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Achieving Unification

  1. Oct 11, 2004 #1
    This is concerned with "unification" in the sense of the coming together of observer and observed.

    Generally speaking, theory arises from experience. So in order to develop a theory of unification, surely we need to experience unification first?

    Theoreticians often rely on experiment, intuition, mathematical beauty, etc. However what about transcendental experience? Where is the vision of what we are trying to achieve, beyond the desire for a really nice looking equation?

    Should physicists be enhancing the usual "intellectual" aspects of knowledge, mathematics, etc with "spiritual" aspects? Yet this last aspect is often dismissed as unimportant.

    The critical point is that we are not unified creatures, and we actively spend our time embracing duality. If we study hard and accept a top job as a theoretical physicist, away from the cares and woes of the rest of humanity, we may actually be enhancing the duality within ourselves. So how then are we able to develop a theory of unification?

    To put it bluntly, what we are doing may be about as foolish as using a pea shooter to catch an elephant.

    Is there any one else who shares my concerns?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2004 #2

    Interesting argument, here's an analogue:

    Generally speaking, theory arises from experience. So, in order to develop a theory of the inner workings of black holes, surely we need to experience the inner workings of black holes.

    Now, does that seem right to you?

    Our theories are based on all sorts of things, like elegance, predictive power, explanatory depth, consistency with observations. Experience itself underdetermines theory, in that no set of experiences entails the correctness of any theory (though it may entail the falsehood of a theory, if you take as fixed certain auxilliary hypotheses).

    So, why do you think that our ability to come up with a unified theory (by which I take you to mean a foundational theory to which all other "special sciences" can be reduced) is contingent on our own inner unification?
  4. Oct 12, 2004 #3
    You don't have to first exprience the entire inner workings of a black whole before you can deduce it possibility, but you do need to first possess the 'BASIC COMPONENTS' of experience to deduce the rest of it. So the argument of making the critical initial contact with expereince before deduction still fundamentally remains and stares us in the face!
  5. Oct 12, 2004 #4

    So you would prefer a weaker form of my argument, that experience of unification would be valuable rather than necessary? I can live with that. Myself, I am wavering between it being valuable and necessary.

    However are you sure that by comparing unification with black holes you are not comparing chalk with cheese? The way I see things, we are heavily locked into duality, and we will have considerable difficulty releasing ourselves from it. I don't see the same problem with black holes.

    Naturally theory and experience will go hand in hand to some extent. But even if the theoretical understanding comes before the experience (which it will do for the majority of people), it is likely that our greatest challenge will not be understanding the theory, but implementing the implied personal transformation.
  6. Oct 12, 2004 #5

    Yes, usually physicists eagerly embrace anything that will help them build theory, but it seems that some may not be so enthusiastic when it comes to the case of experience. Why should this be? Could it be that even though they strive to achieve unification, at a base level they are rejecting unification? What is it that physicists really want? If you are looking for unification, are you prepared to pay the price of unification? For example, one outcome of attaining unification may be the disintegration of your career, or ultimately even the disintegration of the scientific establishment. Are you prepared for this?
  7. Oct 12, 2004 #6
    What exactly should physicists in particular be looking to unify with ???

    Are we talking ultimate reality, detachment from reality, absolute truth, personal truth, personal experience, collective experience, knowledge of experience, knowledge of self, denial of self, self serving interests

    What is this duality you speak of ???
  8. Oct 12, 2004 #7

    Several in the list you gave.

    I defined "unification" as the coming together of observer and observed. This is often talked about in quantum mechanics. But in its most general sense I am talking about the coming together of emitter and absorber during the exchange of a messenger particle, so that there is no longer emitter, absorber and messenger, but a single system. Putting many of these interactions together and coming out with humans existing in the world, I am talking about the breaking down of subject and object, us and them, mind and matter, etc, into oneness.

    I would view unification as an important stage in the attainment of absolute reality, but certainly not detachment from reality.

    That is my best attempt to explain myself. I hope it has helped. But ask me tomorrow, and I may tell you something different.
  9. Oct 12, 2004 #8
    Maybe it's merely a matter of understanding the reciprocal relationship between men women? Where the two come together to make a whole human being ... i.e., m/f x f/m = mf/fm or, "1/1." Isn't this afterall what the symbol of the Yin and Yang represents? Which, in fact is why we have marriage, which represents the marriage/integration of two minds.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2004
  10. Oct 12, 2004 #9


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    Bariyon, your portrayal of the problem of unification is a bad caricature of what physicists mean when they use the term. A unified physical theory will be one that will be able to accomodate all the forces of nature, and both the microscopic and macroscopic scales of nature, under one theoretical hood.

    'Unification' in the experiential/transcendental sense may be an interesting topic in its own right, but it is not to be confused with the quest in physics for a unified theory. The relationship between empirical experience and scientific theory, or between conscious, subjective experience and objective physics, are also interesting issues, but these too are not to be confused with what is meant in physics by a unified theory. The only connection between 'unification' as you mean it and as physicists mean it is a superficial artifact of English that you have unfortunately pounced upon.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2004
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