Sunday, 26 September 2010

Stephen Hawking: Philosophy is Dead - So is Free Trade

Philosophy is Dead so is Globalization

Biblical understanding of the God according to one of the oldest Hindu Epics, Rig-Veda rests upon Lord Brahma, who supposedly created the Universe when he spoke, "Aeko aham bhavishyami", means I split into billions and the world was created spontaneously. In Hindu mythology (I dare say) there are three Gods: Brahma the Creator, Shiva the destroyer and Vishnu the saver (maintainer). However, Krishna consciousness school believes, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are only Demi Gods, i.e., Head of three Departments of the material world. Krishna is the only GOD. If senses are used for self gratification it is Maya (material), but if the senses are used for the services of Krishna, is called Mukti (liberation or salvation). Of course, Lord Brahma used different spices to create the material world so that people and things look different, otherwise the world would have been very boring. Neoclassical economists used this differentiation to pay higher prices for the variety, but a well known Cambridge Marxian economist, Joan Robinson called it inefficiency of the Capitalism, i.e. monopolistic competition.

One can also find a flavor in "Upanishads" as follows: "God is unlike to anything and like to nothing". Somewhat similar reference is also found in others other religious writings/epics. Tao Teh Ching, a Chinese Saint, around the 6th century BC, described the God as: "The name that can be named is not the real Name." Though God comprises Being, he is infinitely beyond it. It is the first cause of all existence, manifesting itself in the Creator and the created universe. He is advaita, non-dula, beyond every determination or affirmation of any kind. Saint John greatly influenced by Plato, for him God is immanent in the Cosmos and work of Christ is of cosmic significance. The Logos doctrine affirms that the whole universe is retuning to perfection through Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation ...all things were created through him and for him." The world process is one of conflict and victory. The victory of hostile forces is a cosmic victory and this victory brings about a new relation, a relationship of reconciliation between God and the world (Colossian I: 15-16, it appears somewhat Hegelian view of the world). However, there is one common thread in all religions and we find them in Upanishads and Buddhism, in Plato and Aristotle. In St. Thomas Aquinas' five proofs are well known (World Perspective, Vol I), that they all offer proofs for the existence of God. Kant bases his theistic conviction on the nature of human conscience and Hegel on the nature of human knowledge about the consciousness. Gandhi used to say “Truth is God and not God is Truth” (Satyasvarupa). Among all the religions Buddhism appears to provide a reasoned approach which says: "Buddhism insists that reason based on evidence is only guide to truth. He asks us not to believe any sacred book because of its antiquity or regard for its author. Each one should search himself, think for himself, and realize for himself". (Late Sarvepalli Dr Radhakrishanan, President of India).

In fact, Hegel's religious ideas are somewhat similar to ancient thoughts and beliefs excepting he has given them more organized structure of human knowledge of consciousness. Hegel argues the supremacy of consciousness (mindset or thought process) over matter using dialectics, which one his students, Karl Marx challenged and gave an alternative view of the world known as Dialectical Materialism” to explain the reality. Unresolved debate still goes on between the Marxists and Hegelians. For Hegel, it is the social consciousness that determines the social being and for Marx, it is social being that determines the social consciousness. The debate on the existence of the God had never been less controversial as the famous story goes about the Russian Empress (who knew nothing about the mathematics) as follows: In a debate in her court about the existence of the God, one Mathematician stood up and wrote an equation and said since this is equal to that, therefore God exists. She accepted the existence of God out of ignorance not because of any scientific proof about the existence although protagonist of positive jurisprudence like Hart would say, “the absence of evidence does not necessarily means the evidence of absence”. However, to agree to disagree and part with pleasure, an independent observer said, "Never mind no matter".

It is said and often believed by Marxists that Hegel was standing on his head and Marx put him right. Same thing could be said about Professor Stephen Hawking that, for many centuries the history of religions, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism and many philosophers to scientists right from Kautilya to Arya Bhatt In India, Tao to Confucius in China and Plato to Isaac Newton (429BC to 1642AD) and Kant to Hawking in Western world until 1990s were standing on their heads by undermining scientific pursuit of objective principle, it were Marx and now Hawking who put them right.

Christian Thomas Kohl, a Buddhist but German musician studied Indian philosophy to explain reality. He says the mindsets of the modern world provide mainly four answers to question revolving around these answers:
1. The traditional Jewish, Islamic and Christian religions speak about a creator that holds the world together. God represents the fundamental reality. If God were separated only for one moment from the world, the world would disappear immediately. The world can only exist because He is maintaining and guarding it. This mindset is so fundamental that even many modern scientists including Newton, Einstein and Hawking cannot deviate from it. The laws of nature and elementary particles now supersede the role of the creator.
2. René Descartes takes into consideration a second mindset, where the subject or the subjective model of thought is fundamental. Everything else is nothing but derived from it.
3. According to a third holistic mindset, the fundamental reality should consist of both, subject and object. Everything should be fused to become one. Everything should be connected with everything (interdependent).
4. A fourth and very modern mindset neglects reality. We could call it instrumentalism. According to this way of thinking, our concepts do not reflect a single reality in any one way. Our concepts have nothing to do with reality, only with information.
Kohl says Buddhism rejects the above four concepts of reality and it confronted with the approach of nihilism. If you don’t believe in a creator, or in the laws of nature, nor in a permanent object, nor in an absolute subject, nor in both, nor in any of it, in what do you believe in then and what is the purpose of life? What remains that you can consider a fundamental reality? He also says answer is very simple; it is so simple that we barely consider it being a philosophical statement: he relies on interdependence of things and causal connections. Therefore, things are not identical with each other, nor do they break up into objective and subjective parts.

This Buddhist concept of reality is often met with disapproval and considered incomprehensible. But there are modern modes of thought with points of contact. For instance, there is a discussion in quantum physics about fundamental reality. What is fundamental in quantum physics: particles, waves, field of force, and law of nature, mindsets or information? Quantum physics came to a result that is expressed by the key words of complementarity, interaction and entanglement.

According to these concepts there are no independent quantum objects, just complementary ones; they are at the same time waves and particles. Quantum objects interact with others, and they are entangled even when they are separated at a far distance. Without being observed philosophically, quantum physics has created a physical concept of reality. According to that concept, the fundamental reality is an interaction of systems that interact with other systems and with their own components.

This physical concept of reality does not agree with the four approaches mentioned above. If the fundamental reality consists of dependent systems, then its basics can neither be independent and nor objective laws of nature nor independent subjective models of thought. The fundamental reality cannot be a mystic entity nor can it consist of information only. The concepts of reality in Buddhism surprisingly parallel to quantum physics. However since then science has progressed and it no longer relies on quantum physics. It would be appropriate if I could discuss briefly historical developments so that we can appreciate what Prof Hawking has to say about universe.

In Classical theory of physics the Universe is assumed to have a single well-defined history, i.e. large objects as understood by Newton and Einstein. The comes the Quantum Theory which tells us that objects do not have single defined histories and explains the Universe from a subatomic point of view, i.e., study the behavior of fundamental particles, a departure from large objects to parties). Richard Feynman a pioneer of modern quantum mechanics, who was known for his brilliance and eccentricity (for that matter most great men are gifted with these qualities), and developed nanotechnology, which means a system has not just one history but every possible history (appears to say random histories). For him the Universe itself has no single history, nor even an independent existence, which appeared a radical idea to many physicists of his time since it appears to violate common sense. But common sense is based upon everyday’s walk of life not upon the Universe as all knowledge of the world could not be obtained through direct observation. The rejection of notion of perception over the higher reality illuminated by reason could be traced back to Plato (429BC), founder of Western philosophy, but his work undermines the scientific pursuit of objective principles. Rather it was based on metaphysics. Isaac Newton’s (1642AD) laws of motion and gravitation were accepted as absolute truth for centuries until Einstein showed that they did not apply in large gravitational fields or at high speeds.

IN EUREKA - Stephen Hawking in his recent work says there no single theory that would tell us everything about the Universe as Einstein thought? The answer lies in a group of theories and even more universes. Although there is no definite answer to question but now we have a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists, it is M-Theory. It is the only model that has all the attributes one could think as the ultimate theory ought to have. M-Theory tells us that ours is not the only universe and predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. The theory suggests that the concept of nothingness is natural state of affair. He argues that because of a law as gravity, the Universe "can and will create itself from nothing". Spontaneous creation means that "it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper" or their creation requires intervention of some supernatural being or God. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical laws. They are a prediction of science and each universe has many possible histories and many possible states at later times, that is, at time like the present, long after their creation. Most of these states will be quite unlike the Universe we observe and quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life. Only few would allow creatures like us to exist. It would mean Philosophy is dead. Prof Hawking also says that Philosophy is dead as it has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly, physics. As a result, scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. However, there is a slight sticky problem with this argument. It is quite well known that development in quantum physics made it possible to study the properties of the particles independent of matter and the disappearance of some particles (like positron) from the matter, has already called in question the theory of causal knowledge. Since physics itself is known as natural philosophy, so either not all philosophies are defunct or philosophy of physics itself has become defunct and that would be the end of the science as well.

There does not seem to be anything wrong in what Hawking says he has just liberated the God from the nature by making HIM irrelevant for the purposes of creation of the Universe and minimize the tensions between opposing religious sects and beliefs. In fact, in all the above biblical definitions of God there is an element of nothingness. However, every one is free to use God in whatever manner they wish and whenever it suits them, but is in not a necessary condition for the existence of the universe.

The time has come to liberate the World Economy from the Axis of Evils of Capitalism as US President Franklin Roosevelt had put it in 1930s, Privatization, Liberalization and Globalization and make Prof Bhagwati, a self declared father of Free Trade (and his crony Prof Panagariya who is carrying the bandwagon) irrelevant for the existence of world economy. As Prof Hawking said, "We can survive if we act sensibly". Otherwise, they would end up on the Robinson Crusoe and Friday's Island trading fish and meat. Perhaps, both being vegetarians would be left consuming nothing as they failed to realize the importance of manufacturing and the process of production and circulation necessary to understand the dynamics accumulation of capital. Hence, there is no fallacy in Adam Smith's emphasis on manufacturing and there is nothing like quasi-fallacy in Marx as Prof Bhagwati claims.

Prof Suresh Deman, London /Pittsburgh/India

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