The View From 1776

Steve Kellmeyer’s Rebuttal

A reply to comments by Kartik Ariyur.

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In a recent posting, Kartik Ariyur disagreed with interpretations of Eastern religions offered by Steve Kellmeyer in his article, which appeared in the Intellectual Conservative website, and was referenced here,  under the title “Science of Theology, the Religion of Physics: Part I.”

The following is Mr. Kellmeyer’s reply to Mr. Ariyur: 

Kartik Ariyur may be well versed in what we in the West call Hinduism, but he seems to lack the necessary grounding in science. Take his statement “...the world is not as you perceive through the senses. Reality can only be perceived through the intuition—indeed, this has been the case—we have perceived certain mathematical structures in nature and then deviced the measurements to verify them.”

Scientific tools are merely extensions of the senses. Furthermore, it is emphatically not the case that reality is perceived through intuition. Most of the discoveries in quantum physics have been counter-intuitive, for example.

Further, if Eastern mysticism was so amenable to science, why did it not produce a culture that created science wholesale and retail as the West did? Certainly we see isolated Indian accomplishments in mathematics and a few other fields, accomplishments due primarily to the spark of an individually brilliant mind, but we never see the detailed study of reality that the West accomplished.

India did not lack the intellect for the work, she lacked the outlook. The outlook lacked because Hinduism, as Kartik points out, says precisely what science denies - the world cannot be accurately perceived through the senses. Science insists the world CAN be accurately perceived through the senses and those tools which extend the senses.

Sadly, Kartik’s “rebuttal” merely reinforced my point. When we say “reality exists” we necessarily mean that we can determine its characteristics through our senses. As Kartik affirms, Indian mysticism denies this. Thus, Western physics is an expression of Western Christianity.

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Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/22 at 01:08 AM
  1. Other questions arise from the statements in the Bible itself. Does not Jesus counsel seeking first the kingdom of God, and to 'Sell that ye have and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, where no moth corrupteth,'? Similar commandments are followed by Christian monks and nuns throughout the world, and by religious communities such as the Amish. And is it not possible that the Lord Jesus or Saint Francis knew much more about Reality and the laws governing it than we generally know today, given the actions they accomplished? So the interesting question is--how did so much material progress happen in the West in spite of a religion of renunciation? May it not be that the difficulties of survival in cold weather may have a part in the development? For the greatest contributions to science in the Western world have been from the colder climes. Why have Spain, Portugal, Greece, the Balkans, and Latin America not contributed much to this progress?

    It is true that the religious ideal has drawn the most intelligent in India (and to some extent in China as well) to become monks and nuns. The Hindu scriptures define the Creator as Ever existing, ever conscious, ever new Bliss. This Bliss is perceived as the consciousness is freed of material desires. What Steve calls Eastern mysticism is a systematic procedure of moral discipline that enables one to regain one's lost memory of oneness with the Uncreated Infinite (there is nothing mysterious about it--the methods are available in print). But it is also true that very few individuals in any generation have been able to follow these steps precisely, because they are difficult. However, there have always been enough saints (mostly serving society by working in humble obscurity) that at least one individual in almost every family in India has seen what would be commonly called a miracle--this is the reason for the enduring faith of the masses. I, for example, having seen, have no option but to believe. I know that the Bliss of God is much more tempting than any other temptation, and under Its influence, there is no desire but to do His Will. So I can understand why many donated their wealth to charity, left home and comfort to seek the Divine.

    But certainly, the pursuit of Truth, to the exclusion of all material pursuits by the most intelligent, while producing a few spiritual giants has deprived society of much material progress (relative to other nations) in the past few centuries. The West, on the other hand, has focussed primarily on material progress in recent centuries, resulting in moral and thence social problems (though these have been mitigated by the emphasis on charity and religious organization in Western Christianity). I believe a balance is needed between spiritual and material pursuits so that we have sustainable development of societies.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/24  at  02:44 AM
  2. I next come to the point of whether Christianity or Platonic philosophy consider Reality to perceptible by the senses. Clearly, Christ said that the Kingdom of God is within you. The Holy Ghost brings all things to remembrance-- isn't it saying that we inherently know all things? The statement that man is made in the image of God also says we inherently know all things. Is our religious faith based on sensory evidence? The Biblical definition of faith, 'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,' appears contrary to such a view. We think because we exist, and the assumption of our existence and that of a Substance of which the objects of senses are properties, precedes all of our thought processes, and not vice versa.

    Now, even if only intuition were to provide understanding of ultimate Reality, there is no reason why individuals and society should not ascertain causal relationships empirically, even if they not be absolute (may not apply to all of space-time) or if they are transient (recent experiments measuring the velocity of light reveal a possible time-variation), in order to reduce the uncertainty of our lives and thereby to increase our happiness.

    Socrates states in the Phaedo that the senses are deceitful, and in the Meno, the doctrine of anamnesis is laid out--that the soul has known all things before, and by asking the slave the correct sequence of questions, Socrates gets him to arrive at the area of a square whose side is the diagonal of another (irrational number). Many great mathematicians and scientists were Platonists (Einstein, Godel,...)-- as are several of my colleagues. They believe in the eternal existence of ideas, which are discoverable by the mind. We do know that all of the abstractions of mathematics are never exactly realized in the world--there are no straight lines, or triangles or circles. And Einstein expressed this as, 'As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.'

    This is because all our measurements necessarily have noise in them and the conclusions from those measurements therefore are uncertain to the extent that the measurements are uncertain. Noise always means the part of the measurement that we cannot understand or control. The simplest representation of the universe is the universe itself--unless you measured all of space-time, you would always have uncertain measurements. But if we are made in the image of God, is it not possible that we may receive within our perception, all of space-time?

    Finally, the logical order of reading the comments is 2,1,3--I mistakenly posted the second before the first.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/24  at  02:48 AM
  3. I would first like to thank Steve Kellmeyer for making more precise the parameters of the debate. Herein I continue the process, through which, hopefully, we will all understand the issues better. At this time however, many questions are, to my mind, unanswered.

    Firstly, it is not true that Indian accomplishments in various fields are isolated. Grammar, mathematics--indeed, a large part of its foundation (including the zero, infinity, and the decimal representation), and other schools of philosophy (some empirical), music as a science (understanding of frequency ratios and harmonics, the system of musical scales), and even economics (The Arthasastra--which indeed noted how some rulers inflated currency in 300 BC) were all devised by schools of scholars. This is evident from the fact that they mentioned schools of scholars investigating problems, and referred to several preceding texts, now unavailable (most destroyed, as I narrate next).

    Most such large scale studies were ended by the Islamic invasion and occupation of India, during which the universities of ancient India (the ones at Taxila and Nalanda were around for more than a 1000 years), and other institutions of learning were destroyed (millions of books were burned because some of the invaders believed that anything not in the Koran was not knowledge--unlike the Arabs of just a few centuries before). However, some schools existed in regions in the deep South outside Islamic control--there a school of mathematicians, for example developed a lot of the calculus 200 years before Newton and Leibniz (from what we know now, they were not the first; Archimedes got several results of the integral calculus, as shown by a newly discovered book of his).

    It was only in the 17th or 18th centuries that physical knowledge, and income in the West began to overtake that in India and China. For most of history, these nations have been the richest in the world, because they had more knowledge than other nations. Gunpowder, the magnetic compass, paper, and printing were all invented in the East (China/India). A question that arises now is whether three hundred years of greater European progress in science suffices to draw the conclusion that the outlook of Eastern religion prevents scientific progress?

    The growth of scientific knowledge in the Western world appears to have begun when it obtained through the Arabs, the learning of Greece (e.g., Homer, the dramatists and philosophers, and Euclidean geometry), and India (e.g., algebra, trigonometry, and the number system). So a question that arises naturally is--why did little or no progress take place before? Why was the library of Alexandria destroyed (or permitted to burn)? Why were the Greek schools of philosophy destroyed? Would we ascribe all these to Christianity? Coming to more recent times, should we ascribe Marxism, Darwinian evolution, and Freudian psychology to Western Christianity? May it not be that it just took time for the masses in the West to begin to understand the Bible, a process continuing to this day?
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/24  at  02:53 AM
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