Book Commentary on PHYSICS IN MIND by Werner R. Loewenstein August 15, 2013Posted by rwf1954 in book review, books, consciousness, metaphysics, non-fiction books, physics, Physics in Mind, spirituality, Werner R Loewenstein.
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Physics in Mind is a cutting edge look at the relationship between physics and consciousness. Though author Warner Loewenstein admittedly does not reach ultimate answers, he takes us to frontiers laden with insight. For the issues I find myself immersed in—physics melding with metaphysics/more than one path to the Divine, to “God”—this is a fantastic book that I continue to study. There is no question that Loewenstein comes at this from the physics direction, not the metaphysics or consciousness direction. But he recognizes the edges he treads on: “Our discussion about time and its arrow included spans as long as all of cosmic evolution. Of arrows of such haul, we have but a smattering of tangible experience—the arrows in our everyday sensory world are but miniscule segments of them. If we may ever hope to bring those arrows within our grasp, we must go beyond our natural sensory horizon. Not long ago such transcending would have landed us in metaphysics. But nowadays this is not only workable but bright with scientific promise.”
Loewenstein takes us on a journey through the key concepts to master if we are to find a meeting ground for science and spirituality, for physics and metaphysics. Time is where he starts. He brings us the current understanding of time, going through “time’s arrow” with the Second Law of Thermodynamics approach, and with a cosmological approach, with time as the flow of linked events pointing forward from the “Big Bang.” But he does offer a famous Einstein quote: “To us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future has only the significance of a stubborn allusion.”
So we come to understand time as part of our perspective on the world, something we need to account for as we try to understand the world as it presents to us. But time may well be an illusion. I’ve written other essays and posts about the idea that really, everything exists always and is interconnected. Time is for us, a process we use to understand and experience our little piece of that huge time-space reality. But other consciousnesses may have different mechanisms for taking in that I’ve called the vast gleaming gem of existence, of overlapping energy fields that exist together/forever intertwined. Loewenstein’s discussion of time is consistent with these ideas.
Loewenstein goes from time arrows to information arrows. Here we go to the fundamental particle level. We look at how particles interact and exchange information through those interactions. It is those interactions that bring conscious beings—humans and other sentient beings—information about the world. Matter appears to be points of energy, little concentrations of energy fields. Matter materialized out of nearly pure energy at 10-25 seconds after the “Big Bang.” All of these overlapping energy fields make up existence. That matter, those energy fields that make up the conscious being, exchanges information with energy fields outside that conscious entity. Loewenstein brings us the process details of these interactions, right down to the tiniest levels known to science. He offers the theory that “the time structure in the molecular domain was the evolutionary niche for neuron development, including its dénouement, and that the very skewness of the structure spurred on that development.”
What we learn as Loewenstein guides us through this current knowledge is that 1) we sense a very small part of the existence around us and 2) that we are not designed to take in every detail of reality. Lowenstein diagrams the miniscule portion of the photon spectrum that we actually see. We further learn that even those narrow light-waves are edited and processed in our brains. We did not evolve to perceive every detail of reality. Evolution favored an emphasis on what we developing humans needed to survive and pass on our genetic material to our offspring. So we are intelligent, conscious beings who come into existence with daunting observational limitations.
Loewenstein takes the subject-matter much further, into quantum physics, into the micro-level of waves of probability collapsing from many possibilities into one. He does not offer definitive answers here—there may not be any. At one time, scientists believed that if they could learn everything, they should be able to predict everything. But the discovery and awareness of quantum physics has changed that. Lowenstein puts this well: “That is what puts these systems beyond the apprehension of mathematics; the non-linearities amplify the inherent uncertainties in the system at an exponential rate, always putting the system a step beyond the reach of mathematical prediction—or put in terms of information, the uncertainties in the system grow faster than the capacity of information processing.”
We may never understand it all. But if we are ever to get close, at our level of perception, this type of analysis will get us on the right track. I found this book challenging (as I am not trained in the cutting edge knowledge of molecular biology and particle physics), but mind-expanding and insight-generating.
What does this do for my physics/metaphysics, more than one path to God thinking? It confirms, from the scientific end, what a limited—almost inconceivably limited—slice of the all-consciousness we humans have access to. And that dramatically and powerfully demands that we maintain our search for more knowledge, from both scientific and spiritual angles, and that as we do so, we embrace the idea that there may be more than one path to get there. That means there may be more than one religious/metaphysical path, or that the path might arrive from a scientific direction! Minds need to be open; faiths need to be tolerant. And the more that tolerant, inquisitive minds pool their knowledge, the closer we will come to whatever ultimate understanding is available to creatures with our perceptive capabilities.
I explore issues mention in other blog posts on this subject:
I explore the relationship of these ideas to music: