Here is the synopsis of a lecture series organised in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, between 1st week of June and 1st week of July. Pujya Swamiji Paramananda Bharati will be delivering the lectures:
Causality in Science and Vedānta
and some reflections on the Quantum Measurement Problem
The universe consists of observables and observers. Both are created entities, i.e. effects. In this discussion, “the cause of a created effect” means the stuff that the effect is composed of. For examples, molecules are the cause of the observable universe, atoms are the cause of the molecules and so on. Since molecules, atoms etc. are also effects, is there a cause of the universe which is not an effect? Yes. It can be derived by the Vedantic principle of effect-cause non-difference relation. Can it be verified? Yes.
Next: about the observer. Bohr’s Psycho Physical Parallelism and the location of the observer in his body. Since he is also an effect, what is his cause?
Next: the measuring apparatus and the observer in quantum measurement problem are shown to be of the same genus. An attempt for its satisfactory solution is presented based on the holistic approach of Vedanta.
Science has been attempting to get at the fundamental cause of the universe, which has remained elusive thus far. Nonetheless the outcomes of scientific research have often been given us a better understanding of the world around us and a comfortable living with the continuous invention and improvement of gadgets. It is in common experience that the universe is seen as a set of observables and observers. The approach taken by science is that the study of the observables is sufficient, and therefore all premium is placed there; and in inventing instruments to extend the range of our observation, such as telescopes, microscopes, spectacles etc. But a close examination of the observer was completely left out. It was only in the previous century that this stance was shaken, when the famous double-slit experiment showed that the presence of the observer actually affects the outcome of observation.
The observables and observers that go to make up the universe are created entities, i.e. effects of some cause. The intended meaning of the word ‘cause’ in this context is the ‘content’ of the effect. While one intuitively knows that the content of an object can never be away from itself, Science has been designing complicated experiments to isolate the fundamental particles. It is a wonder as to how these (so-called) “fundamental” particles, which are so unstable can go to make up a (seemingly) stable universe. The progress of Science over the centuries has posited different “things” to be the causes of the universe – starting from molecules; atoms; protons, neutrons & electrons; quarks & leptons, fermions & bosons etc. But the very nature of this revision intimates us that all of the said causes are only “intermediate” causes, whereas the absolute fundamental cause still remains elusive. However, Science posits that this fundamental cause must be matter/inert, since the understanding of Consciousness is limited to a living being in the parlance of Science. As a corollary therefore, the question of the cause of the observer is subsumed into that of the observed universe!
Vedānta, on the other hand, says that Consciousness is the fundamental cause of the universe and in any given cognition situation, either in waking or dream; obtains as the subject-object or observable-observer duality. In other words, the content of every object and the light revealing that object is Consciousness, which is not limited by the body-mind-sense complex of an individual. As any object cannot have an existence separate from its content, Consciousness is the only ‘entity’ that exists and in addition, it is self-effulgent. Furthermore, Vedānta says that – the instrument used for cognition and the cognized object – belong to the same genus. For example, sound and śrotra-indriya (the power to hear) belong to different aspects of the same elemental called ākāśa.
The aim of this course is to present the above concepts elaborately and clearly; and to carry out a scientific scrutiny taking the aforementioned insights from the darśana of Vedānta as hypothesis. The approach of Vedānta is holistic since it takes into account the experience of all the three states of existence – waking, dream and deep sleep – and epistemology without compromising on logic. It is extremely exciting to study if these insights from Vedānta can help further the understanding of Science.