Completeness of qualitative explanations?

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    Paul Howard

    How can a qualitative theory explain the quantitative measurements? It it capable of making all the same predictions, or is a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods necessary to fully describe the world?

    Ashish Dalela

    A qualitative theory can explain all that a quantity theory can explain.

    What we call a “quantity” is a meter reading, under which, for example, a pointer moves by an angle. The extent of the pointer movement is called a “quantity” because we add a meter dial to measure the angle.

    This same movement is called kriya or “action” in Vaiśeṣika, and it is caused by a guna or “quality”. So, all quantities are effects or kriya of qualities or guna. The irony here is that the kriya can be quantified but the guna cannot be quantified. This means that the effect can be quantified but the cause is not quantifiable.

    Modern science takes all these quantifiable effects and says: Because we can quantify the effects, therefore, we can quantify the causes. And a quality science says: Both causes and effects are qualities. However, if you like, you can quantify the effect. For example, you can measure wheat on a weighing scale, because the pointer moves. That quantity is not a real property of nature. It is just a convenient way to describe the property in relation to a measuring instrument.

    That quantification of things assumes that certain quantities are conserved. For example, mass and energy are conserved in modern science. If things were not conserved, then we could not do any measurements. For example, if the kilogram expanded and contracted, then the weight would have no meaning. Conservation is essential to performing any measurement. However, it is not required in a quality science. The universe can disappear and it can reappear. When it disappears, the gross quality merges into the subtle quality, and so on, until everything merges back into a person.

    Hence, conservation laws are a huge problem in modern science when it comes to explaining the origin and dissolution of the universe. In the Big Bang theory, for example, an infinite amount of energy has to be concentrated into an infinitely small space-time, and when that is done, nobody knows what actually happens. Even quantum theory breaks down at that point, which is why people say that we cannot “reconcile” quantum mechanics and general relativity. But what they are not saying is that such levels of concentration of energy are contradictory to quantum theory where things must be separated into discrete particles, which is called Pauli’s exclusion principle.

    The basic problem is that you cannot explain all kriya or effects based on quantitative causes. For example, consider the kriya of typing on a keyboard to produce meaningful text. You cannot formulate a quantity theory to explain this effect, even though you can quantify the effect–e.g., by converting the text into a sequence of 1s and 0s. We can clearly see how the effect of producing a text can be quantified as a number (1s and 0s) but the cause cannot be quantified. This is the incompleteness of science, namely, some effects can be quantified but even then they cannot be explained using quantitative causes. The creation and dissolution of the universe are similar effects. The effect is easily quantified but the cause or explanation of that effect is not quantifiable.

    To explain these effects, we have to stop describing the kriya in terms of quantities. For example, stop converting text to 1s and 0s, and treat it as symbols of elementary meanings. When the kriya is qualitative, then the cause or guna is also qualitative. Similarly, don’t add a dial to the pointer to convert the pointer movement into a quantity. Just talk about the pointer movement itself (without a dial). The dial is not causally involved in the pointer movement anyway. You can change the dial to another number system, move it closer or farther, or remove it. It won’t change the result.

    This brings us to the problem of converting angles and distances to qualities. And the mapping between angle or distance and quality is not universal; it is contextual. This means that any given experiment will produce a different angle pointer movement in a different place. That “place” is also a quality. For example, when you enter some sacred places, you naturally feel very calm. This is because that place has an innate quality of calmness. You cannot see the quality, but you can see the effect of the quality. You can even quantify the effect, but you cannot explain it using quantities.

    Since places have different qualities, the results of experiments performed at those places are not uniformly applicable to all the places. Thereby, none of the scientific experiments are giving us universally true results. They are working in certain simulated controlled conditions, and even then, not precisely. The variations in the instrument measurements across places are well-known and they are discarded by modern science as “noise”, “experimental error”, “instrument variance”, etc. These are not actually noise or experimental errors. These are effects of the variations of place and time. In modern science, we cannot understand this variation in the effects of place and time. This is why a quality science is necessary even to understand why the same experiment produces different effects in different places and times. You have to want to explain the errors as features of reality.

    So, the first step is to understand guna, then its kriya, then based on the place, time, and situation, the same guna creates a different kriya, which means a different angle pointer movement. That angle pointer movement leads to quantity science, but it is not consistent across all places and times. However, the guna-kriya explanation will be more accurate even in cases where science thinks it has got it right. Then, this is applicable for cases where science has no clue on how to proceed (such as the creation and dissolution of the universe, or simple kriya like authoring a book).

    Paul Howard

    I think I’m almost beginning to understand but need more help. Many problems seem inherently quantitative. For example, anyone planning a drive will want to know how much fuel is needed to reach their destination. The fuel dispenser has a gauge, as does the car, and the car itself is like another type of gauge that stops when the tank becomes empty.

    Physics says the speed of travel, mass of the vehicle, the friction, air resistance, etc., combine to estimate how much fuel will be consumed. Using a qualitative understanding, how can we know if there’s enough fuel in the tank or if it’s necessary to add more?

    Ashish Dalela

    There is no mandate to develop material technology, and I don’t want to do things that are not mandated. There is a mandate to talk about the science of God, soul, and matter. But not on developing technology. In the past, there have been advanced weapons and airplanes. But there is no mandate to do such things right now. Just because it existed in the past doesn’t mean it has to now.

    Even the discussion on advanced technologies arises because people think that descriptions of airplanes and weapons in Vedic texts are mythologies. The discussion is limited to (A) alternative forms of material causality, (B) how alternative ideas of causality lead to new technologies, (C) how these technologies are impossible in modern science, and (D) their descriptions in Vedic texts are not myths.

    Miracles are easy ways to attract people to religion. But those who come because of miracles, leave when someone shows them a bigger miracle. This is because people are not interested in self-realization or understanding the nature of reality. They are primarily interested in miracles to solve their problems. Anyone who solves those problems becomes their “god”. This is the reason that many people have left religions for science because science is giving them the miracles of technology. And yet, those who are interested in self-realization, still accept a religious path; they may use technological miracles to advance the path of self-realization. Therefore, we have to seek those interested in self-realization, rather than those interested in miracles. Such people will continue despite distractions (miracles or not) while those interested in miracles will not. It also ensures that charlatans who claim to perform miracles are not confusing the people interested in self-realization. Those interested in self-realization are few. But they are more valuable than all of the rest. The person who goes after cheap miracles cannot grasp the value of self-realization.

    We don’t need to bring in fickle people to religion, and we should not encourage a miracle competition between religions. We should just focus on spiritual development. Philosophy and science are important tools in that to uproot impersonalism, voidism, and materialism. But that is not the mandate to use alternative ideas of reality to start developing new technology.

    Ashish Dalela

    Today I got an inkling that I might have misread the question and answered it incorrectly. So I came back and reread the question, and I will add to the answer.

    First, we cannot produce an accurate predictor of how much fuel will be consumed in a journey in modern science. This is because (a) the fuel depends on many unpredictable factors like the amount of traffic on the road, and (b) due to the variation of time and place, the same amount of fuel (guna) will produce a different amount of motion (kriya). We understand the first kind of unpredictability, but not the second kind; we attribute all variations to the first type. However, there will be minor variations in guna-kriya relationship due to time, place, and context.

    Second, we can make a more accurate prediction of how much fuel will be consumed in a journey in a quality science because (a) we can account for unpredictable factors like the amount of traffic on the road as yet another quality, and (b) account for the variations in time and place as different guna that will produce a different kriya. The ability to do such things, however, doesn’t imply that everyone can do that, because it is very hard for us to account for all the quality changes due to time, place, and context differences. Nevertheless, the theory will be complete in principle.

    Third, there is a difference between completeness and accuracy. The theory can be complete, but because we are unable to collect all the data about time, place, and context, its predictions won’t be accurate. We can still make coarse predictions, which would be more accurate than those of modern science. Sometimes, those coarse predictions will also not be accurate due to personal reasons, such as a specific car breaking down because the person is driving it is mandated to suffer at a given time. This is the effect of karma or other adidaivika causes.

    Fourth, my opposition to trying to develop technology comes from the fact that every technology is created to solve some problems, we try to solve problems to avoid suffering, but that suffering cannot be avoided. If you try to solve one problem, suffering will come to you in another way. This means that every technology you develop will break down when nature has to deliver suffering. Each of these assumptions or approximations you make about the state of the car, state of the road, the quality of the fuel, etc. to make a prediction about the distance it can travel can be falsified by nature. The car may break down, the road can see an accident, the traffic may accumulate, and so on. Since you cannot avoid suffering, therefore, all technology is ultimately useless. With technology, the same amount of suffering will be delivered in a different way. Man smart, mother Nature smarter.

    Fifth, when people have good karma, they can develop advanced technology because the pleasures they deserve based on their past actions cannot be satisfied through the present technology. Hence, if the world transforms into pious people, then new technology will appear too: Some intelligent people will use quality science to develop advanced technologies. At the moment, there is neither a need for such things (because people are not pious) nor a capacity in people to develop them (because we are unable to perceive qualities, so how can we develop a technology?).

    Sixth, the basic principle of causation remains rather similar: The cause is guna and the effect is kriya. This kriya is actually the progressive manifestation or hiding of another guna. For example, if you sit near a fire, then your body will become warm gradually. So, kriya is actually not the effect but the mechanism by which one guna manifests another guna in something else (e.g., heat in fire manifests heat in your body). As I have discussed in many other places before, fire may not burn somebody (e.g., in the case of Prahalada) so heat is not “transferred” from place to place. Rather, like the association of a happy person makes others happy (without making the first person unhappy), similarly, the association of fire makes our body warm. The difference in case of fire is that the fire dies after some time, although it may not die (e.g., the heat of the sun will not die until the end of hte universe), and when it is present, it may not burn the person (e.g., you may not feel heat even under the sun). The effects caused by association are not governed by universal laws. They are governed by persons, but they have been modeled in science as laws because the exceptional scenarios (e.g., fire continues to burn indefinitely, or that you may not be burned by fire) are not known at present. If we account for these exceptional scenarios, then we will replace laws by persons. When the demigods wish (or are mandated by duty), they can change the association, and the effect will also change.

    Seventh, what we call laws are due to some general principles of association. For example, when one quality associates, another quality dissociates. This is called the dominant-subordinate state of qualities. As a result, you cannot get everything in this world. Whatever we call the “law of nature” is called duality in Vedic philosophy: When one quality appears something else will typically disappear. All predictions require us to understand  which quality dominance subordinates other qualities to what extent. I have an uncertain and approximate goal to develop a formal theory of these quality changes, which could be used to develop many predictive models that inject various approximations about the time, place, situation, and person to determine an outcome. Note the distinction between theory and model; a model is necessarily a bunch of approximations, while a theory is precise.

    Thus, given all these things, we can say: (a) There is a precise theory of quality associations, (b) That theory can be used to develop predictive models, (c) Those predictive models will solve our problems to the extent that we have the karma to lead a better quality life, (d) if that karma doesn’t exist, all approximations will prove to have been flawed as nature will act in exceptional ways, (e) therefore, one must primarily focus on becoming moral/pious people, and (f) in the longer run, we have to transcend this life of enjoying sometimes and suffering at other times.

    Similarly, regarding technology, we can say: (a) It can be done, (b) It will be done only by pious people, (c) If piety rises, advanced technologies will appear in society, (d) if society becomes impious, all these technologies will stop working because nature can act in exceptional ways, (e) when technology stops working, people forget about it and it is lost, (f) if you misuse an advanced technology to cause greater harm to others, the consequences for you will be more severe, and (g) it is better that we don’t increase the suffering by creating advanced technology unless people are pious because we know that it will be misused by impious people.

    Hence, we have to laser focus on spiritual development and forget about other things. The conditions at present are not right to develop or propagate any kind of technology. We can keep using whatever others have developed for better uses, and when people learn how to use technology only for good purposes, then they will naturally get advanced technologies. Like ideas appear and disappear as the effect of time, similarly, advanced technologies can also appear or disappear with time.

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