Long back when astronomers were looking at the stars and planets, and calculating ‘path of revolution of stars around the earth’, they ran into several discrepancies. So they came up with more complicated equations to explain those discrepancies. That gave rise to more discrepancies. So they came up with even more complex equations.
At last Copernicus stood up and said “Wait a minute guys. It doesn’t have to be this complex. The mistake might be in our assumptions, not theories. May be the earth is not the center of the universe.”
Thus began a revolution in modern astronomy. The revolution continued with Galileo, leapfrogged with Newton and exploded with Max Plank. Then came Einstein and said “Wait a minute, still something is weird. May be the world has no center, no absolute frame of reference at all. Everything is just relative to each other.”
To put relativity in simplest form, imagine you are hanging in deep black space everywhere around you, and your friend is also hanging in deep black space everywhere around her. Suddenly your friend starts moving towards you with great speed. You shout at her to watch out and not to move so fast. She shouts back at you the same thing. Nobody can decide who is moving and who is still. Only thing that can be said is that relative to one, the other is moving.
Is this the time for us to ditch the last assumption of science- that the knowledge is objective and no matter who is trying to know it (or knows it), it is same?
Today, one of the most interesting quests in Cosmology seems to be reconciliation of Quantum Theory and Theory of relativity. To quote the simplest explanation in Briane Greene’s book “The Elegant Universe”, Quantum Theory explains the phenomena at the micro level and Theory of Relativity explains the events and things at macro level. At some points there is a strong mismatch in results provided by Quantum Theory and Theory of Relativity.
On a totally different track, imagine the question “Wasting one minute in life is OK, but wasting one million minutes is not OK. Where is the line? Wasting exactly how many minutes is OK and wasting one more than that limit is not OK?”
The same question can be asked about wasting one dollar or wasting one million dollar, or almost anything at small level and large level. The answer is that there is no answer. There will always remain a conflict between answers when events are considered at micro level and at macro level. A macro-micro conflict. The same thing applying to cosmology, there will always remain a conflict that cannot be solved.
Or let me rephrase this. The macro-micro conflict cannot be solved at objective level. The conflict can be solved at subjective individual level. If we insist on solution, it can be solved, but answers would differ from individual to individual with no possibility of reconciliation.
Let me explain a bit more why I am saying the conflict can only be solved at subjective level.
So far science has treated consciousness or awareness or aliveness in general as mere neuro-chemical anomaly. But without acknowledging it as such, science has made room for the ‘knower’ in one of the very important theories. Heisenberg Uncertainty. If somebody tries to know the position of electron, it introduces uncertainty in the position of electron. So in inverse, we can say that if there is found an unsolvable uncertainty, it must be because of presence of some knower.
In this case, it’s us. The Quantum theory and Theory of Relativity cannot reconcile because of “Us”. Because we are present. The quantum theory predictions can only be verified for “observed electrons”, which have knower induced uncertainty in them. But the object dealt with by theory of relativity are big and human existence cannot induce any uncertainty in them. Thus the conflict.
If we insist on solving, the uncertainty induced by each person, or each knower will be different. So different people trying to solve this will come up with different answers.
Kind of the same thing happens when we tackle the one-minute million minute question. Depending on who is answering it, what does that person want, believe, etc. the answers will be different if forced to answer.
Reminds me of a story.
After a long speech by a zen master, a person walked up to him with lots of notes and books. He told the master that some statement made in the speech was wrong and went on to prove it using his notes and books. The master simply smiled and told him “Yes, you are right.” and walked away.
The person got confused. He again followed the master and said “So I just proved that all what you said was wrong?”
The master smiled and said ” No, you proved that what you heard was wrong.”
Between what I say and what you hear, what I write and what you read, there stands a giant layer of subjectivity of your and my interaction. More often than not we are in denial of this subjectivity. However the fact remains. Your world and my world will never be 100% reconciled. There will exist a point where both of us will be right, yet we might be in conflict with each other.