Challenging the paradigm of materialism : HCUK Director Jay Lakhani @ TED Talk at Warwick University

Written by HCUK Webmaster on . Posted in LECTURES & SEMINARS

It’s ImmaterIal

Hindu Council director Jay lakhani is also a trained scientist. He believes science and religion meet at the level of the infinitely small one Of the endearing aspects of science is its preparedness to test all its hypotheses to destruction.

This sounds easy in theory, but is not so easy to put into practice. Scientists are human and prone to becoming emotionally attached to their paradigms. It has long seemed to me, as someone trained in quantum mechanics and relativity theory, that the paradigm which now needs to be challenged is that of materialism, that worldview that everything and everyone is essentially just a product of little bits of matter.

This form of materialism has, of course, its origin in mankind’s earliest attempts to come to terms with reality using the norm of substance and its attributes. Explaining the universe in terms of sticks and stones or smaller versions of sticks and stones (elementary particles with mass, charge, and spin etc) has been a tried and tested paradigm that has certainly produced durable results for over 2,000 years and has exerted its influence on all branches of scientific thinking. The proclamation of the Vienna Circle that “only those statements that can be supported by empirical evidence are meaningful”, perfectly captures this strictly materialistic locus of operation for scientific enquiry. Why should this worldview now be challenged? Since the middle of the 1920s physics has been struggling to gain a conceptual handle on the phenomenon called the quantum(the counter-intuitive science of the very small). This discovery is at the heart of the most physical of physical sciences. It is hugely successful in explaining the workings of almost everything from a computer chip to DNA. But although the mathematical formalism is successful, it fails to deliver any conceptual grasp on the actual phenomenon. The quantum simply cannot be captured within the locus of a aterialistic paradigm because the quantum that underpins matter is, crucially, non-material (see the table on the next page). these cOnceptual anomalies will not go away because physicists continue to dignify matter as primary and demote the quantum as a mere mathematical ploy invoked to handle the unexpected shenanigans of matter. This is not only like putting the cart before the horse but attempting to show how the cart is pulling the horse. Indeed, many physicists have been so fixated on matter that it has been almost impossible for them to think outside a materialistic box. Einstein exhibited his bias through the famous Solvay debates with Niels Bohr. Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Man exhibits his bias in the dismissive way he treats the quantum as a ploy rather than a serious conceptual challenge. Roger Penrose seeks to link quantum with consciousness in matter....

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