This seems to be a popular format – Q & A. Once again, Socratella has something to say. This time, she is talking to Thomas, a physicist.
S: When you say that “nothing is ever created or destroyed, just transformed” you are wrong.
T: Many great scientists have proven this to be correct. So it’s you who are wrong.
S: Sometimes your theory is correct, but often, it is wrong. So what does that mean then? For a theory to be correct, doesn’t it have to always be correct? I can think of many examples where the statement that “nothing is ever created or destroyed” is simply invalid. Since I can think of so many situations where that is not true, doesn’t that invalidate your precious theory?
T: All right – give me the supposed example. (He smiles and jams his hands deeply into his pockets, anticipating good times.)
S: First I’ll provide an example where you are correct. Let’s say that somebody’s home is destroyed – rendered into rubble. What is a “home”? It’s a building, but it’s also a place where you rest your head, somewhere you can feel safe – it’s your castle. So your home becomes a pile of rubble – and from that rubble, you build another home. This means that your original home, when it was wrecked, wasn’t really destroyed. It was transformed into a new home. Is this the type of thing that you’re talking about?
T: Well … not precisely. You brought into the formula some things which can’t be measured or seen – a sense of safety, for example. We don’t look at things like that. We would simply consider the physical materials out of which the home was built, and we would say that even if these were pulverized and turned into gravel, or blown to small bits, those bits or pieces of gravel are the new physical form of the physical materials used to build the original home. In that sense, the materials of that building can never be truly destroyed – only transformed.
S: So let me get this straight – you are only dealing with the tangible, in molecular form, when you put forward your theory that nothing is ever truly destroyed?
T: Yes, that’s right. So you see, that statement must be true. It is never incorrect, therefore the theory is valid.
S: Well then, I think that this discussion is rather boring then. We are in agreement. There’s nothing more boring than agreement, wouldn’t you say? I guess my criticism of your theory is broader than its physical implications. I quibble with its application. I think that given your theory is limited to physical molecules, it has extremely limited application. But unfortunately, it is applied to contexts in which it does not belong.
T: How so?
S: People use your physical theory to reassure citizens when something precious is destroyed. “Don’t worry, it’s not really lost – it’s just been transformed. The universe wastes nothing.” I quoted a popular Hollywood movie there – “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. In that movie, humankind and everything that humankind has built is being destroyed by alien technology – and the alien wielding this technology reassures the movie’s heroine by telling her, “Don’t worry – the universe wastes nothing. Nothing is ever truly destroyed.” He took your theory of physics and he applied it to her grief, attempting to soothe her. This did not work at all, obviously. She did not feel better. I’m sure that you can see how his statement to her was not valid.
T: (smile having disappeared) Well, no – he was correct in what he said to her. Even though those buildings were disappearing, nothing was really being destroyed – on the basis that I’ve already explained.
S: AHA! There, that’s where you are wrong. Also, Hollywood is wrong, as it often is. Sometimes people actually believe that if a movie character says it, then it must be true. Leaving aside the folly of that, here is something very dangerous – dangerous because of how false it is. Let’s keep using that movie for a moment – the woman is very upset at the loss of all that humankind has created. And he tells her not to worry because “the universe wastes nothing”. He thereby ignores all of the intangibles, things like the “sense of safety” from my earlier example of a destroyed home. Let’s look more closely at this, because it’s a very important point. He ignored all the intangibles – and he used the resulting purely physical theory, to reassure her about those very intangibles. See that?
T: Not sure I follow you (frowning). Socratella observes that he follows her very well, or seems to, however he seems unhappy about where it’s heading
S: Let’s find another example. An ancient place of worship, that some call a “church”, made of local stone, with a stone altar and wall carvings, has existed for over 2,000 years. Millions of people have sat in its pews over the centuries – gazing at the same walls, the same altar. When you go in there you feel a very unusual sense of history, because of sharing the same experience with people back to ancient times. Your feelings when you sit in this church are “intangible” – they can’t be seen or measured by your standards. They are, however, very real feelings. They have existence, these feelings. The sense of awe, the experience of the profound, those are very real. But when some misguided, violent people destroy this church and render it into rubble, all of these intangibles are destroyed – forever. They are transformed into grief and loss, which are hardly the same thing. The sense of awe when sitting in that church is replaced by a sense of hopelessness gazing at the rubble – hardly anywhere near the same thing, is it. In fact, these feelings are most unlike one another. This is not “transformation” – it is pure loss, 100%. Pure destruction. So – destruction does happen. Don’t say that it never happens. Untrue.
T: What’s your point? (glancing at his watch) I have somewhere to be. (Pulls out his smartphone and starts scrolling through it)
S: Yes, this is what you people always do. As soon as you sense that somebody is making a valid point, you begin to use distraction, and you employ the body language of disrespect. I’m surprised that you did not spit at my feet too. (T starts swiveling his head around, looking anywhere other than at S.) See what you’re doing now? You are pretending that this discussion is over. Gee, what else is in this room? Who else can I pay attention to? People like you always do this. Guess why? You’re obviously afraid. Well – I’m not letting you off the hook. Pay attention to me! Listen! You can’t leave a discussion right in the middle like that. I won’t allow you to disrespect me. And look me in the eye! Grow up!
T: (crossing his arms and raising his chin in defiance) Fine. Go ahead.
S: The point here is that something VERY real is destroyed, forever, when something which people value highly is destroyed. And yet, you physicists are so eager to come in and reassure them that no, actually, this ancient church hasn’t really been destroyed. It’s only been transformed – into different molecules! And you kidding me? You actually think that this can be reassuring to anybody? I hope you see the error that you have been making. It’s an error of thought. Now let’s be careful here, because this is a common error, and it is leading to a bad outcome in many cases. Are you with me?
T: What do you want from me? I told you that I’m listening, didn’t I? (pouting, looking down at the ground, scuffing his feet like a 10 year old)
S: You formulated your theory that “nothing is ever really destroyed” using only physical molecules, ignoring all of the intangibles that go along with anything that people truly value. Then, after excluding intangibles from your theory, you then turn around and apply this limited theory to intangibles. You apply your theory to everything, in an attempt to placate and silence people who are mourning the permanent loss of valuable intangibles, which really did exist but which are now gone. You are using apples to talk about oranges. You can’t exclude something THIS important when formulating a theory, and then use that limited theory to assess the very thing that you had excluded. This is simply not valid. Generally, when you have excluded something, you can’t then apply your limited theory to it.
T: Is there anything else? Do you have a point here?
S: Yes, I do. Scientists like you refuse to acknowledge how severely limited your theories are. You hate to think that you don’t have all the answers. You do whatever you want, you manipulate your theories to suit yourselves, including or excluding whatever you want. Everything that you do is, by definition, severely limited to the physical world – which is only a very small slice of our reality. And then, you pronounce that you now understand all of reality, via these self-limited theories. Well – you don’t understand much at all. All I’m asking is that you acknowledge your own limitations.
T: Fine. Anything else?
S: Yes – tell Hollywood how wrong they were, in that film where the alien tells the woman “Don’t worry, nothing is ever really destroyed. The universe wastes nothing.” Tell them how wrong that is, and tell them that whoever wrote that bit is completely out to lunch. Actually – no – never mind. I will tell them myself. We need to beware of people using limited scientific theories to try and understand the realities that we can’t see – the realities of the human mind, thought, emotion, and inspiration. Know your place. And know your limits. Don’t stray from your own territory. Well, thanks for your attention, and sorry that I had to fight you so hard for it. Maybe you should learn how to listen to people who don’t agree with you – that way, maybe you can grow a little some day. Take care.