Friday, June 25, 2010

(Sigh) That's not what is in the body of knowledge of quantum physics...

James Ure talks a bit about quantum physics and Buddhism.  I'd opined on this issue before.  To summarize: I do wish people had a better understanding of what science is. But here's a nice starting point:

Science only talks about what science talks about.

It doesn't go further. So when James Ure writes...

Work within quantum physics has shown what Buddhists have known for centuries upon centuries--That an observing mind is necessary before countless variables within the field of potentialities become tangible to the deluded mind, which does so by compartmentalizing them into a "form." which it promptly labels and categorizes. In other words, an orange is only an orange when our mind labels it as such but in reality it is nothing more than a collection of interactions between various particles and perceptions converging together in that moment of observation as an, "orange." When dissected through meditation it is found that the orange is made up of the sun, the minerals in the Earth, clouds that provide the water to grow, vitamins, chemicals interacting with the spectrum of light to give off what the limited human eye and mind perceive to be orange. And many innumerable things, which themselves can be broken down even further.


 I cringe slightly.  Here's why...

That an observing mind is necessary before countless variables within the field of potentialities become tangible to the deluded mind, which does so by compartmentalizing them into a "form" which it promptly labels and categorizes.

 This seems  to say - I'm not sure, but it seems to say that a detection or estimation device is necessary to detect or estimate, provided that this device is labeled as "mind," and the output of the detection/estimation device does so by putting the observables into equivalence classes (i.e., the space of observables is partitioned into disjoint subsets via some common property uniquely assigning each point in the space to a particular subset of the space in the equivalence class).

Now that language is slightly better suited for detectors (that which does hypothesis tests on a finite or countable space of alternatives) versus estimators (which do so on uncountably infinite spaces of alternatives).

But to be honest, in the language of detection and estimation theory, this is kinda sorta of a tautology.  Let's continue...


In other words, an orange is only an orange when our mind labels it as such but in reality it is nothing more than a collection of interactions between various particles and perceptions converging together in that moment of observation as an, "orange."
Our mind labels an orange an orange because our mind is in part a sub-optimally evolved meat-based classifier, and by convention, some people label some fruits oranges. But the "reality" of an orange is no more or less the fruit itself or no more or less the collection of particles in time and their relationships in time, space, and energy.

The orange is that collection of particles, and vice versa,  and in part because of this collection of particles and their relationships it is perceived as an orange.  The other parts of this situation have to do with the observer of the orange and the medium in which the orange is observed.

This has nothing at all to do with quantum physics, I'm afraid to say..

 When dissected through meditation it is found that...

 Better to say, "when dissected through observation and experiment  it is found that..." if you want to be spot on as to what any science teaches.  Observation and experiment are only meditation insofar as they are performed with a practice of mindfulness of that task as meditation; without some direction towards that end, it is just another task performed with a monkey-mind.  Yeah, at some level they are the same and different, etc., but to transcend monkey-mindedness, skill must be employed, and that's what separates mindful observation and experimentation that a Buddhist scientist or engineer might perform and the garden variety of observation and experimentation.  But perhaps I digress.

Buddhism can teach you many, many, many valuable things - things that will save your life for a more opportune time to die.

But to adhere to the idea that by studying and practicing Buddhism you'll "understand" quantum physics or detection and estimation theory is indicative to that Buddhism must be studied and practiced more.

Science and engineering do not do metaphysics. The question of whether or not a detector is "good," beyond whether it is optimal in the Neyman Pearson sense or some other criteria is only true insofar as the modeled space of observables is worth observing, and science and engineering are silent on these issues.  Yes, the emptiness of existence is completely consistent with science because science can't tell you the meta-criteria for which you should do things; that is in the province of philosophy from which science has not split off; i.e., metaphysics, ethics, morals, and so forth.  Buddhism as practice and philosophy actually straddles all of those realms and more, and completely permeates each of those realms.

But please dear readers, that is not even metaphorically like quantum physics, OK?  Pretty please?

2 comments:

Petteri Sulonen said...

Châpeau, as they say in France. I usually just shrug and move on when I run across this kind of woolliness, but it's good someone speaks up.

Mumon said...

Petteri-
Thanks.

Nice weather in your part of Europe, I'd assume. Dresden was wonderful yesterday.