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Metaphysics Built on Physics: Spirituality Supported by Science

People now generally believe that what science says is correct. This belief is based on the thought that the findings of science have resulted from objective observations and are experimentally verifiable and practically demonstrable. Many theologians and scholars, therefore, now try to find support for their religious concepts or doctrines in science, especially physics. So that people may believe in their religious concepts also. The present article discusses whether the religious or metaphysical theory of Monism is supported by the Quantum Theory.

It has become a common trend for scholars to find support for their metaphysical concepts in theories of physics. Many learned people try to present the authenticity of their spiritual beliefs by quoting parallels from findings of science, especially in the field of Physics. For this purpose, Quantum Theory is, perhaps, the one which is most often used. Quantum Physics is now like another Bhagwad Gita; metaphysical interpretations of Quantum physics vary widely as interpretations of the Gita vary. It is now well-known that verses of Shrimad Bhagwad Gita have been explained differently by various scholars of Monism and Dualism to support their own respective theological concepts of the nature of the ultimate Reality, or God and the cosmos. Similarly, various metaphysical constructions are now being built on the Quantum Theory.

It is for each one to judge for himself or herself whether a particular meaning being given to a finding of Quantum Physics is correct or not but one cannot help stating here that certain meanings being read in the findings of the Quantum Physics are prima facie incorrect, for these are opposed to the very basics of the Quantum Theory.

To explain this to a common reader, it would be useful to give a brief historical background of this theory and its origin.

Origin of the Quantum Theory

Max Planck was the physicist who brought forth the first crucial idea of the Quantum Theory in the year 1900. Planck at that time was struggling with the problem of black-body radiation. Before we proceed further, it would be better to know what is black-body radiation?

Let us suppose that there is placed a metal bar in a dark room which is light-tight. This metal bar is the black body' because in a dark room it cannot be seen. Now if this bar is heated, it becomes, first, dark red, then red, then orange, then yellow, and, finally, white as the temperature rises. Now, this glowing 'black body' radiates energy. This is called 'Black body radiation. This radiation results in the black-body radiation curve. The amount of radiant energy, given off by such heated bodies varies with wavelengths and temperatures. Many attempts had been made in the past to find a mathematical equation that gave the measurement of the emitted energy but these failed. Then Planck with an incredible leap of intuition, made what is now called 'Quantum Hypothesis'. He supposed that the material of the black body (i.e. any physical object) consisted of "vibrating oscillators (actually the vibrating atoms.) He hypothesized that energy was not emitted as an unbroken stream or as something continuous but as discontinuous bit or discrete portions which he called: 'quanta'. He specified the amount of discreteness by a number 'h', later called 'Planck's constant'. Planck, with the aid of his quantum hypothesis, deduced the experimentally verifiable blackbody radiation law. This Planck's constant, which has dominated the calculations of atomic physics for more than eight decades now is 0.66259 x 10.34.

The Prussian Academy, in October 1900, said: "The formula is given by Herr. M. Planck after our experiments had already been concluded... reproduces our observations within the limits of error".

The change in physics brought about by the Quantum Theory

The Quantum Theory marked the start of modern physics. It brought a great change in the physicist's concept of Matter. Previous to Planck's theory, most physicists conceived of the world of nature or Matter as a continuum. They thought of the forms of Matter blending into one another in a smooth, continuous way. Now the Quantum Theory said that the 'Continuous view of the world must be replaced by a 'discrete one. Let us explain this difference by giving an example.

If we look at a huge pile of wheat from a great distance, it appears to be a 'continuous' and smooth hill. It does not appear to be made up of 'discrete' grains of wheat. But when we come closer enough to the pile, we recognize that we were previously under an illusion or we had a mistaken view. The discrete grains of wheat can now clearly be seen. These discrete grains are the 'quanta' of the pile of wheat. Planck's work now broke with the idea of the continuum in nature.

Light also is 'Light Quanta'

The far-reaching implications of Planck's theory had not been apparent till 1905, when Einstein, who was then almost alone among the contemporary physicists, who appreciated its significance, carried the Quantum Theory into a new domain. Einstein postulated that not only black-body radiation but all forms of radiant energy-light, heat, X-ray, etc. actually travel through space in separate and discontinuous quanta. For example, the sensation of warmth we experience, when we are sitting near a fire, results from the bombardment of our body by innumerable quanta of radiant heat. Similarly, sensations of color-red, yellow, blue, etc. arise from the bombardment of our retinas by Light quanta which differ from each other because of their various, frequencies. He thus called light 'Light quanta' because, according to him, it was made of 'discrete particles'.

Evidently, the spiritual implication of this theory goes against Monism which says that God is one continuous and all-pervading and immanent principle.

The Photo-electric Effect

In the year 1905, Einstein applied Quantum Theory to what is known as Photo-electric Effect. Let us explain briefly what is Photo-electric Effect is.

When a beam of light strikes against a metal plate, the plate ejects a shower of electrons. If it is violet light that falls on the plate, electrons will be ejected at a certain velocity. If the beam is yellow or red, a light stream of electrons ejected from the plate will move at a lesser velocity. The intensity of the ejected radiation will be proportional to the number of electrons ejected but the velocity of the ejected electrons will depend on the color of the light. In other words, the vehemence of the electrons ejected or torn from the plate will depend on the wavelength of the radiation. Even if the light source is removed to a considerable distance and is dimmed to a faint glow, the velocity of the electrons that prop forth from the metal plate,i.e. the velocity of the ejected electrons, will remain undiminished because it depends upon the colour (i.e. the wavelength) of the light falling on the plate and not on the intensity. This phenomenon is known as the 'Photo-electric Effect'. Now let us explain how Einstein applied the quantum theory.

'Einstein theorized that these peculiar effects could be explained only by supposing that all light is composed of individual particles or grains of energy which he called 'photons'. He explained the photo-electric effect by the reasoning that the photons of violet, ultraviolet and other forms of high-frequency radiation have more energy than red and infra-red photons, and that the velocity with which each electron flies from the metal plate is proportional to the energy content of the photon that strikes it. Einstein expressed these principles in a series of equations which won him the Nobel Prize and influenced very profoundly later work in Quantum Physics and Spectroscopy. Television, for instance, is based on Einstein's Photo-electric law.

The fundamental conclusions of Quantum Theory and Photo-electric Law are against Monism

We have given the above information to say that Plank's quantum principle and Einsteins' Photo-electric Law are based on the basic assumption that Matter is not continuous but is discrete and that even Light which appears to be continuous is, in fact, made of particles, called photons.

Because of this, one is amazed when some scholars and even scientists-some of them physicists-try to find support for their Monistic view of God in the Quantum Theory. They say that Matter, Souls, and Brahm for God) are essentially not different; they are only the varying manifestations of the same principle or element, call it by any name. They overlook the fact that the Quantum Theory goes against their contention rather than support it.

In the first instance, they seem to forget, or they lay aside the truth, that all Matter or its various forms (energy included) is inconsistent; it does not have the attribute, called consciousness, which characterizes souls and God and makes it very different from them (Souls and God) Ontologically. They seem to have the wrong notion that Matter, which has subtle forms-as of light of various colors-takes at some stage, a form in which it is extremely subtle and is of the form of conscient and invisible lights. They entertain this notion without substantiating it by any evidence, proof, or explanation. It should be remembered that in actual practice, we do not see Matter manifesting itself into any conscient form. For instance, Light, which is a subtle form of Matter (or Energy) does not give even the slightest, the least, or the minimal indication of having consciousness. If we had noticed that Matter develops within itself the quality of consciousness as it becomes subtler and subtler, then we may have been justified to theorize that Matter and souls are derivatives of each other or that they are different manifestations of one same principle. But in reality, we do not notice any sign of consciousness at any stage or in any form of Matter.

Secondly, Quantum Physics tells us that all material forms are discrete; they are not continuous. Even light is made up of particles, called photons; All Matter is made up of atoms which, in turn, are made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons-discrete particles again. All forms of energy are made up of quantas' i.e. discrete particles; nothing is continuous. What appears to be whole is only an illusion because, in truth, it is made up of small particles or innumerable quanta. The Photo-electric Law and Quantum principle are in contradiction to the belief in Monism which says that all that is visible or invisible is one whole, continuous, non-discrete principle, called Brahm, God, or whatever. In other words, the Metaphysics of Monism cannot be built on physics, especially the Quantum Theory. Other observed quantum phenomena and also the Statistical Mechanics also go against Monism.

What is Statistical Mechanics?

The theory of Statistical Mechanics was invented by James Clerk Maxwell, the Austrian Physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, and the American physicist J.W. Gibbs. According to Statistical Mechanics, a gas (also air which is a mixture of gases) consists of molecules or atoms bouncing off each other in rapid random motion like a room filled with flying tennis balls. The tennis balls hit the walls and each other. The same happens in the case of the molecules or atoms of gases.

Now since atoms are so small that these flying particles cannot be seen, the basis of Statistical Mechanics could not directly be tested. Einstein thought over this problem. In those days, many physicists did not believe in the Atomic Theory, i.e. they did not think that Matter is made up of atoms. For example, Mach Herst did not believe in it, the Russian-born German famous physical chemist Friedrick Wilhelm Ostward did not believe in it and many others did not believe in it because there was no direct evidence for it. But now Einstein experimentally proved it.

There is, of course, no doubt that even previous to Einstein, the atomic hypothesis was used by various scientists and many considered it to be correct but it was not a universally accepted theory. In 1738, Daniel Bernouilli; a Swiss Mathematician had published a book, titled Hydrodynamics in which atomic hypothesis was used and Statistical Mechanics was employed in Physics for the first time to demonstrate the truth of Boyle's Law for gases which said that, the temperature remaining the same, the pressure on the sides of the container of a gas increases in proportion as the gas shrinks because the gas is composed of particles which put pressure on the container. In 1808, John Dalton, the great English Chemist, published. 'A New System of Chemical Philosophy' in which it was explained that each element consisted of characteristic atoms and these atoms were involved in all chemical reactions and recombinations. Later, in the nineteenth century, in the year 1811, Amedo Avagodro also enunciated a principle according to which, under standard conditions of temperature and pressure, all gases at a given volume contain the same number of molecules. Further, in 1865, J. Lookschmidt gave even the number of molecules in a given volume of gas at one atmosphere of pressure and zero degrees centigrade. He said that the gas molecules are about one fifty millionth of an inch in diameter. This formed the basis for calculating the 'molecular weight' of gases and the measurements have even shown that, under the same condition, there are about 4.5x1019 molecules in a cubic centimeter of gas. All these observations and measurements were there and yet some scientists did not believe in the atomic hypothesis. Einstein now gave an experimental substantiation of this hypothesis. In 1905, he published a paper on what is known as Brownian Motion. Let us explain briefly what is 'Brownian Motion' and what is its background history.

Brownian Motion also proves that Matter is made up of discrete particles

Robert Brown, a Scottish botanist, did some experiments in 1827 which are now known after his name. Brown took pollen grains-particles from various plants which measured something like 1/5000 of an inch. He immersed them in water. On observation, he discovered that these particles performed a constant, agitated, and erratic or random motion which had apparently nothing to do with any currents moving in the water. At first Brown thought that these pollens were, perhaps, alive and that was why they move. But then he repeated the experiments with dried pollen particles of plants that had been preserved in a herbarium for upwards of twenty years. He also extended his experiments to inorganic substances, such as manganese, bismuth, nickel, etc. He put their microscopic particles in water. And after all these observations, he wrote: "These motions were such as do satisfy me, after frequently repeated observations, that they arose neither from currents the fluid, nor from its gradual evaporation, but belonged to the particle itself.

But Brown made the wrong assumption that these microscopic particles

represented some sort of new state of matter. He gave to it the name "active molecules" He wrote in his conclusions: "the active molecules were found in abundance". Later, however, many investigators who studied the phenomenon gave qualitatively correct suggestions as to what Brownian Motion was. These people noted that the liquid itself was made up of molecules. These molecules themselves were in a state of constant and random agitation so that they gave movement to the suspended particles such as pollen, etc. But no one gave any experimental evidence nor did they give any quantitative measurement of this movement. It fell to Einstein's luck to do this. One of his three famous papers, published in 1905 was on Brownian Motion:

In this paper, Einstein said that if you put into a gas or a liquid relatively large grains of pollen that could be seen under a microscope, you could see them move around. He said that the pollen grains are so small that they get bounced and jiggled by the atoms hitting them just as would be a basketball being hit by tennis balls. Einstein even gave a formula concerning the quantity of Brownian motion. Perrin, the French scientist, did some important experimental work concerning this and confirmed Einstein's quantitative predictions. Einstein showed that the average distance traveled by the Brownian particle increased as the square root of the elapsed time so that, given enough time, the particle will move or be moved by the impact of the molecules, far from its starting point. This precise measurement, given by Einstein, proves that liquids also are composed of discrete particles or quanta, namely molecules. No doubt is left about this, for their molecular movement could even be measured.

Now all this, which goes under the name Quantum Theory, substantiates that nothing is continuous or one whole. Solids, liquids, and gases, all forms of radiation, including light are made up of discrete particles. This should set at rest all metaphysical speculations concerning God based on Quantum Theory. But, one feels sorry to note that there are some physicists and theologians who still construct their theories of Monism based on this!

There is another thought to think. If God only appears to be a continuous whole but is, in fact, composed or constituted of innumerable particles (souls) as a big pile of what appears to be a continuous whole from a distance, then it means that He is composed of innumerable discrete conscious quanta, i.e. infinite number of discontinuous or separate souls. This, however, cannot be because innumerable, separate, conscious particles will give to the whole (if there be one) a split personality and such cannot be God's personality. God is one single person a unity

A conclusion that can be derived from the Quantum Theory is that Matter can be (and actually is) composed of innumerable discrete particles or quanta but God cannot be (and is not) composed of some innumerable particles (souls). In other words, God is not (and cannot be) omnipresent, all-pervading, or one who permeates the whole universe. There are innumerable souls and God is one supreme among them all. Quantum Theory in physics gives quantum principle in metaphysics, and this latter runs counter to the belief that God is one whole, omnipresent or immanent power. God can only be a discrete particle-a infinitesimal point of light, for light is the ultimate form of energy.

Again, if Matter, Souls, and God (Brahm as they are called) are essentially non-different and the difference appears to be only because of illusion, then one might ask such type of Monists "What is your aim after all and what is the intrinsic nature and the worth of philosophy you sell? Are you trying to say that not only is Matter energy in its subtle form but also that subtle energy such as light becomes conscious at some stage? If so, then, even at that stage, it must be composed of discrete quanta, i.e. very subtle sub-atomic particles (even though conscious). In other words, it cannot be a continuous whole; even then this is what Quantum Theory points out.

Moreover, by saying that Matter, at a highly subtle stage, is conscious Brahm (or God.) are not you making people materialistic rather than spiritualist? Are not you telling them that Man is, originally, Matter? Is it, then not some form of materialism you are selling under the pseudonym 'Spiritual philosophy'? Are not you making people matter-conscious rather than soul-conscious?"

If, on the other hand, you say that Matter is a manifestation of Brahm (God) and the difference between Matter and God is only one of degree or grade of consciousness and not of ontological nature, they aren't you trying to foist materialism though it looks to be a spiritual thought? For, your philosophy, by demolishing the demarcation between Matter and God (or souls), or by blurring the difference, has as much potentiality of making a person Matter-conscious as of making him soul conscious in so far as it considers Matter and soul as only derivatives of or evolves of each other.

Thus, Monism cannot sustain itself by trying to take support from the Quantum Theory or simple or scientific logic.

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