Can Buddhist Philosophy Explain What Came Before the Big Bang

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How cosmic is the cosmos? Ever since Heisenberg and Tagore, physicists have flirted with Eastern philosophy. Is there anything in the romance?

by Zeeya Merali


Quote:‘And then you think about the wavefunction of the Universe, which is absolute perfection, which does not depend on time, which embeds everything – everything including observers,’ says Linde. Indian philosophers two millennia ago were faced with the same paradox as modern physicists: how can an unchanging reality hold within it observers that undergo change? The ancient philosophers’ solution, Linde notes, is that time ticks for humans because we have ‘cut ourselves out from God’. Once we do so, then from our individual perspective, experiencing reality as a separate being, the rest of the Universe starts to tick, evolving in time relative to each human being as an observer.

So far, so mystical. But, perhaps surprisingly, a similar solution to the problem of time in physics was proposed in 1983 by one of Hawking’s students and later collaborator, Don Page, now at the University of Alberta in Canada – without any consideration of Hindu teachings. Page and his colleague Bill Wootters of Williams College in Massachusetts, turned instead to a well-established quantum phenomenon known as ‘entanglement’, which has been demonstrated many times in the lab. Here, the very laws of quantum physics hold that some particles are connected together no matter how far they are pulled apart; indeed, in experiment after experiment, measurements carried out on one always instantaneously influences the properties of its entangled mate.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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