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The Metaphysical and the Physical

  1. Jun 16, 2003 #1
    First, for the purpose of this thread, let's take for granted that there are physical phenomena and that there are metaphysical phenomena. We may or may not actually believe that, but let's just assume it for the purpose of this thread.

    Now, here is the question I'm posing: is it possible for metaphysical phenomena to interact with physical phenomena?

    I ask this because it appears that any interaction that takes place in the physical realm would be a physical interaction. By similar reasoning, any interaction that takes place in the metaphysical world would have to be a metaphysical reaction.

    If both of these (above) assumptions are true, then it is not possible for the physical and the metaphysical to interact - since it couldn't happen in the physical realm, and it couldn't happen in the metaphysical (which encompasses anything other than the physical) realm.

    Any/all comments are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2003 #2
    Perhaps if you were to view the metaphysical as another "state" or, dimension? While I suspect it has more to do with the interaction between energy fields or patterns. In which case I would say yes, the metaphysical does effect the physical, because energy is the interior (spirit or motive) of that which is exterior or physical (the physical act).
  4. Jun 16, 2003 #3
    Just so you know where I'm coming from - I don't believe in the metaphysical, although I admit that, although extraneous to any explanatory or spiritual needs and totally unproven, it is still a possibility in principle.

    But, I'll play - just because it's fun :)

    First, in the light of Iacchus32's response, we MUST semantically clarify something about enery...

    Energy is physical. It is made up of particles and interacts in the material realm under laws of physics. "Energy" is light, heat, magnetism, electromagnetism, mechanical, etc. Energy is NOT the fuzzy magical stuff people like to use the word for when talking metaphysics, souls, and the like. The word "energy" has been hijacked by mystics who like to use it in the place of "magic" because it sounds more mature and believable. Therefore, I will ONLY be using the word "energy" in it's proper and completely physical definition.

    So matter, energy, space, time, all exist in this physical realm. The metaphysical would be all of that which allegedly exists elsewhere. But if the metaphysical were real, as Iacchus32 mentions, it would probably have to be thought of as a sort of extra dimension (or set of extra dimensions) - another "plane of reality" as it were.

    It makes sense that, within the metaphysical realm alone, there would be SOME sort of rules as to how the components of that realm interact (What IS possible, what IS NOT possible and so on). Of course, we're keeping this open to be attached to any religion or no religion, but if we were to take any number of examples of things people say and believe about the metaphysical realm/s, then it is clear that there is a form of causality and structure within these realms. For example, in Christianity there was a war between the angels. For this to happen, there would have to be some sort of structure of causality and interaction of parts. Otherwise, there would be nothing to determine who "won" the war because there would be no results for intentional action. So, what we're left with is a sort of "alternate physicality", with it's own "physics" of a sort.

    It is possible that this metaphysical realm would NOT have any connection to our own. But if this were true, then we would have NO knowledge of what was there and no connection to it at all. If there were Jesus, or Buddha, or heaven or hell there - we'd have no idea and wouldn't even have LEGENDS of what things were there. So, anything we DID have people believing would most likely be completely wrong. Furthermore, we wouldn't even be able to go there when we died. In essence, this realm would be so incredibly irrelevant that to even discuss it would be ludicrous.

    However, if the sort of things that people SAY happens between us and the metaphysical realm actually did, then it would stand to reason that there would be "laws of interaction" between the two realms. These laws might govern such things as what's required for us to see into the other realm, for it to affect things here, and so on. It would look quite a bit like magic actually. For example, if we had souls, then there would be specific laws governing how a soul affects the activity of the brain.

    But, in reality, all of this is a lot easier to understand when you look at the history of metaphysical thought...

    When early man was first beginning to try and answer the deep questions he had, he had no knowledge of scientific explanations, so anthropomorphized stories got made up to explain things. By the time of the early Greeks, these concepts were pretty intricately developed. But even then, it is clear when you read Plato, that they concieved of "the gods" and the afterlife as MATERIAL and PHYSICAL. When they spoke of heaven, they LITERALLY meant the thing they saw at night when they looked up. Earlier religious people all thought this as well. When they thought about their soul, they LITERALLY thought it was a physical property, like a gas or something, that allowed life for physical scientific reasons.

    It was only AFTER the scientific revolution, when alternate explanations for things started coming out, that we began to see that souls and heaven and such were innacurate hypotheses. But by that time, so much ethical, cultural, and personal attachment had been connected to these concepts that no one was ready to just give them up. So what happened was a gradual re-interpretation of old concepts in a framework that our modern scientific minds could accept. After finding out that the heavens were just a bunch of stars like our own, we invented a NEW "heaven" and said that it was in "another dimension" - a decidedly relativistic concept that would have been nonsense to early people mut makes sense to a psuedo-scientific population.

    So, while it's fun to think about such things, what we're really talking about here is Science Fiction. :)
  5. Jun 16, 2003 #4
    As I understand it, the metaphysical realm is tied in a correaltive sense, to our thoughts and emotions, by which there exists a "spiritual influx" into that which is natural. So how does science classify thought and emotion in relation to energy? In terms of electro-chemical processes of the brain, right? So it wouldn't be unreasonable to classify them as patterns of energy then, right? In which case this is how the metaphysical realm affects us most directly.

    Whereas how do you explain the vividness of dreams, which can become a reality unto themselves at times? Isn't this a possible indication that we have a soul, and this is a means by which we all have access to the metaphysical realm?
  6. Jun 16, 2003 #5


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    No matter the vividness of dreams, we still wake up. We know, with plenty of good evidence that the dreams come from self-stimulation of sensory parts of the brain. I don't see how this suggests a soul, or that this metaphysical realm is anything more than a word for our own illusions.
  7. Jun 16, 2003 #6
    Then how do you explain the fact that dreams are quite often triggered by something that happened earlier in the day? Or, why some dreams are pre-cognitive? Or why dreams hold deep "phsycological truths" about who we are? I don't think any of this can be disputed? Which tells me that there's something more than "physiology" going on.
  8. Jun 16, 2003 #7
    a simple, one dimensional answer would be to say no, justified by the literal definitions of the terms in question. for example:

    does not seem to be applicable to

    (for both the quotes the second definition is more appropriate in the disscusion) and the second definition in 'physical' is pretty much in direct opposition with the possibilty of metephysical intervension. but that's only is you trust The Scriber-Bantam English Dictionary.

    (and yes i realize that i have not directly answered your question of the possiblity of one affecting the other. i'm only clarifying by showing a contradiction between the words.)
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2003
  9. Jun 16, 2003 #8

    Les Sleeth

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    Energy may be physical, but why do you think it is particles? Take light/EM for example. If light is energy, then why does the loss of energy result in a longer wavelength and a slower oscillatory rate? All we should see is less energy and no other characteristics remaining behind. Are you saying energy is wave-ness and oscillitory rate-ness?

    And then, what is the "particle" of heat? Heat isn't a particle as far as I know.

    Personally, I don't think light/EM is energy, but rather is something that can be energized. Light appears to be something unique to itself -- luminescence plus vibrancy -- which remains present whether you increase or decrease its energy.

    I don't think you are anybody else knows what energy actually "is." That is why in physics energy is only described in terms of what it does -- work. Energy is a mystery, and if you have the secret of it, please share so we can all know.

    Why must that be? Space, matter, energy and time are here in the same place, why can't the metaphysical be here too?

    What people say and believe have nothing to do with the reality, or not, of anything metaphysical. Just as in empiricism, we need to look for experience.

    You know the soul hypothesis is inaccurate? Who has proven it so, would you cite the studies?

    That is some understanding of the history of metaphysics! You cite pagen beliefs as representing the metaphysical, and then compare that to modern science. Well, I could cite alchemy as representing science and play the same game.

    If you are going to contrast physics and metaphysics, at least do a little homework about the phenomenon of enlightenment. The genuinely enlightened were intolerant of the pagan nonsense too.

    I hope you aren't going to join the ranks of those who speak about metaphysics without the slightest understanding of it. It is so typical for someone to study everything that supports their belief, merely skim what's on the other side, and then when they make an argument, represent what they are opposed to as idiotic.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2003
  10. Jun 16, 2003 #9
    no, this is not entirely correct. the light wave/particle duality allows light to be percieved both as light waves and as particles, depending on which is more useful in a certain observation/experiment. also there is a heat particle . only for radiated heat of course which is light (infared). conductive heat is different.
  11. Jun 16, 2003 #10


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    I think you should write a FAQ for this site, to make clarifications like that.
  12. Jun 16, 2003 #11


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    Heat is just another name for radiation. And yes, there is an associated particle for that. Accelerate an electron and it's lost energy shows up as heat, carried off by a photon.

    Well physics has actually come a bit further than the vague concept of work. General relativity gives a geometric structure to energy, which is curved spacetime. The field that defines spacetime then seems to be a matter of pure geometry.

    Of course, QM only complicates things with a zoo of particles with varying values, such as spin, mass, etc. So far there is no quantum theory of spacetime that could give us a full answer as to what energy is, but potential TOE's seem to be headed in the direction of geometry. So while we can't say exactly what it is for sure, it's a lot better than what we knew 100 years ago.
  13. Jun 16, 2003 #12

    Les Sleeth

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    I believe you are speaking of the dual nature of EM, and I wouldn't dispute that. But I am talking about something different.

    I am suggesting that energy and EM are totally different qualities. Light can have more energy, and it can have less energy. Losing energy doesn't stop light from exhibiting its base characteristics, such a as light speed or oscillation. Can you say energy is in any way linked to lightspeed? Light is, but energy isn't, so how can light and energy be synonomous?

    Therefore, light may be something in its own right, something capable of absorbing and yielding energy. Likewise, energy may be something in its own right too, capable of infusing and deflating that which can accomodate it.
  14. Jun 16, 2003 #13

    Les Sleeth

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    Ahhhhh . . . I was hoping someone would debate this with me.

    How can heat be another name for radiation? Heat is associated with radiation, but there is more to radiation than heat.

    If you see an atom at work, oscillating perhaps a trillion times per second, you don't get heat (I couldn't find reliable info on this, so I am guessing a little here . . . physics experts, correct me if I am wrong). Energy is there, and so heat should be there too. However, once a photon is emitted, then you do get heat. Why?

    Is it that a photon is heat? Or is it that light is one thing (something capable of carrying energy), energy is another, and heat still another? There is no manifested energy or heat without entropy, there is no energy without heat, but light maintains other characteristics despite its heat or energy (e.g., oscillation and c). So possibly light carries energy and heat is an effect of entropy.

    So I say light is one thing, and heat and energy are something else.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2003
  15. Jun 16, 2003 #14


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    It seems that the notion of energy lost to heat, is another way of saying that a photon has carried away energy from a source.. But I'm not sure if other forms of radiation would be considered heat in the traditional sense.

    Hmmm, let's see if I can remember here. The electrons give off heat if they accelerate. That is, with any change in the speed or direction of a charged particle, it will emit a photon carrying the associated energy loss. Shake an electron, and as it jumps into a lower energy state the photon carries away the energy it had in it's momentum.

    Perhaps you're thinking of large machines and friction. Any such machine will be subject to energy loss due to heat, and so will be constantly producing heat.

    Do you you mean the heat that photons can produce, such as in the case of the sun? The energy lost by the source of the raditation, is carried by the photon. But those photons are usually quickly absorbed by something else, such as humans. That's why you will feel "heat" while standing in the sun.

    Light as mentioned above, is the particle carrying away the energy lost from the source. So it does not exist without energy - it is the energy. And heat it seems, can be defined as the energy carried away by photons when a charged particle accelerates.
  16. Jun 16, 2003 #15

    Les Sleeth

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    I confess to wanting to debate this because I want to understand it better (i.e., not because it has much to do with this thread . . . object Mentat and I will stop).

    I don't think you are correct in saying that light "does not exist without energy." If you are right, then you should be able to make light vanish by depleting it of all its energy. But that isn't what happens. Energy disappears, but the base characteristics of light, oscillation and c, remain no matter what you do to it. That means light is "energizable" but is itself not energy.

    The conclusion: energy and light must be two different things.
  17. Jun 16, 2003 #16
    And what about meditation? Isn't this a process by which we can alter our brainwaves and increase our energy levels? What does that suggest about metaphysics and its relationship to energy? And why is it supposedly possible for people to entertain "visions of God" under such states? Also, when we think and have certain feelings about things, for example when a man thinks about a beautiful woman, couldn't this also be construed as "somewhat metaphysical" -- especially where "great reverence" is involved -- where it too might also raise our energy levels?
  18. Jun 16, 2003 #17
    are you asking how is it that we percieve heat from radiation (carried by a photon)? this is more biological that physical.

    you are confusing terms. as i said before heat percieved by radiation and heat from conduction are different things. one is carried by photons and the other (i believe) is the direct induction of energy. but going back to the original topic, energy really is physical (if that's what you're agrueing against). it is observed as matter, and as forces, and as a distortion of spacetime.
    also, what do you mean by there is no manifested energy or heat without entropy? entropy has nothing to do with our discussion, it is a measurment of those terms, not a cause for. do you mean that there is no energy or heat that does not have a measurable entropy value?
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2003
  19. Jun 16, 2003 #18
    you are commiting the error that others in this thread have described. you are thinking of 'energy levels' as a mystical thing (or so it reads). during meditation you do, indeed, lower you heart rate and brainwaves, therefore you burn your food calories slower, therefore your 'energy level' drops. (maybe even your body temperature). and when a man meets a beautiful woman his brain (and genetic history) tell him to mate. our 'energy-levels' increase in responce to this instinct in the same way as described above.
  20. Jun 17, 2003 #19
    All that I'm suggesting (so far), that if in fact we are "metaphysical beings," then there has to be some sort of relationship between that and physical reality. In which case this is the most plausible means I know of in how to get there.

    I would also venture to say I've had any number of metaphysical experiences myself, yet it's obvious I can't expect science to back me up (to say the least), so I'm pretty much on my own when it comes to tyring to explain these things. Neither does a metaphysical experience per se', require science for validation, it requires somebody who has been introduced to the experience and has worked with it for awhile. Indeed there's a whole level of experience here that science hasn't even begun to touch.

    It's like how do you know how chocolate pudding tastes unless you've actually tasted it for yourself? Or, how can you even begin to describe something, unless you've determined what that something is? In which case I would suggest science has little or no comprehension of what metaphysics is about. So I think science is "committing the error" when it tries to dismiss it, rather than disprove it.
  21. Jun 17, 2003 #20
    it is impossible to disprove something using science that cannot scientifically be observed (unless that is your agrument). but it can give some ingsight as to other possible scenerios that would produce an effect that is interpretted to be metaphysical. we can show, for example, that when someone believes they have had a supernatural or metaphysical experience there might be other cause for such an interpretation.

    to clarify your position can you give me an example of a metaphysical experience? preferrably one that you yourself have experienced, Iacchus.
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