The Unknowable Universe

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about dark matter and dark energy. Even though I have been wildly interested in the universe and physics, I had never really done any in depth research about two substances or things, if you will, that are believed to make up over 95% of the universe. Pretty bizarre I know, but honestly they are not all that often talked about at least in the articles I have read.

This article which I found the other day is quite interesting. While I was reading it, I got the notion that the author was science bashing just a little and basically saying that scientist and physicists will never figure out the universe and that it is basically unknowable. He even makes the statement that dark matter and dark energy may be so beyond us that our simple brains may not even be able to comprehend them.

There is a good chance that the hidden fabric of reality cannot in fact be known through scientific means. Dark matter and energy, for example, if they are outside the framework of all forms of discovered matter and energy, may be so alien to our brains (which are composed of that ordinary matter and energy) that they are literally inconceivable.

While I did find this article very interesting I do have some problems/issues with it. After reading it I was a little perplexed by the statements and the overall character of the article. As I mentioned the writer Depakk Chopra, who is quite famous, Google his name, more or less talks about how we will never figure out reality or how the universe works. For the most part he bashes science and its failure to understand the most basic and simple ideas, such as reality. I understand what he is saying but I don’t think bashing and putting down the ideas and theories that have been put forth is a good idea or a great solution by any means.

After I read his Wikipedia page did I get a clearer picture of who this guy is. Apparently he made a name for himself for begin some sort of spiritual and meditation guru, who believes that the mind can heal all, basically mind over matter. I do not want to rule out this idea as nonsense, mainly because we do not know enough about how the brain works, but what I do know is that the body is physical and logically it should require a physical treatment if injured or sick. Take Steve Jobs for example, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer, one of the few types that is very treatable. Yet he refused any sort of actual medical treatment or surgery. Instead he opted for alternative medicine including diet and a variety of juices for treatment. Jobs lost his battle with cancer, and the saddest part of this is that many doctors believe that his life could have been saved if he opted for medical treatment. I do not want to bash alternative medicine or meditation in any way, all I am saying is that I am not sure those methods are the best course of action when dealing with the body and its problems. But I am getting a little off topic.

The reason I brought that up was because Chopra is very controversial for wanting individuals to forego medical treatment and seek alternative methods for help such as meditation. The point I am trying to make is that based on his background I can see now that he has somewhat of an agenda in the article. However, despite his tone in the article I did find various aspects of it noteworthy and want to talk more about them. The first is the quote I mentioned above. I think this could very well be the case. As I have said many times our brains could very well be so primitive that we will never fully understand the universe. We are limited by its computing power, and relatively speaking it seems to be the most powerful computer on the planet, if could very well be one of the most primitive in the multiverse, therefore there is little hope that we will be able to comprehend the universe even if we happen stumble upon the answers. He outlines a few of the problems with our current theories in the article:

If you have heard the terms multiverse, string theory, superstring theory, and dark matter and energy, you need to realize the unmentioned problems with all of them:

None of these things called strings, superstrings, or multiverses has ever been observed.

  1. There is every likelihood that they never will be observed.
  2. None can be experimented upon in order to prove whether they exist or not. (There are supposedly some exceptions having to do with prying evidence out of the quantum field for dark matter, but no success yet.
  3. There is a good chance that the hidden fabric of reality cannot in fact be known through scientific means. Dark matter and energy, for example, if they are outside the framework of all forms of discovered matter and energy, may be so alien to our brains (which are composed of that ordinary matter and energy) that they are literally inconceivable.
  4. If 96% of creation is inconceivable, all the brilliant mathematical models in the world can’t undo the fact that the universe, as we conceive of it, has vanished.

Despite my disagreement with him about his overall idea, I think he does have a few points. The first I mentioned above as perhaps the universe is unknowable to us. The other is that even though math is universal, I kind of agree that I do not think reality or the conceivable universe can be fitted into a nice neat mathematical model. If I were a betting man I would bet that we will never find a clean and concise model to explain the universe, or at least in the traditional sense. There are way too many variables and too much space, if you will. If we do find a model that works to explain all aspects of our reality I think it will be something so bizarre and foreign that we will have never thought of it, basically the way we are going about the whole idea is backwards. I believe the only way we will find it, if it exists at all, is stumbling upon it, but that is an astronomically small, near improbable chance.

To me the biggest take away from all this is the idea that the universe is unknowable. Perhaps he is right in this aspect and even if we had a proper computing device, i.e. some sort of super brain, that we would still not comprehend the universe or how reality works, because it is truly unknowable. That to me is a scary thought and raises so many more questions. But at the same time they are irrelevant because there are no answers or at least answers that would make sense to us, so why bother?

If the universe is truly unknowable, what then, where do we go from here? Do we simply stop trying to understand it? That would be one, if not THE, hardest thing we humans would have to do, accept that we will never understand reality. We are by nature a curious species and learning that something so basic as reality, is unknowable, I do not think would not sit well with us. I don’t know about you but at least it would not with me, I personally would have a difficult time coming to terms with that notion. In fact as a species it is better for us to think we can understand it, I think that would be better for our psyche as a whole. This could be classified as the Agnostic approach to the universe. Another question is that is all this irrelevant? I cannot believe I wrote that last sentence. I have always been of the mindset that understanding our universe and reality were the most important tasks plaguing mankind. The small stuff has never been important to me (or at least I try to always remind myself that I am a living being on a rock circling a star somewhere in the infinite multiverse) and have alwasy tried my hardest not to get caught up in it. Getting a new car, new house, new shoes, worrying about a variety of other seemingly important things, in the whole grand scheme of things do not matter.

BUT- I had not added this variable of the unknowable universe into my theory. So now I do not know what to think?

The cosmic jury is still out on this one, and until the something dramatic happens I still have hope. To quote the X-FilesThe truth is out there… Or it may be, may be not?



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