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The modern superstitions of science and religion

Superstition - "a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation."

While sharing various ideas on a forum recently, it became evident there are many people (including and especially atheists, scientists and the religious) who still very deeply rely on superstitious beliefs.

And by "superstitious" beliefs, none are more evident than when the topic of Zeno's Paradoxes is considered.

To put things in context:

Imagine we have a number of belief-systems, let's call them BS1 and BS2. Let's now see how well they match a particular set of evidence (facts and observations, as can be readily experienced on planet Earth).

Theory and factConsider the evidence of the physical act of movement, such as a runner running a race, an arrow flying through the air, or a dog chasing a ball. Let's take one particular case of physical movement that likely has relevance and meaning to most who consider this -- the movement of one's own index finger (the first finger of one's hand, adjoining the thumb).

The evidence of movement of one's finger is easily observed, and experienced. For example, reading this page (while online) you might be using your index finger to rotate the scroll-wheel on your computer mouse).

If we begin to seek a theory to explain such an everyday phenomenon, we might use the metaphor of a motion picture film.

Let's consider a specific thought-experiment. We zoom in on a test subject's finger to such an extent that we "see" one of the atoms in that finger, perhaps the very tip of the subjects fingernail. We do not need to actually see this atom, other than surmise its existence.

Now let's assume we move that finger (and thus the atom in that fingernail) one unit of length, such as 1cm.

If we were to take a video of that motion, how many captures, or frames would we need to take in order to "perfectly" capture every last increment in movement of that atom?

Now, here's where it gets interesting. BS1 says we must take an infinite number of 'snaps' in order to capture every last increment in movement. To prove the point, BS1 uses a theoretical process that involves "infinite-series" of numbers (points).

By using 'infinite-series' it can be mathematically proved that motion (as when we might lift a finger) is fully addressed by the application of this method.

So far, so good. We have theory matching the evidence. So it would seem.

However, there is one problem.  And it's a big one, to the extent that it 'forces' all sorts of superstitions upon those who refuse to consider the facts.

Basically, when using infinite-series the assumption is made that an infinite number of very very tiny 'points' (physical locations) are traversed when movement occurs.

When seeking to find a cause for each of the steps (points) that the finger progresses through on its way through 1cm of travel, we cannot identify the specific cause for every last one of those steps -- remember: the assumption is that there are literally an endless number of them. That is an irrefutably required condition of the mathematics of infinite-series, when applied to the process of physical movement.

with the infinite series solutions there is NO demonstrable (or even a theoretical) 1:1 correlation of mathematical values (e.g. position) with physicality.

So what is the cause of each step in this endless, never-ending sequence of little physical increments when we so much as lift a little finger?

"It just happens" is the response of adherents of BS1. Sound familiar?

When we consider the human body, what physical, biological process could cause an infinite-sequence of physical events?  How many electrons would need to stimulate a finger muscle to move through an infinite-sequence of small movements? Furthermore, if we accept that 'thinking' has some role in our ability to move our finger, then how much brain stuff is required to move our finger through that infinite-step sequence of movements? In more detail, if we accept that neurons have some role in our ability to think, how many neurons are needed to fire off in order to drive an infinite sequence of movements? The alternative of neurons not being involved in said movement doesn't bear thinking about (pun intended). Picture: 'thoughtless, brainless' man eating an ice-cream. Not a good look. (But I digress)

Back to basics: what physical, biological process could cause an infinite-sequence of physical events? Clearly there are none that could directly achieve this. And if we wish to maintain that we have any control over our lives, then there is no 'direct' correspondence of some finite physical cause with that of some supposed infinite-sequence of physical effects.

Here's where "superstition" enters the picture. Note the definition: a false conception of causation. A conception of causation that has no demonstrable basis in fact, cannot be considered true -- anymore than we might argue any cause as being true. For example we could argue 'angels on a nearby pinhead danced so vigorously as to cause the finger to move." There is no direct evidence-based correspondence of cause with effect, so we can qualify those two beliefs (angels on pinheads, and infinite-series of sequences) as "superstitious"  --at least until we see the evidence verifying the relevant correspondences.

If, however, we accept there would be a finite number of increments (much easier on the brain), then that begs the question. What's in the gaps?

Here's why many, particularly and especially atheists, scientists, and the religious, will hold onto the superstition of perfectly continuous movement. Because the alternative, reasonable though it is, is too big a burdern to consider.

Why? Because whatever is in the gaps, it is obviously not physical. Otherwise we're back to brainless ice-cream eaters (as in there is no neurological cause for the physical movements).

It's ... do-do, do-do ... meta-physical in nature.

Furthermore (as many physicists have come to confirm) the stuff in the gaps, of whatever it is made, is obviously interacting "at-once" (nonlocally). For that not to be the case, there'd be no 'cause' that could orchestrate a coincident physical existence. Our daily lives would be chaotic to an infinite extreme. We would be so lucky to even have ice-cream.

The real reason people will persist with their superstitious beliefs in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary is quite simple: greed.

We will deny the evidence that we are all an integral part of a rich holodynamic (nonlocally interconnecting) self-organising sentient system, in order to avoid taking any responsibility for it. Instead we can then continue to work against nature and the system, experimenting on live animals, manipulating genes without a systems perspective, plundering the biosphere because we're not responsible for it.

Failing to understand the interconnected nature of our shared reality, we end up treating native cultures with disdain, dismissing their spiritual beliefs as superstitious and without merit -- even though many physicists now voice similar ideas (albeit couched in more technical terms).1

And in the process we end up debasing ourselves, distancing ourselves ever more from that which supports, nurtures and enables life.

Much more explained in Congruent solutions to Zeno's Paradoxes, and related articles.

"according to the quantum theory,
movement is not fundamentally continuous"
[David Bohm]

BS2 - Religion

Belief system 2 (religion) is highly similar to BS1 (science) in that both apportion 'blame' for unfortunate events to outside 'forces'. In the case of religion it is 'God' or "Evil' or other disconnected spiritual entities. With science it is 'chance'.

In the sphere of religion, if someone dies the question is typically asked 'why did God have him/her die so young' or in such terrible circumstances? Such questions require obedience or subservience to some sort of independent spiritual entity that is disconnected from the marrow of life. The superstitions of modern religion are easily countered -- we need only consider the nature of what the infinite means, to realise the childish nature of religious beliefs.

In both fields of science and religion, the disconnect that is inherent between "here" (our personal experience) and 'there' (the realm of God, or 'chance') necessarily forms 'barriers' (or limits) to personal experience and potentials. These barriers, or walls form comforting cocoons for those with limited perceptions and psyche. However comforting these cocoons appear, they require limits of perception -- they do not allow individuals to 'feel' into the infinite recesses of 'chance' or the infinite potentials of God, to find and use their own answers. Science and religion (in present, limited form) are, obviously, highly disempowering.

However, religion (like science) is now starting to wash over the ignorance of these inherited superstitions by melding "Process Theology", in a similar manner to science melding "Process Physics" with everyday life.

"Process life" could be considered an overarching holodynamic systems model that spans all fields of human experience, including theology, physics, psychology and sociology.ssd

See also