Monday, June 10, 2019

Science and the Ultimate Mystery

"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
- Max Planck, Quantum Physicist

Planck says that being part of the mystery makes the mystery something that science can't solve.  I see a relationship between this idea and something Kurt Goedel supposedly proved.  I read Goedel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, in which he explained Goedel's proof.  I read the book twice, but it's still faith that backs my working assumption that he's right.  I maintain that faith because I am unable to see any flaws in the argument that Hofstadter explained, or in Goedel's thinking about that argument.  Goedel did not make any claim about self-reference being the cause of what he proved.  So what was this thing that he proved?

Mathematics is a system of understanding idealized definitions, specifically about numbers and logic.  There are interesting questions in math, like "Can you prove that there are an infinite number of primes?" and "Can you make a circle and a square that have equal areas using a compass and a straight edge?" and "If you always cut even numbers in half and add one to three times the odd ones, do you always get to one no matter where you start?".  What Goedel proved is that cannot be a system of mathematics that can take all such questions and process them into the correct answers without ever contradicting itself.  The lack of contradiction is called "consistency," and the ability to answer all the questions is called "completeness."  Goedel proved that there cannot be a system that is both consistent and complete.  His proof boils down to the fact that you can, in some way, provide the system with the question, "Is the answer to this question 'No'?"

Planck's statement seems to be an echo of Goedel's proof, but he is claiming that it is the self-reference ("we are part of the mystery" and "this question") which prevents the system from working.  I have a different view, although it may boil down to the same thing.  My view is that proof is subjective, so whatever mystery I solve is solved for me, and the fact that I'm the one experiencing the mystery might be essential to the proof.  "The Ultimate Mystery," for me, definitely has my own experience as an essential element. Since no one else can experience my experience, my proof, like Dr. Ellie Arroway's in Contact, will be unavailable to everyone else.  Of course, you could come up with a proof for yourself which would be unavailable to me, and then we could agree.  The fact that your proof uses your experience and mine uses my own means it isn't science.  Science has to be objective, or else it isn't considered science.

While science can't solve "the ultimate mystery," we can each do some soul-searching and possibly solve our own "ultimate mystery."  Some people pretend there is no value in that kind of solution.  They rely too heavily on science.  In my view, they deny their own divinity (and that of anyone else).  They require scientific, objective proof of something before they are willing to take a risk in trying it (or allowing others to try it). David Gorski is a good example, at least from back in 2013. Securing objective proof that there's a very low chance of it causing harm is a good idea, but proof of efficacy before trying it is just foolish.

Research from 2015 indicates that paying more for something can improve the beneficial effects that it has for you.  It may also be required that you believe that what you're purchasing for more is different from what you could purchase for less, but I didn't look for a study on that.  That we value free things less than we value things we pay for is common and widespread knowledge.  If you don't want to be exploited, there are two essential things you have to do.  First, you have to know yourself.  Second, you have to pay attention.

If the fact is that you will derive more benefit from a particular thing because of some belief you hold about it, then the extra power is in your belief, not in the thing.  To understand this about yourself can be difficult, but E. Arthur Winkler wrote a book called "The Power of Suggestion with Hypnosis" which helped me a lot.  I wanted to provide you with a link to his book, but I found only ONE available on the Internet.  I think I gave the copy that was given to me to a friend of mine.

In any case, we already have the solution to the ultimate mystery.  It's forty-two.

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