There are few short-cuts in life

The inferior man’s reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex—because it puts an unbearable burden on his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious.

— H.L. Mencken

Are philosophy and religion dead?

The history of both science and philosophy is one in which man observes things (or studies the observations of others), and attempts to construct models for understanding those observations. Those models are borne in the thought processes of humans, and thereby limited to the realm of human experience.

Quantum physics, on the other hand, is a different story.

Having discovered that the Newtonian models for describing the behavior of physical bodies fail when predicting the behavior of elements at the atomic level, man could no longer rely on human observation and experience in his search for answers. Instead, the mathematics were discovered which held the potential for understanding the unobservable.

And through these mathematics, a portal was opened to a world of phenomena that simply defy the human experience. A world in which time can slow down. A world with far more than the basic four dimensions we experience. A world in which a particle travels from A to B not along a single path, but along all possible paths — simultaneously.

A world in which something can actually come from nothing.

Although we can’t observe the things that quantum theory predict, we can gain confidences in the theory by testing its consequences. For example, if something actually does come from nothing, trillions of times per day, we should be able to measure its residual energy in a vacuum. If gravity does come from a vortex caused by the earth rotating in the space-time dimension, we should be able to measure the consequences of that with highly sophisticated instruments in space.

Over the past decades, man has repeatedly searched for, discovered, and constructed ways in which he can test the consequences of quantum physics, and in every case, the predictions have been validated through measurement to a accuracy that leaves little doubt as the reliability of the quantum models.

To put this in perspective, we’re talking about an accuracy on the order of estimating the width of the United States to the precision of a human hair.

Of all existing human knowledge today, quantum physics is accepted to be that in which we can most rely to be true. It also happens to be the body of knowledge that offers the promise of understanding the origin of our universe; offering an answer to how and why we are here.

Let’s deeply reflect on that:

The body of knowledge which offers an understanding of the universe is both:

  • the knowledge we most take to be true, of all knowledge, and

  • the domain of phenomena which are outside of the realm of human experience.

When physicist Stephen Hawking said at a Google conference that “Philosophy is Dead,” I think this is what he was referring to. How can any branch of understanding compete with science, once truth has been determined to exist outside the domain of human experience?

A prayer for Japan?

Over the past few days, it’s been interesting to watch the widespread, literal appeal across Twitter that we all pray for Japan.

So how does that logic work?

One morning God decides, “I think today I’ll hit Japan with massive earthquakes and tsunamis.” There we go.

Then, due to the powers of the social networks and the #prayforjapan hashtag, he’s hit with a flood of prayers like he’s never experienced before. Taken aback, he thinks, “Oh, I never realized so many people wouldn’t be behind this thing.”

He has a change of heart, and decides to help a few folks make it through the ICU, and maybe help get the nuclear plant’s cooling system back online.

This might sound irreverent, insensitive and potentially offensive, but, honestly, wouldn’t the logic have to work something like that?

I imagine myself drowning off the side of a cruise ship, contemplating the world in which I live as I look up at a mass of people congregating hand-in-hand on the bridge, organizing themselves to collect as many others as possible to sing hymns and pray that I’ll get some help — all while sits an inflatable raft just behind them.

For those really concerned about the tragedy in Japan, there are ways in which you can actually help if you just seek them out.