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Tuesday, January 10, 2012
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One or two random thoughts, for this evening:

There are many books and articles on the similarity between ancient eastern metaphysics and modern quantum physics (similar on the surface, anyway). This little cottage industry was started by Fritjof Capra’s “Tao of Physics” and Gary Zukav’s “Dancing Wu Li Masters”. There’s also “The Quantum and the Lotus”, “The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist’s Guide To Enlightenment”, and “The Universe In A Single Atom” by the Dalai Lama.

Much as I respect the great Lama, this stuff is pretty touchy-feely and New Age-y. It’s mostly written by western or westernized authors and represents neither real science nor real Buddhism, Taoism nor Hinduism. It’s all a Ken Wilbur-esque blur (of course, Wilbur also has a quantum-ish book, “Quantum Questions”).

I haven’t seen any attempts by such authors to find similar parallels between Judeo-Christian thought and quantum weirdness. That’s probably a bit too “western” for them, despite the Bible’s middle-eastern origins. But I can think of at least one passage from the New Testament that seems to affirm the wispy, contingent nature of reality way down at the sub-atomic scale. That would be from the Letter to the Hebrews, 11:1-3. As follows:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen . . . by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Hmm, things not seen, everything made up of invisible stuff . . . sounds like quarks and superstrings to me – except that the “faith” is now in the word of the physicists and mathematicians. They certainly do have faith in the Higgs Boson and the supersymmetrical partner particles, which they hope are out there!

One more thought, from an article in the December Scientific American regarding the parallels between ant warfare and human warfare. The interesting point is that ant colonies need to be or a certain size and scale before they engage in organized warfare, versus some occasional skirmishes and ad hoc defensive actions now and then. The author notes that humankind developed organized war about 10-12,000 years ago, just about when we started talking (in lieu of meaningful grunts), writing, forming governments and settling down on farms (i.e., end of the Paleolithic age — oh, and now there’s a diet for those of you who want to go cave-man retro). This article postulates that the ant colonies need to reach a certain scale of efficiency so as to support an excess population, ready to be sacrificed in battle.

Language and agriculture allowed humans to procreate until there were enough males available for well-planned, well-organized slaughter. In both the case of ants and humans, a social species somehow determined through unspoken group-logic that it is good to kill and plunder in an organized fashion. They didn’t change their collective minds even after the tribes over the mountain learned how to do the same. Once the ‘art of war’ was fashioned, it was too late to take it back; every tribe and nation needed (and still needs) to engage in it, because every other tribe and nation was doing it. I.e., a race to the bottom of the blood bucket, for both insects and humans.

Not exactly something to bolster one’s faith, the Letter of Hebrews notwithstanding. Only after about 10,000 years and 400 generations is our species starting to ponder (but not yet ready to act on the notion) that maybe war isn’t such a good idea after all.

PS, despite our mutual collective stupidity regarding war, there is a big difference between ants and people. For humankind, war is mostly a male idea, and males take most of the battlefield casualties (although women suffer rape, plunder and starvation when wars are fought). But for ants, warfare is generally a girl-thing. It’s the females who are out there in the dirt, dying for the greater glory of their colony.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:37 pm      

  1. Jim, I’ve given some tho’t myself lately to the whole “war” issue and it’s development in humans. It occurred to me that it seems every single group of humans that came up through evolution has one way or the other called itself *the* humans–that is, the only ones in the world, meaning the rest of the people living were less than human.

    Seems to me that just right there was the justification for war: If we are *the very best* humans, the only *real* ones, then everybody who is not “us” is less than human. So, therefore, we have a right to treat others any way we want, including killing them because they really don’t count as human. Thus, the justification for war.

    And on a tangential note: Nowadays there seems to be a movement (well maybe only in certain circles) to “humanize” animals and thus treat animals like humans, sometimes to the point where anaimals are more important than humans. Nothing annoys me more than to take my dog to the vet and be called the dog’s “mama”. I always think: NO! I am not this dog’s mother. I *am* the one the dog lives with, who cares a lot for the dog, the provider for the dog.

    I tend to think that animals should be allowed to be animals. Specifically, let the dog be a dog and do his dog “things”, not human things. OK, this is far afield from your comments. But I have noticed how humans tend to let things get away from their place in nature.

    As to the whole metaphysics/quantum physics point you made: I’ve said before (and I guess I’ll say again) that what catches my eye in the whole quantum physics searching that goes on is that physicists seem to “decide” (or so it seems to me it’s a decision of sorts) that there *must* be this or that somewhere in the universe–and always smaller and smaller, which I guess is the nature of quantum physics. They then go looking for precisely that thing. Some time later (sooner or later) they find it. I tend to think that the search itself brings into existence what the physicists are looking for. Thus, humans are creating the universe. Or so it seems to me; and so far, I find nothing to disprove my tho’t, only more to prove it. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — January 11, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

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