are there two copies of God ? How many copies is he allowed of himself ? Or maybe he is without any beginning. Even then suppose he visits any epoch twice, does that make two copies of him ? Maybe he can only *observe* any epoch, but not *enter* it bodily. If so, in what sense he is eternal ? Or maybe He is outside of time. Anyway, does He change with time ? If so how was a *young* God ? Maybe eternalness means unchanging. Then is he a fossilized being ? Maybe we should understand time's status in the Real System first.

What does going back in time means ? Let us say I was born 100 years back and living hale and hearty 50 years back. Now if my today's self visits the epoch 50 years back, am I there as two copies of myself ? Maybe the moment my current self enters that epoch, the earlier self vanishes. If so, then what happens if I want to leave that epoch after staying there 5 minutes ? Does the original self comes back to reoccupy that epoch ? Where it would come from ? Such a conundrum surely doesn't happen with space. If I revisit a point in space where I was 5 minutes back, that point doesn't get two copies of me at the same instant. Or rather my past self and current self are separated by 5 minutes in time even if they occupy the same point in space. We never observe anybody or anything occupying one instant of time at two different points of space. What about its dual : can somebody occupy one point of space at two different instants of time ? Surely it can. We have plenty of such experiences. We won't be surprised if a chimpanzee also understands this.

There appears a fundamental asymmetry in the nature of space and time. Unlike space, time is essentially unidirectional (at least as far as all our experience goes). Why this is so is the biggest of mysteries. To confound matters, many of our physical laws appear symmetric in time. Meaning they do not explicitly forbid backward time travel. As far as I know, only two laws are asymmetrical in time. They are the second law of thermodynamics and state vector collapse of a quantum state. The former is actually a statistical statement, which makes backward evolution ridiculously improbable. The latter imposes insurmountable barrier against backward evolution, as after a wave function has collapsed, it looses all information as to where it came from, hence cannot go back. This picture of real world (actually the real model) is certainly open to revision in future but as of now, there is no way it can be challenged. Some people do dispute this interpretation, but even the most serious dissenters would agree that quantum mechanics does impose a barrier against backward time evolution. And nobody can deny that there is no such restriction (either in the reality or in its model) for space.

What does this tell us about Omnipresence and Eternalness ? We will see ...