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Demon in the Machine




Dear Professor Davies I have a few concerns which tends to make me doubt that the universe is physical, but it is actually a virtual reality. I am hoping that you can convince me that the universe really is physical because sometimes I think I must be going crazy. Although your new book claims that all of life is computer processing so maybe you have a few thoughts that the universe could be computer generated yourself.

  1. It seems to me that scientists explain all matter in the universe in terms of electromagnetic radiation. Atoms are just little ‘chunks’ of positive charge and negative charge and are invisible. Light is also electromagnetic radiation which just happens to be in a small band of frequency in the whole spectrum which would otherwise itself be invisible as well. So it seems to me that if an alien from another universe were to travel thru our universe it would see absolutely nothing at all. For an alien trying to see stuff in our universe would be like us trying to see or be aware of the mobile phone network.
  2. On the subject of other universes that mainstream scientists talk about a lot. May I ask you whether these other universes all come out of the same singularity that our universe came out of or were there multiple singularities that all did whatever it was they did at the same time and place to create all the universes. Also if there are multiple universes as so many reputable mainstream scientists believe, are these universes all superimposed over each other or are they all spatially separated. I have real problems with this because if they are all superimposed over each other then it seems to me that they all must be virtual, and if they are all spatially separated then they all must have different constants of nature in order to be different universes and I can’t for the life of me see how a particle in our universe could branch off into a different universe if it has different constants of nature. Also there could only be a limited number of different universes bordering our universe, so our particles might have to travel through whole universes in order to get to other universes further out.
  3. The Bible says in the beginning there was the Word. Scientists say in the beginning there was a word – singularity. The Bible says God created the universe in a rather improbable way, and the scientists say that the universe appeared in a rather improbable and physically impossible way. The Bible says three wise men came from the East and scientists say that the four fundamental forces separated off like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse before there was any matter for these forces to act upon. Sometimes I think scientists just rewrote the Bible and just threw in a few fancy mathematical equations to delude us into thinking that they knew what they were talking about. Kind of like the Catholic mass in Latin so nobody could actually understand it. I think someone must have said it, I couldn’t think of anything so clever, but the more unbelievable a theory is, the more likely people are to believe it.
  4. Then there is this vexed question of time. It seems to me that ultimately we find ourselves spinning around a bright light in the middle of nowhere. If you were some sort of superintelligence and you were going to design an illusionary world where pseudophysical robots could live and interact ‘as if’ they were physical, that would be the perfect way to do it. The robots would count every time they did a full revolution of that bright light and they would think a year had passed. In other words time is nothing but an illusion of human construct based on the speed at which we revolve around the sun.
  5. Related to the problem of time is the problem of gravity. It seems to me that gravity is purely a fictitious force. I seem to recall that Einstein himself said that at some stage. Science has other fictitious forces, principally the centrifugal force, so there is no reason why gravity can not also be fictitious. Indeed there are some distinct parallels to be drawn precisely between gravity and the centrifugal force. They both involve things spinning around things (sic). On the subject of gravity there is the vexed problem of Einstein’s General Theory of Reality. It seems to me for space’ to maintain its curvature every ‘point’ in space would have to double differentiate itself wrt every other ‘point’ in space at every ‘moment’ in time (perhaps every interval of Planck time – because if I believe in anything Science has produced, I believe in Quantum Mechanics).
  6. Which leads me to the vexed problem of quantum mechanics. The essence of quantum mechanics is if a physicist does the math and works out the probability that a particle will be in a certain state and then goes looking for that particle he/she will find it. The problem I have is I don’t understand how a virtual particle can integrate itself and then square itself to work out where it might probably be underneath a bell curve. And I really don’t understand how that same virtual particle has to perform essentially the same maths every ‘time’ it moves from point A to point B. And given the fact that ‘time’ and ‘space’ don’t actually exist as we know it at the quantum level, all the equations in quantum mechanics actually plug in the x,y,z coordinates of Cartesian space and the t for time. And indeed many of the most crucial quantum mechanics equations actually resort to Pythagorean geometry. I just can’t believe that right angled triangles actually exist in the quantum world nor that subatomic particles actually know the speed at which the Earth revolves around the sun so it can count off ten seconds in Earthly time. It seems to me when Einstein described entanglement as ‘spooky’ this is precisely what he was alluding to. At the quantum level things are not ‘physical’.
  7. Also light is not in the quantum world. We see light in the macroscopic world. We don’t need any measuring instrument to see light. But what are we actually seeing? Is light a particle or a wave? Obviously the light we see coming from distant galaxies must be a wave, precisely a sinusoidal wave, because it has to oscillate from +1 to -1 on a Cartesian graph in a perfectly straight line for 13.5 billion light years to come to us all the way from the Big Bang. I find it hard to believe that there is a Cartesian graph with +1 and -1 coordinates connecting us with the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor, let alone galaxies at the ‘edge’ of the Universe. The other problem I have with light is here on Earth light rays spread out in all directions from a globe and yet all these light rays are perfectly straight. I don’t understand how we can see, how a sufficient number of photons will strike the retinae of our eyes, if these perfectly straight light rays are coming from a distant galaxy and spreading out in all directions. Surely by the time they got to planet Earth these light rays would no longer be parallel but would be travelling at an angle in relation to each other. A sufficient number of photons should not strike the retinae of our eyes for us to see a coherent twinkling, twinkling little star.
  8. I have real problems with Cartesian dualism as well. You will know that Descartes originally claimed that we have a mental ‘soul’ and a physical body. In modern terms this has been changed to the mind-body problem. We have a mind which is not physical and a body which is physical. As I understand it most scientists do not agree with Cartesian dualism. They invariably make the claim therefore that there is only physical matter and mental or spiritual things are impossible. Essentially they are saying therefore that consciousness is impossible because whatever else it is, it is clearly not physical. They are also saying that our dreams are impossible because they also are clearly not physical. So if you deny Cartesian dualism and opt only for physical, you have to deny consciousness and dreams. My problem is that I am more certain that I have consciousness and dreams than I am that the world is physical. I find myself also denying Cartesian dualism so I have to deny that there is anything physical, everything is of mental construct.
  9. Which brings me to George Berkeley, the Bishop of Cloyne. His claim that nothing exists unless it is observed by a conscious mind. Boswell had the temerity to ask Dr. Johnson how to prove Berkeley wrong, whereupon Johnson, an intellectual giant, said “I prove it thus” and went and kicked a rock. Boswell meekly observed that still it was impossible to prove logically that Berkeley was wrong. Berkeley was widely ridiculed at the time and ever since. Everyone said how absurd this is because that would mean that anything that was not being observed by a conscience mind would cease to exist. This of course was centuries before computers were developed, so all Berkeley could say in reply was that unobserved things continue to exist in the mind of God. Which brings to mind one of your earlier books about the mind of God and your most recent book that all of life is information processing. Of course if Berkeley had known about computers he could have just simply said that things not being observed will continue to exist as data.
  10. Finally there is the problem of Neo-Darwinism. Darwin’s famous book offered an explanation how finches on different neighboring islands had different shaped beaks, which is essentially a Lamarkian explanation, and Darwin actually explained the origin of nothing. From this humble origin (sic) a magnificent conjectural and unprovable edifice of pseudoscience has arisen which involves tens of thousands of research papers and countless books and articles, called Neo-Darwinism: the natural selection of adaptive phenotypes caused by random chemical mutations of genes. In the beginning was the Word – a primordial swamp. No talk about how the elements carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen actually managed to become a primordial swamp so they may as well have said in the beginning there was a singularity that resembled what we know today as a swamp. And the conjectures escalate exponentially from there. Which brings us to the current era with all our magnificent science and we have found that the human and the chimpanzee are more similar at the molecular level, genome and proteins, than sibling species and yet taxonomically they are placed not only in different genera but in different families, because of their profoundly different phenotypes. The fable of Neo-Darwinism has brought us to the point where I would sooner believe in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. And I am not even a Christian or a Jew!