Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 5:51 pm

I suppose I'll do this one post at a time. Don't really want to spark a massive discussion about each post but I reckon this is the best way to go so I don't miss anything.
clw_uk wrote:Modern Science in the form of Quantum mechanics...
Quantum mechanics is well over 50 years old now. Just sayin'.
clw_uk wrote:...has shown that you can actually get sub-atomic particles coming out of nothing with no cause
Really? A better way of interpreting quantum field theory is that the concept of 'nothing' does not exist in nature. What are particles anyway? They are a construct, a model to explain observed phenomena... quantum physics deals with probability distribution functions, the idea of 'particles' in QM is, basically, meaningless.

... To be continued...

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 5:54 pm

clw_uk wrote:the sub-atomic is connected to the macroscopic are they not?
Yep, by the principal of equivalence.

...To be continued...

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 5:56 pm

Manapa wrote:when was this theory proven?
Cue every scientist here cringing. Can you name anything 'proven'? Converse error anyone?

...To be continued...

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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:13 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:the appearance and disappearance of sub-atomic particles is not that well-understood
True, because the universe won't let us understand: see Heisenburg's uncertainty principal. And again, what is a particle?
Dhammabodhi wrote:M-theory...universes.
That's roughly my understanding too, although it's not really science, it's philosophy (in my opinion)
Dhammabodhi wrote:The Large Hadron Collider at CERN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CERN, is going to test this hypothesis next year.
So I've heard from the news, but the machine was really designed to search for the Higg's boson. How far the machine's use can be pushed remains to be seen. Personally, I think the media hype about the LHC is great for publicity and funding potential... but often leads the public into believing it'll heal the blind and walk on water etc... etc... etc. Bottom line, it's a collider, nothing more. Finding particles is all it can do.

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:29 pm

Manapa wrote:they in all likelyhood come frm somewhere
Why?
Manapa wrote:gravity is so week is becase ihas no fixed point(s)
Quantum physics is not string theory. The idea that the force of gravity is conveyed via a virtual exchange particle, which is a closed harmonic string is string theory... not QM. This thread is about QM. QM follows the standard model: Higg's boson is in the standard model, the graviton is not.

...To be continued...

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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:33 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:Dont they come into being in dependence upon the observance of them coming into being?
Nope, but if you observe the precise position of a particle with 100% accuracy you can know nothing whatsoever about it's momentum. This is not an equipment or experimentation issue, it's a universal law. Again, Heisenburg's uncertainty principle NOT to be confused with the observer principal.

Right, my wife is moaning at me so I'll have to come back later to finish. Sorry.

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mikenz66
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 6:43 pm

Thanks for the effors, Mawkish,

For further details I suggest (as usual) reading B Alan Wallace (Not Watts, sorry) "Choosing Reality" for a discussion by someone well-informed (with degrees in both Physics and Buddhism).

Metta
Mike
Last edited by mikenz66 on Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Individual
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Individual » Fri Oct 23, 2009 7:59 pm

clw_uk wrote:Modern Science in the form of Quantum mechanics has shown that you can actually get sub-atomic particles coming out of nothing with no cause and hence no interdependent arising. Does this cancel out a fundemental Buddhist doctrine or interdependence?




metta
I think the cause of sub-atomic particles is still debated. But you may have a point.
mikenz66 wrote:Thanks for the effors, Mawkish,

For further details I suggest (as usual) reading B Alan Wallace (Not Watts, sorry) "Choosing Reality" for a discussion by someone well-informed (with degrees in both Physics and Buddhism).

Metta
Mike
Do you mean "Alan Wallace"?

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=s ... ty&x=0&y=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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mikenz66
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:16 pm

Individual wrote: Do you mean "Alan Wallace"?

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=s ... ty&x=0&y=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Yes, sorry, mistyped...

Mike

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catmoon
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by catmoon » Sat Oct 24, 2009 12:54 am

We may all be laboring under a false assumption here.

Where is it written that dependent origination must apply to the subatomic world? Isn't it entirely possible that Buddha taught only what was necessary to enlightenment, and skipped over numerous exceptional cases? Or does someone think they are in possession of The Truth here?

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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:19 am

catmoon wrote: Where is it written that dependent origination must apply to the subatomic world?
Yes, this, and the fact that details of the theories change, mean that trying to identify specifics of the Canon with specifics of science are, in my view, pointless. That is why Wallace talks more in terms of generalities.

Mike

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fig tree
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by fig tree » Mon Oct 26, 2009 9:50 am

clw_uk wrote:Modern Science in the form of Quantum mechanics has shown that you can actually get sub-atomic particles coming out of nothing with no cause and hence no interdependent arising. Does this cancel out a fundemental Buddhist doctrine or interdependence?
I don't think quantum physics contradicts Buddhist teachings.

Quantum physics is tricky in that it supplies a general framework for theories that predict what you are likely to measure when you do an experiment, but which is compatible with several different descriptions of what is actually occurring to give rise to those measurements. People have differing opinions on which description makes the most sense, but since there isn't an experiment that can decide which is correct it's left on a somewhat philosophical level. These different descriptions are often termed interpretations. (See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpreta ... _mechanics.)

The issues revolve around a certain kind of indefiniteness, whose significance is related to how you interpret it. Take some radioactive material look at the radioactive atoms in it. They appear as though they emit particles randomly. Each second, there is a certain chance that one of them will decay that way. The first question to get out of the way I suppose is whether it's compatible with Buddhist teachings that they are actually decaying at random (as they appear to be), or whether it indicates that there is always a set of causes sufficient either to make it happen for sure or to make it not happen for sure. I believe the answer is, the former, Buddhist teachings don't say that there isn't any randomness in the world, although I'm ready to be corrected.

One way to describe the situation is known as a hidden variable theory. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_variable_theory) Some people favor a hidden variable theory that includes unobserved factors that actually determine the outcome. I don't favor such a formulation, but it's possible to make one compatible with quantum physics if you really want to. (Quantum field theory seems to make it ugly....) It seems unhelpful since there's no way to observe the hidden variables and thus be able to predict when radioactive atoms will decay and things like that, without disturbing them in a way that leaves you with an entirely different situation (like hitting the atoms with radiation that causes them to break apart immediately).

Another common interpretation says that the outcome remains indefinite until it is observed, at which point the aspect being observed becomes definite. So for example, if I put my radioactive atoms in a box, and don't look at them (or at anything being affected by them, which turns out to be impractical...) then whether they have decayed or not gradually becomes more indefinite, until I look at them, whereupon their status becomes definite, in a random way. Schroedinger expressed his dismay at this by imagining that something not merely subatomic (whether a cat continues to live) is made to be dependent on whether radioactive atoms decay. It seems perverse to say that the cat's being alive or not is indefinite until you look (and then it randomly becomes either alive or dead). I don't know how many people think of this interpretation as an "objective" description of what ultimately is occurring, but if one did, it would be saying that what happens in the world is both random and dependent on some kind of process of observation (whether conscious or not isn't clear. Some physicists are more comfortable assuming that there's a "purely physical" process that causes outcomes to become definite.)

A third type of interpretation says that in a sense the indefiniteness persists. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation) This type of interpretation describes the process as deterministic, but for a different reason than the hidden variable theories. To put it roughly, in this interpretation all the relevant possibilities occur. The cat both lives and dies. When you look at it, you both see it alive and see it dead. But the two processes lose the opportunity to influence each other, losing it through a phenomenon known as decoherence, so you never directly perceive the situation as one in which both possibilities have occurred. This makes the situation much as if the two possibilities were taking place in parallel universes, hence the name "many worlds". Presumably the mental states (cittas) arising in each are just separate from each other.

I actually don't think any of these interpretations is incompatible with Buddhism. (The possibility of someone awakening in one parallel universe but not another is disconcerting, but I don't see anything inherently wrong with it.) To investigate further, though, I think one needs to be more specific on both sides: what kind of determinism and/or randomness is incompatible with Buddhism, and also what interpretation it is that potentially suffers from that kind of determinism or randomness.

I remember reading in the canon criticisms of philosophers who claim that events are fatalistically determined. It's not clear to me that the kind of determinism that some interpretations of quantum physics have is really the same thing as that. You refer to the opposite possibility, that of events completely without causes. I don't think the kind of randomness that some interpretations of quantum physics have is really the same as that either.

Take this issue of particles appearing out of nothing. I suspect part of the problem is that popular explanations of quantum physics have to make do with somewhat approximate ways of describing the theory, that can be a bit misleading. What one is really dealing with are cases where the number of particles in a region of space is indefinite in much the way that positions of particles and so on are. ("Quantum mechanics" is often used to refer to the more elementary version of the theory where the number of particles is assumed to be definite, but just the position and/or other aspects of their states is indefinite, while "quantum field theory" is where one treats interactions that may change the number of particles present, and in quantum field theory the number of particles will usually be somewhat indefinite.) Considering it from the point of view of observations, when you try to observe how many particles there are in a box, there is always a possibility of observing some. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_state) So the appearance of particles is not causeless, but it is like radioactive decay in being at least seemingly random. In the interpretation that gives a special role to the process of observation, it's when you make an observation that the particles become definitely present.

My gut feeling is that quantum physics is actually more naturally compatible with Buddhism than previous theories of physics were.

Fig Tree

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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:24 pm

Right, sorry about the delay. My wife is very unwell... anyway, let's see if I can address a few more posts...
Dhammabodhi wrote:Although I don't know much of String Theory, what I understand is as follows:[snip]
That's pretty much my understanding too. It should be noted that this model isn't compatible with the standard model though... and the question was about quantum mechanics (which is supported by the standard model).
Dhammabodhi wrote:electric charge monopoles were recently produced in the lab
Recently? The electron was discovered (or maybe isolated is a better word) in 1897... that's an electric charge monopole. Maybe you mean magnetic monopoles were only recently produced in a lab? The production of magnetic monopoles would be in contradiction to Maxwell's laws, which are special because they are compatible with both classical physics and relativity (one of the very few sets of laws that seem to cover both scales!). As far as I'm aware, magnetic monopoles aren't supported by QM either, but they are possible in string theory. Contrary to what the popular media may have reported, magnetic monopoles have not been produced in a lab. My understanding is that quasiparticles were created... we covered quasiparticles somewhere in the second year of the degree so I'd have to dig deep in my memory (or my notes) if you wanted to know more! Again, lets not get confused... quasiparticles are a QM phenomena, magnetic monopoles are possible in string theory... the two theories are not the same and are (superficially) incompatible. Again, the question is about QM.
Dhammabodhi wrote:for the other forces, esp. strong and weak nuclear forces, I don't know whether such a concept exists.
It's a little complicated because with electric charge (for electrons electrons) we have just one quantum number, but with the strong nuclear force (for example) we are talking about the gluon virtual exchange particle which has 'colour charge'... unlike electricity which comes as + or - (- being nothing but the anti+), so called 'colour charge' comes in three flavours and their anti-flavours... making six combinations for that quantum number. I seem to remember other quantum numbers associated with gluons too, but I couldn't quote them. Gluons are weird. For those who don't know they are exchange particles that also interract with each other. This means that a gluon field becomes stronger the further apart two quarks get. This is why quarks have not been isolated (unless they have in the last three years that I don't know of), they always come in pairs (two quarks with opposite colour charges) or in threes (a combination of three colour charges). When we speak of 'colour charge' we don't mean they are different colours... its just a label to help us identify the phenomena thus labelled. I urge you to look up the standard model, it could explain it much more clearly than I can.
Dhammabodhi wrote:I hope a physicist among us can help us out
... or just confuse everyone. Sorry, I'm not a great teacher and its hard to condense a massive subject like the standard model into a short post without leaving out massive amounts of essential background information.

The main things I objected to in this post were that QM and string theory seemed to be getting mixed together, and that electric monopoles are in someway special.

Right, onwards...

...To be continued...

Mawkish1983
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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:26 pm

Manapa wrote:most of us aren't scientists here, andthe rudimentary knowledge some of us have may be adequate for a bit of fun conjeture it isn't adequate to actuly disern the truth of the subject. if you want science go to a scientst forum! or a science class
Good advice!

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Re: Does Quantum Mechanics contradict Buddhism

Post by Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:27 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:Could you point out the inaccuracies in my posts above?
Erm, I tried ... I hope I've helped but I imagine I've just muddied the waters.... sorry!

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