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Monday, February 9, 2009

The Human Bias

People believe because they can think of the concept of an omniscient agent that we must only question whether an omniscient agent exists and not consider the more fundamental question of whether omniscience can exist.

As scientists, we know that omniscience cannot exist. This is because of the Uncertainty Principle. The Uncertainty Principle defines a boundary to the knowledge that we (or any agent) can posses. If we cannot know, simultaneously, the position and velocity of a particle then no agent can possess that knowledge and therefore there are no omniscient agents. Consider this proof of the negative assertion that there IS NO GOD.

Upon entering a period of deep philosophizing it is important to remember that all your intelligent rational cognition is biased by the simple fact that you are a human being. Hunger and beauty can distract your thinking, not to mention countless other innate mental processes.

Humans have five standard basic questions that they apply to any object of their consideration: who, what, why, where and when. Conveniently the five Ws in English. I have a feeling that the Universe is such a place that the 5Ws do not apply to ever situation.

I have been considering for a long time that it is distinctly possible that the question "Why did the Universe come into existence?" is an invalid question. There may not be a why! At the moment of the Big Bang there was not sufficient complexity in the universe to cognate the question why and therefore it may be invalid for us 14 billion years later to ask a question which could not be posed during the time span of the questions context.

Similarly, if the Big Bang is the correct theory (as opposed to the Big Bounce) then the question "What happened before the Big Bang" is invalid. The moment of the Big Bang was also the moment in which time was created. Therefore, there cannot be anything before the Big Bang.

Here is a down to earth example of an invalid question: "Why is the red crayon green?". Clearly, this is an invalid question or trick question that does not have a real answer it only has trivial answers like "The red crayon is not green" which really is not an answer to the posed question. There is no answer to the question.

Our Universe and its physical constants and equations may exist because there is a multitude of other possible universes in existence, that we cannot interact with, that have different Laws of Physics. This would explain why our Universe is tuned as it is but this does not explain why there is existence. A question for which I maintain an open mind. Also, consider that it may be impossible for there to be absolute non-existence which may explain why there IS existence.

By Peter


Andy said...

Pete - I have always interpreted the The Uncertainty Principle differently than that. Could you direct me to the source that lead to your interpretation. I'm very curious to compare it mine.

I have always understood that while neither value can be measured and correlated without disturbing the other (there for we are uncertain) that each at any one point in time does have an immeasurable absolute.

Like I said, I'm only a student and I'd love to read your source. I might have it wrong.

Tropical Pete said...

Hi ah292801,

The best explanation of the Uncertainty Principle that I have received is from Brian Greene's book Fabric of the Cosmos. I highly recommend that book.

Einstein, questioned whether there were actually hidden variables that we could not measure but actually exist when it comes to a simultaneous position and momentum of a particle/wave (also applies to other variables like particle spin). However, experiments related to quantum entanglement have shown that interpretation of the Uncertainty Principle to be incorrect.

Check out the Wikipedia entry:

It's not the clearest explanation but here are a few quotes I spotted:

"For example, if an experimental apparatus forces a particle to take on a specific, precise position, then the particle's momentum cannot exist as a single value. This is not a statement about the limitations of a researcher's ability to measure particular quantities of a system, but rather about the nature of the system itself."

"Experimental results confirm the predictions of quantum mechanics, ruling out local hidden variables."

"In the quantum mechanical description the wavefunction is not a reflection of ignorance about the values of some more fundamental quantities, it is the complete description of the state of the particle."

If we had a complete mathematical theory for the universe (grand unified theory) we could input the current state of the universe, by gathering the position and momentum of every particle. Input that data into the formula and run the equation forward or backward in time and predict the future or know the past for certain. Since we cannot determine the position and momentum of even one particle then the future cannot be predicted. Because this limitation not only apply to Humans but is a fundamental limit to the data that can be gathered (or for that matter exists) there is a limit to any intelligent beings ability to be (or become) omniscient.

The Uncertainty Principle is definitely one of the most difficult concept to grasp and I definitely am open to adjusting my understanding and interpretation if I'm off-base.

Thanks for the question.


Adrian Liston said...

An alternative proof against omniscience is the simple physical limitation that no particle can contain more information than is required to generated that particle. So that a machine/person/god etc that was complicated enough to contain all the information in the universe (and let's ignore the impossibility of collecting that information in real-time, which would involve faster than light travel of information from every point in the universe in infinitely small increments) would actually be more complicated than the universe itself - and therefore couldn't be part of it.

Unknown said...

Unfortunately the Uncertainty Principle does not make omniscience impossible. The Uncertianty principle doesn't say that there is a certian position and momentum and that we cannot know them simultaneously, it says that these quantities are not well defined as a consequence of wave mechanics.

Imagine a wave on the ocean. We cannot know its position to within a few millimeters, but this is not because its position is well defined to within a few millimeters and we simply cannot measure it. It is because the wave's position is not that well defined.

So an omniscient being could know everything there is to know about a proton without precisely knowing its momentum and position because the proton doesn't have a precise momentum and position.

Tropical Pete said...


I totally agree. You have made very good points!


Moira said...

Just because we cannot know both where a particle is and where it is going at the same time doesn't mean nothing can.

PS How?

Tropical Pete said...


There are some flaws in your reasoning.

Essentially, Humans know everything there is to know about an electron (for example) without knowing it's precise momentum and position this knowledge is encapsulated in the probability wave. However, this information is insufficient data to be used in a Theory of Everything equation to predict the future.

The Universe is such a place where nothing that is part of the Universe can have omniscient knowledge of the whole Universe.

Your analogy to an ocean wave is incorrect. We are able to sufficiently measure an ocean wave without disturbing it and therefore can know it's position and momentum simultaneously. An ocean wave is not disturbed by quantum effects but elementary particles/waves are!


Tropical Pete said...


The Uncertainty Principle means that nothing can know the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously because to know that information about a particle another particle must interact with it and disturb it.

This limitation applies to any "god" or anything within and part of the Universe. Everything that operates in the Universe is subject to the Laws of Physics.

However, I do get your point that a fictional character in a story book could know both the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously. Let's call that character Zeus the Magic Particle Knower, son of Jesus, son of David, son of Yahweh, son of Amoeba the Great Goo.