tv Sophie Co. Visionaries RT January 29, 2021 9:30am-10:00am EST
lazer theoretical physicist cosmologist philosopher author of the island of knowledge great to have you with us marcello welcome my pleasure my pleasure to be here so even for an argument that reality as well pierce is always limited by our knowledge of it which is also always the minute so once that does not send is it accumulate personal experience about something or in there be more to it yes so i think that's a group good and difficult question i think you can think of knowledge in different ways right and they depend on the context so for example you can have experience your knowledge of the world without any sort of scientific background so you know there is they know there is night you know in oh there's winter you know there is some a and so that is knowledge you know and it's based on the experience of being alive and of of being out in the world and we humans all kind of share some some level
of that knowledge depending where you live but then you also have more specialized kinds of knowledge and that will depend on this missile is ation so i jolly just will have knowledge which is based on his or her knowledge of rocks and how many plates move and nasa now who know about space ships and how to space walk so knowledge really is an accumulated amount of information that we have vetted over time to be reliable right that is the good kinds of knowledge there is also the best kinds of knowledge like false knowledge and disinformation and so to a certain extent you can think of knowledge awesome as a measure of belief you know you believe that this information has value for you. but let's see some science is
a tool of acquiring knowledge straight that what if as scientific discipline discipline itself is actually based on knowledge so if facts at all if you take quantum physics which is all guesswork and presumptions further loss of a result is an introvert ation of other people's interpretations. so i would not think that quantum physics is really. debts lose you know if you think about it actually quantum physics is the science that is best validated by experiments that we know in a sense that you know it makes predictions and those predictions you go to the laboratory and you test those predictions and they're incredibly successful so in terms of in practical terms and the fact that i'm talking to you all the way from northern united states and i think you are enjoy jonathan not wrong. that means that all this digital technology that we're working on actually is based on quantum
physics so it works really well the problem with quantum physics is we don't know how to interpret the mathematics there we work with so it's a it's a marvelous philosophical issue about quantum physics which we could talk for hours about. but but so in terms of reliability you know it it works really well philosophy for going to contrast philosophy with quantum physics you're right the media are very very different things because in philosophy you don't have what scientists call in period of validation that is you don't go to the lab and that's someone's idea about the nature of space and time from in metaphysics saw or something like that and that is why philosophers love to talk to one another there are hardly agree with one another and some of the question's are as old as philosophy itself it's pretty crazy really should look at this. a philosophy and you talk about the 1st philosophers in the west you know the pre-socratic through
laws affairs in greece like 600 years b.c.e. right there asking questions there were still asking and is agreeing about like the nature of matter the nature of justice the nature of beauty and so and that is because philosophy really is about. contemplating questions they are not obviously there is no definite cast about this is the way it is a vis is the way it is and so yes i have a lot of room for argument haitian but not in quantum physics ok so here's the question what makes knowing different from thinking or believing right so 'd let's use the word knowing then in a more concrete way and say that if you're talking about scientific knowledge right you're talking about knowledge which is based on. 2 parts to it one of it is
ok i have an idea that the moon is going to appear in the sky tonight right and i can go tonight and i can see all there is the moon right i can see oh no there's no moon and and you may be patient and wait a while to understand that well the moon didn't show up because you know it was not a full moon or a quarter moon but it will show up eventually right so this is not a day you obtain by looking at things and making them in force so humans are really wonderful and interesting derian see 1st hand yes yeah right and we we made we take notes with tell stories right there we go stories we create knowledge and this knowledge is shared you know across generations and it's scientific knowledge there is the observation and there is the community you know it's really interesting so when it is a scientific idea accepted by the scientific community well it has to be
validated has to be vetted so it's a community consensus that will decide if an idea is right or wrong let me give an example k. so 2012 this new famous particle called the higgs bosun was discovered in signing your own right what does it mean that it was discovered. it was discovered because the observations that were made. shown a little bump in a curve with an excess of energy there right and then you had 5000 scientists looking at that picture right and say ok is this a new particle what is this saying right and there was a long process of that saying that observations to say yet there is a new particle it's not a step discard anomaly so it's an interesting. but let's think make it more simpler example let's say if our knowledge has to. based upon something solid right do we
only know something that we experience for a hand what i mean is like i can now let's say all about coffee wary crowds how the bins are collected methods or roasting how much have faith in a cup of coffee can days everything right but if i never tasted coffee do i truly know what coffees that's a beautiful question because there is a fundamental difference between sort of the knowledge on paper and the subjective experience of having knowledge of something right and this is a question that goes right into the. issue of why discussion is ness right so it is connected with but some philosophers call the hard problem of consciousness which is a really interesting question which is can we humans really understand what mind his in how can we really understand a consciousness is and one of the examples that people do and they're arguing about
what is consciousness is precisely the nature of subjective experience so for example let's say just a compliment your ass an example of coffee specially being brazilian at the coffee very seriously. is the notion of a color so you're wearing a red shirt a dress i can to tell because i was sitting but it's red and i have an experience of the color red right and somebody alice. in a show is going to be look at that call and they will have an experience of that color and is a subjective experience if you told me the colorado is an electromagnetic wave that has a certain frequency and this one has a certain intensity and that defines where the color red is that would tell me nothing about the experience of feeling subjective experience of experiencing what red means right and your right so you cannot just theorize about
something you need to have some sort of experience about it because we humans are animals that live in the world to our senses and so you can hypothesize and theorize about all sorts of things but they but that doesn't mean that they will correspond to what the world really is like there is a joke that if you put down theoretical physicists you know room and tell them describe the world outside this room their ideas will have not saying to do with the world until you have data right and they think is this bridge between us and the world outside of us and we need that. why examine it that skepticism to science as well as religion let's say are tools with which she mattie has been trying to deal with and known what they use of skepticism then since it doesn't really give answers like science does but only makes things even more confusing. well i think skepticism is is is related to doubting
to doubt you know and and it's a wonderful tool so that you are not fooled by what people tell you right and science in a sense is is perhaps one of the best tools for us to use you know harder to not be fooled by what people tell you in the sense that you by knowing how to think critically about stuff you're not going to believe the 1st in and tell you so if they say the earth is flat like unfortunately lots of people not there's a thinking you know it's a very sad story but it's true you have thousands and thousands of people in the world today that say the earth is flat period you know and we and it's painful to hear that and and i did mean skeptical are they being ignorant or sundaes a difference between the 2 things so a skeptic is a person that is going to ask questions pointed questions to try to make sense of
some statements so as to believe in that statement and not believe in that statement right and that is a very very healthy thing to do right if i tell you that atoms don't exist. why the atoms do exist you know a skeptic is going to say well how can i know right and then you go through the whole song and dance and well this is what laboratory experiments that you but if you don't ask their questions oh ok atoms exist no ok atoms don't exist you're not really exercising your freedom to think about stuff in a critical way so you're just being like a sheep you know going whatever they tell you and you know days of the internet where there is so much information and misinformation skepticism is a very important tool for us to actually learn something from what we are being able to watch out there as opposed to being fooled about stuff like u.f.o.'s or
life after death and all sorts of other affirmations mysel and i take his share of great great now with that whole continue talking to our surveys earth theoretical physicists cosmologists the last of her and author of the island of knowledge talking about what makes us humans so particular stay with us.
what does the let's stay on board who did not want to go to let's stick with working in civil liberties now it appears to prioritize i did a carry over issues we hear the word would be a lot but not if you can use there a place for marriage you know politics anymore. right now they're all young people who are overweight or obese it's the 4th little self. and sugary and salty and addictive. not at the
individual level it's not individual willpower and if we go on believing that never change this obesity epidemic that industry has been influencing very deeply the medical and scientific establishment. so what's driving the obesity epidemic it's. we're back with our seller lasered marcella theoretical physicist cosmologist philosopher and author of the alan the knowledge we're talking about what makes us human so peculiar marcella when you discuss science and religion he say that like
a religious person the scientists who is making the discoveries guide by faith. not yet fact so is to believe in creating progress creative progress rate and the religious belief and the same did inside that say is article logical progress alternately based on the same thing christianity is based on or are the 2 fundamentally different types of beliefs yes there are 2 fundamentally different types of b.s. and that's i'm glad you finished by saying that because. in the case of religion faith does not have to be confined by observation right i mean if you believe in god you don't care if you're going to see god or if god exists in a concrete kind of way you believe in god and that's all you need in order to have faith right and in science you may have faith in an idea but if and you you
could give your life your whole career decades of work to prove that idea is right but you know that if eventually data proves that the idea is wrong you have to abandon that right and we faith in religious religious faith or religion and there are different kinds of gods out there in the world you do not need that ultimate test in order to which doesn't mean that people that have faith do not have doubts you know i mean you may be a religious person and i have talked to many many religious people over my career and one thing that they do say is that you know believing doesn't mean that you're not never in doubt in fact doubt is part of religious belief as well because. you know the very obvious question now as people ask about god is that if there is god how come they so much suffering in the world right and people that believe when they confront their suffering in their own private lives right and they say you
know why did my cousin who is 10 years old die of cancer or something like horrible like this you know you may doubt your beef but he's a different kind of now it's than a scientific on the idea that eventually it will be vindicated on not by experiments so yes there deface the different kinds of faiths. also heard you saying that the pursuit of an equation that would explain everything is a cultural consequence of more face to face that thier theoretical physicists are just looking for that the only other hand right countless generations of humans have been looking for a bat and now the physicists are trying their hand that what's wrong with that maybe maybe it's worth it what if they really find that you never know do you. well so that's an interesting proposition you're saying that. if i have
a theory of everything from a scientific perspective like in physics you know that is the scientific equivalent of god. and i actually made that almost like a joke really saying you know in a sense that you could think of this theory of everything in physics as god but it really you have to be careful with that ok so let's be a little careful that 1st of all when physicists talk about a theory of everything they don't really mean everything with the capital they need understanding how the fundamental particles of nature interact one another and how gravity works so it's about forces and article is a very materialistic hear of everything. and it's not really a theory of everything that is going to say oh yes i knew sophie was going to invite me to this show because i know the theory of everything and i can predict everything that there's not that does not belong to decide
a physical theory of everything so we have to be a little careful that. in fact a lot of the people that work on superstring theory is an auto ways of looking for a few years or everything would be horrified to say that they're looking for god so that physics but but the point is this. you know a sense they are and that's why i like your question because you have to look at science and this is something that i've done a lot for my writing you know not just look at the science but the cultural context in which science actually is created right and if you look at it this notion of unification started in the ancient greece in philosophy as it was before created religions you know in the middle east you know judaism and then christianity etc and the idea of unity that everything comes from a single source is incredibly powerful in our way of thinking right and
a hindu person would not think that way you know because they have busy lives of gods right so for them days maybe unity had the ultimate source of all god's kind of thing but it's not as compelling as the notion that everything is in one and i am all for looking for unity in science in fact my ph d. and for many years in my career i was doing superstring theory and looking for unification too but as i grew older i started to realize that. you can pursue a theoretical dream for a long time as long as they some sort of data backing you up and what has happened with the theory of everything is that decades have passed talk about 50 years have passed you know people have been looking for this and actually even before you freak out einstein you know einstein spent the last 20
years of his career looking for a theory they would unify gravity and electromagnetism and he failed and and everybody has been fading ever since you know b. and not just from a theoretical perspective is super hard to do but a bit is just not helping us you know everything that we hope to find in the last 20 years at the same machine that found the higgs bozak you know the galaxy at cern in switzerland. we haven't found it you know so it comes to a point where where do you draw the line between stubbornness and blindness you know you just don't want to accept that this big grand dream of a theory of everything is more theoretical fabrication then what nature is telling us and i started to think that way but let your last sentence makes me think even more that if there race
a slight possibility of actually knowing everything right then that is god because they have had so many interviews with a lot of different peoples people of signs for instance i had dozens of entries with auster knots and you know these are people of signs you know there's been talk like a scientist to go to space and then they tell me we started believing that the minute you know we left earth because when you look at everything there is no possible explanation of how this is possible unless there is a god and then i have like this really famous elderly lady who is a neuroscientist and she is like a cool are scientists and she says with the more i study human brain the more i understand that except for god i mean nothing could have created this so what i'm saying is that if you know everything isn't that done. if you could know everything but you can never know everything as a human disease or just at one point in the furthest imaginable future there will
never be a moment when there will be nothing left to learn right i really don't think that's possible yeah and that's that's what this book is the island of knowledge is about and i can tell you why. let's imagine this ok and i'll tell you what the island of knowledge is because i think it's a good image for people let's imagine that everything that we learn about the world fits not nyland right so as we learn more and more because we are learning more and more this island grows now as any good island the island is surrounded by an ocean in this case is the ocean of the unknown of stuff we do not know right and the paradox of learning and this is why the point is that as the island grows the boundaries between what is known and what is not known is also growing which means that as we learn more stuff we are able to ask questions before we can even have
thought about let me give you a very practical example the microscope the microscope was invented in the late 16 hundreds in holland before the microscope was invented life was something after the microscope was invented people started to look at a drop of water and they said oh my god look at that there are all these little creatures moving around in the end in a drop of water so life is much more complex and then all these new questions about what is life emerge from this new tool and knowledge is always like that if you look at the history of science you know as it moves on and on and on this you invent something like we talk about computers now so everything is information so i could give you the whole interview with you about the world is information and information is absolutely essential etc and that's because this is one. we know now and this is what is allowing us ask these questions so the paradox of knowledge is
that by knowing more you also not know more and this pursuit as long as you have funding to keep asking questions is in principle infinite you know of course infinite is is a crazy word that doesn't make a lot of sense but as you push the boundaries of knowledge forward new questions will always emerge and just to make things more interesting in this ocean of the un known there are little regions of the know up all their fundamental questions that you can ask scientifically that you cannot answer with the science that we have today so unless you change completely the way science works there's no way you could answer these questions with the science that we have today for example of the origin of everything. or the origin of life on earth do we really know how life could have emerged on earth 4000000000 years ago not really you know you can have life in a laboratory you can make it but that doesn't mean that you know what happened
4000000000 years ago so therefore questions they can ask good scientific questions that. the framework of science could not give you answers so that's why i'm an optimist because the fact that we never will know something means that scientists will always having climate will always be able to be where jerry here's a very human question because we humans are used to you know always sort of fair aiming at a goal and reaching a heel and actually getting there but if you're saying that we're all going to like this if this never bits to top of the hill always kind of stay ignorant what's the point of everything and then here you go so i'm a mountain runner and i actually have used this analogy in a different way which is the falling so you're going up the hill and this hill this mountain is your objective right and then when you get to the top of that mountain
there are 2 things you can do you can look down in who can say how i reach my objective i'm done or you can look around and you can say oh no look you know these are their mountain starred in this one so they can keep climbing bigger and bigger mountains and then when you climb to the biggest mountain of them all. you go and you look up in the law there's the whole universe to explore so it's just a matter of attitude. and to me you know there is always something new to learn. it's been such a pleasure talking to you and thank you very much for this insightful conversation about knowledge. i really hope we get to see the next book very soon and we have to do this again. too so if you absolutely do you think i care and i stand. by.
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