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Tuesday 28 February 2012

Mathematics and Physics(NP)

Let me first deal with banter of Prof. Carlo Fonseka as it is relevant to our discussion. I am younger now than when I went to the UK to write that thesis, does not mean that I am younger due to the air travel. After coming back to Sri Lanka I grew older until about the year 1980, repeating like many others what the westerners had taught me. My so called research confined to some peripheral problems in western science without challenging its concepts or theories. However, after that year new ideas came to me in a “procession” and it is generally believed that it is the young who are endowed with new ideas. I have been able to think a fresh creatively since then, and I am happy that I am growing younger, though many, especially in the academia may not like my original ideas. Prof. Carlo Fonseka does not belong to that category and that is one of the reasons I respect him.
Prof. Fonseka does not seem to have grasped the essence of time dilation in Special Relativity. It is essentially regarding the time interval between two events as measured by observers moving relative to each other. In special relativity objects cannot travel with velocities faster than light though there appear to be evidence recently to the contrary. For a particle travelling with a velocity less than that of light the time as measured by a clock moving with it (proper time) increases and a person does not become younger by going in an airplane. The clocks that were taken round the earth referred to by Prof. Fonseka registered different times due to general relativistic effects and rotation, and is not related to the so called twin paradox in special relativity. In any event my being younger now has nothing to do with traveling in airplanes with or without that young lady called Bright.
What I said on imposing ideas is the following. “After coming back from the UK to Sri Lanka then known as Ceylon in another Air Ceylon airplane (could have been the same airplane) I have realized that the westerners have imposed their needs on us through colonialism.”. Prof. Fonseka states that “In any case, my position has nothing to do with westerners having "imposed their needs on us through colonialism’ as claimed by Prof. Nalin”. Prof. Fonseka is of course entitled to think that way but it is not a secret that the schools we attend, the universities where we study and of course the books we read have an immense influence on us unless we for some reason or other make a deliberate attempt to break away from that influence and succeed. What are (western) schools and universities for if not for imposing not only western needs, but also western attitudes, western knowledge, western culture etc.? Personally I am aware how I changed from my semi rural and semi urban knowledge and attitudes to western scientific knowledge and attitudes at schools and the universities, and then how I went back to my cultural identity having realized the inadequacies, weaknesses, inconsistencies, inhumanness etc. in the western Chinthanaya that gave rise to western science. There are many people who talk of Principle of Superposition in Quantum Physics without realizing that it cannot be explained in western thinking. Quantum Physics may be working but as Feynman has said nobody (in the western sciences – my emphasis) understands it. How does one understand that a particle can exist at two or more places simultaneously in Aristotelian logic? At home and the village temple I was brought up in a culture that did not seek comfort but emphasized on avoiding “kamasukhallikanuyogaya” and also “attakilamtanuyogaya” and taught me of “alpecca” and sallahuka” form of life. My upbringing as a child did not allow me to be “bahubhandika”, and today I have no problem in traveling by bus and sparingly using my old car bought in 1978 (before 1980). Full option cars are not for me now, and I am reminded of the “nembiliya” in this regard. “Nembiliya” is used to separate rice from other material found in rice and having constructed and developed it to a certain level, Sinhala people did not want to “improve” it to a full option nembiliya, wasting energy and resources. The concept of comfort is determined by culture and it is not only the bodhisathva who find “dukkha” in comfort. In my series on so called scientific knowledge I will go into detail on this and show how a Science based on Sinhala Buddhist culture or Tamil Hindu culture is different from western science.
Prof. Fonseka says “For my part, my understanding of what the Buddha taught about the way to achieve well-being and happiness through the elimination of greed, hatred and delusion is quite compatible with my understanding of the modern scientific outlook.”. However, greed, competiveness, sensory pleasures etc., are behind modern western consumerism and living in general and more and more possessions will not guarantee happiness to people. It will only destroy the natural resources, increase competitiveness, and I do not think that I have to elaborate on this. In connection to what Buddha had taught there are many scholars who would be happy to show that Buddhism is (western) scientific and rational meaning conformity with Aristotelian logic. It is not so, and I remember Prof. Fonseka himself trying to present Kalama Sutta as evidence for the so called scientific method. However, he has now realized that there is a Part II to Kalama Sutta referring to the Vinnus .
Prof. Fonseka states: “Prof. Nalin’s answer to his question about the effectiveness of western physics based on western mathematics is their ‘abstractness’”, and that in his view “the effectiveness is the outcome of their concreteness and empirical nature.” However the question I asked was "why western mathematics ‘the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true’ has been so effective in western physics" It is different from Prof. Fonseka’s formulation. Western Mathematics is very abstract and western Physics is abstract to a very high degree. It is said that we do not know what we are talking in Mathematics nor whether what we are saying is true, but I presume that Physics is trying to arrive at truth. How can Mathematics with those properties be so effective in Physics as such? On the other hand, if I were to ask Prof. Fonseka why western Mathematics is not effective in Physiology what would his answer be? Concreteness was and is not the hallmark of western science that looks for generalized theories. Even the patients in western medicine are generalized patients and not concrete patients. Finally this talk of empirical nature becomes a travesty when it is claimed that if the appearances (what is grasped through the sense organs) are true, then there is no need for a science. It is said that one starts with observations (experiments, controlled experiments,) then theorize and come back to observations to test the theories. Observations are appearances and how does one know that the theories are true or let us say approaching the truth by comparing the deductions from theories with observations?

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva