Damascus, MD, United States | Member Since 2008
I detest being duped into reading books based on the uncritical, ill-informed opinions of others, even when well intended. Time is far too precious to waste in the hearing or reading of worthless books. I do not think I will be found guilty of this transgression in highly recommending Oliver Burkeman’s, The Antidote. Admittedly, there is some egocentrism involved here. Among the central theses of the book is that (1) viewing life (and oneself) positively is no secure path to happiness (2) seeking security is sure to undermine efforts at obtaining lasting happiness (3) accepting and embracing the unavoidable evils of life is essential to true happiness (4) efforts to delude oneself about the ultimate nature of reality in all its brutality and banality (e.g. through religion, entertainment, and other forms of ‘reality transcendence’) are bound to fail and (5) in due deference to both Bertrand Russell and Ernest Becker, acknowledging the existential inevitability of death is essential for philosophical integrity and psychological solace. Anyone familiar with the Author’s philosophy, especially as delineated in Mind, Matter, Mathematics, & Mortality, will immediately recognize the common theoretical threads. Nothing, however, can be subtracted from the value of Burkeman’s project—his contribution to what Huxley called “the Perennial Philosophy” is original and enlightening.
The present review takes the form of correspondence I was compelled to initiate with the author of "Our Mathematical Universe". It reads as follows:
Greetings Prof. Tegmark,
I found your book, Our Mathematical Universe, and your 1998 publication in the Annals of Physics most interesting. I will understand if you are inclined to ignore the analysis of your work that I endeavor to advance herein. After all, I am neither a physicist nor a mathematician. Rather, I am a philosophically oriented psychotherapist/thanatologist with a background in Biology and Epidemiology. As I find dissimulation objectionable, I shall not delay in disclosing my chief criticism: the theory/model that you propound in your book (and paper)—namely, the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH)—is not substantially novel in essence. I appreciate your appropriate invocation of Pythagoras, Plato, Galileo, and Eugene Wigner in chronicling the continuity of the mathematical description of nature. I am less appreciative of your apparent failure to acknowledge the fundamental unity between your ideas and that of renowned chemist, Sir Peter W. Atkins. Acknowledging my all-too-human egocentrism, I am even less appreciative of your failure to acknowledge my variant of the “Mathematical Universe Hypothesis” or what I call in my book (Mind, Matter, Mathematics, & Mortality (M4)) the Constitutional Interpretation of Mathematics or ‘Nunistic Numericism’. Sir Atkins offers an interpretation of mathematics that he calls Deep Structuralism. He contends that there are strong and weak variants of Deep Structuralism. However, as I argue in M4, these are essentially indistinguishable. Whereas, Weak Deep Structuralism maintains that nature is merely describable in mathematical terms, Strong Deep Structuralism maintains that nature and mathematics are one and the same, sharing the same structure. It is in this sense that your MUH is ostensibly intellectually subsumed by Atkins’ Deep Structuralism. Do not despair though. For as I argue in M4, Atkins’ idea is not an advancement over that of the Pythagoreans, Platonists, or any subsequent scientist, theorist or philosopher. Essentially, they have all said the same thing: ‘How extraordinary it is that the elements of existence are so amenable to mathematical analysis. An explanation is surely in order.’ What makes these nominally ‘numericist’ approaches otiose (the MUH included unfortunately) is their absence of empiricism. M4 begins by reminding readers that the ancient philosophical problem of reconciling mind and matter has theretofore yet to be accomplished. It further reminds readers of the conventional Cartesian conception of matter as encompassing entities exhibiting extension and, obversely, mind being characterized by the absence of extensibility. These definitions of Descartes still seem sound. M4 maintains that empirical evidence establishes that the fundamental constituents of matter are essentially infinitesimal point particles possessed purely of properties and that these properties (as you yourself soberly state) are mathematical in nature. [The Quark Model of Matter owing to the discovery of the MIT/SLAC team is the principal basis of this postulation.] If the elementary particles of which “matter” is composed are dimensionless, devoid of extension, they are then immaterial. The properties of these point particles are explicable on the basis of quantum mechanical wavefunctions—thoroughly mathematical entities. Moreover, this mathematical explicability may be epistemologically exhaustive, telling us all there is to know about the quantum realm. I maintain that it is only when elementary particles have been convincingly divested of materiality (on the basis of provisional empirical investigations) that the mathematical essence of existence can be established. This is why I maintain that the M4 dispensation of the “MUH”—Constitutional Nunistic Numericism (CNN)—is the most momentous, scientifically sound, most veridical variant of the mathematical interpretations of reality.
Then there is the question of conceptual fecundity. M4 maintains that the modified “Double Slit” experiment of quantum mechanics permits the interpretation that quantum particles exhibit awareness or a property closely akin thereto. I call this property ‘Proto-Percipience’. It would seem to explain why particles apparently alter their behavior, displaying wavelike or particulate properties depending on whether they are being “observed” or not—indeed, whether a detection device is directed thereat, whether such a device is “on” or “off”. Naturally, I argue that evolution employed this Proto-Percipient property in enabling the accretion of awareness in organisms owing to its adaptiveness. This conception, contingent upon the Copenhagen interpretation of wavefunction collapse, can be contrasted with your espousal of Everett’s parallel worlds perspective. Plainly speaking, it seems more plausible to postulate particle Proto-Percipience or rudimentary awareness than to contend that consciousness “splits” each time a quantum phenomenon is observed. Such ‘cosmic schizophrenia’ compels the creation of a universe, ex nihilo, each time a conscious agent makes a quantum observation entailing choice. This seems somewhat extravagant and rather inelegant. Finally, M4 maintains that the ultimate immateriality of matter, the essential ‘mathematicality’ of matter, the concomitant modularity of the mind and the singularity of the substance of the “soul” or “spirit” are integrated in such a way as to explain our irrepressible intimation of Immortality. This is what impels me to opine that M4 is not merely a mathematical and metaphysical Theory of Everything (TOE) but the most compelling and comprehensive of all competing cosmological theories.
I greatly appreciate your contributions to the field of physics and, indeed, to the advancement of human knowledge. As an admittedly obscure theorist I also appreciate your embodiment of the academic “Golden Mean”—that is, your decision to simultaneously pursue orthodox professional ideas deemed appropriate by the conventional community of physicists and explore “radical” research deviating from the restrictive domain of your discipline. I applaud and respect you. I also applaud your humanness and apparently authentic vulnerability. By your own admission you have been “scooped” in more than one instance. To many, it may be demoralizing to engage in exhaustive intellectual work only to learn that someone else has encapsulated and advanced the very ideas inherent in one’s own opus. Understandably, we covet recognition for our contributions. You have dealt with such occurrences admirably. As you state in Our Mathematical Universe, it helps to hope that in some multiplicity of parallel worlds you are indeed the originator of all those ideas that you conceived in this world.
I hope you do not object to my ending with a quote from M4. I think it reinforces our intellectual kinship.
“Lifting the veil of materiality from the face of Nature leads us not only to the unification of mind and matter but also to the unification of matter and mathematics. The rather unreasonable, otherwise inexplicable effectiveness with which mathematics describes physical phenomena is now seen to be a consequence of the identity of ‘physical’ entities and mathematical entities. In fact, the very concept of a mathematical entity is now arguably intelligible—mathematical entities and the physical entities they were once thought to merely symbolize are one and the same. One need no longer conceive of a parallel world of immaterial mathematical essences. Mathematical entities need not be relegated to a realm distinct from the space and time of our Universe. Immaterial mathematical entities comprise the substance of which boulders, bodies, and brains are built and brains are evolutionarily engineered organs that have acquired the capacity to comprehend the principles that govern their existence. We have hereby effectuated the integration of all Being into a seamless Whole. Mind, Matter, and Mathematics are One. Now what of Mortality....”
Mind, Matter, Mathematics, & Mortality (M4): Musings on a Momentous Metaphysical Theory (Dr. Nun Sava-Siva Amen-Ra, 2011)
A response would be most welcome as I truly value your ideas and perspective. I have taken the liberty of attaching my book. Thank you for your attention.
18 January MMXIV
DESCRIBING, DEFENDING, & DECRYING “THE DROUT WAY”
Anyone who wishes to enhance his or her understanding of English will be rewarded by hearing or reading Dr. Drout’s discourse on grammar. Anyone who eschews excessive intellectual egotism will be annoyed by the professor’s pedantic personalization of purely conventional concepts that have a long linguistic history. The phrase that most markedly illustrates the grammarian’s self-aggrandizement is the “Drout Way”. At the risk of oversimplifying a more encompassing ideological exposition, the “Drout Way” adumbrates the following ideas: (I) Clues to the complexity (and confusion) of the English language are to be sought in its convoluted history (II) Understanding this circuitous history can illuminate otherwise unintelligible aspects of the language (III) An ideal mastery of English necessitates a knowledgeable balance between adherence to invariant rules (which, in the main, must be memorized) and innovative attempts to ensure clarity of communication above all else and (IV) Overzealous attention to erroneous grammar on the part of others (especially when accompanied by crude correction) is odious and often ill-informed. It would be an amusing exercise to enumerate each utterance of the “Drout Way” in the author’s self-narrated audiobook. Interestingly, it is not until the final few minutes that the distinguished linguist-philologist acknowledges the fact that the main thrust of the “Drout Way” was foreshadowed by the steadfast Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. The Emperor, Drout correctly relates, credited his teacher, Grammaticus, with instructing him in the appropriate way of conceptualizing good grammar and correcting its misuse in others by ensuring one’s own grammatical correctitude—that is, by being a model of grammatical mastery.
Dr. Drout is a superb scholar. His book is informative, funny, and forthright. He is young and already exceptionally accomplished as an academic. This is particularly encouraging to an ambivalent, aspiring academic such as myself. Further, his book is about much more than grammar; it is about the human psyche and the centrality of language thereto. Additional insight into the nature of his own mind might make Dr. Drout more aware of the ostensible imperfections in his psyche or, stated more sympathetically, the aesthetic imperfections in his rhetorical style. Ironically, I believe our good professor has produced a book on the principles of persuasive rhetoric. If so, I intend, to acquire it and opine on its merits from the privileged perspective of a discerning dilettante. Incidentally, it is difficult to forswear the speculative supposition that the master grammarian may be mourning the missed opportunity to make the mysterious matron who occasioned the coinage of the “red panda” into Mrs. Drout. Far be it of me, a professedly puritanical ascetic, to stoke the embers of a salacious scandal, especially in a stately discussion of grammar. It was, however, Dr. Drout’s doing and he’ll have to answer to the actual Mrs. Drout (and perhaps the potential or would-be Mrs. Drout). But that is another matter....
Dr. Nun Sava-Siva Amen-Ra
Nothing is more important than metaphysics, the area of investigation encompassing ideas pertaining to the ultimate nature of reality. Pardoning the pun, the notion of “nothing” is an important aspect of metaphysical theorization and explication. This explains why it is so disheartening when a scientist of the stature of Dr. Lawrence Krauss offers an exposition of the essentiality of nothingness to the nature of existence that is altogether underwhelming. Dr. Krauss can be forgiven for focusing an inordinate amount of attention on dark matter and dark energy since these cryptic constituents of the cosmos dominate its composition and because the theorist made his most important contributions to this area of the field. Dr. Krauss cannot be forgiven for ignoring the work of others, myself included. Lest this critique seem self-serving, let us be explicit and objective. Dr. Krauss attempts to make the case that the nonentity understood as nothingness is an essential element of our modern understanding of cosmology. Again, he can be forgiven for focusing on gravity (aggregately in its negative and positive guises) as among the most apparent indications of the absence of net positive mass/energy in the universe. I invoke a similar (though not identical) argument in MIND, MATTER, MATHEMATICS, & MORTALITY (M4): MEDITATIONS ON A MOMENTOUS METAPHYSICAL THEORY (Amen-Ra, 2011). However, apart from a cursory mention of the implications of electromagnetism and quantum indeterminacy, he stops at this. What is more, limiting himself to the aforementioned areas, he explains these inadequately and neglects to mention authors who have expounded more eloquently (and accurately) upon these ideas.
Contrast this with M4. In elaborating the elements of what I term “Immaterial Monism”, I discuss in detail the most momentous aspects of cosmology and particle physics pertinent to the picture of the universe as arising from nothing, being composed of nothing, and eventuating in nothing. In this ideational enterprise I give due credit to Nobel Laureate Dr. Leon Lederman. It was Dr. Lederman in his immensely entertaining work THE GOD PARTICLE who explicitly indicated the importance of the apparent observational evidence that elementary particles (i.e. quarks and leptons) are infinitesimal and, ipso facto, immaterial. This automatically implies that the fundamental constituents of matter are akin to nothingness, physical nonentities. I discuss in detail the astounding work of Nobel Laureates Dr. Kendall and Friedman for their experimental establishment of the tripartite, point-like character of the proton and the resulting “quark model” of baryonic matter. Of course I discuss Einstein and the implications gravitation. However, I buttress this discussion with the weighty words of Dr. John Barrow who explains the immaterial implications of gravitational theory with a clarity that Krauss cannot equal. Dr. Krauss does touch upon the importance of quantum mechanics. There is a glaring omission however. He does not make the crucial connection that if “material” particles can be exhaustively explained by wavefunctions, if wavefuntions are (defensibly) deemed to constitute the particles they so thoroughly describe, and if wavefunctions are essentially mere mathematical constructs, the immaterial or ideal essence of matter has thereby been established. I cannot fault Krauss too much in this regard, for even Dr. J. Al-Khalili did not come to this conclusion in his monumental QUANTUM: A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED. As far as I know (and, trust me, I have searched ceaselessly), I am the fist and (evidently) only theorist who has explicitly made this conceptual connection. This is not the only quantum oversight Dr. Krauss commits. Can anyone discuss the concept of creation coming from a quantum “flux” in the void without being beholden to the insights of Dr. E. Tryon, and giving proper credit thereto? I think not. Again, Krauss cursorily comments on the interrelationship between electromagnetism and immateriality but his exposition is encumbered and convoluted. Contrast this with Dr. Michio Kaku’s concise and compelling description in PARALLEL WORLDS and you will assuredly affirm the Author’s opinion. Moreover, to this description Dr. Kaku adds an additional element: the fundamental physical property of spin. The net-zero spin of the universe implies its emergence from a state of nothingness according to Kaku’s analysis.
Without delineating Dr. Krauss’ didactic deficits excessively, it must be mentioned that M4 does not neglect to discuss the importance of the Higgs Boson and its implications for immateriality. This the Author does with the indispensible explanatory aid of Dr. Lederman and Dr. Brian Greene. To his credit, Dr. Krauss does discuss the crucial concept of the cosmological singularity. However, he does so from the vantage of the admirable Monseigneur Dr. Georges Lemaitre, whose ideas are appreciably antiquated. Contrast this with the Author’s discussion in M4, wherein the rigorous reasoning of Drs. Hawking and Penrose is presented and the attending implications for immateriality explained explicitly.
Finally, Dr. Krauss falters philosophically. It will not do to hide behind the fact that he is not a philosopher. Do not philosophers have something important to say about the nature of nothingness and its metaphysical meaning? I think so—Dr. Krauss does not. This is why the Author devotes an entire chapter of M4 to “Ideational Antecedents”, doling several separate sections to philosophers that have made interesting (if ultimately questionable) contributions to the discussion of the notional necessity of nothingness. In short, Dr. Krauss does not offer a coherent metaphysical system that integrates the idea of nothingness as is true of the Author’s theoretical framework, Immaterial Monism. Much less does Dr. Krauss offer any psychological solace for the forlornness that the ideological acceptance of existential nothingness can engender, especially among “infidels”, atheists, agnostics, and skeptics—presumably his target audience. No wonder Dr. Dawkins ends the Afterword of the bleak book in such dejection and despair. [At least Richard Dawkins can derive some satisfaction that his depressing words were read by the exemplary orator Simon Vance. Someone with questionable judgment thought it best to have Dr. Krauss read his own work. This only added insult to injury.] To all who wish to acquire an accurate, illuminating, edifying understanding of the all-important idea of the immaterial essence of reality, I unapologetically extend an invitation read to M4. If Dr. Krauss and Dr. Dawkins have intellectual integrity (and I do not doubt that they do) they will accept the Author’s intellectual overture.
Dr. Nun Sava-Siva Amen-Ra
Damascus, MD USA
Ian Shaw unfortunately affords extreme Afrocentrists ample ammunition in their allegations against Eurocentric Egyptologists. While it is proper to desire a post-prejudicial society, a post-racial society is neither requisite nor warranted as intellectual ideal. Race remains a meaningful concept and constitutes a legitimate (though betimes imprecise) way of crudely classifying peoples, if classify we must. It is neither irrational nor immoral to inquire into the racial composition of an ancient peoples such as the Egyptians. The accumulated evidence unambiguously indicates that the substratum of the populace was Black-African and that the civilization bore many elements aligning it with other African cultures (as well as influences from and “effluences” to the Levant). To this Africoid substratum would eventually be added Asiatic and Mediterranean peoples as well as other Africans from northerly (Libyan) and southerly (Nubian, Cushite)) regions. Despite this admixture, the ancient Egyptians must still have appeared distinctively “Black” for this was the observation of “the Father of History”, Herodotus, the 5th century BCE traveler who observed and dwelt with the Egyptian priests principally. To deny the simple (though substantive) supposition that the Ancient Egyptians were basically Black suggests the unconscious operation of an obscurantist ideology. Scholars such as Shaw may mean well by presuming to put race behind us but all efforts to alter or embellish the truth are ultimately abortive in the eyes of the informed and enlightened.
It is not pleasant to accuse an author of plagiarism and the allegation is rarely irrefutable. However, the evidence that Dr. V. Vedral incorporated ideas originally presented in my book Mind, Matter, Mathematics, & Mortality (M4): Musings on a Momentous Metaphysical Theory (Amen-Ra, 2011), is far too glaring to ignore. First and foremost, his thesis is identical to mine. Namely, he maintains that the fundamental nature of reality can be understood entirely in terms of information—more pointedly, that information constitutes reality. However, it is clear that Dr. Vedral’s thesis is derivative in that he provides no logical sequence of reasoning to support the hypothesis or model, whereas M4 does. Readers of both books will notice at least five additional parallels: (I) The identical name of one of his chapters (Creatio ex Nihilo); (II) The use of the same extended quote from Lord Bertrand Russell in the same context of the “the heat death of the universe” owing to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; (III) “The Hierarchical Nature of Scientific Disciplines” (my terminology) to describe the increasing informational complexity of the various branches of science; (IV) The invocation of the ideas of Sir Karl Popper—the notable philosopher of science—to provide an evaluative criterion of sorts [M4 ends with an entire exposition entitled “A Popperian Peroration” that does essentially the same.]; (IV) Reference to the film The Matrix, as exemplifying the intuitiveness of an informational interpretation of reality and (V) Invocation of elements of Eastern philosophy to (presumably) propound the notion that the Ancients’ understanding of nothingness is relevant to modern metaphysical thinking. [It should be noted that although M4 appeared in complete e-book form in 2011, extended excerpts and the contents page was published on my website beginning in 2005-2006. Thus, the author of Decoding Reality had a half-decade to apprise himself of my ideas.]
As both books are rather brief, the independent occurrence of so many similarities is improbable (unless the truth of the model is adjudged extremely evident to individuals of a certain intellectual orientation). Unfortunately, Dr. Vedral introduces ideas including casino gambling, stock market investing, quantum computing, social network theory, and even an uniformed dietary discourse that detracts decidedly from the overarching thesis of the book. This incoherence only illustrates that he has failed to argue convincingly for the validity of the Informational Metaphysical Hypothesis (as we might describe it). It would be unbecoming to promote my own book at the expense of Dr. Vedral. I shall resist this natural temptation and instead advise all readers interested in this fascinating perspective to acquire J. Gleick’s, The Information—a truly original and momentous work that is, happily, available from Audible.
A masterpiece of meticulous linguistic and historical research made intelligible to the interested laymen. So exquisite is the elocution of the narrator, so impressive is his mastery of several spoken languages, that it must be heard, not merely read.
The book, Bozo Sapiens, by the Kaplan couple exemplifies how lewd, lame, and lugubrious learned persons can be. Listen to the book only if you can bear being disappointed by the irredeemable depravity of humankind, the authors included. They so deserve each other....
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