Is seeing believing?

by February 17, 2012

Question: Seeing is believing. In the present scientific age, why should we believe in anything spiritual that cannot be seen?

Answer: “Seeing is believing” is an outdated belief that has been long rejected by science in its onward march. Then why should it be allowed to block us in our onward spiritual march?

Mainstream physicists today derisively reject the idea of “seeing is believing,” labeling it as “naïve realism.” Albert Einstein echoed this subordination of observations to theory: “A theory is significant not to the degree it is confirmed by facts observed in nature, but to the degree it is simple and logical.” Current physics determines the logicality of a theory by the soundness of its mathematical equations, and these equations often stray light years away from Einstein’s principle of simplicity.  Indeed, “shut up and calculate” – a phrase first uttered by physicist David Mermin – has become the mantra of physics, as it became increasingly mathematical and abstract. Cutting-edge physicists no longer worry about how their theories relate with our world of daily experience or what they mean; all that matters is their equations.

The prime example of such experiment-free mathematical theorizing is the string theory. Distinguished theoretical physicist Lee Smolin in his book The Trouble with Physics, and respected mathematician Peter Woit in his book Not Even Wrong have both uncompromisingly critiqued string theory for not having any connection with experiments – not even in prospect. Nonetheless, for most string theorists, sacrificing reality for the sake of theory is no big deal. Thus being freed from any obligation to reality, they let their imagination run lose, coupled, of course, with their sacred, non-negotiable mathematics which most lay people can’t understand and many of their rival string theorists don’t agree with. The end result of this fact-free speculation is a self-serving dimensional overflow, with various versions of string theory proposing either ten or eleven or even twenty-six dimensions – anything except the four dimensions that can be subjected to experimental scrutiny.

And even if we are willing to blind ourselves to the world as we observe it and accept on faith the postulates of string theorists, still they can offer us no explanations for the things that matter in our lives: emotions and reciprocations, life and death, stress and relief. Philosopher David Berlinski explains the implications of this in his book The Devil’s Delusion, “We live by love and longing, death and the devastation that time imposes. How did they enter into the world? And why? The world of the physical sciences is not our world, and if our world has things that cannot be explained in their terms, then we must search elsewhere for their explanation.”

Where else can we search? One feasible candidate is Gita wisdom, which by its postulation of invisible realities offers us a coherent account of the everyday issues that actually matter to us: who we are, why happiness eludes us and what lifestyle re-orientations can make us happy.

If physicists don’t let themselves be fettered by “seeing is believing” in their search for what they consider significant, why should we let ourselves be fettered by this outdated belief in our search for what we know is significant for us?

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