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  • Writer's pictureArpan Dey

2023 Realizations: My Take On Science, Religion, Philosophy, Life And The World

Updated: Jun 10

Hello, I am posting a blog on my website after a pretty long time. I know I'm late, but I wish all of you a very happy 2024. Of course, that's not all, and that's not really important. At the end of every year, Earth just completes another revolution around the Sun, but nothing significant changes in the universe because of that. The neural firing patterns and neural circuits in my brain do change, though. Well, they are always changing. But let's say I choose this time to reveal what I learned in 2023. Yeah, in this blog, I will discuss five of my important 2023 realizations about science, religion, philosophy, life and the world. As some of you will remember, before the start of 2023, I posted my 2022 realizations. I'm doing the same for 2023. Now for me, 2023 was an eventful year - filled with good as well as bad. The first thing I'd like to say is that 2023 convinced me that my 2022 realizations were probably correct. And then, more importantly, 2023 taught me a lot - not just about science and the nature of reality, but about human psychology, society and the world around me as well. For the most part of 2023, I was as usual busy testing and polishing my philosophy of the universe. However, thanks to a lot of incidents (mostly bad, although maybe good in the long run) that happened with me, I figured out some stuff about humans and the immediate world around me that I hadn't realized previously. In addition to that, I realized who, among my friends and relatives, really have my best interests at heart (this number is very few, by the way) and who are faking it. So anyway, although the realizations I'm about to discuss might not be very surprising; they are important for everyone in general and need to be stated and kept in mind at all times. In this blog I've tried my best to discuss all of my important realizations about science, society and the human mind, in five points. So, let's get started, shall we?

1. Ordered complexity is a fortunate product of seemingly random processes.

The statement “Ordered complexity is a fortunate product of random processes” was listed as one of my 2022 realizations. In 2023, after further reflection on this statement and the fundamental question about the universe it tries to answer, I reached the conclusion that to make the statement more accurate, I should add the word “seemingly” before “random processes.” The complex and ordered structures that we see in Nature, such as living organisms, are the result of seemingly random processes, such as mutations, natural selection, and environmental fluctuations. These processes are currently known to be completely random. As of now, it seems there is no order or design behind the emergence of complexity, rather it is a lucky outcome of randomness. However, we don't really know whether this is randomness, in the true sense. This randomness could be considered deterministic in some sense. It is entirely possible that the universe is deterministic deep down, and it just appears random to us. Even randomness can be deterministic in a certain sense. There are laws that apply to random systems; random doesn’t mean it can’t be studied or understood. I think we can say with reasonable certainty that ordered complexity may arise from randomness plus some rules. One example that comes to my mind is the Sierpiński triangle, it is generated according to some simple rules, but there is some randomness built into the rules (we start with a random point and the subsequent steps depend on the outcomes we get after rolling a die). One more example is random Boolean networks, which have been used to explain self-organization in complex systems. In this case also, there are some local rules and some randomness in the system, and what we get in the end is a complex, self-organized system. So yeah, all I mean by deterministic is that the universe functions according to some universal laws, although there can be some (apparent?) randomness built into these laws. But whatever be the case, to me it seems unlikely that we are going to completely understand every aspect of the universe any time soon. In fact, there are several reasons why we may never find a complete theory of the universe, such as the limitations of our observations and our thoughts, the incompleteness of our mathematics, the complexity of our models, the unpredictability of our experiments, and the uncertainty in Nature.

2. Nihilism, contrary to common misconception, is more about being realistic than pessimistic.

I have claimed to be a nihilist, and I have always found the philosophy of nihilism appealing. However, at least according to my personal experience, most people have the notion that nihilism is a pessimistic philosophy that claims that life is meaningless and there is no point in living. The only thing that is probably true in the previous statement is that life is meaningless. At least, life has no objective meaning. There is no objective, inherent purpose or meaning to life or the universe. And to me, that’s not surprising. I mean, why should we expect life to have some meaning in the first place? If we think about it, the claims of nihilism are obvious. Yet most of us totally miss the point and end up forming a wrong picture of the world. Well, the fact that we are so good at finding meaning in meaningless stuff, and discarding the obvious, meaningful truth dancing in front of our eyes, doesn’t make the task of making sense of the world easier. Anyway, next, most nihilists wouldn’t say that there is no point in living. And, again contrary to common misconception, nihilists don’t think that the world should be destroyed. All we believe is that if the world is destroyed, nothing meaningful would be lost. Just like burning a book about a theory we think is incorrect doesn’t really refute the theory, destroying the world wouldn't prove that nihilism is true. The accuracy of nihilism can be realized through deep and logical thinking. However, if that theory is indeed incorrect, burning that book wouldn't really destroy any meaningful information. In the same way, destroying our world won't be of any great significance to the universe. And nihilism is not about being pessimistic (or optimistic), it's about being realistic. True nihilism promotes an unbiased and impartial view of the world. It’s very difficult to perceive things just as they are, in a truly unbiased manner. Most of the time we try to judge what is true and what is not, we don’t really try to think logically. Instead, consciously or not, we tend to assume what we believe to be correct is actually correct, and we direct most of our effort toward justifying our beliefs, which are mostly not formed logically. And obviously, this introduces biases in our conclusions. Now, it might seem that thinking too much about nihilism is a waste of time. Indeed, some “big” questions about the fundamental nature of reality are not scientific questions at all. These questions can’t ever be definitively answered, because there is no answer. Although it feels great to think about these philosophical problems, we should be careful not to waste too much time on them and know when to stop. Figuring out the correct questions to ask is much more important than searching for answers to questions we think are important and correct. Many “big” questions about life and the universe might not have objective or meaningful answers. And it’s a waste of time searching for answers to such questions. The universe is the answer; we need to figure out the question. And when addressing such deep philosophical questions, we must also remember that we are ultimately bound by language. Philosophy is heavily dependent on language; whatever our theories, we ultimately depend on language to describe them. And language is a human construct, so it is foolish to assume that language is capable of accurately describing deep truths about reality. However, in the case of nihilism, I don’t think it’s entirely a waste of time. While it is undeniably true that nihilism can’t discover the truth, it can nevertheless help us maintain an unbiased and logical view of the universe, which is crucial in our quest for truth. Suppose we undertake an expedition to a forest full of dangerous wild animals with the goal of verifying the existence of a suspected new plant species. A weapon wouldn’t directly help us discover this new plant species, but it is necessary to ensure our survival. And to make the expedition successful, above all we need to survive. In the same way, nihilism, although not directly helpful in discovering scientific truths about the world, is crucial in our quest for scientific discovery.

3. There are always some factors that are completely outside our control, and it’s no good thinking about them.

We have to accept that there are always some factors that are completely outside our control, and it’s no good thinking about them. When things go wrong, it’s not entirely our fault. Humans on Earth are much like a group of naive, naughty and incorrigible kids left all by themselves in a vast and dangerous territory without supervision. Isn’t it extremely natural that things might go wrong? And when things do go wrong, we should not always blame ourselves. There is no guarantee we could've prevented it, because everything is not in our control. Although how we steer our boat is up to us, we can’t control the weather (like the waves or the wind flow patterns). And if something is not in our control, thinking about it is not going to do us any good. So, we must learn not to overthink in situations where it is of no help. Sometimes the solution is to stop thinking and wait. Yeah, sometimes it seems like life is extra hard on us. But it is more or less the same story with everyone. And just like the fact that when things are good, we find it hard to believe things could ever be bad again; when things are bad, we have trouble believing things would ever be good again. But be patient, the bad days will end soon. They always do, in the end. We don't always win, but we can't keep failing indefinitely. We can keep failing only until we are wrong in all the right ways! And if we fail, that’s not the end of the world. In fact, ideally it shouldn't matter to a great extent whether we're winning or losing. Winning or losing depends on what goals we have set for ourselves. What I consider winning might be losing to someone else. As long as we are learning and improving and enjoying the process, we are winners. And even if we don’t succeed, it hardly matters in the end. Existence is transient, but it is beautiful. And a single failure in life doesn’t really take away that beauty. But yeah, even though nothing can guarantee us success, by playing the game smartly, we can increase our chances of success. And only smart work is not enough. To be successful in your field, you've to love what you do. Or better, do what you love. If you don't love what you're doing, you'll always find excuses to take short breaks from your work. Even if you are ahead of the curve and you think you deserve a short break, harsh as it might sound, the duration of your short break is all your rivals need to outrun you. You must work as hard and as smart as you can, without collapsing. But there's no time for breaks. You must not stop. And yeah, you should not only move fast, but also choose the path that is best suited to you. Both hard work and smart work is necessary. Also, you shouldn't work hard and smart with the intention of getting the job done quickly so that you've more free time, you should work to get the best job done in a short time, so that you've time for more jobs. That should be the mindset. Now, how to play the game smartly? First, we need to understand that it's usually not enough to just work on improving our chances of success, we should also focus on decreasing our opponents' chances of success. But we should do the latter in a fair manner. We often put more effort in pulling others down than we do in improving ourselves. That’s probably because we like assurance of success in life. Pulling others down is easier than self-improvement, and if we put our efforts in pulling others down, even if we fail, we can act noble and say it wasn’t our intention. But if we’re pushing ourselves to succeed, there’s no excuse if we fail. Second, we must be a little secretive and not readily trust people. It may seem like a good thing to have close friends and people to rely on. However, people who have to rely on someone for their mental well-being are actually vulnerable and would be worse off than the loners if their friends betray them. It’s better to realize this sooner than later. We have to first train ourselves to follow our heads over our hearts and not the other way around. To thrive in this world, we have to be clever, independent and practical. We must treat don’t-trust-people as a rule and make no exceptions, even if it means being somewhat of a loner. Although loners are often perceived as depressed individuals, true loners are actually independent and perfectly happy alone. Third, we should try to be unpredictable - I mean, truly unpredictable - in a harmless way. Unpredictability gives us a huge advantage in the game. Now, always doing the exact opposite of what most people expect us to do in response to a certain situation isn't really being unpredictable. If we always do that, the smart guys can easily figure out our strategy. What we should do is act unpredictably but logically. We need to play the game smartly without overdoing things. It's not about courage, it's about cunning.

4. Science and religion are incompatible, and even though science may not ever completely explain everything about the universe, science is the more logical and more useful pursuit.

When theists and religious people try to challenge science, most of the time their point against science is that science has not yet been able to explain our world completely and satisfactorily. Well, religion doesn’t even explain in the first place. Religious “explanations” can’t be proved. And the obvious reason why science is a much more logical pursuit than religion is that in science, everything is subject to change. No matter how good and revered a theory is, if we find some evidence in contradiction with the theory, we reject the theory, or modify it to take the new evidence into account. That clearly isn’t the case with religion. Religious dogmas are unquestionable, they don't change. And also, people bend religion to their wills. They try to - and sometimes manage to - do the same with science. But it is easier to bend religion to your will than to bend science to your will. Alan Turing famously compared science to a differential equation, while religion is a boundary condition. Science is about finding the most general theory that best explains the world around us. We don’t need religion for that, much in the same way we don’t need the boundary conditions to find the general solution to a differential equation. And if we want to solve the equation for a particular case, we need the boundary conditions to get the exact answer. However, if we don’t choose the correct boundary conditions, we won’t get the correct answer. Religion is a wrong boundary condition. Another way to think about this is that religious beliefs limit scientists in their scientific pursuits, just like boundary conditions put restrictions on the solution of a differential equation. Anyway, the point is, science and religion seem to me to be inherently incompatible. It’s not that, as is sometimes claimed, science and religion are two ways of searching for truth. Truth should be objective, and only scientific inquiry can take us closer to truth. Religious claims can’t be considered truth. We’ve to choose one. And the better option is, of course, science. Yes, even science probably can’t explain everything about the universe. And this, according to some people, proves or at least indicates that God exists. I don’t agree. Well, the question of whether God exists is not a scientifically answerable question. What we can say is that while it is not possible to conclusively disprove the existence of God, the idea of God may not be necessary for a complete and coherent explanation of the universe. Again, it might not be possible, ever, to achieve a complete explanation of every aspect of the universe. And we should always remember that, as Neil Tyson has said, the universe is under no obligation to make sense to us. But invoking God whenever there is a question we can't answer doesn't seem like the correct strategy to me. And we must remember that although we can't prove everything, we should believe things worth believing and not think about things not worth believing. You wouldn't seriously consider believing that there is a stone somewhere on Earth that can revive the dead, even though you can't verify that this claim is false for each and every stone on Earth. Similarly, even though we can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, in my opinion it is not worth believing in God as we have neither any proof of the existence of God and nor any indication that the concept of God is indispensable in order to understand the universe. Personally, I prefer not to believe in God, but rather in a naturalistic worldview. To me, God seems to be an unnecessary and illogical hypothesis to explain the origin and nature of the universe. God is not only a bad explanation for the universe, but also a bad idea for humanity. In fact, sometimes it seems to me that God is the source of much of the evil, suffering, and injustice in the world. God sounds like the ultimate tyrant, who demands absolute obedience and worship, and threatens eternal punishment for those who disobey or question him. God is the enemy of reason, science, and progress. I think it is time to reject this monstrous fiction and embrace the truth of Nature. It is time to free ourselves from the shackles of religion and live by the light of reason. It is time to be human, and nothing more. I don’t believe in God, I believe in humans - both their good and their bad. But of course, someone may choose to believe in God or a particular religion without harming other people or disrespecting other religions. I have got no problem with that. All I’m saying is that just because science can’t explain everything, doesn’t mean God can. Now we might ask what exactly is the reason that even science might not be capable of explaining the universe completely. Well, science just tells us which possibilities actually take place in this world and which do not. Usually, science starts with some basic assumptions and builds a model based on these assumptions in order to explain, within the limitations of this model, why these possibilities take place, and also makes predictions about the universe based on this model when some initial conditions are known. The point is, the universe is not science; the universe is what science is trying to build just a working model of. Science has so far done an amazing job. Science has given us these physical laws which describe how the universe works. But the universe doesn’t obey these physical laws. We have formulated the physical laws, and they just do a good job explaining the way the universe works, nothing more. So this is one reason why science might not be able to explain every aspect of the universe. Another big reason is the limitations of the human mind. Although we have figured out a lot of amazing stuff about the universe just by using our minds, there still might be stuff that is beyond the grasp of our minds. Then it might be the case that our theories have a limited domain of applicability, and they break down under some special circumstances that occur somewhere and sometime in the universe, thus ruling out a complete description of the universe. So although we should continue doing science with full dedication and enthusiasm given that science has a great potential of solving our problems and making the world a better place, I think we should at the same time keep in mind that science probably won’t ever be able to explain every aspect of the universe completely.

5. We live in a money-driven society which is run by a few powerful individuals in a way that is unfair to the majority of the people.

Every sensible person would agree that we live in a money-driven society. While that is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, the main problem is the unequal distribution of wealth and other flaws in the system which oppresses the common people. After some thinking, it became clear to me that basically, almost everyone around us is trying to make money off us by stimulating our brain to experience certain emotions. And the irony is that they do this to stimulate similar emotions in their own brains. Yes, from a materialistic viewpoint, we are ultimately seeking money. But the deeper reason we want money is that we want happiness, satisfaction, power, security, recognition and access to the best services. And there’s nothing wrong in chasing after money in a fair manner. At one point of time, I used to think money was not important and there was something noble about not falling for money. But I’ve realized that money is important. Yes, money can’t buy happiness, but having money makes one more likely to be happier, no point denying that. Money is important, and we have to give in to money, sooner and later. That holds true for almost everyone, regardless of whether we care to realize and admit it or not. But the problem is that the distribution of money among the total human population of Earth is far from equal. Most of the world’s money, openly or secretly, belongs to or is at least under the control of a few powerful individuals. Now it might seem that these individuals, running the top companies of the world, face some tough competition between them. However, the truth is that big companies simply create an illusion of choice which makes us (the consumers) feel powerful. When there are many companies offering a particular product, we feel like it is in our power to choose from them. While this is true to some extent, it is also true that in many cases, if we were to trace all the companies back to their origins, we would see that the real power is concentrated in very few hands. And often these individuals choose to collaborate among themselves to further increase their profits. And all they care about is profit, and certainly not improving the quality of our lives. And that’s not surprising. Even though some people go out of their way to prove that they have the common people’s best interests at heart, I find it difficult to believe that someone in today's world, especially someone in a position of power, can really care more about justice than about money. So yeah, a lot depends on the whims of these powerful individuals. The common people, including many scientists, are forced to give in to the system to earn a little amount of money and run the household. Ideally, science is supposed to be a means of discovering the truth and making everyone’s lives better with new technologies. But in this system, the ultimate power doesn’t really rest with science. Science just does its work. And the powerful and privileged classes of people find ways to use science to their benefit and exploit the lower classes of people, which often include scientists themselves. And since scientists need funding for their research, these powerful people have a lot of influence over the way science is done. And it’s no good blaming the scientists, it's the system that is flawed. I know we built this system, I know it could have been even worse, but I don't think that justifies the act of defending the current system instead of standing up and fighting for justice. Although many of us initially go into science because of this curiosity and urge to understand the mysteries of the universe, ultimately we are all sucked into the jaws of this system and forced to surrender to injustice and descend to mediocrity to keep our lives going. And this is true not just for scientists, but the majority of common people, regardless of their profession. And I think this greatly affects the mental health of the common people. Mental health is probably one of the most serious issues today. And there’s another unexpected issue arising out of this - a lot of people are taking advantage of the mental health crisis. Some are doing whatever the hell they want; some are playing the victim to gain sympathy. And both these groups of people are blaming their actions on their mental health. They’re using mental health as an excuse. This is outrageous, to say the least. It’s important to realize who’s really out of control and who’s faking it. Although I am completely clueless how this can actually be done. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to take mental health seriously and identify the real patients. Now one might wonder why it is so common for people nowadays to develop mental health issues. Well, there are many reasons, and it is not just because of the flawed system. The system has always been flawed, and people have always had mental health issues, even if mental health problems weren't extensively studied or recorded in the past. But still, that doesn't make the present mental health crisis unimportant. And I think our society and the flawed system do play a major role. When we are forced to experience something we were initially terrified of, we gradually learn to love it. This is a twisted kind of love. I think this is more of a desperate instinct on our part to learn to live with our reality. Often people who were initially oppressed and terrified end up becoming psychopaths and terrifying other people. If the world is too cold to keep us warm, we’ll start to enjoy playing with fire. All of us have a dark side to our personality. But it's revealing itself among so many people and so frequently nowadays due, in large part, to the unfair way these people are treated by society. One can’t blame the people for being dark, because being dark is probably the only way to find light in a dark world. I’m not supporting unlawful and sometimes violent acts by the frustrated common people. I’m just trying to understand the underlying reason they’re acting this way. And my claim is nothing new or surprising. Most villains are created by society; society gets back what it gives. Anyway, so what I find the most disturbing is that on one hand, the rich people are getting richer, and the poor poorer. The rich have access to education, new technologies and they have the chance to learn and earn. On the other hand, the poor people don’t have access to science and technology. As a science enthusiast, I must make it clear that we must realize that science is not only for the rich; science is for everyone. As long as this problem is not addressed, I don’t think there is any point to science. Quantum field theory is meaningless to a villager who barely gets enough food to feed his children. An MRI machine means nothing to a patient who doesn’t have the money to visit a local doctor. This is not right. Just not right. At times, it seems to me that Nature is cruel. Look at the rich and the poor. The upper-class people have always exploited the lower-class people. This has always been the case. Economists are framing policies to eradicate poverty. But I think there will always be a division between people. The utopian world where there is no division between the rich and the poor is highly unlikely to ever be reality. I understand that's not desirable; if we reach perfect equilibrium, the world will come to a complete stop. But the current scenario is really unfortunate. And Nature doesn’t care about the weak and the poor. Nature doesn’t care if a particular life is unfair. All Nature cares about is that the species survives as a whole. Nature also doesn’t care whether the competition is fair. So of course, Nature is cruel. I don't mean Nature is conscious and is actually capable of perceiving cruelty, this is just a way of speaking. So anyway, all Nature cares about is that the human race evolves. It doesn’t care whether the life of each individual is fair or not. Somewhat like the fact that all we care about is that we survive. Not that each cell in our body survives. That's not surprising. This is how Nature should be, according to science. But what troubles me is that even the human justice system is fraught with corruption. There is no one the underprivileged people who are wronged can turn to. This is not really my cup of tea. I don't have sufficient knowledge about these issues, and it is not the job of physics to address these problems. But still, as a human, I'm really troubled by this. Does this mean that the stronger ones will always bully the weaker ones? The rich will always exploit the poor? I think the answer is no. Of course, this will not vanish entirely. And this is natural; this can be seen with almost every creature, with some level of consciousness, living together in groups. But after a certain limit, the victims learn to raise their voices. In our case as well, I don't think this will go on indefinitely. Not because Nature or God will intervene. Rather, humans will intervene. Look at history. There have been revolutions. Always. And there will be too.

Okay, so these are my 2023 realizations that I thought I'd share. Of course, they are just my opinions, and you may have an entirely different perspective that works for you. Anyway, thanks for reading this piece, and let's hope 2024 has even more surprises and important lessons in store for us.

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