Science, reality, religion etc.

It's interesting how I tend to get entangled in extended durations of 'investigations' into specific subjects. Of late, the subject has been science in general. Actually calling it science would be narrowing the scope to a very orthodox view. It has more to do with the human effort at understanding how nature works; while we happen to gain those insights with science, the more important idea is the effort at understanding. This brings us to the topic of how precisely does reality correspond to our explanations and how long shall it keep doing it. Moreover, why exactly is it comprehensible (I think it was Einstein who said that the incomprehensible fact is that nature was so comprehensible), what makes us believe in the relative validity of theories which are just a result of our imperfect impressions gathered by our imperfect senses, and finally, if our scientific explanations are ephemeral (as history has proved time and again), what makes them vastly more credible (at least to me) than the religious/mystic (non)explanations.

Below is part of a video of the brilliant Feynman expressing his views on some of these topics. The relevant points start at 3:20.

Anyway, the book that started this wretched chain of thoughts is David Deutsch's 'The fabric of reality' and it is quite simply, a work of genius. The brilliant thing about this book is that it boldly argues and presents conjectures on such difficult topics and manages to provide convincing arguments for its case. Deutsch doesn't dabble in mollifying opposing viewpoints and thus presents a book which is as incisive in its insight as it is overarching in its reach. He lays the grave of such philosophical junk as solipsism, inductivism, positivism and doesn't shy away from pointing where some of the most brilliant minds (Weinberg, Wheeler, Hawking, Penrose etc.) went wrong. He manages to narrow down his discussion to four of our best theories: quantum theory, Karl Popper's theory of epistemology, Darwinian evolution as modified by Dawkins, and theory of computation (Turing principle), presents the underlying unities among all of them and clarifies as to how all these theories, together, provide us with the most comprehensible and integrated view of our world yet. In other worlds, our first 'Theory of everything'. Its an intense book and I've already started it again in order to make more sense than the 5% I have managed to make after the first read :).


Nikhil said...

nice video find.

Amit said...

How about a new blog post .. eh?

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Like a particularly notorious child's tantrums, a mountaneous river's intemperance, a volcano's reckless carelessness and the dreamy eyes of a caged bird, imagination tries to fly unfettered. Hesitant as she takes those first steps, she sculpts those ambitious yet half baked earthen pots.