Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

First nothingness was not, then came the Big Bang and the Gods came later

June 12, 2017

The Rig Veda was probably written between 1500 and 1200 BC and consists of 10 mandalas (books). The first and tenth books were probably written last. The 129th verse of the tenth mandala contains what is called The Hymn of Creation. Nasadiya sukta

It begins:

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

It is not difficult to equate this “then” to “before” the Big Bang and the “it” to all the compressed matter which participated in the Big Bang. (Accepting, of course, that “before” is meaningless when time does not flow).

Then there was neither death nor immortality
Nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.

At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.

arose at last, born of the power of heat” sounds very like a modern description of the Big BangEven though the Rig Veda’s main 8 mandalas are in praise of various deities, the first and tenth books take a much more agnostic position – perhaps written to bring some balance. The plethora of gods are effectively made subservient to an unknowable, unfathomable creation event. “An atheist interpretation sees the Creation Hymn as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism”.

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came later, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?”

First even nothingness was not and existence was not. Then came the creation of the Universe whether by Big Bang or otherwise. And the Gods came later (made by man in the image of man).


The Big Bang singularity is indistinguishable from an Act of Creation

June 11, 2017

Most modern physicists and cosmologists who believe (note – believe) in the Big Bang theory of the Universe believe implicitly in an Act of Creation (the Big Bang Singularity) but then usually ignore the question of how and why the singularity occurred. They focus on the Act of Creation and after but do not address the cause of the singularity or a Creator. Religions of all kinds have their own Creation myths but focus on the presumed Creator much more than on the Act(s) of Creation.

(My own belief is that all religions live in the space of ignorance and physics – like all religions – is ultimately dependent upon Magic).

Stephen Hawking describes the Big Bang Singularity thus:

The situation was different, however, when it was realised that the universe is not static, but expanding. Galaxies are moving steadily apart from each other. This means that they were closer together in the past. One can plot the separation of two galaxies, as a function of time. If there were no acceleration due to gravity, the graph would be a straight line. It would go down to zero separation, about twenty billion years ago. One would expect gravity, to cause the galaxies to accelerate towards each other. This will mean that the graph of the separation of two galaxies will bend downwards, below the straight line. So the time of zero separation, would have been less than twenty billion years ago. 

At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang. The universe will evolve from the Big Bang, completely independently of what it was like before. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang, as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang. 

Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency.

He goes on, however, to make an unsupportable conclusion.

There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system can not be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside. 

Genesis requires time to begin at 4004 BC and the Big Bang is no different in concept. It too defines the start of time and takes us back to 13.8 (give or take a few) billion years ago. Time is not defined before the Act of Creation – whether by the Big Bang or by the hand of God.

(Note that if the flow of time has a beginning then the concept of a before or an after has no meaning before the beginning of time.  The magical speed of an inconstant time).

Hawking concludes:

The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, if the universe satisfied the no boundary condition. This says that in the imaginary time direction, space-time is finite in extent, but doesn’t have any boundary or edge. The predictions of the no boundary proposal seem to agree with observation. The no boundary hypothesis also predicts that the universe will eventually collapse again. However, the contracting phase, will not have the opposite arrow of time, to the expanding phase. So we will keep on getting older, and we won’t return to our youth. Because time is not going to go backwards, I think I better stop now. 

It seems to me that he contradicts himself when he says “The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, …..” 

The Big Bang singularity where the laws of physics do not apply is just another Act of Creation. If the laws of physics do not apply at the singularity then, which laws or whose laws do? Or do the laws of physics change? Do they vary in different universes such as that which may have existed before the Big Bang?

Even a singularity must follow some laws. It is disingenuous of physicists and cosmologists to claim that the laws of physics break down at the Big Bang singularity and not address which or whose laws apply at the singularity. If, however, no laws apply at the singularity then the Singularity is Omnipotent (or Magic or God or whatever other label suits you).

I prefer to think it’s Magic.

The fundamentals of physics are just magic.


All objectivity is subjective

April 20, 2017

From a recent talk I gave:

When a tree falls in the forest, a pressure wave is borne by the air, but there is no sound if there is no ear to detect the vibration and no brain to perceive that vibration as sound. On the airless moon there is no medium to convey a pressure wave. “The Sound of Silence”. Silence is what you hear when a tree falls on the moon.

Our eyes do not see any object directly except by reflection. In a mirror, the eye sees a reflection of a reflection of light from an object where the light comes from someplace else. When you discover a car hurtling towards you, your eye only sees a reflection of light from the car approaching, but the light comes from elsewhere. It is fortunate that the light happens to travel faster than the car coming to mow you down. (I note, in passing, that it would have been a far more intelligent design if our eyes had their own inbuilt light sources – laser beams perhaps – but what we would see would still be reflections.)

Our reality is limited by our senses. We are blind to what our senses cannot detect. We cannot see the ultraviolet light all around and we can not detect infra-sounds surrounding us. There is infinitely more that we can not perceive or even detect. Even my thoughts are limited by my imagination. What I cannot imagine, I cannot think of. Without experience, I cannot understand what hunger means to a starving person. Information from the outside world is first filtered by what our senses can detect. Then, it is interpreted and perceived within the limits of our brains. I cannot convey the pressure wave my ears detect, but I can try to describe the sound I hear. But all that I can communicate is limited by my language. The structure and vocabulary of the languages I know cannot cope with all the nuances of emotion and sounds and sights and smells and tastes of what I perceive I experience. 

Where I hear cacophony my son hears music. What I perceive as the worst stench in the world can be perceived as the delicate fragrance of surstromming by a Norrlänning

There are no facts that are not perceptions and there are no truths that are not interpretations in a brain. To make a judgement is to be biased. Being unbiased is not always right. To discriminate is a consequence of thought. Discrimination is not always wrong. To be different is to be unequal. Inequality is not always undesirable. To reward is a consequence of deserving. Equality is not always wise. The question is whether one is just in ones actions. But what is just depends on where the observer is positioned.

My objectivity is not necessarily yours. I have no objection if others have different opinions to mine, even if theirs are invariably wrong. My point is that objectivity is inevitably, and always, subjective.


Globalisation has to shift from centralised control to smart, distributed control

January 23, 2017

I am expanding on an earlier post since I find that there is much loose thinking when it comes to what people perceive as the sins or benefits of globalisation. The globalisation pundits forget that without local there can be no global

Where “globalisation” should have been “think global, act local”, it has instead degenerated to become “decide globally, impose locally”.  It is part of the classic balance between centralised and distributed, between society and the individual. What should have been an increase in local decision-making in the light of being better informed about global consequences, has instead become decision-making at the global level with consequences being imposed on or coerced from the much smaller local entities. The “anti-globalisation wave” currently ongoing is the reaction from the “local” entities which feel imposed upon. It applies as much to individuals in America’s rust belts to the Indian engineers being laid off in a multi-national corporate because avoided costs (not actual costs) are lower in Europe. It applies to the UK view of the EU which fuelled Brexit as much as to the protests in the state of Tamil Nadu against the banning of Jallikattu. This degeneration applies to the UN, it applies to the EU or the WHO or the IMF or the WB. It applies to “global” or “multi-national” corporations, to central governments, to multi-lateral trade agreements and even to scientific endeavour.

There are many analogies and examples available for the balance to be struck in the centralised control of distributed intelligences. Central power generation has given way – somewhat – to smarter, more distributed power generation. Main frame computing has given way to distributed smart devices as the intelligence and capability of each device has increased. Central telephone exchanges have given way to mobile telephony also as the mobile devices have become smarter. In health care, central hospitals will give way to distributed clinics as the capability and intelligence (by automation and AI) of smaller clinics increases. In Sweden for example, health care is still being centralised to the detriment of the local and lags in this evolution towards smarter, more distributed systems. But the move – globally – towards smarter local clinics is inevitable.

In modern power generation systems, which is what I am most familiar with, we used to have centralised controls ruling over individual, “idiot” pieces of equipment. But nowadays we have intelligence at the point of each piece of equipment and a centralised control which only determines policy at the highest level. It is distributed control which has revolutionised not only the efficiency of generation but also the health and life of each piece of equipment, and above all, the performance of individual plants in an inter-connected grid.

From central to distributed

From central to distributed

“Centralised” – as in the diagram above, is imposition of central power on local entities(UN, EU, Central government …), “decentralised” gives groupings of multi-lateral arrangements (NAFTA, NATO, ASEAN …). “Distributed” is the obvious choice when having a multitude of smart entities and consists of developing and emphasising the natural (adjacent) bilaterals. Swarms of birds or shoals of fish are good examples of  decentralised swarms or shoals, where within each shoal a distributed but highly effective network applies, where each individual is only connected to, and responds to, its immediate (bilateral) neighbours.

The key for decentralisation is, of course, that sufficient intelligence resides at the local entities. Then the network becomes “smart”. This shift back towards smarter, more local decision-making is now overdue in international relations, in politics and in the corporate world. This is perhaps the main hope I have for the new Trump administration. With all his faults and all his bombast, if Trump helps reverse the current unsustainable trend and gets it to move towards smarter, distributed local entities, then he will have exceeded my expectations. In all international organisations (UN, EU etc), agreements and trade deals there is far too much decision-making at the global level. The local entities (say in African countries or Indian States or insular communities in Europe) are not necessarily smart enough yet, but that is no excuse to continue with the imposition of “global” decisions made very far away.

A smart world is not one with a global government as many Marxists and socialists dream of, imposing the lowest common standards on everyone and every thing. It is one where the individuals, the local factory or the local government, is smart enough and intelligent enough to make its own decisions for its own position within the global world it exists in. That would give the freedom and flexibility – which I judge absolutely necessary for the future of humans – for the local entity to fit into the global society it lives in as it thinks fit and is capable of.

Globalisation has to shift from centralised control to smart, distributed control. That will give “smart” globalisation.


Primordial belief

January 13, 2017

Take all our conscious thoughts about ourselves and the world around us to be either in the realm of knowledge or of ignorance. Take also that what lies in the space of knowledge is true. Then what lies in the space of ignorance may be true or false or both or neither. It is only within the space of ignorance that a “belief” can exist where that “belief” is then a possible truth. Take also that “science” is the process by which some of the “beliefs” within the space of ignorance are shown to be truths and thereby come into the space of knowledge. Knowledge is transferable between humans only if the recipient “believes” that the person transmitting the knowledge is transmitting the truth.

Much of what I take to be “knowledge” is not actually known to me but which I take to be known to others and part of the body of “human knowledge”.  I take the earth to be an oblate spheroid, not because I have personally observed that, but because I “believe” the many humans who have made the observation and brought that “true” statement into the body of human knowledge.

Most of what we therefore consider to be “our” knowledge is actually somebody else’s knowledge and not “known” to ourselves. However our belief in these persons leads to us claiming that knowledge as our own as being part of the body of knowledge available to humanity. The longer some statement has been within the body of knowledge, the stronger is our belief in that statement. Most of our actions are based then, not on our own personal knowledge, but on the belief that whatever lies within the body of knowledge of humanity is true.

But it strikes me that there is an assumption, a belief, which underlies every thought, every perception. This “primordial belief” is in fact implicit in every living thing. In fact it is so intrinsically intertwined with life that it may well be a part of the definition of what life is. This “primordial belief” is that the flow of time is unhindered and that a future exists. I breathe because there is future to breathe for. I cannot know when I take a breath that there will not be another one. Every living thing – a cell, a microbe, a virus, a tree or a human –  does what it does because there is a future (explicitly or implicitly) it believes it can live in. Even the very last breath I take will be taken in the belief that there will be another one to come. A belief in my future is existential.

A belief in a future is inherent in life. There can be a future without life (and there probably will be), but there is no form of life which does not have an implicit belief in its own future.

So every conscious mind (and that includes atheists, agnostics, religious fanatics, scientists and even economists) has this primordial, fundamental belief that a future exists. That, that future exists, can not be within the space of knowledge. All religions exist in the space of ignorance. But long before any of the “beliefs” they adopt comes the primordial belief that every living thing has  – that it has a future.


Paradoxes for our times / 6

November 18, 2016



The sum of all wisdom by the mathematics of philosophy

November 4, 2016

The sum of all wisdom is the summation across the population, of the integrals over time of the second values derivative of knowledge.


Not the philosophy of mathematics but the mathematics of philosophy!


Paradoxes for our times / 4

October 22, 2016



Paradoxes for our times/ 3

October 18, 2016



Paradoxes for our times / 2

October 15, 2016



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