Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Theory of Everything

When I was young, I wanted to discover the "Unified Field Theory." That was the Holy Grail of physics back in the day: a single set of equations that would link the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and gravity. Nowadays the physicist use a different phrase to describe their quest: they're looking for a "Theory of Everything.."

Or are they?

A real "theory of everything" would link what we know about time, space, matter, and energy to what we feel about truth, beauty, justice, and love.

The twentieth century offered "reductionism," which claims that "beauty" is the neurochemical response of several hundred billion specialized cells to certain stimuli; that "love" is just one gene's way of making a copy itself; "justice" is the set of mechanisms that the dominant class imposes on the oppressed; and "truth" is whatever can be tested in the lab.

Einstein said it best: "It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?"

This blog is dedicated to the proposition that Einstein was right about this, as he was about so many other things...

1 comment:

Steve said...

A great book that compares and contrasts reductionism and emergentism is A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down by Robert B Laughlin. It doesn't cover love, beauty, etc, but it makes the same point as you about there being a lot more to the "solution space" than is easily accessible or expressible using a purely reductionist approach.