Towards a Theory of Everything

It seems inevitable to me that a decent theory of everything would be nothing much like the ‘theory of everything’ that physicists are currently trying to construct. If one day we succeed in unifying the four fundamental forces then for all but a handful of people, approximately none, this will be a non-event. Only a handful of people could list two of the four fundamental forces, and even fewer have any idea of what a ‘force’ is. By contrast, if we one day succeed in constructing a fundamental general theory that we can all agree is the best of those available, then there might be widespread jubilation and rejoicing. Being fundamental such a theory would explain everything, in principle at least, and thus have profound implications for every human being.

It is hopeless trying to argue that a theory of everything need not explain everything. To qualify for the title it would have to be capable, in principle, of answering almost any question we might ask of it. These would have to include, as a sample selection: Does God exist? Is there life after death? Is there a right and wrong way to live? Is space-time fundamental? How can the fundamental forces be unified? What is the solution to the ‘hard’ problem of modern scientific consciousness studies? Does life have an ultimate meaning or purpose? Which religious doctrine is true, if any? Why is solipsism unfalsifiable? Do I have freewill? Is true knowledge possible? How can nonlocality be explained? Why can we not decide metaphysical questions? Is consciousness causal? How did the universe begin? Why do complex biological systems evolve? Does mind create matter or matter create mind? Is the life of an ant worth more or less than the life of a human being? And so on ad infinitum.

What is more it should be very simple. It would be no use having a theory of everything so complicated that hardly anybody can understand it. It should explain the world in terms of fundamental principles and, in line with the principle of least hypothesis, using as few as possible. Yet it would also have to be infinitely rich and complex in potential, such that it would bear endless study and be able to produce an answer to just about any question we might ask of it.

Many people assume that such a theory is an impossible dream. I believe that such a theory is not only possible but that it already exists. At this time the theory is not believable to many scientifically-minded people and not known to many, but this is not a problem with the theory. A problem with the theory is that it is not well-developed in physics as yet. It will never seem plausible to physicists until they do the work required to make it so, and since they normally assume there would be no point in making the effort it may remain implausible in physics for some time yet. It is a well-developed psychological, mathematical, metaphysical and soteriological theory, however, and it only needs some attention from the physicists to make it a full house. Unfortunately it comes from religion and takes some study to understand.

It is encouraging, therefore, to see the work of Ulrich Mohrhoff. I don’t know if he is getting it right. My understanding of physics is minimal. But he seem to be making progress and he expresses himself as simply and clearly as anyone on these difficult topics. His current book is expensive but the text is online. He also has a blog and some articles around the place. He is trying to marry the cosmological scheme of Sri Aurobindo, more generally that of the wisdom traditions or ‘perennial philosophy’, with our modern understanding of quantum mechanics. His underlying worldview is the one endorsed by Erwin Schrodinger, a founding father of QM and my all-time favourite physicist. The idea that this may be the correct interpretation for QM has never gone away. It has the property of being unfalsifiable, and it will not go away until someone has a better idea.

My theory of everything is that Buddhist doctrine is true. Schrodinger endorsed the Upanishads but it is the same thing. Thus my theory is endorsed and written about at length by a founding father of quantum mechanics. I look forward to the day that scientists get around to noticing it. For a text book introduction I would direct them to The World According to Quantum Mechanics – Why the Laws of Physics Make Perfect Sense After All, by Ulrich Mohrhoff.

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