“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
Dr Richard Feynman
Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, 1965
Something is badly wrong with the Official Scientific Description of Life, the Universe and Everything. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t work. If we tried to create a universe using the Official Laws of Physics, nothing would appear. If we forced our universe to follow the Official Laws of Physics, it would cease to exist. This is a problem worth talking about. It’s also a problem that many brilliant scientists have noticed, over the last thousand years. They have spotted the problems with our Official Laws of Physics and they many Nobel-Prize-Winners and several of the most famous physicists to have ever existed. This list includes such people as Aristotle, James Clerk Maxwell, John Von Neumann, Ludwig Boltzmann, Erwin Schrödinger, Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Eugene Wigner and Richard Feynman. Unfortunately, their insights have not been taken on board. This book will try to rectify that and also see where their insights lead us.
Our scientific establishment, for several centuries, have been ardent Scientific Materialists or Physicalists. In other words, they believe that only physical things exist. This viewpoint does have its benefits, as it makes scientists focus purely on physical phenomena, but there is a big problem with it; it’s impossible. This unscientific delusion has caused science to end up in a cul-de-sac, going nowhere. Even with the vast resources available to human civilian science, there has been little to no progress in key fields for nearly a century. This issue is neatly summed up by a conversation in the television series The Big Bang Theory, about four science-nerds and their down-to-earth, attractive neighbour, Penny. In one scene, Penny tries to make light conversation with Leonard, one of her nerdy physicist neighbours. She asks him about his day, working at his research institute:
Penny: “How did you get on today at work? Did you make any progress?”
Leonard: “To be honest, we haven’t made any progress since 1932.”
It’s a great line and, like much quality humour, it’s true. Civilian physics has not overcome the problems thrown up by a famous generation of physicists, such as Dirac, Pauli, Wigner, Heisenberg, Bohr, Schrödinger and others. That generation of physicists discovered and developed quantum physics. They worked out the mathematics of the smallest scales of our reality and developed models to explains how reality worked at that scale. They also did something extra; they realised that our reality, fundamentally, was not physical. Instead, these brilliant thinkers realised that our minds make reality appear.
Since the 1930’s, the scientific establishment has done its best to bury the revelation that these physicists experienced. The dogma of Western Science is that there must be no mysticism. Anything that smacks of mysticism must be eradicated, because that’s not scientific. But this dogmatic, quasi-religious approach doesn’t work. Chapter One of this book will explain why, with lots of illustrations, the insights of more famous physicists and a demon, to make things extra-interesting.
This book will then talk about the Big Bang, and why it’s quadruply impossible. The book will then delve into the consequences of what’s been explained so far, with more fascinating experiments involving sentient plants, psychic people and telekinetic bacteria. The book will conclude with a chapter on a more philosophical and spiritual matter; why we lead physical lives in the first place.
But before all that, it’s worth explaining why our scientific establishment has got it so wrong with its Scientific Materialist approach, its belief that only physical things exist. The reason is simple, straightforward and impossible to avoid; it’s called entropy. It’s time to chat about demons, gases and a sandcastle…
‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.’
Life is a miraculous phenomenon. Growing things continually emerge, reproduce and spread across the landscape. Life is all around us, all the time, and it’s perfectly natural. Most of us are blasé about Life’s existence. This is understandable, as we’re all perfectly used to seeing living things. What’s more, we’re living things, which makes the whole process even more everyday, but according to Official Science, it should not be possible. This is because of the issue of order.
Living things are highly ordered. They contain DNA, proteins and cells, made of millions, billions and trillions of molecular components. These components also have to be almost perfectly constructed in order for the organisms to work; there’s very little room for error. For example, as the scientific paper ‘Fidelity of DNA replication—a matter of proofreading’ states, the enzymes that copy DNA inside living cells make one mistake, on average, during every hundred million copies. That’s how accurate the process needs to be to keep an organism healthy. What’s more, living things aren’t just highly ordered, they are constantly adding order to the universe. For example, if a seed is placed in the ground, it can grow into a tree. During this process, the tiny seed draws in simple matter and uses that simple matter to transform itself into a highly complex tree. It takes an enormous amount of very disordered material – gases in the air, water in the soil – and turns them into very ordered things, such as cells, proteins and nuclei filled with DNA. Thanks to microscopes, we can see this work in action. We know it goes on… but here’s the rub, according to Official Physics, this process should be completely impossible because of the Law of Entropy.
The Law of Entropy (also known as the Second law of Thermodynamics) states that all matter should become increasingly disorganised over time. For example, if something ordered, like a sand-castle, is left on a beach, natural forces will slowly make it more and more disordered until the castle is nothing more than a shapeless blob. Nothing should escape the effects of entropy. Entropy grinds down everything physical in our universe. Supposedly, because of entropy, our entire universe will eventually become nothing but a cold, disordered collection of astronomical ashes. This is known as the Heat Death of the Universe.
But there is a problem with this view; that Entropy affects everything in the physical universe. If entropy does grind everything down, what on Earth is going on with Life? Life isn’t becoming more disorganised. In fact, it’s the opposite; Life somehow totally ignores the effect of entropy, all the time. What’s more, Life is forever successfully working against entropy. Life is making our universe more ordered, not less. It looks as if there’s something something seriously wrong with the Official Scientific Laws.
Many scientists are aware of the Life-Entropy Paradox. Some of them have tried to explain it by saying that living things use the sun’s energy to grow. In other words, that living things use our sun’s energy to add order to the universe. Unfortunately, like sandcastles on a stormy day, this argument rapidly falls apart because energy and organisation are not related. It’s true that a hot gas has more energy than a cold gas but a hot gas is no more ordered than a cold gas. Instead, its molecules are just moving around faster. Energy does not impart order. A hurricane is no more likely to create sandcastles on a beach than a gentle breeze. Injecting more energy into a system doesn’t increase its level of order, it just gives the system more energy. This fundamental disconnect between energy and order means that our sun can’t add any order to living things; it can only add energy. What’s more, our sun can’t reduce its own order and transfer that to living things, as our sun isn’t ordered either. In fact, it’s highly disordered, as it’s an enormous, roiling ball of chaotic plasma. It’s actually less ordered than a cup of coffee.
The ‘sun imparts order’ idea therefore has no basis in fundamental physics. Some scientists have spotted this and tried to solve the Life-Entropy Paradox in a different way, by postulating that a rare, lucky event caused life to start, long ago, and Life has just kept going by itself since then. This is a tempting idea but this ignores the fact that entropy should be breaking all ordered things down all the time. In other words, even if Life started once, as a freak event, it should have rapidly been snuffed out by entropy’s effects, and yet Life hasn’t been snuffed out. Instead, it flourishes everywhere. It can even survive in the most difficult conditions of heat and pressure. This shows that something profound and fundamental must be making Life work against entropy all the time. The ‘lucky event’ idea can’t work for more than a second, and yet Life has been around for at least three-hundred million years.
The Life-Entropy Paradox is a big, scientific problem but this doesn’t mean that we should abandon science. The scientific method, along with logic and observation, are critically important in helping us all understand how the universe works. The scientific method has given us medicines, satellites and nifty laptops. There’s no need to throw up our hands in disgust at science. Instead, what we can do is take a step back and look at the Life-Entropy Paradox with a clear eye.
If we look at the Life-Entropy Paradox problem logically, then a very interesting conclusion pops up. Here goes:
We know that all physical things in our universe decrease in order, over time, due to entropy. We also know that Life is forever increasing order in the universe. Since both these statements are true, we must logically conclude that Life is being influenced by something non-physical. Something operating from beyond or outside our physical reality must be imparting order on physical reality.
It’s a simple solution to the Life-Entropy Paradox; it’s also logically sound… and spooky. Many readers might automatically think of poltergeists, phantoms or demons if we talk about non-physical entities affecting the physical world. Oddly enough, that is exactly what a very famous physicist did do when he thought about the paradox of order in a universe governed by entropy. His name was James Clerk Maxwell.
James Clerk Maxwell was a ferociously bright and inquisitive boy. He also rarely did the expected thing. As Lewis Campbell’s biography, written in 1887, states on page 8:
“His practical thoroughness was combined with a striking absence of conventionality and contempt for ornament. In matters however seemingly trivial, nothing that had to be done was trivial to him, he considered not what was usual but what was best for his purpose.”
Maxwell was brilliant at observing something, then working out how it operated. He applied this technique to almost everything that came his way. Like another scientific great, Albert Einstein, Maxwell wasn’t simply focussed on academic success but instead, on whatever he thought needed attention. This dissident streak enabled him to view established theories in a new light and thereby discover groundbreaking solutions. The most famous of these was his insight into electromagnetism. Maxwell realised that the twin phenomena of electricity and magnetism were related, that they were, in fact, two sides of the same coin. While working at King’s College in London, he devised equations to explain their behaviour, equations which are still used today and are viewed as two of the most important in science.
But Maxwell didn’t just focus on magnetism and light, and other mechanistic aspects of reality. He was also intrigued by the limitations of mechanistic theories to explain all phenomena. In 1867, while in his family home in Glenlair in Scotland, he thought about the topic of thermodynamics and the phenomenon of entropy. He thought about what they said about reality. Thermodynamics was a very hot topic in Britain at that time, literally so, because Britain was in the thick of the Industrial Age, a period when their engineers were furiously making better and better steam engines. Thermodynamics enabled Victorian engineers to understand how hot gases moved around, how they expanded and contracted. This is why the field is known as thermo (heat) dynamics (movement). By developing the field of thermodynamics, Victorian scientists like Maxwell were helping engineers make better, more efficient steam engines.
One day, Maxwell sat at his desk, looking out on the tough but beautiful landscape of Scotland, and thought about entropy and our universe. He realised that entropy couldn’t be controlling everything. If entropy was totally in charge, disorganising everything, wearing everything down, then our universe would be an amorphous, chaotic cloud of simple particles, with no order at all but clearly, our universe wasn’t an amorphous, chaotic cloud. Our universe had stars, planets, trees, plants, horses and people, among other things. Maxwell was a devoted Christian, a Presbyterian, and so he must have thought about God’s hand in existence, but he was also a scientist and so he wanted to think about the problem purely from a scientific viewpoint. After pondering the matter, he came up with an ingenious thought experiment.
Maxwell imagined a box containing two chambers. The left-hand chamber contained one gas and in the right-hand chamber was a different gas. Between the two chambers was a sliding door that could open and close. If the door was opened, the gases in the two chambers could mix. If it was closed, the gases in the two chambers remained separate. According to the laws of thermodynamics, Maxwell knew that if the sliding door was left open, then the gases in the two chambers would mix and intermingle. Eventually, the two chambers would both contain a fifty-fifty mix of the two gases. The disordering effects of entropy would make the two, different gases in the two chambers mix more and more until they became one homogenous mass. This was what entropy does to any physical system, what it always does to any physical system. The opposite result can never happen, according to the rules of physics. Nothing can become more ordered by itself over time.
But then Maxwell added something extra. He placed a tiny demon next to the door, sitting between the two chambers of the gas. The demon could control the opening and closing of the door. He could watch the molecules of gas in the two chambers zipping to and fro. Every time he saw a molecule of one gas heading for its home chamber, he would let it through the doorway, but every time he saw a molecule of the gas heading out of its home chamber, he would close the door, keeping the molecule in. By doing this, the demon would prevent entropy occurring. What’s more, if the demon began his work after the gases had partly mixed, he would be reversing entropy, increasing order in the two chambers. The demon had ordered the gases, putting one gas in the right-hand chamber and a different gas in the left-hand chamber.
Some readers, at this point, might think that Maxwell’s Demon is a bit of a pointless thought experiment. Who cares if a spooky demon messes around with the gases in the chamber? But here’s the trick. If the door between the two chambers was set to open and close randomly if the demon wasn’t around, then the demon would have done no more extra work than a random setup… but a random setup would not have separated the two gases into different temperatures. Somehow, the demon had used his observation, intelligence and intent to organise the gas in the two chambers without expending any extra energy compared to a random door movement. This was the crux of Maxwell’s thought experiment. Maxwell was showing that an influence by an intelligent observer can completely break the Second Law of Thermodynamics, a.k.a. the Law of Entropy. The demon had changed the system to a more ordered form without expending extra work. By using observation, intelligence and intent, the Demon had cheated thermodynamics and entropy. By boiling (forgive the pun) the problem down to a simple scenario, Maxwell had highlighted the profound problem of Entropy and an ordered universe.
In the century-and-a-half since Maxwell created his experiment, many scientists have tried to solve or refute it. The most notable attempt, so far, has come from a Martian.
Ahem, now is probably a good time to talk about the Martians in this book. Some readers might be thinking they’re going to be like this…
In fact, the Martians in this story are perfectly normal human beings (sort of). The story of the Martians begins with Enrico Fermi. Enrico was a pioneering nuclear physicist (winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938) and got a whole class of subatomic particles named after him, the Fermions, which is pretty cool. He also came up with the Fermi Paradox.
Enrico knew that our galaxy has an awful lot of stars in it. Some of those stars, he realised, must have planets around them that support life. On some of those planets, intelligent species must have developed and developed technology. Those species that developed technology must be curious explorers, as that’s the kind of creatures that do develop technology. If that was all true, then why isn’t our planet constantly being visited by aliens?
The Fermi Paradox is still a matter of heated discussion, even today, but this book won’t be exploring it. Instead, we’re going to focus on a witty response by another nuclear physicist, Leo Szilard, when he heard of the Fermi Paradox. He said, “Oh, they are amongst us, they just call themselves Hungarians.”
The reason this answer was funny was because Leo was part of a group of scientists who did seem to be like Martians. Many Hungarian émigrés that had moved to the United States in the tumultuous decade before the Second World War, escaping Nazi persecution in Europe. They all spoke English with a strong accent (made famous by horror actor Bela Lugosi), seemed to be superhuman in intellect and spoke an incomprehensible native language. In many ways, they did seem to be straight out of a ‘B’ movie, where advanced aliens turn up on Earth with genius intellects and terrible accents. The idea caught on and the joke was expanded; these Hungarian scientists were actually descendants of a Martian scout force which landed in Budapest around the year 1900. The scout force later departed, after deciding that Earth was unsuitable, but left behind children, begotten by several Earth women. Those children were the famous scientists.
Leo Szilard is most well-known for his work on the mechanics of the nuclear chain reaction, the critical process in an atomic bomb’s detonation. He came up with the idea of the chain-reaction while spending a lot of time in a bath in a London hotel, after leaving Budapest. He admitted, later, that he spent so much time in that bath that, on one morning, the maid broke into the room because she was convinced he’d died. Leo wanted to create an atomic bomb because he wanted the United States to defeat Nazi Germany. He wasn’t actually keen on atomic weapons – he believed that they were a terrible creation – but he was afraid that the Nazis might develop an A-bomb first, and so he felt he had to help the Allies build one as fast as possible. Leo fervently hoped, during the time that he helped develop the A-bomb, that the U.S. would not kill civilians with the device but simply publicly detonate one in an empty area to show its power. To this end, he petitioned the U.S. government, saying that an atomic bomb should be publicly detonated first, without killing anyone, in order to demonstrate to Japan and Germany that they had to surrender, as they were now clearly out-gunned. Tragically, his request was rejected and two atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, Szilard continued to work tirelessly for a non-nuclear, safer world, even as the cold war intensified around him.
But let’s return to Maxwell’s thought-experiment. Leo studied Maxwell’s Demon and pointed out that if the demon itself was a physical system, a bag of chemical reactions, then the demon would have expended energy inside its brain to work out when to close or open the door between the two chambers. In other words, the demon’s mechanical mental efforts, to observe and work out when to open and close the door, would have consumed blood sugar in his brain. As a result, the demon’s organisation of the gases in the two chamber was at the cost of the disorganisation of the sugars in its own brain. In this way, Szilard explained, the thermodynamics of the whole system, the degree of order in the setup – the demon and the two gas chambers – stayed the same and the Law of Entropy wasn’t violated at all because there was no net increase in order.
Szilard’s attempt to solve Maxwell’s Demon was a neat idea and it did convince many scientists… but there’s a catch. How did the demon get organised in the first place? How did the sugars in his brain get organised? Were there little demons inside the big demon, busily ordering molecules so that the demon could have a brain, and gather in those sugars? Were there also organising demons in the sugar-cane plant, organising its cells so that they would synthesis sugars? Were there trillions of demons organising molecules so that the big demon could have DNA, cells, muscles and a brain to think with? If that was the case, how did those smaller demons get to exist, to function? What was inside those demons enabling them to organise their bodies? Did they have even tinier demons inside themselves too? This repeated regression is reminiscent of Augustus De Morgan’s memorable line:
‘Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them, and little fleas have lesser fleas, and so on, ad infinitum.’
Szilard’s idea was clever but his attempt to solve Maxwell’s Demon had caused him to stray into the Life-Entropy Paradox. His idea only led to infinite regression, which never solves anything. A bio-mechanical demon can’t be responsible for separating the gases in the box because if that was the case, how did that demon get organised in the first place? There are no known improvements on Szilard’s idea. Maxwell’s Demon is still, around a century later, sitting around, holding a sign saying, “Our universe is ordered but nothing physical can create that order.” Oh dear.
Once again, we’re left with a Big Paradox. Where has order come from, in a universe where everything is supposed to be completely disordered?
There is a scientific answer to this, which we’ll explore in great depth in this book, and it’s been thought about for millennia. For example, over two-thousand years ago, Aristotle was also thinking about this exact problem. Aristotle lived in Ancient Greece, in the fourth century B.C. (384–322 BC). He developed a huge number of interesting ideas during his life, when he wasn’t tutoring Alexander the Great, and his ideas have had a massive influence on science and thought in the Western World.
One idea that Aristotle came up with was the idea of the ‘Active Intellect’ in his book De Anima III. What Aristotle exact meant by the term ‘Active Intellect’ is hotly contested but here is one translation of the key passage:
“In nature one type of substance is the material for each creature form but it is something else that is the causal and productive thing by which those creatures are formed. This type of intellect is separate, as well as being without attributes and unmixed, since it is by its nature a being-at-work… as a governing source above the material it works on.”
It would seem that Aristotle realised that the substance, that living things are made out of, physical matter, can’t be the only thing involved in their existence. This fits with what we’ve discovered so far. Aristotle seems to have concluded that there must be an ‘Active Intellect’ which animates physical bodies by imposing order on them, by making them work and live. Something outside of physical reality must be getting involved, working against entropy and thereby making life exist. But what is this Active Intellect and how does it influence physical matter? Those questions will be answered later. Until then, let’s recap what we’ve discovered so far:
1. Life exists in our universe (hooray!) This is good news and something we should all be grateful for.
2. The Law of Entropy says that all physical matter becomes more disorganised over time, like sandcastles on a beach. This is solid science and should not be messed with.
3. Life makes physical things more organised over time, so it’s completely defying the Law of Entropy. Naughty naughty Life!
4. Something is therefore missing from the picture. Something extra must be involved in order for Life to defy entropy and for there to be any order in our universe. That extra thing must be non-physical (as it’s outside the influence of entropy) and it must possess intelligence and intent, just like Maxwell’s Demon.
This need for something extra, something non-physical, a thing with intelligence and intent, doesn’t just apply to our current reality. A need for an organising influence has been necessary from the very beginning of our universe. Without it, it would have been impossible for anything to get organised. According to the Law of Entropy, our universe should never have become anything other than a chaotic soup of basic particles… which leads us neatly on to the next chapter. In it, we’ll explore the Big Bang Theory, our scientific establishment’s attempt to explain the creation of our universe in entirely physical terms. The Big Bang Theory is famous, highly-regarded and is absolutely stuffed with impossibilities.
This is the end of the sample of this book. I’ll keep everyone updated with any news on how and when the full book will be published.