Scientists Are Finding Emptiness In Everything That Is Supposed To Be Solid And Philosophers Have Never Been Able To Define What “Matter” Is


At lunch one day, I asked a physicist what he meant when he used the word “random,” because truly you can’t posit laws and random chaos in the same understanding and have it mean anything at all.

He smiled at my naiveté and replied “when a physicist says ‘random’ they mean too complex to measure, not that it is actually lawless activity.”

His answer floored me because it was so extreme. It allowed for no spontaneity at all, and certainly not any creativity, in our reality. Everything is conceived of as the complex, perhaps chaotic, but never truly random, effect of universal laws and principles. And yet, I see nothing in my life that doesn’t attest to an obvious spontaneity in everything.

Take as an extreme example, the myriad of elements fabricated into silicon that are assembled together as a microprocessor. These are extremely complex constructions, engineered with a precision never before known in human history in any other technology that we have ever developed, and yet, they hide an awesome fact: every one of those elements exhibits a very marked propensity to behave in decidedly bohemian ways when called upon to perform their function — sometimes they take their time, sometimes they snap to attention. It’s why these microprocessors have a “clock” to synchronize operations between various elements within the chip — and why you pay more for advancements in the performance speeds.

That “clock” within these complex chips is needed because the same element, performing the same operation, will do so with a variability in the duration of the operation every time they are called upon to perform it.

This is called stochastic behavior. Today that expression is defined as “random” behavior, but as I pointed out already, “random” doesn’t really mean random, according to modern science. The meaning of “stochastic” was originally different, and The Greek word, στόχος (stóhos), from which we derive “stochastic,” carried a sense of shooting for a target and missing, or guessing at an answer.

It’s different than truly random behavior because engineers can map the range of response times, and they form a bell-curve when plotted out on a graph, almost as if an archer, trying to hit a target, was marking the location of each arrow that went astray of its goal. Those arrows would be grouped around the target, much as stochastic behavior seems to be grouped around a particular result.

Thus engineers can put all these different elements together, allow for the range of varying response times of the myriad of elements, and then place the equivalent of a Roman hortator at the back of a galley ship, beating his drum rhythm so that all the rowers row in unison, only in this case its not a Roman hortator, but a crystal clock built into the chip, and it’s not rowers that are being synchronized but logic elements constructed with silicon.

Except that, rather than synchronizing all the myriad of components together, this rhythm is more like a call of reassurance that things can proceed: “ok, it’s gotta be done by now!” “Ok, it’s gotta be done by now!”

So if the claim is that all things in nature, as well as all human constructions like these microprocessors, comply with the laws of nature, then the variability being the result of lawful behavior is an absurdity on its face — unless the laws allow creative compliance.

But in a materialist view of reality, there is no room for the variability that is plainly evident to be spontaneous, so it is explained away as lawful behavior that is too complex to measure.

It’s really a testament to human creativity that these microprocessors work at all. But lost in the technology, covered over by mathematics, statistics, and engineering is the quiet insistence of “inanimate” matter to be creative.

And let’s not lose sight of our own creativity in having accomplished what we have. Our creativity may not arise from silicon chips, but there is no justification for asserting that physical matter operates differently when it is shaped into a human. Are we creative beings? Or is it that our individual activities are definitely governed totally by laws of nature, but are too complex for us to explain how the creativity arises?

It’s very easy to look at the Universe and, invoking the Law of Parsimony, declare that everything that is, results from complex, lawful, interactions of infinitely unmeasurable things, in intricate causal dependencies that appear chaotic, but which are completely governed by natural laws that result in the order that we see all around us.

But the Law of Parsimony says that the simplest solution, not the simplest escape from having to explain something, is the correct choice. When we are presented with competing hypotheses to solve a problem, one should select the solution with the fewest assumptions, not dodge the issue by claiming that its complexity let’s us off the hook for an explanation.

Even life begins simply and evolves into increasingly complex organisms, and that increasing complexity is a reduction of entropy — disorder. But that’s not what is ‘supposed’ to happen in reality. It goes against the Law of (thermodynamic) Entropy, which says that rather than becoming increasingly complex (ordered), everything must degrade into disorder.

Yet, I look around me and see nothing but infinitely complex and creative form — and not matter, whatever that may actually turn out to be. I see people, trees, clouds, the Sun, rain falling on leaves, wind blowing beautifully carved sand dunes, snowflakes falling on outstretch tongues and dissolving…

Scientists keep finding more and more emptiness in everything that is supposed to be solid, and philosophers have never been able to define what “matter” is, other than it being the mere possibility of being some formed thing.

So, is it the Law of Parsimony that is at play when all of this beauty is reduced to unmeasurably complex lawful interactions of physical objects? Or is it merely dullness on the part of those who refuse to look beyond the surface of things and see the creative spark in everything?

Personally, I don’t see a divine intelligence at work. I see only immensely responsive creativity in divine play.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
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