“Do you also study science?” Once I inquired from a teenage beard sprouting seminary student seated next to me while travelling from Kohala to Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir in 1990s. “No, science is infidel”, he replied. I could not dare to tell him that I was a student of science on my way to teach Physics at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Science neither endorses nor rejects religion. Science tries to interpret our physical world and scientific theories may not be consistent. We have gaps in our theory of biological evolution. We have many sets of sciences in Physics to describe phenomena at different levels. Our classical mechanics is appropriate to explain things at macro scales. Yet we have to discard classical mechanics and adopt other tools, such as quantum mechanics, to explain material properties at particle levels. Not yet enough to unify the fundamental energies, physicists have developed string theory or the Theory Of Everything (TOE). String theory assumes that our universe is composed of extremely small strings of dancing matter. Mathematically such formulation satisfies the fundamental requirements to explain everything. Is it possible to prove string theory? May be never. If we expand an atom to the size of our solar system, then a string will be the size of a tree on our planet earth. Any theory that can be proven mathematically but impossible to verify practically falls into the domain of philosophy rather than physical sciences.
Our reductionist models are good to explain some properties of matter but lack universal applications. We cannot use our string, quantum or classical physics to explain biological processes. Further, we have hard time to understand phenomena associated with photons, which we will discuss later. Does this mean science is imperfect or faulty? Or let’s put it this way, ‘there is a lot more in this cosmos which needs explanation than our existing knowledge can offer’.
There are billion of stars, such as our sun, in our galaxy also known as Milky Way. There are billion of such galaxies in this universe. How much is a billion? If you sit down and start counting, it will take you over 95 years to count one billion. How far apart these galaxies are? Billions of light years. If you travel at the speed of light, which is 186000 miles per second, then it will take you billions of years to travel across some galaxies. And this universe is expanding in space which is curved. If it is curved then there should be wormhole where one can travel from one curved corner to another in relatively short time. A naive example can be: One can travel from Pakistan to Bangladesh via India in short time compared to travelling via Europe, Atlantic, North America, Pacific, South-East Asia and then to Bangladesh.
The planets in the space are like dense metallic balls spread over a tightly stretched sheet of cloth representing as space. Our universe is filled with unimaginable things such as green stars which are million times more brighter than our sun and black holes which do not let even light to escape from their gravitational pulls. This is one side of the picture of our universe. At the particle level, an atom is a very small unit. Consider there is 5 kilograms of sugar and we just pick up one grain out of it. The number of atoms in this one-grain is almost equal to total numbers of grains in 5 Kg sugar. Yet each atom has over 200 waves/particles in it.
While comparing oneself with this huge cosmos, one departs from his/her commonsense approach. People, who use a reductionist approach to ascertain this universe, end up believing that an individual human, not to speak of an animal, plant, bacteria, or a particle, has no or an extremely insignificant role in this great cosmic machine. If we compare our life span with the cosmic age, it appears as an insignificant event of some quantum order. If we compare our size with respect to our universe it appears meaningless. If we try to ascertain our role in this giant cosmic scheme our every action seems of zero impact. To a reductionist the entire cosmos appears as a mechanistic scheme. To a religious person such a mechanistic explanation seems infidel. Such an approach rules out any role or even the existence of any deity. This is also true with those physicists who understand the limitations of their discipline.
In fact at this stage we enter into a contradictory world of science. If a similar contradictory approach were adapted in other disciplines, as we do in Physics, it would be conveniently described as hypocrisy. Interestingly J.P. Thompson won Nobel Prize in 1937 for showing that an electron is in fact a wave (diffraction of electrons by crystal.) Earlier in 1906, his father J.J. Thompson already won Nobel Prize for showing that an electron is a particle (conductivity of electricity through gases). Who was right, father or son? Was the first Nobel Prize awarded in error? This is where you have to walk, talk and live with eternal contradictions in sciences. How one thing can be wave and particle at the same time? It is either day or night, not together. In fact, both father and son were right, as an electron is a particle and a wave at the same time. Scientists call it duality of matter or more precisely complementary theory. We have wave and particle, algebra and geometry, day and night, zero and infinity, organic and inorganic, classical and quantum, etc. as examples of complementarity. These phenomena are mutually exclusive but coexist in their domains. In fact they are not ‘contradictory’ but complementary. The complementary theory features a “wholeness” of our cosmos or also known as holistic approach.
Nature behaves in a bizarre way at fundamental levels. Our whole cosmos is a bubbling quantum soup, where particles/waves, that we all are composed of, live in some random fashion. These particles wiggle, jump up/down and some assume certain (geometric) shapes under cosmic evolutionary forces or constraints. That is how we all appear at macro levels. Our most daily activities do not require us to deal these particles/waves at quantum levels so we ignore them.
However, the issue is different when it comes to spirituality. What all this has to do with spirituality anyway? This is where we come head on collision with our rigid and reductionist way of thinking. This is where we face another contradiction and replace our reductionist model with holistic one.
Nature is unpredictable, indeterminate, illogical, random, chaotic and haphazard at quantum levels which we want to avoid for our routine living functions. You plan a project to achieve certain results. No one will support a project that claims unpredictable results. If you know the velocity and total time of a moving object then your formula should be able to accurately calculate the traversed distance. However, such an accuracy is not possible at quantum levels. And if indeterminacy is the law at quantum level then how this cosmos operates? Where is our scientific accuracy? Even our universal constants are not so much “constant” and change with time. But for some scientists this is an unacceptable truth – the bitter one. Even Einstein fought against complementary theory for thirty-five years and miserably failed. His famous quote, “God does not play dice” was his ultimate frustration with this bizarre and indeterminate behavior of our universe. It is also interesting to note that V. I. Lenin, who tried to apply reductionist analytical approach toward social issues, vehemently rejected quantum approach. Social arena is one of the best examples to notice the indeterminate concepts of quantum world. Despite huge strides in material arena and global appeal the rigid social system collapsed due to the lack of flexibility, dynamism and spirituality. If things are random and the outcome is like tossing a dice then how accurate are our scientific theories at fundamental levels, is the perplexing question? And if such a chaotic and randomness exist at most fundamental levels then how science can accept or reject (for that reason) religious beliefs.
Einstein, like Newton and many other scientists, was religious. Here we have another dimension in scientific interpretation rather than practicality of our theories. How do scientists try to interpret science while maintaining their beliefs? Can they be impartial? The matter of fact is that measurements of quantum particles with macro instruments itself are partial and the outcome is affected by what people used to describe as the law of uncertainty. Even the intentions of the experimenter can influence the outcome. If that is true, which it stands to be, then how can we be impartial in our any scientific inquiry?
Scientists observed many other strange phenomena at quantum levels. One such phenomenon is known as twin photon paradox when a 1.02 MeV (mega electron volts) electron splits into two photons of equal energy. These twin photons travel at the speed of light away from each other. When scientists tried to disrupt one photon (measuring horizontal or vertical polarization) the other photon, already traveling at the speed of light away from its sibling, got disturbed. Two particles traveling at the speed of light away from each other cannot communicate with each other under known physical laws as the speed of light is considered the ultimate limit. After extensive research on these and other particle issues, scientists finally concluded that this superluminar communication indicates that we and the whole cosmos is connected with each other, to our past and to future too.
Scientists claim that our present universe started with a big bang some billions of years ago. Before that singularity was in existence. The matter was condensed in a very tiny space. After fraction of a second with big bang matter and energy made crucial decisions. If the whole cosmos (matter/energy -space, time) has existed as singularity prior to big bang and we are all descendants of that unity then, like twin photons, we are all connected, not only with each other but also with the whole cosmos. Furthermore, we remember our past and can affect our future. In we build a very fast spaceship and send one of the twin brothers into the space then practically the other brother on planet earth will age and become older than his space bound sibling.
Other experiments on photon interference showed that these tiny particles could figure out what lies ahead (can see the future). In nutshell, the universe is conscious. Our connection with family, friends, earth, air, water, plants, animals, environment, solar system, galaxy and the entire cosmos is eternal. When I peek deep into the space via Hubble images, I feel as a part of the entire cosmos. I feel connected with the past, present and future of this cosmic rhythm. If I take a mechanical viewpoint of this cosmos then it becomes very depressing. The place of planet earth in the entire universe is similar to a grain of sand with respect to sand grains spread over beaches of the entire earth and expanding. In that respect I even do not feel as a cog in this giant cosmic machine. In fact, it is so depressive that life becomes meaningless. However, when I take a holistic approach of complementarity, I realize myself as a player in this cosmic order.
One often asked question: Do material particles appear dancing at quantum levels because of their small size compared to the size of the measuring instruments? What if we use much smaller detectors such as photons? Do they appear jumpy when viewed at macro levels but relatively at micro-scale will be settled and deterministic? The answer is NO. Particles at quantum levels have inherent chaotic behavior by nature and they are unpredictable. The law of uncertainty is applied not because of their size but due to their inherent properties.
Another oft-asked question: Is wave phenomenon due to small size? No. Wave and particle are complementary as to be called duality of matter. Our earth moves at a velocity of 27,000 Kilometer per hour (Km/hr) and has a wave of 10-64 meter (m). A 1000 Kilogram (Kg) truck moving at 100 Km/hr has a wave of 10-33 m. A 500 grams football traveling at 100 Km/hr has an associated wavelength of 10-29 m. A living cell weighing 10-9 gram moving at 1 m/s has an associated wave of 10-17 m. An atom has as associated wave of 102 m. Radio waves vary from few meters to several kilometers. So we cannot get rid of wave factor. It is more pronounced and practically measurable as the mass of the material becomes smaller and smaller.
One wonders, how can we harness energy at quantum levels with all this uncertainty and non-predictability? We have ongoing research in quantum computation and quantum-based DNA computations. To harness quantum level phenomena we need to shift our ‘belief’ from the principle of uncertainty to complementarity. Once armed with holistic approach of complementary theory we develop respect for our cosmos, our galaxy, solar system, earth, environment, living creatures, water, air, ourselves, past, present and future as an eternal connected entities. A hard rigid dense particle behavior is replaced with dynamic, spiritual and wavelike attitude. There is a tremendous interest in mind-body and other forms of bioenergetic phenomena. We have electromagnetic waves in our bodies that is how our system is driven and records EKG, EEG, EMG, etc. Human body also emits gamma radiation from Potassium and Strontium isotopes. However, bioenergy is a another field that is oriented more toward quantum science concepts. Famous medical schools such as Stanford University, Harvard Medical School and University of Michigan etc. are involved in conducting research in mind-body medicine. Scientists are trying to understand and evaluate the effects of prayers, distant healing, healing-touch, chi which are considered another forms of non-locality effects. Non-locality in Physics is considered a spooky action at a distance.
Scientists are in search for ideal laboratories which are relatively pollution free, especially in terms of electromagnetic pollution. It is a challenge to develop an insulated laboratory to measure bioenergy in the presence of radio, TV, cell phones, police, military and other electromagnetic frequencies. Since there can be a wide spectrum in bioenergy waveforms, a wide range of empty frequencies are required in a laboratory setting. Chemical pollution may also degrade the experimental results. Himalayan Mountains can provide an ideal base for such experiments. Historically Sufis, Buddhist monks, Sadhus and Saints had used these serene locations for meditation and spiritual enlightenment. It will be prudent to extend the scientific inquiry into traditional spirituality both for the benefit of humanity and understanding of nature. This may also bring home the message that science is not that entirely infidel. It has a very large spiritual component too.