With the word "miracle" we usually refer to a violation of the natural laws.
The point is that miracles are, by definition, exceptional events, which cannot be reproduced in laboratory.
Miracles can then be studied only on the basis of the available records. Of course, the judgement about these records is subjective, and all those who do not want to believe in miracles, will always claim that such records are false or wrong.
Many miracles have been scientifically studied, and some information is available also on line.
For example, information about the miracolous healings occurred at Lourdes can be found here (site in french):
Personally, I think that the well recorded miracle is the miracle of the sun of Fatima, occurred in October 1917.
Some years ago, I read an article on a well known italian newspaper about the miracle of sun at Fatima. I knew nothing about Fatima, except that some children had had a vision of Our Lady. I was really surprised to read that a crowd of 70000 people had seen the sun dancing in the sky for some minutes. As far as the number of witness is concerned, it was the greatest miracle after the passage across the Red Sea! I must say that the thing surprised me so much to leave me rather skeptic.
So I decided to seek more information, and what I have found has convinced me about the supernatural nature of the events of Fatima.
First of all, the miracle of the sun at Fatima is quoted also in many different secular encyclopedias, such as the Britannica encyclopedia, where at the item Fatima I have found:
village and sanctuary, Vila Nova de Ourém municipality, Santarém district, central Portugal; it is located on the tableland of Cova da Iria, 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Leiria. Fátima was named for a 12th-century Moorish princess and since 1917 has been one of the greatest Marian shrines in the world, visited by thousands of pilgrims annually. On May 13, 1917, and in each subsequent month until October of that year, three young peasant children, Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, reportedly saw a lady who identified herself as the Lady of the Rosary. On October 13, a crowd (generally estimated at about 70,000) gathered at Fátima witnessed a "miraculous solar phenomenon" immediately after the lady had appeared to the children.
Since 1910, the portuguese government had started a very hard battle against the Catholic Church: many religious orders were expelled and their property confiscated, new legislation banned the teaching of religion in schools and universities and annulled many religious holidays. Persecution of Catholics in the early years of the republic attracted international attention and brought the new political system into conflict with foreign diplomats, humanitarian organizations, and journalists. The (atheist) director Avelino de Almeida of the government (and very antireligious) newspaper "O Seculo" was present at Fatima on October 17, the day when the three children had foretold that God would have given a miraculous sign. The intention was to write an article to discredit the religious "superstitions" of catholicism. The article, published with the title "Terrifying Event! How The Sun Danced In The Sky Of Fatima" can be found on the site
In his article, the journalist describes a crowd of biblical dimensions, spread in the fields of Fatima. At a certain point, this immense crowd begins to cry "Miracle! Miracle!" looking at the sun. The journalists describes then an amazed crowd, who cry and pray.
I have tried to analyse these data to see whether it was possible to find a plausible explanation, excluding a divine intervention, but I have found none. No scientifically acceptable explanations exist for such a phenomenon.
I do not think it is reasonable to hypothesize a conspiracy of 70000 people, simulating a collective vision. On the other hand, it would not have been possible to hypnotize such a crowd, spread on an area of some square kilometers. Besides it is scientifically impossible, even with the present technology (you can imagine with the technology available in 1917!), to realize an optical illusion like that.
Some atheists try to explain this miracle as a banal optical effect; when we look at the sun for a while, we see coloured pulsating spots, or when the clouds move in the sky, they can create the illusion that the sun is moving.
Obviously, we all know this, we all have looked at the sun and we all know the effects, we all have seen the clouds moving in the sky. Those who were at Fatima certainly knew this as well.
So, unless we hypothesize that at Fatima there were only 70000 idiots, such explanation is not plausible at all.
Some then speak about hysterism or suggestion. However, if catholics were all subject to hysteric crisis or they were so easily suggestionable, one couldn't explain why in 2000 years of catholicism there are no other cases of crowds witnessing to having seen such extraordinary phenomena. Actually, there was only the word of three children, and if this was sufficient to suggestionize so much catholics, then whoever claims to have some visions of Our Lady, could easily make a crowd of 70000 catholics to see the sun dancing in the sky.
Some then ipothesize that some rare physical phenomenon must have happened at Fatima that day; certainly it should have been a very rare phenomenon! I do not think such ipothesis have any value, but even if it should have been a rare physical phenomenon, the fact that it occurred exactly in the place and in the time predicted by the three children is for me the most evident proof of the supernatural nature of such event.
In my opinion, the miracle of Fatima is the best recorded miracle in all history.
Marco, with your arguments you have concluded that God has not a physical/material nature. Can science tell us something more about God?
No, science must stop here, but I think that reason can go beyond and make us understand some attributes of God, if we define God as the necessary Cause of the existence of our soul.
1) First of all, the fact that God has the capacity to create our psyche, while we, not only are unable to create any psyche, but we need be created in order to become to exist as conscious persons, proves that God is infinitely superior to us; there is an abyss of superiority, separating God from us, which is equivalent to say that God is transcendent to man.
2) Since God is the Creator of us, He must have existed before us and He must exist independently from us; His existence does not depend on us, while our existence depends on Him.
3) Since God has the capacity to create our intelligence, our consciousness and our will, He must be intelligent, conscious and He must have a will. In fact, since God is superior to us and He is the Creator of our own capacities, He must have at least our own capacities. Besides, since God is the Creator of our own mind, He must know us perfectly.
4) Since God is superior to us, He must have a superior capacity to love.
These considerations prove that the necessary Cause of the existence of our soul is necessarily a personal, conscious and intelligent God.
Can science establish which is the true religion?
No, to believe in one religion rather than another is always a personal choice, but I think that there are some objective elements, distinguishing the different religions (their history, theology, etc.) that can be analysed from a rational point of view. I limit myself to a couple of cnsiderations.
In the times when peoples used to worship many gods, represented with anthropomorphic idols, usually associated with natural elements, there were only one monotheistic people who worshipped one God of Spirit and rigorously prohibited any representations of God. This monotheistic concept of God has appeared in history through the jews and every monotheistic religion cannot but acknowledge its roots in the Bible.
There is another importatnt objective element to be considered.
Through christianity, an absolutely new concept of divine love has come into history: the concept of a God who loves us so much that He makes Himself man and accepts an atrocious suffering and death in order to save us from our sinful and unhappy existence and lead us to the true and eternal happiness.
Why was it necessary that Jesus suffered so much to save us from our sins? Couldn't He simply save us without being crucified?
I believe that each of us needed know that God was willing to accept such a terrible suffering for us, in order to really trust God.
Every man needed that proof of love, and God, who knew this, has accepted to give him what man consciously or unconsciously asked to Him.
Jesus had to suffer and die that way to convince us about God's goodness and God's love towards us.
It is man's obstinate distrust against God that has forced God to give man that proof of love, the proof he needed to trust God. By His death on the cross, Jesus destroys our distrust and our doubts, and He gives us the strength to believe in Him and trust Him.
This means that each of us is personally responsible of Jesus ' sufferings and death.
This distrust, this lack of faith in God, as well as the excess of trust in oneself, is just the essence of the original sin.
Blinded by his pride, man rejects God's authority and prefers to trust himself, instead of His Creator; man deludes himself to be able to be independent from God, to be the god of himself.
But God only is the source of all true good and true love. Man is unable to pursue the true good with his only strengths; man needs God, His teachings, His spiritual help, and so, after his rebellion against God, he gets deeper and deeper into a vortex of sin, which he can get out of only if he allow God to
change his evil and impure heart.
God in fact loves us infinitely, and He desires to lead each of us to the true life and true happiness, a condition existing only in God.
But God cannot tolerate evil and sin, because they are incompatible with His good and holy nature.
A deep interior change is then necessary for all of us to reach the eternal happiness; we must be sanctified and purified from all our evil and sinful desires. God has the power to change us but He wants to do that with our consent. Since He has chosen to create man with a free will, He wants to respect our will.
Man cannot really accept to be changed by God and he cannot be in comunion with God as long as even a shadow of doubt and distrust remains in his heart ( it must be stressed that such a distrust may exist even without the man is aware of it, at the unconscious level).
God had to destroy every shadow of doubt and distrust in our heart and He has chosen to give us the greatest proof of love that may exist: Christ's Passion.
Christ's Passion has reconciled us to God because it has uprooted from our heart, our distrust and doubts about God; it has satisfied our (conscious or unconscious) desire and need of a proof of love, so that it has given us the strength to trust God and feel loved by Him.
There are many different christian denominations; are there any scientific criteria to establish which is the true christianity?
No, but I think that some rational criteria can be used.
The fact that there are many different protestant denominations, professing different doctrines and interpretations of the Bible, proves that the Bible is not unequivocally understandable by everybody.
This is an objective result. Every protestant usually claims that his interpretations are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore they are true, but he has no objective element to support such a claim; he simply assumes that his opinions are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The point is that the Holy Spirit cannot contradicts Himself, and therefore these contrasting interpretations can certainly neither be all true, nor all inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The concept of divine love implies that, after Jesus' ascent to heaven, God cannot have abandoned us to our uncertain interpretations; God must be present in every time to go on teaching us the Truth and the moral law. This is the reason why Jesus has founded His Church; He gave us a visible guide to lead us to the Truth, so that we were not misled by our wrong interpretations and opinions.
The existence of many different protestant denominations, interpreting the Bible in different ways, objectively proves that the Bible is not a sufficient guide for man.
On the other man, if Jesus had wanted to found the christian faith on a book, He would have written it Himself; but Jesus never wrote anything. The New Testament has been written some decades after Christ, and the first christian communities had no New Testament, but they founded their faith only on the oral teachings of the Church. Among the several christian confessions, catholicism is the only one that has an historical continuity with Christ, through the apostolic succession that connects the present Pope to Peter.
Peter is in fact the only apostole whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16:17), which proves that Jesus gave Peter a special role in His Church; it must be stressed that this delivery of the keys is the first act done by Jesus soon after He founded His Church, which proves the existence of a fundamental relation between these keys and the Church.
Observe that no historical continuity exists between Christ and the protestant denominations or other christian confessions; Christ never appeared to Luther or Calvin, etc. All these confessions rose more than 1500 years after Christ.
Don't the errors commited in the past by the Church (for example, Galileo) undermine the authority of the Church?
I believe that God has created man with a free will, and therefore each man can commit sins and he is responsible of his own sins. God does not take away automatically the free will to all those who become priests, bishops or popes. This means that each person can commit some sins, even a pope, but the responsibility of these sins is however personal, and not of the Church. The Pope is considered infallible by the Catholic Church only when he proclaims officially a definitive doctrine in matter of faith and moral; a pope is not considered infallible in his personal decisions or in his scientific opinions. God's love assures us that the official teachings of the Church, the ones contained in the Cathechism, are certainly truthful and trustworthy; it is God Himself who vouches for these teachings, in the same way He inspired the authors of the Bible, authors who were not without sin. It must be considered that some corrupted men have been in the Church of Christ since the very beginning. In fact, Judas Iscariot was one of the apostoles; he was sent by Jesus to preach and to do miracles in His name. Nevertheless, Judas betrayed Jesus, but this certainly does not mean that the Church of Christ was corrupted. In the Gospel of Matthew 16:18, Jesus Himself says that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church; this means that Jesus Himself vouches for the teachings of His Church.
Besides, Paul writes that the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1Tm 3:15). Protestants consider as corrupted many teachings of the Catholic Church, which orgin is well recorded since the first centuries after Christ. This would mean that God abandoned humanity to a corrupted church, teaching evil and sinful doctrines, for many centuries, up to the sixteenth century, when protestantism rose. This hypothesis is uncompatible with Matthew and 1Timothy verses, as well as with the concept of divine love.
Today science cannot explain the existence of consciousness. May future advances in science allow us to give an explanation of consciousness?
I think that it is an unreasonable hypothesis; there are in fact many strong arguments against the possibility of a future scientific explanation of consciousness and the psychical life.
In order to give a scientific explanation of consciousness, a new set of laws of physics would be necessary. However the laws of physics consist of a system of mathematical equations. Their mathematical structure exclude the possibility that these equations can be modified; in fact, even a slight change in a mathematical equation would generates radical changes in all its solutions. We have already found billions and billions of correct solutions from the laws of physics; if we changed them, we would suddenly cast away all these correct solutions. On the other hand, every day we find a systematic experimental confirmation of the laws of physics on ever new systems. To hypothesize that the laws of physics are wrong would be equivalent to say that all these billions and billions of systematic and quantitative experimental confirmations are only a lucky coincidence. In these last decades, we have done many more experiments than in all history, but the laws of quantum electrodynamics, discovered in the beginning of last century, have never been changed. On the basis of the number of experimental tests, we can say that quantum electrodynamics is the oldest scientific theory in history.
Since the laws of physics are the foundations of all modern science, I think that the hypothesis of a new set of laws of physics represents a jump out of science into the field of philosophical speculations; the fact itself that those who want to deny the existence of the soul are forced to hypothesize a new set of laws of physics proves the incompatibility between science and materialism.
Advances in science has never dethroned and can never dethrone well established facts, supported by billions and billions of systematic and quantitative experimental data. It would be equivalent to hypothesize that one day science will discover that the earth does not orbit around the sun, but it is motionless at the center of the universe. The statement "maybe one day science will discover that..." is no longer a rational statement, because of the wide and systematic experimantal confirmation obtained by the laws of physics. The laws of physics establish some firm points, which must always be considered when we make a rational and scientific hypothesis.
Today we have billions of billions of data confirming that cerebral, biological, chemical and molecular processes are determined uniquely by Quantum Electrodynamic. Since no Quantum Electrodynamic processes generate consciousness, this is equivalent to say that we have billions and billions of data conferming that no cerebral processes generate consciousness.
Advances in physics allow us to discover new processes at higher and higher energies; this is the only possible advances in physics, but this kind of advances lead us farther and farther from consciousness, because no high energy processes occur in our brain. Consider that in modern particle accelerators, it is possible to reach energies a billion of times superior to the energies of chemical and biological processes. Nevertheless, in the hope to discover some new processes, scientists have to design new accelerators, able to reach even much greater energies.
There is another fundamemtal point; history shows that scientific progress has been possible only when scientists began to compare theoritical results with experimenal data. Since all our measurement instruments work and are designed on the basis of the laws of physics, and since consciousness transcends such laws, it is not possible to design any instruments able to measure consciousness. Without such measurement instruments, it will never be possible to reach any scientific progresses in the explanation of the existence of consciousness. It is useful to observe that, in spite of the great scientific progresses reached in the fields of the natural sciences, no steps have ever been done in history in such direction, as it is proved by the fact that science is not able to explain, neither in principle, the existence of consciousness, neither the existence of the most banal sensation.
If the soul is transcendent, how can science prove its existence?
Science by itself cannot prove the existence of the soul or the existence of God, just like it cannot prove the existence of consciousness. Actually, the crucial point is the fact that in the laws of physics, consciousness is not present, neither as a property of matter, nor of any physical, chemical or biological process.
It is not science that proves the existence of the soul, but it is our reason that finds in science the confirmation of the trascendent nature of consciousness to matter and its processes.
It is our reason that analyses both the scientific theories and the observable phenomena (including consciounsness), and understands that in physics, consciounsess doesn't exist; in the laws of physics there are all natural phenomena (physical, chemical and biological) but there is no consciousness. Our existence as conscious persons opposes to this lack. Our reason cannot then account for the existence of our consciousness without admitting the existence in us of an immaterial and un-physical element, the soul. Our being here "consciously" is the most direct proof of the existence of our soul and of God, the Creator of our soul, our inner self.
Does the existence of the universe imply the existence of a personal God? I mean: apart from the problem consciousness, is the existence of the universe sufficient to prove the existence of God?
Science has proved that the state of the universe is determined by some specific mathematical equations, the laws of physics; the universe cannot exist independently from such equations, which determine the events and the properties of such events (including the probability for the event to occur, according to the predictions of quantum mechanics).
However we know that a mathematical equation cannot exist by itself, but it exists only as a thought in a conscious and intelligent mind. In fact, a mathematical equation is only an abstract concept, which existence presupposes the existence of a person conceiving such a concept.
Therefore, the existence of this mathematically structured universe does imply the existence of a personal God; this universe cannot exist by itself, but it can exist only if there is a conscious and inteligent God conceiving it according to some specific mathematical equations .
Someone claims that the present laws of physics cannot be considered exact because we do not have a unique theory unifying general relativity with electroweak and strong interactions. First of all, it must be stressed that it is not necessary at all that such theory must exist;
God could have conceived the universe both according to a unified theory and according to some disjoined theories.
Anyway, a well-known property of mathematical equations is the possibility to find approximate equations able to reproduce with great accuracy the results of the exact equation in a given range of values. This is the reason why classical mechanics (which represents the approximation) can replace quantum mechanics (which represents the exact theory) in the study of many macroscopic processes. So, independently from the fact that we choose to consider the present laws of physics as exact or approximate, the systematic accuracy of their predictions proves that the state of the universe is determined by specific mathematical equations.
In fact, if natural processes were not determined by any mathematical equations, there would be no reason to expect to be able to predict the natural processes (neither a limited number of them), through some mathematical equations.
Some people object that the mathematical equations are not the principles ruling the universe, but they are only a representation imagined by man. Someone else claims that math is only the language used to describe the universe.
This objections however do not stand since the laws of physics are intrinsecally abstract mathematical concepts, and when we ask them to describe which "natural principles" should really rule the universe and be represented by the equations of physics (for example the Schroedinger or the Dirac equations), they remain speachless. Their incapacity to describe concretely the laws of physics is a direct consequence of the intrinsic abstract and conceptual nature of the laws of physics.
Actually, they use the term "natural principles" (or equivalent expressions) but these are vague and completely indefinite concepts: they are not true concepts, but only empty rethoric figures, without any real meaning. Besides, the objective result is that natural phenomena occur according to some specific mathematical equations; this result can be explained without any need to introduce vague and obscure concepts of "natural principles". The most simple and direct explanation is that nature is ruled by some specific mathematical equations. The "natural principles" are then a concept as empty and meaningless as superfluous.
Someone claims that the equations of physics are not the cause of the natural processes, but they are only the result of our analysis of experimental data; in other words, they are only the way we have ordered and summarized, in a mathematical language, the observed processes.
In this case, however, every new experimental data would require a new analysis and a revision of our equations. Such objection is then clearly denied by the predictive capability of the equations of physics.
In a non-mahematically structured universe we should have the following situation:
through the analysis of experimental data we could find a mathematical function or equation to represent such data. However, every new experiment would give us some new data which do not fit our equations, so that we should revise our equations. There is no reason to expect that a new experiment should give data compatible with our equations; in fact,in principle, the possible outcome for our data are infinite numerical values, so the probability to find the predicted values is zero (the probability is calculated as the quotient of the favorable outcomes and the possible outcomes, and since the possible outcomes are infinite, this quotient is zero). We have found however the opposite situation, i.e. the sistematic confirmation of the predictions of the equations of physics.
Consider that the equations of quantum mechanics have been discovered last century, through the analysis of some simple atoms; these equations have then correctly predicted the behavior of billions of other molecules and systems, and no revisions of the equations have been necessary.
Since last century, we have been observing a systematic confirmation of the laws of physics, in our numberless studies on newer and newer systems and materials.
It then correct to say that the probabilty that the universe is not intrinsecally ruled through mathematical equations is zero.
Someone considers the equations of physics as a description of the universe, like a map is a description of a territory. Also this kind of argument fails if we consider the predictive power of the laws of physics: the map in fact cannot predict the changes occuring in a territory, since the map is only a graphic description of the surveys made till now. Tha map can give us no new information beyond those used by the person who made the map itself; on the contrary, the laws of physics can give us new information about experiments which have not been made yet. The map must be revised at every change occurred in the territory, and this is what should happen if the laws of physics were a sort of map of the universe, built upon our experimental data. Every new experiment would change our set of data, and a revision of our equations would become necessary. It is not possible to account for the extraordinary agreement between the experimental data and the laws of physics and the predictive power of such laws, without admitting that the state of the universe must necessarily be determined by some specific mathematical equations.
Somebody claims that the universe is ruled by chance, because of the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics.
This is clearly false. In fact for every experiment, infinite possible probability distributions exist, and matter sistematically follows the probability distribution predicted by the equations of physics. Someone claims that the collapse of the wave function does not have a mathematical nature. This is false; since the wave function is amathematical concept, every process concerning the wave function is necessarily a mathematical concept. Anyway, the key point is not the mathematical nature of the universe, but the conceptual nature of the universe.
Both the equations of physics and the wave function and its collapse are abstract concepts, and then they cannot exist independently from an intelligent mind conceiving them.
Through science we can understand that the universe is ruled through an abstract conceptual theory, based on specific mathematical equations. Such a universe cannot exist without an intelligent God, conceiving it through such a theory.
Atheism is incompatible with the view of the universe, presented by modern science, since the intrinsic abstract and conceptual nature of the laws ruling the universe, implies the existence of a personal God.
Is it possible that Quantum Chromodynamics can provide an explanation of consciousness?
No, because the Quantum Chromodynamic interaction is a very short-range interaction. This means that, in molecular systems, the only effect of this interaction is to keep quarks bound together inside the nucleons and nucleons bound together inside the atomic nuclea. Quantum Chromodynamic processes exist only inside the nuclea, and they are the same in the atomic nuclea inside our brain as in the nuclea in any isolated atom or material. This is a well established scientific fact.
The point is that we know that all cerebral processes consist uniquely in successions of electric impulses and chemical reactions. We already know that these processes are determined uniquely by Quantum Electrodynamics.
Since we know that Quantum Electrodynamics does not generate consciousness, we can establish that no cerebral processes generate consciousness.
Could the possible unification of Quantum Chromodynamics and Quantum Electrodynamics give us the possibility to explain consciousness?
No, because we have billions of systematic scientific data confirming that Quantum Chromodynamic processes occur only at very high energies, high above the energies available in biological processes. Quantum Chromodynamic effects can be observed only in nuclear reactions or in powerful particle accelerators. If Quantum Chromodynamics had something to do with consciousness, consciousness should exist only in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators and certainly NOT in man.
Consider also that the unification of the electromagnetic interaction and the weak interaction has already been done, but this has changed nothing in our explanation of molecular and chemical processes; these processes are still determined uniquely by Quantum Electrodynamics, because the weak interaction do not affect molecular and chemical processes; of course this result was well established before the unification, and it is remained unchanged after the unification. The effects of the unificatio of electromagnetic and weak interactions are observable only at energies a billion of times superior to the energies of chemical and biological processes. Scientists believe that the effects of unification of quantum chromodynamics and electrodynamics can be observed only at energies a billion of billions of times superior to the energies of chemical and biological processes. Such energies are neither reachable in the greatest laborarories yet.
When I call my dog, it comes to me; doesn't this prove that my dog is conscious and recognizes my voice?
No. In fact your voice generates some vibrations in the air that can be received and analysed automatically also by some electronic devices. Once such vibrations have been analysed, the device can determine a certain kind of answer, specific for those specific vibrations. This is what occur when we find an automatic operator answering our phone calls. Our voice is translated into successions of electric impulses, which are analysed by the answering device. Also the sound-waves received by the ear of the dog are translated by the brain into a succession of electric impulses, and so we cannot exclude that the reaction of the dog is due uniquely to an automatic analysis of these electric impulses, without any auditory sensation.
I understand that a computer and a robot can react to an external stimulus without any kind of sensation. This is because they have been programmed to behave like that. Who has programmed my dog to behave as it does?
You can hypothesize that the dog is the product of an evolution process, so that it has been the natural selection that has programmed your dog. Let me briefly explain how the natural selection works: Every organism is conceived with its own genes, different from the ones of its parents. The behavior of the animal is determined by its own genes, as the behavior of a computer is determined by its operative system. The genes of a son are a mixture of the genes of the parents, but sometimes the son has some new genes, absent in its parents; this is the case of genetic mutation, a phenomenon explained by quantum mechanics. The organisms that casually are born with genes able to determine some behaviors more useful to their survival, have a larger probability to survive. These organisms have also a larger probability to generate some descendents with such genes. So, the animals without those genes will gradually die out, and only the animals with those new genes will survive. The dogs that, because of some genetic mutations, manifested protective and affectionate behaviors towards their masters, had a larger probability to be adopted by man, and then to survive. Man has then interfered in the process of natural selection and has determined some features of the behavior of the dog.
Is it possible in physics to come to an ultimate theory, able to explain everything?
What is certainly possible, because it has already been done, is to build an ultimate theory able to explain every molecular process, and therefore every biological process; this theory is quantum electrodynamics. An ultimate theory exists also for the explanation of the dynamics of macroscopic objects, that is classical mechanics.
Shouldn't a true scientist always look for a logical explanation for every phenomenon and reject the existence of supernatural phenomena?
No, I think that a true scientist must analyse without preconceptions the experimental data, and try to understand whether such data are compatible with our scientific theories or not. A true scientist cannot exclude the possibility of the existence of supernatural phenomena; this would be a preconception. A true scientist must not try to hide the incompatibility of certain phenomena with our scientific theories.
Sometimes we hear that in science there is no ultimate results. Do you agree?
No; this is true only for phenomenological sciences.
Actually physics has given us many ultimate results. For example, the fact that electron and proton have equal but opposite charge is an ultimate result, or the fact that the earth orbits around the sun is another ultimate result.
Quantum electrodynamics has been confirmed by so large a number of experiments, that it can be considered an ultimate theory for the explanation of molecular processes.
Is there some proof that certain monkeys are conscious and can recognize themselves at the mirror?
No, no such proof exists; there are only some arbitrary interpretations of their behavior. We know that it is possible to programm a computer to recognize some images (including the image of itself); this is sufficient to prove that the capacity to recognize an image does not imply any kind of consciousness.
What is the multiverse theory?
It is an highly speculative idea based on the hypothesis that infinite universes exist, where every possibility we can imagine, realizes. This means that if you cast a dice, there should exist a different universe for every possible result, as well as, there should exist a universe where you do not cast the dice; this should be true for every other action of yours. The multiverse theory is no scientific theory, but only a philosophical speculation, because it has no experimental support; the only universe for which we have an experimental evidence is our universe.
What relation is there between natural selection and the laws of physics?
Natural selection is the application of the laws of statistics to the case of genetic mutation. The laws of statistics are a part of the laws of physics and the genetic mutation is a direct consequence of quantum mechanics.
Why does my dog yelp when you accidentally step on its tail?
This can be considered an automatic alarm mechanism, a way to advise he who has stepped its tail.
Natural selection has selected those behaviors which could be useful to protect the animal from physical damages.
You must consider that animals usually live in pack; the fact that an animal can communicate through sounds or some other mechanisms with other animals, giving them for example some signals of danger, results useful for their survival. This can explain why a wounded dog yelps; in this way it can signal an eventual danger to the other animals.
We conceptually assess things in "physical reality" not only by quantum particles but also by combinations thereof. When atoms form molecules, they combine in different fashions to produce subtances with different properties, each different from the properties of each atom alone.
First of all, no combination of quantum particles is possible in the laws of physics. What we have is only quantum particles such as electrons and protons interacting through the electromagnetic interaction. This interaction may be attractive and so quantum particles may remain close to one another in certain geometrical shapes; this is what a atom , a molecule or a macroscopic object is, and nothing more.
Besides, all molecules have actually the same properties, and these properties are the possibility to exchange energy with other quantum particles or photons, or to move in the space. These are the same properties of every quantum particles. Since quantum mechanics establishes that these energy exchanges are quantized, we may have that different molecules exchange different quantized amounts of energy, and this is the reason why different molecules have different colours. In fact, different molecules absorbe photons with different energy; the process remains however always the same for every molecule, that is absorption of photons.
If animals have no sensations, what is the function of their brain and their nervous system?
The function of the nervous system is the one to receive external stimuli, to transmit them to a central unity (the brain), which elaborates such data and establishes a certain kind of reaction. Exactly as it occurs in computers, when they are connected to a camera or a microphone. Also human brain runs many unconscious processes; we certainly do not establish consciously the quantity of gastric juice to be produced. Or, when you walk, it is not you who give consciously the command to every muscle involved in the movement of your legs. These are two simple examples of processes determined by the brain, and not by the mind.
Are you sure that in a thousand years, our science will not be considered alike the ancient egyptians' science ?
The present laws of physics will never be considered alike the ancient egyptians' theories.
It makes no sense to compare our scientific knowledges with the ones of ancient egyptians because their science consisted in a set of incoherent theories without any kind of experimental support. On the contrary, all mechanical, electrical, magnetic, chemical and biological processes are now explained by the same mathematical equations (the laws of physics).
These laws have been systematically confirmed by numberless precise experimental data. These billions and billions of rigorous experimental confirmations represent an objective element that history can never wipe out. Quantum electrodynamics represents an ultimate stage in history, because it reveals the first principles determining every chemical and biological process.
There are biological processes that are sensitive to the force of gravity; are these gravitational effects explained by the present laws of physics?
The only effects of gravity on biological systems are due to the classical Newton's law; so also classical physics already explains the effects of terrestrial gravity on biological systems. Besides, it is quite simple to introduce a classical gravitational potential into the quantum Hamiltonian, and this corretly describes the effects of the terrestrial gravity on molecular systems. This is exactly how the phenomenon known as gravity-induced quantum interpherence has been predicted; this phenomenon has been experimentally confirmed in 1975 and it is now reported in many standard textbooks on quantum mechanics.
It is true that quantum mechanics can be applied only to microscopic systems, and not to the macroscopic ones, where classical mechanics is to be used?
It is absolutely false. Classical mechanics is only a useful approximation of quantum mechanics and not
an alternative theory. While the exact theory (quantum mechanics) has a general validity, the approximated theory (classical mechanics) can be applied only in specific conditions, where the differences between the exact and approximated solutions are negligible. In the case of classical physics, this occurs for most macroscopic systems, with some important exceptions: for example, superfluids and superconductors cannot be explained by classical physics even if they are macroscopic systems.
How can you prove the existence of consciousness in man?
"Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am) is the well-known phrase by Descartes. The existence of our consciousness is a directly observable phenomenon in ourselves; it is indeed the preliminary condition necessary to observe any phenomena. Even if it is not possible to observe directly consciousness outside ourselves, the fact that other people are able to understand concepts such as "consciousness", "psyche", etc. or discuss about religion, moral, psychology, etc. is sufficient to prove the existence of consciousness also outside one's own self.
Does the Heisenberg uncertainty principle invalidate the cause-effect principle?
No, it doesn't. In fact, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which is actually a mathematical property of the equations of quantum physics, establishes only the impossiblity to measure exactly and simultaneously variables such as position and momentum.
The time evolution of the wave function of any system is however established in a rigorously deterministic way by the equations of quantum mechanics.
Determinism and cause-effect principle are essentially sinonymous; if the state of the system is determined by specific laws , this means that such laws are the cause of its existence in a given state instead of another one.
In quantum mechanics determinism is violated only when the physical system is "observed"; this is the case when the Heisenberg principle applies.
The observation in fact causes the so-called "collapse of the wave function", that is an irreversible change in the state of the system, change which cannot be explained by the equations of physics. After the observation, the system evolves again in a deterministic way until next observation.
In quantum physics, the observation is a non-physical process, because it acts from outside the laws of physics and it violates the laws of physics.
So, the uncertainty principle and the collapse of the wave function do not invalidate the cause-effect principle; actually, they establish in a very direct way the transcedent nature of the observation, and consequently, the transcendent nature of consciousness, that gives man the capacity to "observe".
Why doesn't the Heisenberg uncertainty principle apply to macroscopic systems?
The uncertainty principle applies both to microscopic and macroscopic systems. Such principle establishes a limit to the maximum precision with which it is possible to measure simultaneously variables such as the position and momentum of an object. Since the size and mass of macroscopic objects are huge, if compared to the ones of microscopic particles, the measurements we can do on macroscopic systems are much less accurate than the ones we can do on microscopic systems. This is the reason why we do not notice the existence of the uncertainty principle when we work with macroscopic systems. As an example, we cannot notice a weight difference of a thousandth of gramme with a balance which tolerance is one kilogramme.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant considered the cause-effect principle as a category of understanding: do you agree?
Kant splits the reality into phenomenal and noumenal; the first is reality we directly experience through our senses and understanding, while the second is the reality as it really is in itself.
Quantum physics has proved that this analysis is correct; in fact, the physical reality (that is the noumenal reality, in Kant's terms) is very different from what appears to us (the phenomenon). For example the noumenon "table"
is made mostly of empty space where many tiny paricles move all the time. The phenomenon "table", that is the image of the table we see, is a compact object, uniformly filled with motionless matter. Certainly man has an active role in the process of knowledge, because we cannot know directly the noumenal reality, but only our sensations (for example the visual sensation of the table), which are created by our psyche and which don't exist outside our mind.
However Kant is wrong when he claims that noumena are not knowable, and that our knowledge of phenomena is built through some categories which force us to know in the way we know (Kant's analogy is the one of the red glasses, which force us to see everything red).
In fact, in order that man can organize the knowledge of the reality through the categories of understanding, such reality must be intrinsecally organizable, that is it must have a structure compatible with the principles or categories used to organize it. This compatibility is a real and knowable property of noumena.
Modern science has proved that it is possible to give a very accurate description of the phenomenal reality through a given system of mathematical equations. The point is that we can invent infinite mathematical equations, which could never describe the phenomenal reality.
Why then is the phenomenal reality described so accurately by those specific equations and isn't it described by any of the other infinite equations we can invent?
The only acceptable answer is that the laws of physics represent accurately the intrinsic mathematical structure of the noumenal reality.
It would be absurd to hypothesize that the equations of physics are a category of understanding, given that it took many millennia before those equations were discovered, and that they are the result of long studies "a posteriori" of the experimental data. Besides, the categories of understanding should have a universal character, common to all men; they should be intrinsic to human nature, while most people neither have an idea about quantum mechanics.
So, physics reveal us an intrinsic property of the noumenal reality, that is the existence of an intrinsic mathematical structure in the universe.
Kant then claims that the cause-effect principle is only a category of understanding and that it can be applied only to the phenomenal reality. Kant's error is again the one not to admit that, if the physical (noumenal) reality had not a structure compatible with the principles used by us to know it, no kind of knowledge would be possible; besides it would not be possible to account for our capacity to describe and predict systematically natural phenomena.
The existence of mathematical laws determining the state and the processes on the physical/noumenal reality implies that the cause-effect principle is intrinsic to the nature of the noumenal reality. The cause-effect principle is necessary for the existence itself of the noumenal reality; in fact, the laws of physics are the cause of the existence of the noumena in a give state instead of another one. The cause-effect principle cannot then be considered a category of the human understanding, since the universe (noumena) exists independently from man and it existed before man. Kant was then wrong wen he claimed that the cause-effect principle cannot be applied outside the phenomenal reality. Besides, Kant contradicts himself because he implicitly makes use of the cause-effect principle when he postulates the existence of noumena (representing the cause) to account for the existence of phenomena (the effect).
Can consciousness be considered a kind of energy?
Both materialist philosophies and eastern religions make a large use of the word "energy"; however they do not give this term any rigorous and accurate definitions. On the contrary, in Physics energy is very rigorously defined as a mathematical operator, determining the dynamics of the system.
This operator, called Hamiltonian, consists in the sum of some terms, each determining a specific kind of energy, such as the kinetic energy of the electron or the energy of the photon.
For there to be some new kind of energy, there must be some new terms in the Hamiltonian; this however would mean to change the laws of physics and all the processes determined by them, losing consequently the agreement with experimental data.
Since there is no terms in the Hamiltonian, corresponding to a "psychical" energy, it makes no sense to claim that consciousness is a kind of energy. It is nothing but an abuse of scientific language.
So, the energy of materialistic and eastern philosophies is only a vague, empty and meaningless term, which has nothing to do with the scientific concept of energy. Besides, consciousness is intrinsecally connected with the concept of "person" or "self"; it makes no sense to speak of consciousness as something impersonal.
Is entropy an holistic or emergent property?
As Boltzmann proved about one century ago, entropy is nothing but the logarithm of the number of possible microscopic states, corresponding to a given macroscopic system; entropy can then be defined both for a many-particle system and for a single particle. So entropy cannot be considered an holistic or emergent property.
Is the second law of thermodynamics a real holistic or emergent property?
Absolutely No. First of all, the laws of thermodynamics never describe a real system, but they are only greatly simplified and approximative models; for example thermodynamics does not take into account neither the number of particles present in a given system, nor their positions, but only a few macroscopic variables.
Besides, the second law of thermodynamics is not always true, because it does not take into account statistical fluctuations, which may occur in real systems.
The fact that the second law of thermodynamics is only an approximative law is sufficient to prove that it cannot be considered a real property of the physical system; actually it is only an abstract concept used to described approximately the real system (the same can be said for all the so-called emergent or macroscopic properties, often considered by materialists). In fact, reality is not an approximation; reality is or is not; approximations are only abstract concepts , and therefore, they exist only in our mind.
Is temperature an holistic or emergent property?
No, it isn't. Temperature is essentially the average kinetic energy of the particles. Temperature can then be defined also for a sigle particle; hence it is not emergent at all. Besides, average is only an abstract concept, and therefore temperature is not a real property, but only an abstract concept used to simplify the description of real systems; it is in fact much easier to use a single value (the average) to describe a system, instead of calculating the kinetic energy of all the particles present in it.
Can mind be defined as the software of the brain?
It is truly an absurdity. Computers work through many successions of electric impulses, which determine, for example, the lighting of the several points forming the images we see on the screen.
These successions can be codified and transcribed on CD, DVD, etc.
With the word software we mean the wide set of all the possible successions of electric impulses occurring in computers.
The software is then only an abstract concept, which, as any abstract concepts, presupposes the existence of a mind conceiving it; the software cannot exist outside the mind or independently from any mind.
The mind, being a necessary preliminary condition for the existence of the software, cannot be defined as a software.
Does the existence of the soul and its interaction with the brain imply a violation of the law of energy conservation?
The law of energy conservation is a mathematical consequence of the laws of physics; so this law is valid when there are only physical interactions. In case there are some interactions not represented by the laws of physics, there is no reason to expect that the the law of conservation of energy is not violated. Besides, in quantum mechanics the system may be in a state without a specific value of energy, which means that the law of energy conservation cannot be always applied.