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Through a certain amount of intellectual trickery, Smullyan eloquently conveys his undoubtedly Taoist belief in a fundamental interconnectedness existing in (or as) nature. By claiming that we perceive that ``laws of nature'' exist, but that we are ineffectual in attempts to act outside these ``laws'' as if we were somehow above ``nature,'' he has posed a question that modern scientists are still asking themselves: Are we justified in objectifying? Fritjof Capra, a modern author who has intuited a great many connections between modern science and Eastern philosophies responds in The Tao of Physics:

...The human observer constitutes the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any atomic object can only be understood in terms of the object's interaction with the observer. This means that the classical ideal of an objective description of nature is no longer valid. The Cartesian partition between the I and the world, between the observer and the observed, cannot be made when dealing with atomic matter. In atomic physics, we can never speak about nature without, at the same time, speaking about ourselves.[4, p.69,]

Clearly, Capra expresses similar sentiment about the state of affairs in modern physics. Capra notes that it was Decartes' statement: `cogito ergo sum' - `I think, therefore I am' that formed the basis for objectivism that determinism depends on so greatly. Without this division between the mind and the body, or the observer and the observed, the scientific method is impossible. Capra summarizes:

The philosophical basis of this rigorous determinism was the fundamental division between the I and the world introduced by Descartes. As a consequence of this division, it was believed that the world could be described objectively, i.e. without ever mentioning the human observer, and such an objective description of nature became the ideal of all science.[4, p.57,]

Rigorous determinism is rooted in the ideas of Isaac Newton as published in his monumental tome, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. According to Ian Stewart, prominent mathematician and current author of Scientific American's ``Mathematical Recreations'' column, Newtonian determinism sends the message that ``nature has laws, and we can find them.''[22] Newton's philosophy has permeated Western culture, a hypothesis best demonstrated by the modern belief that: given a computer powerful enough, and a huge set of initial conditions, we can predict the state of the universe at any future point in time. Both Stewart [22, p.10,] and Capra[4, p.57,] attribute an early version of this concept to Pierre Simon de Laplace, a prominent 18th century mathematician:

An intellect which at any given moment knew all the forces that animate Nature and the mutual positions of the beings that comprise it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit its data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom: for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain; and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.gif

It was twentieth century culture that assigned the supercomputer to play the part of Laplace's ``intellect,'' with some degree of success, until chaos reared its ugly head in a weather simulation run by Edward Lorenz. A later section devoted to chaos theory will fully explore this initial bout with chaos, and the method by which Lorenz chose to investigate this ``new phenomenon'' will in fact be the basis for a musical composition.

James Gleick, author of the wildly successful Chaos: Making a New Science remarks that ``twentieth-century science will be remembered for just three things: relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos.''[8, p.6,] Einstein proposed relativity, Heisenberg and others, quantum mechanics, but a mild mathematician-turned-meterologist named Edward Lorenz was to have the first brush with chaos in the winter of 1961 - one year after Ornette Coleman's landmark recording Free Jazz yielded a workable name for the chaotic music being experienced in the jazz scene at the start of the 1960's.

next up previous contents
Next: Free Will Up: Introduction Previous: Motivation

Mike Andrews
Wed Oct 23 01:18:29 EDT 1996