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Buddhism and the Many world Many Minds Theory

zidanguszidangus Veteran
edited June 2010 in Buddhism Today
I'm back again to talk about how Buddhism can relate to current scientific theories of our universe. Im sorry if most of my posts have this theme but I am a nuclear physicist and a Buddhist, so I like to think how physics and Buddhist philosophy can relate to each other.
Anyway an interesting theory that I remember reading as an undergraduate is the many world theory, which suggests basically that, for each possible outcome to an action, the world splits into a copy of itself. This is an instantaneous process Everett called decohesion. It's kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but rather than choosing between either exploring the cave or making off with the treasure, the universe splits in two so that each action is taken.One vital aspect of the Many-Worlds theory is that when the universe splits, the person is unaware of himself in the other version of the universe. This means that the boy who made off with the treasure and ends up living happily ever after is completely unaware of the version of himself who entered the cave and now faces great peril, and vice versa. There is a famous thought experiment called quantum suicide. When the man pulls the trigger, there are two possible outcomes: the gun either fires or it doesn't. In this case, the man either lives or he dies. Each time the trigger is pulled, the universe splits to accommodate each possible outcome. When the man dies, the universe is no longer able to split based on the pulling of the trigger. The possible outcome for death is reduced to one: continued death. But with life there are still two chances that remain: The man continues living or the man dies.
<table align="right" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td>
</td></tr></tbody></table> *When the man pulls the trigger and the universe is split in two, however, the version of the man who lived will be unaware that in the other version of the split universe, he has died. Instead he will continue to live and will again have the chance to pull the trigger. And each time he does pull the trigger, the universe will again split, with the version of the man who lives continuing on, and being unaware of all of his deaths in parallel universes. In this sense, he will be able to exist indefinitely. This is called quantum immortality.
This theory has also been extended to include the many minds theory which
proposes that the distinction between worlds is made at the level of the mind of an individual observer.
So I am just wondering if these theories can be thought of as plausible from a Buddhist point of view.
Again no real answer can be given so your points of view would be appreciated.

metta to you all

Comments

  • edited May 2010
    Speculative issues such as this theory are the kind of thing the Buddha admonished against, time and again. It's just fantasy, and it distracts from the actual teachings and what we can observe for ourselves of the natural functioning of reality/the-universe.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 2010
    zidangus wrote: »
    So I am just wondering if these theories can be thought of as plausible from a Buddhist point of view.
    Again no real answer can be given so your points of view would be appreciated.

    metta to you all
    Javelin wrote: »
    Speculative issues such as this theory are the kind of thing the Buddha admonished against, time and again. It's just fantasy, and it distracts from the actual teachings and what we can observe for ourselves of the natural functioning of reality/the-universe.
    yes, basically, what Javelin said.
    If no real answer can be given I think we should take the Buddha's lead and remain silent.

    Others will of course, engage you in discussion, but again the point, aim and conclusion will be futile and will simply take up so much room on the forum.
    Others will protest, and justify that discussions such as these help to broaden the mind and deepen understanding.
    but they won't be able to say why, or how.....
    But know the Buddha called this a great waste of time, better spent in other areas of practice.......
    So really, if you see a deep and meaningful point in discussing something where no real answer can be given - knock yourself out.
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    yes, basically, what Javelin said.
    If no real answer can be given I think we should take the Buddha's lead and remain silent.

    Others will of course, engage you in discussion, but again the point, aim and conclusion will be futile and will simply take up so much room on the forum.
    Others will protest, and justify that discussions such as these help to broaden the mind and deepen understanding.
    but they won't be able to say why, or how.....
    But know the Buddha called this a great waste of time, better spent in other areas of practice.......
    So really, if you see a deep and meaningful point in discussing something where no real answer can be given - knock yourself out.
    I am sorry if you feel that it is a waste of time. However I am just trying to look at the possible avenues in which science and Buddhism agree and disagree. I think I have read that his holiness the Dali lama wishes more co operation and investigation into Buddhism and Science so I was just wondering if anyone out there has a view on this particular aspect. I myself do not claim to be advanced on my understanding of the Dharma or in my spirtual path, so again this is why I am asking if anyone with a better understanding than myself can give there point of view.
    I should also say that every scientific theory has no real answer to it, it is just a theory which always will have the possibility to be proved or disproved. However this does not stop me or I am sure any other person from thinking or having a point of view about it. As a Buddhist I have a view on the theory of evolution and also a view on big bang theory, these two theories are well accepted theories but as I mentioned earlier they are only theories which can be disproved. Yet in todays world most lay Buddhists and indeed monks must have had a view on these theories. Is it not good to ask questions even if you come to the conclusion that there is no satisfactory answer, you can only come to that conclusion by asking it to yourself. I know this is what led me to Buddhism, my ability to ask questions concerning myself, the world I live in and comparing them to the teachings of the Dharma and then coming to a conclusion if I thought the Dharma made sense, and it did make sense which is why I became a Buddhist.
    Anyway thanks for reading the post
    peace and happiness to you all.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited May 2010
    Remember zidangus that some consider any speculation to be fruitless. Its as bizarre to me as it is to you.

    In this case, there isn't any evidence of this kind of happenstance occuring, is there? I have not seen any kind of micro or macro phenomena that would lend credence to this model of the universe unfolding as stated.

    In such, I don't think that it resonates with the Buddhist idea of DO. The relationship between the gun, the person pulling the trigger and death are all interconnected through cause/effect, meaning that multiple outcomes would be dependent on multiple causes... but how could that be? An orange tree gives birth to oranges, not oranges and apples.

    With warmth,

    Matt
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    yes, basically, what Javelin said.
    If no real answer can be given I think we should take the Buddha's lead and remain silent.

    I just wonder if Siddhartha Gautama had this attitude would he have found enlightenment ?
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited May 2010
    Javelin wrote: »
    Speculative issues such as this theory are the kind of thing the Buddha admonished against, time and again. It's just fantasy, and it distracts from the actual teachings and what we can observe for ourselves of the natural functioning of reality/the-universe.

    Yep, I agree.

    These MW theories are "toy" theories to explain quirks in QM. There is no evidence for them or real reasons to believe them.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 2010
    zidangus wrote: »
    I am sorry if you feel that it is a waste of time.
    Not I. The Buddha. And given that he explained why, and it is completely logical, I'd agree.
    However I am just trying to look at the possible avenues in which science and Buddhism agree and disagree.
    No you're not. You're engaging in a discussion which has no answer. You said so yourself. Not all Science conflicts with Buddhism.
    This has no foundation for speculation.
    I think I have read that his holiness the Dali lama wishes more co operation and investigation into Buddhism and Science
    I think you'll find it'd mainly in the field of the study of Mind.....
    (. . .)
    I should also say that every scientific theory has no real answer to it, it is just a theory which always will have the possibility to be proved or disproved.
    Then let science do this....
    However this does not stop me or I am sure any other person from thinking or having a point of view about it.
    Yes indeed. My PoV is the same as the Buddha's. Why spend time cogitating on the unfathomable?
    As a Buddhist I have a view on the theory of evolution and also a view on big bang theory, these two theories are well accepted theories but as I mentioned earlier they are only theories which can be disproved
    What is the point in Buddhism of disproving them, or otherwise?
    How does this lend itself to practice? How does this make you understand the origin of suffering and the cessation of suffering?
    Yet in todays world most lay Buddhists and indeed monks must have had a view on these theories.
    Why must they?
    On the contrary, I would say most lay Buddhist and indeed monks would have known what was skilful and what is unskilful - particularly as the Buddha gives clear direction and guidance on this.....
    Is it not good to ask questions even if you come to the conclusion that there is no satisfactory answer,
    No.
    I know this is what led me to Buddhism, my ability to ask questions concerning myself, the world I live in and comparing them to the teachings of the Dharma and then coming to a conclusion if I thought the Dharma made sense, and it did make sense which is why I became a Buddhist.
    In asking questions relating to the dhamma, I would agree.
    Your question here in no way relates to the dhamma. So it's pointelss, unconjecturable and vexating.
    aMatt wrote: »
    Remember zidangus that some consider any speculation to be fruitless. Its as bizarre to me as it is to you.
    It would only be bizarre if there was a direct point and valid conclusion to the question. As the question has no definitive answer, what's the point of examining it?
    What does it bring you other than burned-out braincells and a waste of time?
    Isn't that more bizarre?

    zidangus wrote: »
    I just wonder if Siddhartha Gautama had this attitude would he have found enlightenment ?

    It was because he found enlightenment that he developed this attitude.
    He understood what is skilful and what isn't skilful.
    The reason we have not found enlightenment, is because we persist in ignoring his skilful advice.....
    But hey, don't mind me. Carry on discussing the fruitless.
    I'll just sit and watch to see how long it is before somebody disappears up their own vortex......
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    I think I have read that his holiness the Dali lama wishes more co operation and investigation into Buddhism and Science
    I think you'll find it'd mainly in the field of the study of Mind.....

    As an FYI, HHDL he is very into science, and not just of the mind.

    namaste
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited May 2010
    aMatt wrote: »

    In this case, there isn't any evidence of this kind of happenstance occuring, is there? I have not seen any kind of micro or macro phenomena that would lend credence to this model of the universe unfolding as stated.
    Matt
    Hi aMatt there could be evidence of sorts for this, in double slit experiments. Here a light source that is capable of producing just one photon at a time is directed towards slits, so that one photon at a time can pass through the apparatus with the result of interference fringes
    If either slit is covered, the individual photons hitting the screen, over time, create an ordinary diffraction pattern. But if both slits are left open, the pattern of photons hitting the screen, over time, again becomes a series of light and dark fringes. This result seems to both confirm and contradict the wave theory of light. This interference pattern of alternating bright and dark stripes which gradually appears, defies common sense. As, there is only one thing each photon can interact with—itself. The only way this pattern could form is if each photon passes through both slits at once and then interferes with its alternate self. It is as if a moviegoer exited a theater and found that his location on the sidewalk was determined by another version of himself that had left through a different exit and shoved him on the way out.
    There have been countless experiments which confirm this, and it has been pointed out as evidence of being more than one universe.
    It is interesting from a Buddhist point of view because I just wonder what would happen to the consciousness of the person, does this also split with the other universe or copy itself, maybe are mids are constantly with itself in different universes interacting which might explain why we get thoughts that we dont know where that came from and things such as deja vue.
  • RenGalskapRenGalskap Veteran
    edited May 2010
    The books I have that cover the many worlds theory were written by philosophy professors, not physics professors. The math equations and testable hypotheses used by physicists are science. Speculative interpretations of science fall under philosophy. The many worlds theory is irrefutable, which is to say that it can't be tested. Irrefutable theories are not considered scientific.

    Steven Hawkings calls the many worlds theory "trivially true", by which he means that it helps visualize certain problems, but he doesn't believe that there are really many worlds. Most people who study the various interpretations of quantum mechanics believe that the weirdness is due to a faulty model. It's widely thought that once a better model is proposed, the weirdness will disappear.

    Personally, I'm not going to spend a lot of time speculating on links between Buddhism and theories that are likely to be discarded once science advances beyond it's current models.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 2010
    thickpaper wrote: »
    As an FYI, HHDL he is very into science, and not just of the mind.

    namaste
    I don't dispute this. He's also an accomplished watch repairer, but I doubt very much it takes up too much of his attention, in comparison to more important matters....
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    In asking questions relating to the dhamma, I would agree.
    Your question here in no way relates to the dhamma. So it's pointelss, unconjecturable and vexating.
    It would only be bizarre if there was a direct point and valid conclusion to the question. As the question has no definitive answer, what's the point of examining it?
    federica please calm down, this post is not meant to encourage unskillful mental states. For someone who does not want to spend energy thinking about this subject you have done the complete opposite. Please understand this post is in the forum Buddhism today not Advanced Buddhism or Meditation. It is a general question on Buddhism and science. And you may find it pointless and has no answer, for me too it may have no answer, but for someone it may have an answer. Just because my mind and indeed your mind cannot find an answer to the question does not mean that there is no answer to the question or indeed that someone may have it.
    So please stop getting worked up about this, if you don't agree and and don't want to spend your time thinking about it then don't.
    Be tolerant, be Happy and may your mind be peaceful.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    It would only be bizarre if there was a direct point and valid conclusion to the question. As the question has no definitive answer, what's the point of examining it?

    I treat it as I do a koan.
    federica wrote: »
    What does it bring you other than burned-out braincells and a waste of time?
    Isn't that more bizarre?

    This might be what it does for you, burning out your mind, creating posts of deliberate and direct unhappiness, but for me, they help illumine natural patterns of the universe and give contrast and resonance to Buddhist teachings. For instance, this brief speculation gave rise to a more full understanding of DO and Quantum Physics. Plus it gives me an opportunity to know zidangus' curiosities better. Why are you so quick to vilify things?
    zidangus wrote: »
    Hi aMatt there could be evidence of sorts for this, in double slit experiments.

    There have been countless experiments which confirm this, and it has been pointed out as evidence of being more than one universe.

    I don't find this evidence to point toward those conclusions. I think that there are qualities to photons perhaps that remain unknown, but using such microcasmic experiments to conclude there is a splitting universe in front of each thought is dubious.

    I wonder if the scientists in this experiment are falsely thinking that each photon is a container of the same conditions... or perhaps their emitter is letting out more than a single photon.

    If there are more universes, well dang, I'm gonna have to clean out my garage. Where in the world would we put it?

    With warmth,

    Matt
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 2010
    aMatt wrote: »
    I treat it as I do a koan.
    Do you know how you're supposed to treat a koan....?
    This might be what it does for you, burning out your mind, creating posts of deliberate and direct unhappiness,
    :lol: :lol:
    but for me, they help illumine natural patterns of the universe and give contrast and resonance to Buddhist teachings.
    Now that does sound Zen. :crazy:
    For instance, this brief speculation gave rise to a more full understanding of DO and Quantum Physics.
    Really? Wow..... :rolleyes:

    Why are you so quick to vilify things?[/QUOTE]
    I don't 'vilify things'. I see what is pointless, futile and aimless, and follow the Buddha's teaching on this. That attempting to spend time understanding such things is pointless futile and aimless.
    Look, you can argue your reasoning all you like. Your cup is full, there's no point in trying to add more tea.
    You won't listen to me, and you won't listen to the Buddha. This would imply that you know better than the Buddha taught, and I guess, you'll find out, in your own time,who's right.
    I know who my money's on. ;)



    I don't find this evidence to point toward those conclusions. I think that there are qualities to photons perhaps that remain unknown, but using such microcasmic experiments to conclude there is a splitting universe in front of each thought is dubious.

    I wonder if the scientists in this experiment are falsely thinking that each photon is a container of the same conditions... or perhaps their emitter is letting out more than a single photon.

    If there are more universes, well dang, I'm gonna have to clean out my garage. Where in the world would we put it?

    With warmth,

    Matt[/QUOTE]
  • RichardHRichardH Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    Now that does sound Zen. :crazy:

    Now why do that Federica?


    Speculation about the parallels between physics and Dharma or mystical gobbledygoop of any kind, is not given the time of day by the Zen teachers I know, nor any serious practitioners.

    I've heard some wacky shit come out the mouths of Theravadin monks. It doesnt sound Theravadin to me.

    why do that?
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited May 2010
    federica wrote: »
    I don't 'vilify things'. I see what is pointless, futile and aimless, and follow the Buddha's teaching on this. That attempting to spend time understanding such things is pointless futile and aimless.
    Look, you can argue your reasoning all you like. Your cup is full, there's no point in trying to add more tea.
    You won't listen to me, and you won't listen to the Buddha. This would imply that you know better than the Buddha taught, and I guess, you'll find out, in your own time,who's right.
    I know who my money's on. ;)

    Yikes.

    Well, hmmm... you seemed to collapse very directly into "this is how Matt is" which seems problematic. Are you sure that its my cup that is full?

    With warmth,

    Matt
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited May 2010
    Well....it looks as if it is, to me.

    And there, frankly, is where I'll leave it.
    Enjoy your investigation.
  • ValtielValtiel Veteran
    edited May 2010
    Teh Buddha has spoken. :lol:
    Really? Wow.....:rolleyes:
    I don't doubt it has given the response he posted. :\
    When the man pulls the trigger, there are two possible outcomes: the gun either fires or it doesn't.
    There's only one, even though we don't know with 100% absolute certainty what it will be. :skeptical
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited May 2010
    RenGalskap wrote: »
    The many worlds theory is irrefutable, which is to say that it can't be tested. Irrefutable theories are not considered scientific.
    There have been a number of experiments proposed to test this theory the link below shows just one.
    http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/quant-ph/0003146
    RenGalskap wrote: »
    Steven Hawkings calls the many worlds theory "trivially true", by which he means that it helps visualize certain problems, but he doesn't believe that there are really many worlds.
    Steven Hawkings is not right all the time, I remember he argued that hawking radiation resulted in not just the black hole that disappeared but all the information about everything that had ever been inside the black hole disappeared too. This has been refuted by a paper by a brilliant young Argentinean mathematician known as Juan Maldacena. It claimed to be a rigorous mathematical explanation of what happened to information in black holes. It showed that information was not lost. And to my knowlege Hawkings has not come up with a a fully worked mathematical proof to back up his claim.
  • RenGalskapRenGalskap Veteran
    edited May 2010
    zidangus wrote: »
    There have been a number of experiments proposed to test this theory the link below shows just one.
    No, it doesn't. It's a paper that argues that you can remove the need to assume non-locality by assuming MWI instead. It doesn't seem to me that MWI is any less weird than non-locality, so this doesn't strike me as an improvement. In fact, we can go in the opposite direction. We can remove the need to use MWI as an explanation by assuming non-locality.

    Since that paper was written, researchers claim to have run experiments that confirm non-locality. Since there's no experimental evidence that supports MWI, I think it's better to reinterpret the paper as showing that non-locality, which has experimental support, makes MWI unnecessary.
    zidangus wrote: »
    Steven Hawkings is not right all the time,
    Of course not. I brought him up because he's often cited as a supporter of MWI, when in fact he only views it as a useful tool. You didn't cite him, and I apologize for bringing something up which wasn't necessary and just added confusion.

    MWI, the Copenhagen explanation, non-locality, and other speculations are attempts to explain the weirdness of the basic model. Among other things, the model involves superimposing two states on the same object. Schroedinger's thought experiment with the cat was intended to demonstrate the problem with this. A cat cannot be both dead and alive at the same time. Similarly, no one has ever measured a photon that has both up and down spin at the same time. So the superposition of two states in the model seems to have no real world referent.

    The model also depends on the "collapse of the wave function." The wave function is a mathematical function and no one knows what the collapse of a mathematical function is. Again, there seems to be no real world referent.

    Science has a history of coming up with weird theories that are later replaced by simpler theories that remove the weirdness. Philostogen and aether are two examples. A lot of people believe that the current model will eventually be replaced by a better model that doesn't involve undead cats or collapsing math.
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited May 2010
    I'm glad someone can read that paper and make sense of it. When you start having up and down arrows in equations, perhaps a tilde (~) thrown in for kicks, well my brains leak out my ears and I go sit and drink some tea before the universe explodes.
  • edited June 2010
    I find brushing off physical theories as a "waste of time" a little bit harsh. I mean, our lives do not entirely consist of repeating what the Buddha said. There are other things to do as well. We have jobs to do, kids to bring up, a household to keep in order, and scientific problems to solve. Since the Buddha -to our knowledge- didn't say very much about these things, we are left to use our own devices.

    Yes, the Many Worlds interpretation is speculative, but it's neither casual nor empty speculation. There is some profound reasoning behind it. Personally, I find the idea of non-countable universe spawnings repulsive and non-locality appears sane by comparison. But that is just my opinion. It is important to consider all the alternatives.

    Please remember that the theory of magnetism and electricity once started out as mere speculation. Without theoreticians like Maxwell laying the foundations, we wouldn't understand the electromagnetism properly. Our modern world depends on this understanding. One day, quantum mechanics might progress in the same way. What appears speculative and useless may pave the way for new insights.

    If we dismissed all speculation in science, we would not get anywhere with the enterprise of science. The scientific method relies on formulating hypotheses, which are then tested by experiment. So, if we followed the advice to dismiss all speculation, we would still be sitting in caves hunting animals for a living.

    Cheers, Thomas
  • RenGalskapRenGalskap Veteran
    edited June 2010
    If we dismissed all speculation in science, we would not get anywhere with the enterprise of science.
    I may have missed something, but I don't remember anyone in this thread saying that we should dismiss all speculation in science.
  • jinzangjinzang Veteran
    edited June 2010
    The Many Worlds interpretation seems to violate Occam's Razor (don't multiply entities beyond necessity) with a vengeance. It is also highly non-local, seeing that an atom decaing in the Andromeda Galaxy causes this galaxy to split in two. It's sole appeal seams to be that is save realism from the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Since all forms of Buddhism incline to phenomenalism (even the atoms in Theravadin Buddhism are bundles of sense perceptible properties) and mentalism, it would seem to not be a preferred interpretation of quantum mechanics among Buddhists.
  • edited June 2010
    I should also say that every scientific theory has no real answer to it, it is just a theory which always will have the possibility to be proved or disproved. However this does not stop me or I am sure any other person from thinking or having a point of view about it. As a Buddhist I have a view on the theory of evolution and also a view on big bang theory, these two theories are well accepted theories but as I mentioned earlier they are only theories which can be disproved.
    Einstein's discovered the theory of both materials and energy can be transformed one another i.e. materials into energy and energy into materials. It has proven the former of materials into energy like fire powder into energy to bring rocket into space. However, the energy into materials is still yet to be proven although you could find the fact of energy into materials as stated in sutra of infinite light or the larger sutra of living beings dwelling in Pure Land, from loving kindness. Hope that scientist can one day discover and bring people mind to transform those energy into materials through mind. As for many worlds, scientists ought to let go and explore The Flower Adornment sutra which would be helpful in achieving their desirable fantasy of loving kindness for well beings of all. As a matter of fact, their fantasy on theory did not make their own world that much desirable and lovely due to always proven and then disproved after some period of time :lol:
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