Vanity thought #1733. VC – models and theories

On with a commentary on a book about Vedic cosmology, which for me makes it a review of half forgotten material. Currently I’m half way through and my mind is occupied by what I read today rather than what was discussed in the beginning. Going back and skimming over what I’ve already read makes for an interesting experience with this book.

When I read these chapters for the first time much of what is discussed there was new and I needed to digest this information slowly. By now, however, I know so much more on this subject and in light of this already digested information the old chapters look very different. On the first run I tried to find or construct the meanings but now I already know what the author means and I try to fit his words with what feels like basics to me. Take the couple of chapters on relationships between models and theories.

There’s a chapter on the analogy between studying cosmology and biology. The author doesn’t specify whether he means modern or Vedic cosmology but it would make a ton of difference, except that at this point the readers don’t know what Vedic cosmology is and how it would be very very close to study of biological species.

From the modern cosmology POV he compares species to different models of the universe, which initially doesn’t make sense. What he means to say is that models are like species in that they describe our observations. We see an animal, we note down its appearance and traits, and we identify it as one of the species. Species and models are, therefore, what we see. Theories, OTOH, need to explain why this particular model or species were produced. They need to explain fundamental laws and reality behind speciation. The problem for biology is that it can’t reduce living beings to physics of chemical interactions and introduces concepts like “random mutation” and “natural selection” which do not have place in physics, according to the author.

This is where he plugs his earlier book on evolution and this statement makes total sense to him but I’ve never seen an atheist or a biologists perplexed by this situation. There might be some but most do not see “random mutation” and “natural selection” as concepts impossible to explain through physics. It doesn’t look so to me either but I’m not going to delve into this matter, or I would need to read that other Dalela’s book.

The comparison to modern cosmology here is that we similarly don’t have a theory of cosmos that wouldn’t need an introduction of outside concepts such as dark matter. With introduction of dark matter and dark energy we can build a model of the universe – our current model, but we have no theories to explain these dark forces.

The chapter ends with a profound observation of current scientific process – models are supposed to explain observations and theories are supposed to explain models but when theories fail to do so, like in the case of gravity along being insufficient to explain certain phenomena, scientists introduce new models rather than improve on their theories, and therefore for most people the difference between models and observations is erased. I mean most people interested in this subject have heard of the dark matter and energy and most of them are totally satisfied with this model itself, and they totally forget that this model is not explained by any existing theories, and they come away thinking that science explains everything – rather foolishly.

The subject of dark matter and energy will be brought up again in later chapters but for now just think of some enthusiastic science educators, like Neil deGrasse Tyson. They always leave you with an impression that science knows everything and what it doesn’t know it will learn very soon. Tyson loves to talk about the universe and all the dwarves and supernovae and black holes in it and he sounds very convincing – until you remember that science has no clue how to explain 95% of what we see in the universe and with the current scientific theories our observations should be impossible. Where is this confidence coming from if not foolishness? I took “95%” number as total combined dark matter and dark energy, which we actually don’t see, but it affects everything else in the universe. Whether this usage is justified or not is not the point here and I’m not going to argue about that.

In short, Dalela took two swipes here – at biology and at cosmology. At biology for introducing questionable concepts like “random mutation” and “natural selection” and at cosmology for foolishly substituting lack of theories with models and thinking they’ve got it figured out.

From Vedic cosmology POV the comparison to biology could be made in a different way – species are distinct. No matter what evolutionists say, the change between species is not contiguous, at least not at the present moment, and also not in fossil record. The phenomena in a Vedic cosmos are also discrete and not contiguous, there are unfilled spaces between various manifestations and nature, just as in biology, seems to make jumps. It hasn’t been introduced at this point yet but we are not far away – Vedic universe is like an inverted tree and things we see here are leaves of that tree. As such they are not connected to each other horizontally and there appear to be “spaces” between the leaves just as there are spaced between species. The connection between leaves is up the branch all the way to the relevant fork and down the branch again. The tree of species in biology works in exactly same way. To get from dogs to cats you need to go up the mammal branch until you find a place where there was the original split. There are no species between cats and dogs now and the two can’t interbreed.

In Vedic universe it would mean that there’s no connection between people living on our tract of land, the Bhārata-varśa, and inhabitants of other varśas and islands of Bhū-maṇḍala just as there’s no way to merge one body into another – there aren’t in-between stages like the ones they show in movies about werewolves and magic. There is a lot more to say on this topic but let’s wait until it comes up properly.

There’s a chapter there that takes another swipe at modern cosmology and it also happens to plug another of Dalela’s books. It reminds us of another aspect of modern science that is normally overlooked. He says that with the current gravitational theory we can produce not one but numerous models of the universe (some would fit with our observations and some won’t, I guess), and the selection of one particular model, the one we use now, depends on selecting a set number of particles and their masses, this initial information input coming from nowhere. In classical mechanics these particles cannot split or coalesce but once that happens gravitational laws no longer apply and the future of the system becomes undeterministic. He is still talking about the universe though this splitting and merging occurs at subatomic level, as far as I know.

His main point here, however, is to propose that Vedic cosmology avoids the above mentioned traps (discrepancies between observations, models, and theories, the need for starting information to get the theories to work, and underlying indeterminism) and therefore is worthy of scientific exploration – means he expect it to appeal to scientists. Whether this will actually happen I don’t know. I’m just getting into chapters where scientists might simply cringe and walk away but otherwise the first half of the book does not require any faith into anything supernatural and could appeal even to atheists. For devotees it should be a walk in the park.

Next up is the description of fundamentals of Vedic cosmology and it should be interesting.


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