If Art Imitates Life, Physics Imitates Buddhism

Salon has a fascinating interview with Paul Davies, one of those super-smart quantum physics guys.  The discussion is of physics where it nibbles at the edge of faith, and where he believes scientists inject their own quasi-religious assumptions on the nature of the universe.

What I find astonishing is how much of what he talks about in terms of quantum-physical law and its potential meaning for the nature of time and space sounds remarkably similar to my (woefully inadequate) understanding of Buddhism and the Nil.  I am used to seeing the parallels between Buddhism and psychology, but this is something else entirely (em. mine):

We are meant to be here | Salon Books

Right. I’m not talking about time travel. This is just standard quantum physics. Standard quantum physics says that if you make an observation of something today — it might just be the position of an atom — then there’s an uncertainty about what that atom is going to do in the future. And there’s an uncertainty about what it’s going to do in the past. That uncertainty means there’s a type of linkage. Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance.”

But what’s so hard to fathom is that this act of observation, which has been observed at the subatomic level, would affect the way matter spread right after the big bang. That sounds awfully far-fetched.

Well, it’s only far-fetched if you want to think that every little observation that we perform today is somehow micromanaging the universe in the far past. What we’re saying is that as we go back into the past, there are many, many quantum histories that could have led up to this point. And the existence of observers today will select a subset of those histories which will inevitably, by definition, lead to the existence of life. Now, I don’t think anybody would really dispute that fact.

So not only are our actions informed by our experiences in the past, but our past – on a quantum level – is informed by our actions in the present.  By extension, our past, our future and even our present is an ever-changing corridor, filled with doors of which we can choose but one.

Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

4 replies on “If Art Imitates Life, Physics Imitates Buddhism”

Is that not the case with human beings at the present time? We each choose our path, every instant, and that in turn affects our interaction with the world, the future of which is itself altered to a degree. Interbeing. Most of these effects are lost in chaos (in the mathematical sense) but some, depending on the prominence of the actor, reverberate throughout history.

I don’t know if different action on the part of the Soviet Premier in December of 1962 — for example — would have changed the past, but it would most certainly have changed the future. His and Kennedy’s even-headedness and choices when the chips were down created our present.

I don’t believe the defining factor is the actor. I believe it is the collective unconsciousness, in which our majority assent to a proposed fact creates its reality. It is the law of averages which determines what we define as “red” or as “a bird,” without that, we are left with the Clear Blue.

Ref. my post above: it was a long time ago. I meant late October of 1962, not December.

Ref. collective unconsciousness: a complicated explanation (without logical or factual foundation) for a relatively uncomplicated thing.

Ref. collective unconsciousness: Well, golly! Aren’t we dismissive of someone else’s beliefs? Not terribly interesting, either. Re-read the passage above and you will find that what I describe is EXACTLY what Paul Davies describes. Moreover, that’s exactly what everything I’ve ever read describes our present Maya as: we acknowledge truth based on consent and forge our reality together.

Funny thing: all things deemed “logical and factual” are considered so based on that very same consent. In scientific terms, they are subject to peer review. Doesn’t that make them the very definition of Maya?

You seem to have spent an awful lot of time writing a webpage devoted to a concept that not only has, by your own admission, very little in the way of “logical or factual foundation,” but which actively promotes the idea that such things are illusory in the first place.

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