PHYSICS IN THE BRAIN—
AN ADAPTED SCIENCE?
The following passage is from Dancing Wu Li Masters, pages 181-82:
The general theory of relativity shows us that our minds follow different rules than the real world does. A rational mind, based on the impressions that it receives from its limited perspective, forms structures [synaptical patterns of firing] which thereafter determine what it further will and will not accept freely. From that point on, regardless of how the real world actually operates, this rational mind, following its self-imposed rules, tries to superimpose on the real world its own version of what must be.
This continues until at long last a beginner's mind cries out, "This is not right. What 'must be' is not happening. I have tried and tried to discover why this is so. I have stretched my imagination to the limit to preserve my belief in what 'must be'. The breaking point has come. Now I have no choice but to admit that the 'must' I have believed in does not come from the real world, but from my own head."
This narrative is not poetic hyperbole. It is a concise description of the major conclusion of the general theory of relativity and the means by which it was reached. The limited perspective is the perspective of our three-dimensional rationality and its view of one small part of the universe (the part into which we were born). The things that "must be" are the ideas of geometry (the rules governing straight lines, circles, triangles, etc.). . . . The long-held belief was that these rules govern, without exception, the entirety of the universe. What Einstein's beginner's mind
realized was that this is so only in our minds.
Einstein discovered that certain laws of geometry are valid only in limited regions of space [and the human brain]. This makes them useful since our experience physically is limited to very small regions of space [and the human brain], like our solar system [and the human brain]. However, as our experience expands, we encounter more and
more difficulty in trying to superimpose these [adapted brain] rules upon the entire expanse of the universe. Einstein was the first person to see that the geometrical rules which apply to one small part of the universe as seen from a limited perspective (like ours) are not universal. This freed him to behold the universe in a way that no person had seen it before.
What he saw is the content of the general theory of relativity.
What is not made clear in the foregoing paragraphs is that the human mind, or brain, with its “limited perspective” is limited not necessarily by choice or stubborn whim or prejudice (though prejudice is also an adapted trait) but by its long accretion of adaptations which shaped it to “see” reality exactly as survival dictated that it should see reality. Later it adapted a language instinct through which, interestingly, Zukav in his blindness is trying to explain the peculiar blindness of physics. I think that physics and evolutionary psychology must merge before further advances can be made in the physical sciences. By this I mean that we must first understand the mental rules or processes by which the physical brain grasps, interprets or interacts with the physical universe before we can make decisions about how it webs those connections into physics and the Cosmos. Or—could the dancing of sub-atomic particles in and out of existence actually be the dancing into and out of existence the firing synapses or something like that?