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Why is Jed McKenna Anti-Science?

June 11, 2014

In his recent book, The Theory of Everything, Jed McKenna makes a number of interesting observations about the nature of reality and consciousness, but takes a decidedly anti-science stance. Is McKenna really anti-science, or is he just arguing against the conventional interpretation of science? The conclusions of his book are based on his own direct observations, and his arguments are based on logic and reason, which fundamentally is the scientific method. An argument can be made that if McKenna invested the time and energy to understand what modern science is really saying about reality, he would embrace science, since modern science supports just about everything he has to say in his book.

The problem isn’t science, but the interpretation of science by scientists. Most of the scientists who talk publicly about science misinterpret the science, and the few who interpret it correctly for the most part do not want to talk publicly about it. They want to be left alone to do their science. Science only has to do with the mathematical relationships that describe the nature of things. Other than these mathematical relationships, there is really no such thing as science.

Science expressed in the form of these mathematical relationships can tell no lies. Only their misinterpretation can tell lies. It is rare to find someone who thinks clearly about science and correctly interprets these mathematical relationships. Such a rare occurrence has recently occurred in the form of Amanda Gefter’s book: Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything.

Anyone who seriously wants to understand what science says about the nature of reality, and wants to understand why what science has to say supports what McKenna has to say, can benefit from reading Gefter’s book, and by correlating the main conclusions of Gefter’s book with the conclusions of McKenna’s book.

Here are some of the main points of that correlation. Gefter starts off with a search for Ultimate Reality. By Ultimate Reality, she means what is invariant; what is unchanging and the same for all observers. She states “Something is only real if it’s invariant”. In mathematics, invariant means “an unchanging relationship: a relationship that is not changed by a designated mathematical operation such as the transformation of coordinates”. In relativity theory, invariant means something that does not change with a change in an observer’s point of view, or a change in a frame of reference. In relativity theory, an observer is a frame of reference, specifically the central point of view of a coordinate system. Invariant means a relationship that is unchanging with a transformation of that coordinate system. After a long search through the intricacies of modern physics, Gefter finally concludes that “Nothing is ultimately real”.

Gefter demonstrates that when correctly interpreted, the inevitable conclusion of modern physics is that everything is observer-dependent. Everything depends on the frame of reference of the observer. McKenna agrees with this conclusion.

Gefter concludes that the only thing that is invariant and ultimately real is the primordial nothingness, which is infinite, unbounded and undifferentiated. This nicely fits in with McKenna’s definition of Truth, which he alternatively calls the void, empty space, No-self, non-dual awareness, or Brahmanic consciousness.

Gefter points out that an odd aspect of relativity theory is the total energy of the world can add up to zero, since the negative potential energy of gravitational attraction can exactly cancel out all positive forms of energy. Each observer’s world can have a total energy of zero. Since everything in that world is composed of energy, and all of that energy can add up to zero, everything can ultimately be nothing. The observational evidence is the total energy of the universe is exactly zero, and so everything in the world ultimately adds up to nothing.

ying-yang

Gefter demonstrates the inevitable conclusion of modern physics and cosmology is the one-world-per-observer paradigm. McKenna describes this paradigm as his living reality, which he calls his worldview, and refers to this state of being as Atmanic consciousness.

Gefter describes in scientific detail how the one-world-per-observer paradigm is created. In the beginning, so to speak, only the primordial nothingness exists, which is infinite, unbounded, undifferentiated and unchanging. This unchanging, infinite nothingness is the Brahmanic consciousness of which McKenna speaks. For the Atmanic consciousness to come into being, the individual consciousness of an observer must be differentiated from the undifferentiated consciousness.

The observer is only a frame of reference, specifically the central point of view of a coordinate system. The observer only comes into being, and is present at the central point of view as the I-Am/Consciousness, when that frame of reference is an accelerated frame of reference. An accelerated frame of reference always implies the expenditure of energy, which is equivalent to the exertion of a force.

gravity

In that accelerated frame of reference, an event horizon always arises that surrounds the observer at the central point of view. The horizon is as far out in space as the observer at the central point of view can see things in space due to the limitation of the speed of light. In the language of relativity theory, the observer follows a world-line through the space-time geometry that characterizes that particular frame of reference.

Observer's Horizon

The remarkable discovery of modern physics is the event horizon is a bounding surface of space that acts as a holographic screen and encodes bits of information about the observer’s world. Everything observed in the observer’s world is like the projection of images from the screen to the central point of view of the observer.

The Observer, the Screen and the Thing

The observer’s holographic screen encodes bits of information, with one bit of information encoded per pixel defined on the screen.

Information01

In the language of quantum theory, the holographic screen constructs a Hilbert space of observable values defining all possible observations of observable things an observer can make in its world. This is similar to McKenna’s definition of the content of consciousness, and the observer-observation-observable trinity relationship that McKenna describes as the nature of Atmanic consciousness.

Observer

Throughout her book, Gefter asks “If observers create reality, where do the observers come from?” The answer is they come from the nothingness itself.

Gefter finally concludes that “everything is ultimately nothing”. McKenna calls this nothingness Brahmanic consciousness. The nature of this infinite nothingness in its primordial, undifferentiated, unbounded state is pure consciousness, and so everything is ultimately consciousness. Consciousness in its differentiated, bounded state is the observer present at the center of its own world. All the information for the observer’s world is encoded on a bounding surface of space surrounding the observer at the central point of view. This boundary only arises when the observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference. It is only this boundary arising in the midst of nothingness that creates the observer’s world.

McKenna speaks of consensual reality as the shared reality that different observers can share with each other. Gefter points out that an observer’s world can share information with the worlds of other observers to the degree their holographic screens overlap with each other.

Overlapping bounded spaces

Gefter correctly concludes that an observer’s world only appears if a boundary arises in the midst of the infinite, unbounded nothingness. This boundary acts as a holographic screen defining everything observable in the observer’s world. The boundary can only arise when energy is expended and the observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference. In the process, the individual consciousness of the observer is differentiated from undifferentiated consciousness.

The point McKenna makes is the observer’s world can only appear when the observer is present, which he calls Atmanic consciousness. Like Nisargadatta Maharaj in The Experience of Nothingness, McKenna makes the point that even Atmanic consciousness is not ultimate Truth. Only Brahmanic consciousness is. When the observer’s world disappears, the observer, the I-Am, is no longer present. This ultimate state of being can only be described as “I am not”.

When energy is no longer expended, the observer’s frame of reference is no longer accelerated. In relativity theory, this kind of coordinate transformation is called a freely falling frame of reference. In an ultimate freely falling frame of reference, there is no longer any expenditure of energy, the effects of all forces disappear, the observer’s event horizon disappears, the holographic boundary defining everything in the observer’s world disappears, and so the observer’s world disappears. When the observer’s world disappears, only the observer’s underlying reality remains. This underlying reality is the infinite nothingness that McKenna calls Brahmanic consciousness, and that Gefter calls Ultimate Reality.

Atman Brahman

In the final chapter of her book, Gefter sums up her conclusions:

“What do you think it all means?” I asked.

“I’m thinking what you’re thinking,” he said. “That everything is nothing, and that it only looks like something when you have a limited, internal perspective. And you have to have a limited, internal perspective because no external perspective exists. There’s no outside. But there’s still some transformation you can make, by going to the point of view of the light, of the horizon, to get you back to the nothing that’s always there.”

That was what I was thinking. My father’s definition of nothing as an infinite, unbounded homogeneous state carried two implications: nothing has no outside, and nothing will never change. At first that had seemed like a nonstarter—if it can’t change, how could the universe ever be born?

The origin has to come from inside the nothing. Given some internal reference frame with a boundary, a universe is born, its history unfurling from present to past. A top-down universe that exists only relative to its reference frame. Beyond the bounds of the frame, there’s nothing.

One thing was clear: the key to existence was a boundary. From the beginning I had worried that light cones alone wouldn’t be enough. Given infinite time, any given light cone would engulf the entire H-state, turning the something back to nothing again. It seemed you needed something more permanent—something like the kind of perpetual boundary dark energy provides. Then again, maybe it was enough to say that no observer can measure himself. Maybe Gödelian incompleteness and the impossibility of self-measurement keep the nothing at bay, the world always carved in half, observer and observed.

To turn nothing into something, you needed information bounds, a finite amount of information to get it from bit.

information1

Now I was beginning to understand what information really was: asymmetry. To register a bit of information , you need two distinguishable states: black or white, spin up or spin down, 0 or 1. You need two-ness.

My father’s H-state was a state with no differentiation whatsoever. A state of perfect symmetry. That meant it had zero information, which made sense, considering it was nothing. So how do you get information from the H-state, turning nothing into something? You put a boundary on it. The boundary breaks the symmetry, creating information. But the boundary is observer-dependent, and so is the information it creates.

“You know the story of Plato’s cave?” my father asked. “All the prisoners are chained up in the cave and they can’t see the real world outside, only the shadows on the wall? That’s supposed to be a negative thing, like they’ll never know reality. But the truth is, you have to be stuck inside a limited reference frame for there to be any reality at all! If you weren’t chained to your light cone, you’d see nothing. The H-state.”

Plato's cave

I nodded. “You’d have no information. You need the broken symmetry, the shadow, to have information and information gives rise to the world. It from bit.”

I couldn’t help but grin with excitement. The message was clear: having a finite frame of reference creates the illusion of a world, but even the reference frame itself is an illusion.

My father’s definition of nothing had made it possible to cross that ontological divide between nothing and something, and the radical observer-dependence of every ingredient of reality down to reality itself made it possible to cross back. We had found the universe’s secret: physics isn’t the machinery behind the workings of the world; physics is the machinery behind the illusion that there is a world.

***

there is no spoon

Consciousness creates the illusion and consciousness can bring the illusion to an end. The illusion is only created in an accelerated frame of reference when energy is expended. Only in this accelerated frame of reference is a point of consciousness differentiated from undifferentiated consciousness. The illusion of a world comes to an end when energy is no longer expended. When the point of consciousness enters into a freely falling frame of reference, it must return to its primordial state of undifferentiated consciousness.

The observer is only present and its holographic screen only arises when the observer enters into an accelerated frame of reference and energy is expended. When the illusion is created the observer is present and its world appears. When the illusion comes to an end the observer is not present and its world disappears. In this ultimate state of being, only the underlying reality remains. This is exactly how McKenna describes enlightenment.

Gefter tells us that “Nothing is ultimately real”, which is exactly the same as to say “Ultimately, only consciousness is real”. There is no contradiction, since the true nature of consciousness in its primordial, undifferentiated, unbounded state is the very nothingness that she acknowledges as ultimate reality. Even the observer present at the center of its own world is not ultimately real, since the observer is consciousness in its differentiated, bounded state.

The mystery of the observable world is nothing appears to become something when a boundary arises in infinite, undifferentiated empty space. A bounding surface of space holographically constructs a Hilbert space for the observer’s world, arising when the observer is in an accelerated frame of reference and surrounding the observer at the central point of view. In an ultimate freely falling frame of reference, the boundary disappears, and so too does everything in the observer’s world. The nothingness that remains can be called an Absence, but in reality what remains is a Presence, since it is the source of the observer’s consciousness.

This distinction is a matter of perspective. What is seen as an Absence when one looks outwardly at the world is seen to be a Presence when one looks within. This explanation resonates deeply with the wisdom of non-dual metaphysics and confirms just about everything McKenna has to say about the nature of reality.

♦♦♦

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3 Comments
  1. Alexandr Nikolaevich permalink

    Thanks is very interesting. There is no my information on experimental part (MGGF device) which can confirm justice of the holographic principle.

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    • It is very difficult to confirm the holographic principle experimentally since the Planck length is so incredibly small. This implies very high energies must be expended in order to probe such small distance scales. Energies of the order of 10>(32) degrees Kelvin are needed to probe distances of the order of 10>(-33) cm. Such energies only occur naturally in the big bang creation event.

      Instead, the holographic principle is deduced from the logical consistency of the laws of physics, specifically how quantum theory is consistently unified with relativity theory. The only known way to perform such a consistent unification is with a unified geometric theory (along the lines of M-theory, which is an example of non-commutative geometry). The logical argument for this kind of consistent unification is well presented in the book by Amanda Gefter. Whenever the laws of physics (quantum theory and relativity theory) are unified in a consistent unified geometric theory (all examples of which are non-commutative geometries), this unification always implies the holographic principle as an underlying principle.

      The basic argument goes as follows: Whenever dark energy is expended (the exponential expansion of space that always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer), a cosmic horizon always arises (surrounding the observer at the central focal point) that limits the observer’s observations of things in space. If non-commutative geometry is applied to the cosmic horizon, the holographic principle is then implied. It is no longer possible to define points on the horizon, but only pixels, with each pixel on the horizon (an area element about the Planck area in size) encoding one bit of information (in a binary code of 1’s and 0’s). The observer’s cosmic horizon then acts as a holographic screen that projects the images of everything the observer can possibly observe (in this horizon-limited space) to the central point of view of the observer. Everything the observer can possibly observe is composed of bits of information, just like the images projected from a digital computer screen to the point of view of an observer. The observer’s holographic screen then defines every observable thing the observer can observe in its world, which is the one-world-per-observer paradigm that Gefter writes about.

      The natural interpretation of the holographic principle is that the central focal point of the observer (which is a point of singularity) is the nature of individual (differentiated) consciousness (which McKenna calls Atmanic consciousness). Gefter makes the critical point that this central focal point of singularity (like the observer’s holographic screen) must arise in an undifferentiated empty space of potentiality (the primordial nothingness) that McKenna calls the void, no-self, or Brahmanic consciousness. This can only happen if dark energy is expended (the exponential expansion of space). If dark energy is not expended (if space does not expand), only the void (undifferentiated Brahmanic Consciousness) exists, which is the primordial nature of existence.

      In this sense, the expenditure of dark energy (which is nothing more than the exponential expansion of space that always expands relative to the central point of view of an observer) is the fundamental potentiality of the void to express itself and create a world for itself (a world that it always perceives from the central point of view of that world). If space does not expand, that world disappears, and only the void remains.

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  2. Alexandr Nikolaevich permalink

    “It is very difficult to confirm the holographic principle experimentally since the Planck length is so incredibly small. This implies very high energies must be expended in order to probe such small distance scales”.Your this conclusion is not an indispensable condition for experimental check of the holographic principle.

    For experimental check of the holographic principle in my MGGF device there is no need to attract exotic masses and energy. You can get acquainted with it on my site http://www.isan.com.ua

    The holographic principle is the cornerstone of the device. As a result we receive the directed gravitational force operating at distance. If you have an interest, we step by step will consider work of MGGF.

    Like

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