Part III : Explaining metaphysics

(Part I - Part II - - Part IV)

Abstract: The main metaphysics issues such as the mind-matter duality, and the foundation of morality, will be adressed here as a genuine field for reason and science, thus dismissing the widespread belief that this would be impossible. (fate, and the explanation and refutation of religious faith, especially Christian faith, will be discussed in Part IV)

You may start with this introduction to the foundations of mathematics, with particularly these notes on metamathematics (but that come after 10 big pages assumed to have been read)
Then, below are expressed some metaphysical concepts on the non-material nature of the mind and how it articulates with that of the physical universe.

Then, the introduction to quantum physics, previously in this page, was moved there.
See also a more recently written presentation of my metaphysics: Mind makes collapse interpretation of quantum physics.

The non-algorithmicity of the mind

The understanding of the mathematical time can give us clues about the nature of the mind.
Once again I want to be apologize for the following concepts and reasoning which lacks the normal scientific rigor, however, a fuzzy reasoning that can give a first approximation of the truth, can be better than no idea at all, or than leaving the way to completely false ideas.

First, we can get a "reasonable argument" that the mind is not a machine, in the following way: if the mind was a machine, then the metamathematician would be a machine too, because, after all, the metamathematican's mind is of the same nature. Therefore, the truths he could discover (under conditions that would prevent him from mistake) would be contained in those that some fixed formal axiomatic system of mathematics would provide. But, what formal system could this be ?
As we said, most of the useful mathematics and all physics can be done in a "quite limited" mathematical world: P(P(ℕ)) or the like. Working inside P(P(ℕ)) would provide no proof of consistency (=non-contradiction) of an axiomatic system for any bigger sort of mathematical world.

So, if the metamathematician's mind was a mere fruit of a natural evolution that adapted human mind to the understanding of the everyday world in order to survive there, then, the ability of finding truths that were formal consequences of an aximatic system describing P(P(ℕ)) would have largely sufficed.
But the truth is that the metamathematician can come to be strongly convinced of the consistency of much stronger axiom systems (describing bigger universes). His mind's proving ability is therefore not limited to the formal proving power of the theory of P(P(ℕ)).
We might consider that, after all, why not admit that he would be contained in a stronger axiomatic system than this (that can prove more by involving a larger universe of intermediate objects).
Why not the one of all the series P(P(.....P(ℕ)...)) ?
But, as we said, the currently standard set theory (ZF) is still much, much stronger than this.
No a priori "reasonable" formal system fixed in advance, could be expected to prove the consistency of such an incredibly strong theory as ZF.
The remaining question is thus: is it really possible for the metamathematician to do better than the machine by discovering a reliable evidence of the consistency of ZF ?

This question is not a mathematical one in a strict sense, because, precisely, such an evidence cannot be a formal proof, and therefore cannot be admitted as a proof in the standard practice of mathematics which requires the proofs to be formal ones in a given axiomatic theory. This is why, specialists in this field are normally not dealing with such a question, so that some philosophers looking at the situation, are abandoned to an impression that the consistency of ZF is just a convenient hypothesis with no justification ever discovered.
However, I did consider this question, and found out that it has a solution.
But this justification of the consistency of ZF is quite tough. See explanations there.

The nature of the mind

A spiritual text presented the following idea:
"There is the part of you that thinks and the part that hears the thoughts. The thinking part is your mind; the part that hears the thoughts is your spiritual-self".
This is an interesting idea, because of the similarity with the structure of metamathematics that we presented earlier. This suggests to make a parallel between both, and provide an understanding of the mind as inspired from this analogy - even though they are fundamentally of different nature.

The mind is analogous with the world of objects, while the spirit is analogous to the formulas that are making sense by taking values in the world of objects. The spirit is what is moving the mind at the present time. It can only do it based on the current structure of the mind which is closely interacting with in the brain and thus receives the effects from the senses; and does it in a way that, usually, could not be exactly predicted until it actually happens (in analogy with the truth undefinability theorem). Not even God can reliably predict our exact behavior in advance, because... our future decisions do not exist yet.
But this action of our spirit at every given time, then adds up itself as a part of the mind of the next time. Thus the mind progressively extends in time.
In other words, we have a succession, along time, of the states of the mind: let us denote them as a succession M0, M1, M2... every fraction of a second (although there may be no truth of how much time are the intervals, because... this is a fuzzy description); and corresponding states of the spirit, S0, S1, S2...
Thus S0 is the state of the spirit as it observes and feels M0. Then S0 adds up to M0 together with external sensations to form M1, and M1 is observed by the spirit, providing the feeling (move) S1, and so on.

But, considering that the state of the spirit at every time is continuously added up to the mind at the next times, we can as well say that the spirit and the mind are not 2 different things, but 2 different aspects of the same thing. This mind-spirit, thus, is just what we personnally are (not a physical object). In such a view, we could say there is no essential mystery of any deeper self in us that we may have forgotten, because we do continuously perceive all what we deeply are anyway.

(Of course, our self-understanding remains far from perfect and able of progression, just like higher levels in the hierarchy of sets brings more information on natural numbers as formulable in the language of arithmetics: namely, the information that set theories of intermediate levels had no contradiction). Well, I admit this argument is not clear, and remains debatable. However, why care ? What matters is less what we deeply are, than how we do behave in practice. Any assumption on the behavior of the mind has to be tested against observation. Further on we shall develop a number of observations on real situations, that can be made independently of any assumption on the nature of the mind. And it will turn out that, well, this model we just presented fits not bad.

To say it in other words: we can understand the spirit as the life of the mind, that drives the mind to continuously transcend itself, which is the way it normally grows and evolves. Our mind is currently embedded in our brain and works in close interaction with the brain. This whole mind-spirit, or living mind, is immaterial and eternal, and leaves the body altogether when the body dies.
The "eternity" of the mind can be explained as follows.
The existence of the mind at every given time is based on the fact it will turn out to be perceived in the past of a later time, just like every mathematical object in a mathematical world, owes its full existence to the presence and meaning of a formula whose meaning involves its existence, and that comes after it.

Indeed, the NDE testimonies do not speak about the end of all thought outside the body, but about a new freedom and way of thinking, freed from the brain.

This immaterial character of the mind, transcending any mathematical system and able to find deep intuitions about infinity, does not however mean any effective possession of the infinity. Only intuitions somehow expressible in finite, limited terms, are normally accessible to us in this life. For example I'd be surprised if anyone could reliably guess the trillionth decimal of pi, while some future supercomputers might do it.

Of course, rational thinking is but one function (style of work) of the mind among other functions, which include other ways of thinking (imagination, artistic sense, empathy...), sensations, feelings, morality sense, free choice and so on.

Types of existence

Now let's directly come to the "deepest" questions.
We said (in Part II), science is not essentialist, which means that it does not systematically require to refer to any know ultimate cause or law, not to specify the "deep nature" (essences) of its objects, for developing its knowledge, as such essences are usually irrelevant. It can be satisfied with raw observations first, then successively more accurate approximative models involving intermediate levels of reality, rather than any ultimate nature of things. Because its main work is about complexity and the exploration of the many ways how things may interact with each other.

Nevertheless, rational thinking is not afraid of essences either, whenever this may be relevant, as it could already successfully explore relatively deeper and deeper essences of physical systems through chains of successively more accurate theories.

Now the point of metaphysics is to discuss the essences of everything; there is no reason why logical positivism could not be applied to it too.
Historically, logical positivists happened to claim that metaphysics is empty, and should be rejected from science. However, this may be understood as a denunciation of the irrational way in which metaphysics has been traditionally handled by philosophers.
Indeed it can be amazing how debates went on and on so long between atheists, deists, religious apologists and philosophers, and it all remained a so miserable fuss of misunderstanding lacking a clear definition of the most basic concepts and the most basic claims about which agreements and disagreements can take place. For example, their debates for or against the existence of God, lacked a clear definition for "God" or for "existence of God". They even seemed to miss the fact that the question "does God exist" hardly makes any sense, as God is not supposed to be an object like other objects, so that the very qualification of "existence" should not apply to God in the same way as it could apply to objects - another understanding of the very concept of existence would need to designed for it.

But if approached more rationally, metaphysics can indeed become a meaningful scientific subject.

Here is a proposition how to do it.

First, let us note that the words "existence" and "reality" are roughly synonymous, and when saying that "something exists", the thing and its existence cannot be separated either : an existence can only be considered as applying to something, and there is no thing without existence.

Now, if things and existence are one and the same, what is that ?

The nature of material objects in our universe has been largely understood by physicists through quite amazing mathematical theories, so that the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics" for physics has been celebrated. So, even if not everything is mathematical, the world of mathematics deserves serious consideration here.

The field of mathematics comes with its own objects, and its existence claims on these objects.
Some philosophers debated whether mathematical objects are real, and whether mathematics is an exploration of a reality, or a construction of the mind or anything else, but opposite views added up and did not end to an official agreement (just as philosophers don't resolve any question anyway).
But usually for mathematicans, the debate is rather empty. When they study mathematics, they hold the universe of objects of their study as real, and it works as such. Well not all is clear, but the undeterminacy fuss does not have the same status as what philosophers are discussing. The foundation of mathematics has been studied as a branch of mathematics, and could resolve the main "philosophical debates" on the nature of mathematics, from a mathematical viewpoint.

Some philosophers mistakenly assumed a prior (though undefined) fixed concept of "existence" or "reality", before wondering whether it applies to mathematical objects (universes, truths...). But as the concept of existence is inseparable from its contents, so there is no preexisting standard concept of "existence" separated from mathematics, to be compared with mathematical objects. In other words, no a priori sense can be made of the question "Are mathematical objects real ?" for wondering what the answer is.

Instead, just as mathematical objects have their own nature, so they have their own type of existence, that should not be confused with other, more familiar types of existences. In other words, there are several separate concepts (types) of "existence" or "reality", each to come up after the respective types (natures) of the objects they apply to (even if connections can be found between these types). Namely, these may be classified into mathematical existence, physical existence and conscious existence (though this classification is approximative and will have to be refined later).

Note that the physical existence is something relative: specified objects are only present at a given time and place.

Some characters of mathematical existence

Mathematical existence has its margin of relativity too. An illimited range of theories can be considered, including "theories of all mathematics", with each their range of possible universes where they can be interpreted. A claim of existence of an object is relative to a theory and a universe of objects in which this theory is interpreted.
So, the limits of mathematical existence are fuzzy, but the fuzziness of these limits remain internal to the field mathematical existence, and completely unrelated to (unaffected by) any other type of existence.
More precisely, the fuziness (relativity) of the mathematical existence, comes from the infiniteness of the systems that are considered to exist or not. On the other hand, the mathematical existence of finite systems (of specified limited size) enjoys an objective character, independent of any decent choice of a theory of mathematics and its interpretation.

Despite its relativity, the mathematical existence of infinite systems cannot be dismissed because it is somehow guaranteed by Gödel's completeness theorem. This theorem is at least as essential to the foundations of mathematics as the more famous incompleteness theorem. In fact, the incompleteness theorem only owes its higher popularity to its much more pleasant character in the eyes of the irrationalist propagandists who influence public opinion, as well as the biased sensitivity of the public itself who hates mathematics and is so fond of any excuse to praise stupidity and irrationality over reason.

The completeness theorem roughly says that for any theory without contradiction, there exists a mathematical universe described by this theory.
At first sight, it may seem to contradict the incompleteness theorem; however there is no contradiction between them once understood more precisely, in ways that won't be detailed here.

So, it provides for the real existence of infinite systems (as many theories require their universe of objects to be infinite). Of course, as no theorem can provide for infinities out of no infinity, the completeness theorem requires an assumption of infinity in order to apply.
But the required infinity assumption is rather weak: it only needs the infinite list of all finite systems (to fix the idea, we can say: the infinite set of all natural numbers). But this assumption is already required to make sense of the premise of the theorem: a contradiction must be a finite system of symbols. Thus, the concept of a "theory without contradiction" involves the infinity of searches for any finite contradiction that might be produced by the theory. It would be hard, indeed, to grant existence to every finite system but not to the whole infinite set they form (unless we might mean that every natural number exists inside reality, but this reality of all natural numbers would not itself "exist"...).

And this mathematical existence of infinite systems, while hardly deniable, keeps a margin of relativity in a way too complex to be summed up here (we already gave hints about this...).
However, this relativity margin does matter for us, as we are only concerned in practice with finite systems, whose mathematical existence is objective. Indeed, the currently known laws of quantum physics are expressed in mathematical terms that somehow only depend on finite systems (and the successive approximations they give, like the computation of a real number), and thus inherit their objectivity. (And our consciousness has no full access to infinity either.)

Other types of existence

Now the question is: is there any other type of existence, that is, another type of object, outside the mathematical ones ? We mentioned about the physical and the conscious existences. Do they differ from mathematical existence ?
Such a difference is hardly deniable. Could anyone mistake oneself with a mathematical object (in other words, one's own existence with a mathematical existence) ?

The status of physical existence is much more subtle, because unlike conscious being, physical objects are not aware of their own existence. How to make sense of such an existence, and be sure that the physical type of existence "really exists" ? In fact, we can't. Instead, we shall explain that only the conscious and mathematical existences are primitive types of existence, while the physical existence emerges as a combination (or intersection) of both.

But first of all, we need to examine (and refute) another view, widespread among atheists, according to which consciousness emerges out of physical reality, so that conscious existence would be mere fruit or particular case of physical existence.

Such a view would first require some primitive type of physical existence, not reducible to mathematical existence. Or would it ?
Just imagine the idea of a universe where everything can be mathematically described, as well as its evolution laws. No matter whether "it exists" or not in a familiar sense, it does exist anyway in a mathematical sense, in the form of its encoding as a very big number (a string of information expressing the detailed configuration of all its parts). No matter how astronomically big this number is, it mathematically exists. Thus, so does mathematically "exist" the universe it encodes.

The problem is, this type of existence is much too large. With it, a universe in which an exact copy of myself would be walking on Mars, would be existing as well (since an encoding number for it could be defined and thus give it an existence). Morality would make no sense, as every possible state of happiness or suffering of every possible living being, would "exist" just the same, so that no initiative can help to make one of these states more "real" than another state. By the way, in such conditions, there would be no point connect someone's existence to a specific universe. Instead, each person would have copies of oneself inside astronomical numbers of universes. It would make no sense to ask "What is there on Mars" because your present existence (as a mathematical object) would be crossing multitudes of existing universes where the Mars planet would be configured differently.
There would be no problem for such a strange view of existence to be "mathematically conceivable". However, we also easily notice that some deep intimate convictions in ourselves, a feeling of our own existence, rejects that. There has not be something more to our existence, than a mathematical one. But what can this be ?

To a large extent, physical objects have a mathematical form. Can different types of existence be applicable to the same objects ? More precisely, can mathematical objects be given another type of existence than the mathematical one ?
Let's imagine this. Whatever "the cause" may be, consider that, among the too numerous universes that mathematically exist, only one or a relatively small number of them, would have the privilege of another sort of "real existence", that others wouldn't. But... what would be making the difference between a universe that exists, and a universe that does not exist ?
Imagine this difference to come in a sort of arbitrary way, such as a magic gift from elsewhere. What might this be ? Imagine this to be a purely mathematical data. It could just be given by a formal list of existing universes (or contents of this universe) written in some divine book. Yes, but... such a divine book would be only one among an astronomical number of books that mathematically "exist" as well. Such a conventional data cannot bring any effective and more interesting type of existence than the mathematical one it had in the first place.
Now, materialists usually assume this reality to be some physical one, that first makes the universe real disregarding the presence of consciousness inside. Then, they assume that consciousness may eventually appear in such a universe as an emergent phenomenon.

The problem is, a "physical existence" attributed to the universe, may be attributed to its most elementary particles, in the fundamental interaction processes between them, or to the universe this forms as a whole, but would have no special consideration towards any specific type of emerging phenomenon there, than to any other type of emerging phenomenon. No particular type of emerging phenomenon could have any special existence status. Instead, all emerging phenomena would be mere mathematical properties of the processes occurring there.

Even if some sort of physical existence is basically attributed to the universe, no structures emerging from mathematically predictable processes (that may include randomness) taking place there, can have any other existence than a mathematical one.

This is because the "physical existence" is only attributed to fundamental aspects of the universe, not to any emerging properties from them.
From the same mathematical laws, the same emerging processes occur in many physically inexistent universes as well. So, just imagine (or mathematically consider the existence of) a human being that only exists mathematically inside physically non-existing universes. Being determined by the same mathematical laws (at least in very good approximation), he would still strongly believe in his own existence just as we do, wouldn't he ? Still, this belief would be false. But, as our own belief in our real existence is an effect of our behavior that just follows the same laws, and this belief turns out to be mistaken "most of the time" (in all non-existing universes), what the hell could ensure this belief to be more true in our case ?
Does the question of the physical or conscious existence, even have any meaning beyond mathematical existence ? Or should this very issue that there may be another type of existence than the mathematical one, be dismissed as empty, "not even wrong" ? If not, why ?

So, even though this argument may be considered subjective and not absolutely rigorous logical argument, I cannot consider consciousness as a process emerging from complex phenomena following any mathematical laws, that would inherit its existence (and the "feeling of existence") from a physical existence.

This argument moreover confirms the first argument we presented in Part II against a mathematical determination of the mind.

Now that conscious existence is accepted as a fundamental type of existence, let us examine some of its main properties.

The features of conscious existence

Let us recall the main features of conscious existence, and add a few complements.

The objects of this existence (the "conscious objects") are more precisely conscious events: perceptions, ideas, choices, feelings... No two conscious events can be identical (in other words, none ever identically occurs more than once).
This type of existence cannot be dissociated from the concept of time.

Time is an order relationship (or preorder) between all conscious events. In other words, this is a concept that specifies for any two conscious events A and B, whether or not "A happens before B", and for any 3 events A, B and C, if A happens before B and B before C then A happens before C.
This relationship can also equivalently be called "B happens after A", or "A influences B" or "A is in the memory of B", "A exists for B".
In fact, all this should rather be talked about in the past: "happened". because every conscious event only exists from the viewpoint of later events, and we cannot talk about events that do not exist yet.

Moreover, no event can happen both before and after another (unless they are simultaneous, which may happen of course if we have several perceptions together).

The existence of every conscious event is half relative, half absolute. First it is relative, as it does not exist yet as long as it did not happen. But after it happened, its existence will remain fixed forever, and accumulates "in memory". Indeed every event has an infinite future, that does not exist yet but will come progressively to existence in its time. To say it otherwise, the future is not specified (we don't know it) before it happened. Some information about it can be more or less predictable, but predictions can't be perfectly exact.

The contents of memory can be hard to reliably check, and may eventually seem to be lost. This impression can be strong. Even in many cases, memory contents may seem to be completely lost (especially of dreams, or of past lives under an assumption of reincarnation). This means that the behaviors seem to not depend on these past events, and can be understood separately from them to an excellent approximation. However, this strong approximation is "only an appearance". Many NDE testimonies confirm that all the past contents of life remain "somewhere" in memory anyway, no matter if we seem to have forgotten them.

Moreover, here is another argument to support the idea that, though somehow hidden, the memory of the conscious past keeps existing somewhere intact. Imagine it was not, and that, instead, this memory only consists of something like a computer memory that can be arbitrarily written or modified. This would especially the case in a materialist view where memory would merely consist in configurations of brain cells.
In this case, nothing would prevent external influences to rewrite or make up this memory completely. Imagine this: what if you did not really live the life you think you lived but all your body and brain with all its memory has just been built up by some superintelligent aliens 5 minutes ago. Would that be that possible ? If materialism was true, or if in any other way it was possible to arbitrarily modify or make up conscious memory, then you would have no reliable evidence that anything you remember ever really happened to you.
Instead, something deep in your mind leads you to hold as an evidence that your memory can't all be faked. Then, the act of giving this intuition the status of an effective evidence as it naturally suggests, requires to admit that memory is of a sort of unalterable nature. Namely, that this memory contains the effective evidence, or we can say, the reality itself, of the remembered events.

The fact that every event is affected by the whole of its past, confirms (or contributes) that no two events can be identical (as they don't have the same past).

All these properties of conscious existence appear very different from those of ordinary finite mathematical objects (but they do have strong similarities with those of infinite mathematical systems as viewed in high level works on the foundations of mathematics, and possibly also with computation theory).

The Turing test

It has been long said that metaphysics is not scientific because it is unfalsifiable.
But here is a claim expressing a good deal of metaphysics, that is clearly falsifiable, as is precisely a specification of the experiment what would falsify it :

Artificial Intelligence can never pass the Turing test

The idea of the Turing test, is to investigate the question "Can machines think like humans". This is done by trying to develop software aimed to imitate human thought. The quality of this imitation is assessed by human judges taking through computers (instant messaging) with the candidate (human or program trying to imitate human replies), and trying to guess if the replies come from a human or a program. We would say that the program passes the test if it can fool the judge into believing it is a human.

It is so falsifiable that a number of researchers are already working hard trying to refute it, with a deep conviction that they will succeed someday.
It is reported that some judges have already been fooled, mistaking computers for humans. But this is because the test has not been hard enough: too short exchange of messages, lack of imagination by judges to provide meaningful challenges. So, the claim here, is that under harder conditions of sufficiently long and imaginative conversations (for the length, say for example, 2 hours of phone conversation), the chances for machines to be mistaken as humans will remain unsignificant.

If you want other falsifiable claims expressing the same metaphysical position in other ways, here are some:
The claim that AI cannot pass the Turing test, is related to the deep natural intuition which makes solipsism unsustainable.
Namely, if it was possible to simulate human behavior by a program in a convincing way, then a person in an environment (real or virtual) showing other people's behaviors produced by this program, would have the same impression as in the normal environment showing the real behaviors of other humans. In this case it would not be possible for someone to tell whether visible people, have anything more than a mathematical existence (as objects of computation of this program). This would make solipsism sustainable.

But if computers can't imitate humans, then the human character of other's behavior is what provides the intuitive evidence of their reality as peer consciousnesses.
Well, is it really a proof ? Such a kind of proof may sound strange. After all, it's nothing else than a set of information. How can a mere set of information, which is a mathematical object, prove anything about a non-mathematical existence ? It's because the chances to produce this information without conscious means were insignificant. Mere mathematical means would have almost surely produced unrealistic results. And, as the observer is conscious and there can't be astronomical numbers of observers and tries at the disposal of the experiment, it is rather unlikely to manage producing any case of delusional impression of existence of a conscious being, out of mere random or other mathematical tricks.

Let us go a little further. Admitting that the precise behavior of appearing people (in interaction with oneself) suffices to bring the evidence of their existence, as this behavior could not have been imagined by a nonconscious being. What about the possibility for a conscious being to invent this behavior instead ? Indeed it could do better... at first sight.
But after a much longer interaction, the realism of this imitation would fade out. To remain fully realistic in the long run (even in the mere sense of how to fool one human observer into this impression), the author of this imitation would need to be God, and to imagine these characters so precisely, that this imagination would give these characters a real existence inside his imagination, feeling himself their feelings.

These remarks that a full knowledge of oneself (or one soul) is equivalent to a union with God, may seem to give credit to some religious and spiritual teachings promoting introspection as a way to God.

However plausible this idea may sound at first sight, we should remain very cautious, and not believe anything without proof.
The problem is, the theoretical principle that a higher form of consciousness (encompassing many individual consciousnesses into a whole) may exist, does not give any clues how to reach it, ifever any way to it really exists at our disposal. Our earthly cognitive abilities may not suffice to properly guess what such a way should look like. Any claims of such a thing must be taken with great care, and serious verifications.
Fortunately, we have more than mere guess to study the question.
If there is a way to any form of spiritual enlightenment, and if it is not too hard to make it, some people may have reached it already. But then, they should be able to bring verifiable knowledge out of this experience.
Therefore, the scientific method is fully relevant to check the validity of any such claims.
But before entering this question, let us explain the nature of the physical universe first.

The nature of the physical universe

Let's come now to examine the nature of the physical universe.

As we said, fundamental physics had great successes in the 20th century. While there are still some very difficult problems to put the known laws together into a fully consistent mathematical whole that would provide details on some of the most extreme phenomena, the laws underlying ordinary matter are now already quite well-established. Namely, the physical aspects of biological processes, starting from chemistry, and where the familiar cases of mind-matter interactions do occur, are fully expressed by quantum theory.
This theory already explains how mind-matter interaction can take place, and what status it gives to physical reality, as a composite or intermediate sort of reality between the conscious and mathematical ones.

Unfortunately, many physicists with a materialist philosophical positions failed to get the message. While trying to understand it in a materialistic manner they looked for different interpretations of this theory, but none was satisfying. Consequently, many considered quantum theory as deeply paradoxical, or even incomprehensible.
The situation has been described by physicist John Baez as follows:

"How should we think about quantum mechanics? For example, what is meant by a "measurement" in quantum mechanics? Does "wavefunction collapse" actually happen as a physical process? If so, how, and under what conditions? If not, what happens instead ?
Many physicists think these issues are settled, at least for most practical purposes. However, some still think the last word has not been heard. Asking about this topic in a roomful of physicists is the best way to start an argument, unless they all say "Oh no, not that again!". There are many books to read on this subject, but most of them disagree.
On the other hand, the interpretation of quantum theory expressing the mind/body dualism (see also there) was already put forward by some of the founders of quantum theory (who are also physics Nobel Prize laureates):
"In many philosophies, the conscious mind is seen as a separate entity, existing in a realm not described by physical law. Some people claim that this idea gains support from the description of the physical world provided by quantum mechanics. Parallels between quantum mechanics and mind/body dualism were first drawn by the founders of quantum mechanics including Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, and Eugene Wigner. (...)
Quantum mechanics made some dualist ideas about the mind/body problem acceptable again within mainstream science.

So, why has this interpretation become progressively so unpopular among physicists since the discovery of quantum physics ? One of the main reason seems to be that it has been hijacked by a number of popular authors (Quantum mysticism, New Age and New Thought movements) who mixed it with a lot of nonsense (some crackpot theories and irrationalist ideologies), while they don't even understand quantum theory themselves, in order to give their propaganda an illusion of scientific credibility.
The situation was made even messier by the presence of some more or less famous genuine physicists (Brian Josephson, Fritjof Capra, Casey Blood...) who followed the same path, of promoting this interpretation of quantum theory (intervention of consciousness) while taking other supposedly related positions that may be dismissed as closer to crackpot (any bad understanding of current physics) or irrationalist attitudes (any religious views filled with nonsense) than to science. Such physicists telling nonsense about science are mistaken as serious scientific references by some large spiritualist communities (organization or public) that do not have themselves the scientific skills to detect the flaws. By the popularity they developed from this uncritical public eager to praise anyone who looks like a physicist and is ready to affirm the public spiritualist orientations against a supposedly stubborn dominating class of close-minded materialist physicists, they became the "reference" for the mind/matter dualist interpretations of quantum physics

Other scientists came to be fed up with such nonsense even when coming from peer physicists. Thus, when trying to defend science and reason, they had to oppose these caricatural and indefensible versions of this interpretation of quantum theory and/or its supposedly associated deviations and ideologies, thus driving them to reject the original concept altogether.
So, I perfectly agree with the objection of many physicists against many spiritual writers'attitude who misuse quantum theory to support some spiritual claims while it in fact doesn't, and while no proper understanding of quantum physics is included in the argument. Thus the development of a vicious circle of antagonism, paranoia and mutual discredit between both sides.

Thus, in order to keep proper rationality standards, the below presentation of the relations between quantum theory and metaphysical concepts of mind/matter duality, will seek clarity, precision and conceptual minimality (abstaining from any unnecessary speculative claim), and include a simplified but mathematically accurate presentation of quantum physics, which will this way appear as less paradoxical than its reputation says.

To say very roughly, the nature of the physical existence (the deep nature of physical entities) can be defined in this way:

The physical universe is the trajectory of a visit of consciousness inside the mathematical universe.

This explains how the physical world combines a mathematical description with a non-mathematical type of existence. Consciousness visiting the mathematical world, makes a choice of which path it will visit. But this way of choosing a specific path (physical universe) does not affect the path itself (it does not make up any intrinsic difference to universes that "exist" as compared to those who don't). This "choice process" and what the physical universe consists in, is but a behavior of consciousness, a matter of how conscious perceptions evolve.

However, while this may seem to agree with some spiritual teachings at a fundamental level, caution should be kept on what practical consequences may result, as many fuzzy reasonings made by spiritual authors, often lead to nonsense far from reality. The fact that reality is ultimately made of thoughts, does not imply that thoughts can control reality just by the force of fancy, that all problems can be resolved just by denying their existence and multiplying pious dreams and good intentions. For example, the past cannot be changed, no matter how regrettable it is or how if we wish to cancel it.
Also, for mysterious reasons, we can notice that the commitment of consciousness to keep following the started path, is a very heavy one : our universe is very, very big, with very many living beings coming after each other and continuing the same adventure for many millions of years, as well as (probably) in many planets in the universe. This submits conscious experience to heavy constraints from a complex network of influences: conscious choices, mistakes, random events and diverse causalities.

It turns out that the laws of physics are made of different concepts and theories connected together, describing different aspects of physical reality.

The next sections that were previously here, introducing quantum physics (with mathematical contents), have been moved:

Beyond probabilities

Quantum theory gives probabilities for physical phenomena, but the behavior of the mind, as we explained, does not conform to any probability law. This means that there is a sort of conscious law that has "preferences" among the possible behaviors allowed by the physical probability laws, that conscious beings will follow. This can be expressed by saying that "understanding consciousness" reduced the entropy of the behavior of conscious individuals, as compared to the observation of the same behavior without this understanding.
More generally, understanding the world means to find an interpretation of the world that reduces the entropy of the observations made there. In other words, to find an optimized compression format for the data of the observation. Such a definition of an optimized compression format, may either be mathematical or non-mathematical. Of course, compression formats usually implemented in computers are mathematical ones, but non-mathematical compression formats are conceivable too. For example, some people communicate with SMS in a very abbreviated form, so that other people, eventually with some efforts, can "uncompress the message" (understand what the message means), but it would not be possible to make a program that would reliably uncompress such abbreviation into the correct full words they are meaning.

I think that the world (particularly the conscious behavior) is neither absolutely deterministic, but probability laws don't make absolute sense either. Instead, there is a sort of free will. What is free will ? Well, we don't know, and maybe we will never know, as there can't be a complete understanding of it.
However, even when something is deeply beyond any possibility of complete understanding, does neither mean that it is absolutely wonderful, nor that it would escape all understanding.
Rather, it can often happen that, in their free will, people commit many errors ; some miserable errors can be expectable, and some non-material causalities (such as, losing one's love or staying without love makes one depressed) can be incurable.

But, if an understanding is not a mathematical one, then what can it be, and does it really make sense ? Well, this is a very hard question. And different people may have different sensibilities, so that they would have different distributions of a priori probabilities between worldviews. Indeed, inside an astronomically long list of "possible wordviews" that may be conceived, they can't be a priori equally likely: some can be seen as much more plausible than others, even before any observation. It all depends on the way you want to group them: if 1000 possibilities are "as likely as" a million others, does it mean that each of the first group is as likely as each of the second group (so that we have 1/1000 chance to be in the first group), or does it mean that we have 1/2 chance to be in either group ? These are different possible ways of compacting the information saying in which world we are.

When we don't understand the world yet, we don't know how to "make sense" of it. So, how to compress the information about it. Then, as we gather more information, this starts to "make sense", we discover better ways to compress it. But good compression formats, that can "understand" a lot of information as "explained by" a smaller quantity of causes or "explanations", require to be themselves specified in some compression format. And the problem, is how heavy is the quantity of information necessary to specify this compression format. The heavier it is, the less good is the explanation it provides.
We can see this by expressing the compression format as a program, and put this program together with the compressed file, thus forming as self-extracting file (a program whose execution produced the wanted file).
But we might also consider this as rephrasing the problem, but not fundamentally changing it: it is not possible to process the self-extraction of the file unless there is an a priori knowledge of the computer language in which this program has been written. We may as well reinterpret the whole self-extracting file with its program, as being ultimately the data of the compressed file, while considering the language interpreter (that can run the program), to be the ultimate program that will uncompress this file.

But, the total size of the self-extracting file depends on how and in which language the extracting program has been written; in the same way as the size of a compressed file depends on the compression format.
And, as the choice of a computer language is somehow arbitrary, it also does not make absolute sense to say how complex is a specification of a compressing format (it is more complex or "looks more arbitrary" when written in a language than in another).

In other words: without a lot of observational data that have different probabilities to occur as depending on different ways the world might be, it would be hopeless to try to argue which worldview is more likely than another worldview: it would remain irreducibly subjective.
This subjectivity (assessment of how complex or arbitrary is something) is especially important for non-mathematical forms of understanding.
It even occurs in the context of strictly mathematical definitions. We just explained it about the arbitrariness of computer languages in which compressing programs can be written, but there is more to it.

Some works on the foundations of mathematics, especially by G. Chaitin, have established that there is randomness in pure mathematics too. For example, we might consider the series of decimals of pi (or other irrational numbers), as a series of random digits. Such considerations have been intuitively summed up by saying that "some mathematical claims are true just by chance".

Let us present one of his most amazing discoveries: "No file larger than a certain size can be provably minimal" (where "minimal" = impossible to compress as a shorter self-extracting file)
In other words, for any sufficiently large quantity of information, we have no way to refute the possibility for all this information to be "explained" by a smaller quantity of information. This proposition looks strange, because it seems to reduce infinitely many different possibilities into a finite number of cases (expressed by self-extracting files smaller than a given size).

How can this be ? This is, in fact, a variant of the incompleteness theorem, playing the same way on the difference of viewpoints between "successive times" in the foundations of mathematics.

The proof of the theorem roughly goes as follows.
The idea is to explicitly write down a program (self-extracting file) A, whose instructions say the following:

Program A = [Search for all possible proofs of mathematical propositions (e.g. formal consequences of the ZF set theory), until you discover a proof of a proposition of the form "B is not the output of A" for whatever file B; then, give this B as output].

(More technical details must be included in the program to be able in this way to speak about itself)

In fact, this program A will run eternally without ever giving any output. Because, if it happened to give an output B, this would mean that a proof has been discovered of the proposition "B is not an output of A", which is false. It would be such a pity to have a proof of a false claim.

Now that we know that this program cannot stop to give any output, this knowledge is not accessible (it cannot be proved) in the same formal system that is involved in the proof. Its unability to provide any output, means that there cannot be any proof of a proposition of the form "B is not the output of A" for whatever file B. This is the result that we have announced.

Consequently, for any series of random events, the belief in the existence of (unspecified) laws determining these events is unfalsifiable.

Now, back to quantum physics, we may wonder: why is it that the behavior of lifeless systems obeys the probabilities given by quantum theory (or is at least very close to this) while the behavior of humans and animals is largely influence by free choice away from these probabilities ? I have a suggestion of an explanation, though I can't say if it is the right one or not:
The random effects of quantum processes happening in the brain, are first perceived by only one soul, therefore giving this sould the chance to "choose" the perceived results. But random results of measurements in lifeless system, have many copies sent at the speed of light in all directions, thus not giving the way to let any unique conscious observer be the absolutely first observer (because of the relativity of simultaneity between possible perceptions by many distant observers). Well, we may say the delay given by the transmission at the speed of light to the observer is too short to be meaningful, but there are "much bigger" delays before the measurement in converted to a visible result, and between the arrival of the light in the retina and the transmission of the signal to the brain where it is finally perceived.

Global History, from the Big Bang to the emergence of humans

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How might any religious subject escape science ?

What is religion about ? Religion is about providing concepts about a reality of concern for the life of people, not directly perceived but connected to our lives and perceptions, so as to satisfy their need to understand life, and provide a form of guidance on what to do or how to think that may better lead to happy results for oneself and/or for others.

We explained in the previous part what science is about.

Science is about finding truths on complex issues as reliably as truths can be found without science on obvious things. It is about understanding the accessible world, discovering patterns and connections between our perceptions, so as to be able to predict what perceptions are more likely to come in the context of other perceptions and decisions; thus giving clues on what decisions can better lead to wanted results. And this understanding develops through intermediate concepts that represent aspects of reality (the predictive power of these concepts can be seen as an image of elements of reality causing these effects).

We don't need science to know that chocolate and strawberries are sweet, that night is dark, or that fun, friendship and love are good. So, these truths are "not scientific". They aren't either beyond science, but they come before it: they are are immediately perceptible, and don't require any mystical revelation to be discovered either.

Science cannot exactly predict the weather, earthquakes, what time the phone will be ringing, and many other things - but no other method than science can do it better (with possibly minor, very rare and impractical exceptions on some issues). We cannot access their full range of causes, nor do we have the computer power to make any exact weather forecast a week in advance even if the underlying laws are theoretically known. Thus, the very existence and knowledge of exact underlying laws is rather helpless and irrelevant here. Good approximations of such laws suffice.

Finally, what is the problem ? The problem is, how the hell could anyone fail to notice that the issues addressed by religious doctrines are directly and naturally a particular case and an integral part of what science can handle.
How could anyone say that issues dealt with by religions are not scientific questions, and is there anything true in these arguments ? Let us check these people's claims, what sort of a difference could they see between these two fields, that might be used to justify for such a difference.

One important argument seems to be, that science cannot explain feelings, nor predict them by putting them into equations.
Indeed, as we previously explained, the mind's behavior cannot be predicted through formulas, as it does not follow any mathematical determinism.
However, is it really a problem ?
The assessment of happiness, in good approximation, is readily available to our senses, not requiring any mystical revelation either, so that this does not constitute any relevant limit of science that an alternative form of truth inquiry could usefully overcome.

Thus, how can the absence of any theoretical reference of an exact mathematical law supposed to determine feelings (and even the fact that such a mathematical law does not exist), make any serious difference here ?
It is really necessary to recall that the work of reason and science does not require any a priori full knowledge of the ultimate laws that determine everything ? On the contrary, the scientific research has usually been to start from observations, for guessing more and more clues on how do things happens, what do the outcomes depend on, and what the underlying laws may look like.

So, what religious question might escape science ? All we need to start a scientific research, is observations.

Do we have observations concerning happiness ? Well, yes. The perception of one's own happiness or sadness, is one of the most direct perceptions that can be. What about perceiving the feelings of others ? Some may guess more or less such things, rightly or wrongly. However, it is not so hard to get a good approximation of this parameter, just by asking them the question.

The causes of happiness are generally perceptible things too. People can be happy or sad depending on what happens to them. In case it may depend on their thoughts, these can be expressed as well.
It may sometimes happen that some people become happy or sad for no visible cause (even by themselves), however this is a marginal case. So, happiness is roughly determined by events, which are themselves partly random (we shall discuss later what it means) and partly determined by a large system of visible causes and actions.

Issues on life after death ? Collections of NDE testimonies as already available online, provide more reliable and complete information than any religion ever did.

In fact, most religious claims, by the way they connect to life, are in average as verifiable (and falsifiable) than most other scientific fields. Sometimes such verifications would be very hard to make, however such a difficulty is no way specific to religious questions. Many traditional objects of scientific research are quite hard to check by logic, observation or experimentation as well.
So, the main difficulty that makes such a scientific inquiry on religious claims harder than those on more traditionally scientific subjects, is the problem of how to start deciding to seriously undertake the research by decently rational people. Just as the the surest way to lose a war is by not send any soldier to the battle.

Parapsychological issues and paradoxes

The problem of evil : what's wrong with the universe

When studying the universe in its different aspects, we face a problem:

When considering the first principles of existence, it all looks like the universe should be deeply good, and that everything should be wonderful there.

However, experience shows that many things there are going wrong, many people suffer, many people are in deep error, and many crimes and abuses are made and profitable.
If we just try to imagine how things should be just by pure thoughts, reasonings, we can make some deductions on what to expect about things. Namely, that the world should be fair, joyful and harmonious. But these expectations do not fit observations.

So we are in a strange universe where first principles cannot properly explain some important observations. Can they ?

If theory and experience seem to contradict at first sight, then we need to examine each in more details, and check every seemingly contradicting argument and observation in all their aspects one by one, to separate the true from the false everywhere. If it is not very carefully, then contradictions should vanish, because... the universe is real and the truth cannot contradict itself.

But this will turn out to be quite hard, and even more paradoxical than could be expected at first sight.

As there are problems that not all is going well in the universe, then we do need to understand exactly what is going wrong and why, and what solutions can be found.
Just pretending that things are going right would not help.
A general trend among "spiritual people" is to view things in such ways that it makes them feel good by insisting that, according to them, some kinds of things would be going well. In such a way, they reject the cause of troubles onto some other aspects of things, that they are less disturbed to see as going wrong.

Their motivation for interpreting the causes of troubles as coming from something rather than something else, can have several causes:

It can be feelings; but this is only a subjective feeling that makes them more sensitive to something than something else, so that they feel better by seeing the causes of troubles as coming from something than something else. But other people's sensitivity can be oriented otherwise, so that a view that better satisfies someone may make someone else feel worse. For example, some people like to imagine that God makes things good and that troubles come from people's bad hearts or bad actions. This can help bring them good feelings towards God, but also be quite unfair and insulting towards their fellow humans (and even sometimes to themselves).

But it can also be some sort of logic and reasoning, as it seems, so as to make their worldview coherent enough to their satisfaction of having the impression that they understand the world rather well.

In principle, logic and reasoning cannot contradict reality. The problem comes with naive and approximate reasoning, of a kind that satisfies many people and seems logical to them, but that would not stand careful scrutinity, and whose conclusions can happen to be refuted by more careful research (reasonings and observations).

Ultimately, what is needed and good, is not to believe something something rather than something else just because it feels well, or because it helps to praise God. Rather, it is to objectively check and understand more precisely how things are, so as to not make mistakes about how to help solve problems, and to not making any innocent person feel guilty for having done the right thing just because such false accusations would help some other people to feel good.

Let us start with a famous example of a debate:

Darwinism vs. Creationism or Intelligent Design

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See the section moved to a separate page : Skeptics and paranormal phenomena

The immateriality of the foundations of reality is not a good reason to dump reason

We don't know how the spiritual universe (where we go after death) looks like. Is there any physics of what happens there ? Does it have any sort of physical connection with our universe ? Do visual perceptions there (light...) have any similarity of nature with the light of our physical universe (which we do understand by quantum physics) ? What happens to consciousness there ? Why do some souls stay here to haunt houses ? Is there a hell ? If yes, what does it look like, what brings people there, and for how long ?
These are so many questions that are very hard to answer, for lack of observational data. We have some hints from near death experiences. In particular, it presents strong indications of the existence of reincarnation (as some other sorts of observations can show too), but anyway not immediate or not systematic, as shown by the meetings with dead relatives, that show they are not reincarnated at that time.
Also, it says that we are our own judges on our life, that we review (maybe not in all cases ??) for our instruction, not really as a "judgment" in some negative sense, but a sort of objective perception, not focused on judging, but which makes us feel the effects of our deeds on others.
Maybe, by studying NDE more closely, some progress can be made in the understanding of afterlife.

However, I would not dare to make any precise claim about afterlife that would be just a guess not be based on sufficient evidence, for the following reason.
As it seems, it goes beyond our imagination. Thus, if we try to imagine something by the mere naive means we usually have at our disposal, most probably we would have it wrong, as it would be still very different.

Some authors tried to imagine something. For example, they would describe a physics for the spiritual universe.
I think such a try is much too risky, because the laws of physics are mathematically expressed, while spiritual realities have mainly a non-mathematical nature. They try anyway, but to make it different from the physical things (as it should), their only method is to take any well-established fact and claim the contrary.
For example, in particle physics, no known particles can go faster than light, and the impossibility of information transmission faster than light has been deduced from special relativity (as time loop contradictions would come otherwise) ? Then, just because there is a mystery of non-locality with quantum observations as expressed in the EPR paradox, let us imagine particles that go faster than light: such particles must be very spiritual.
Entropy is increasing ? Let's imagine a space where entropy decreases, such a space must be very spiritual.
Self-proclaimed defenders of reason promote a materialistic philosophy ? Let's reject reason, this attitude must be very spiritual.
Everybody is walking on their feet ? Then let's walk on our hands, this way of walking must be very spiritual.
Everybody is thinking with their heads ? Let's think with our feet, this way of thinking must be very spiritual.

Well, sorry, I don't believe in the relevance of such extravagance contests, as any choice of something to deny will be quite arbitrary anyway, and just taking a known concept to turn it upside down will remain too similar in nature with its claimed opposite, in order to be a serious candidate of a breakthrough.
That a careful rational imagination is currently not enough to figure out things properly, does not give any more credence to a foolish imagination.

When we don't know something, there might be so many possibilities that may be or not be imaginable, that a try of a guess not supported by due evidence would have no decent chances to have anything to do with the truth. Thus the best way may be to just give up trying to guess anything, and keep examining the data (testimonies or other considerations), until some evidence might appear on some specific questions.

Indeed, the fact that a question currently appears too hard for us and that we don't currently have readily available data to orient us to an answer, does not mean that it would be of a radically different nature, something fundamentally beyond reason. The power of reason does not have any clear and precise limits, and a question that appears beyond its reach at a time might turn out to be solvable later (may it be through testimonies of NDEs, deliberate out-of-body experiments, or anything else).
Thus, the scientific attitude is to just admit that one does not know something at a given time, but keep searching in hope it can be resolved later, may it take centuries (a quite short period of time comparted to the history of life on Earth).

This is to be strongly contrasted with the religious attitude that consists, towards any hard or unobvious question, in claiming : "Alleluia ! this is beyond the reach of reason and science, therefore a miracle in the exclusive domain of faith and divine revelation (and more precisely, mine...)"

Notes on spiritual dimensions

Let's just make a few remarks about possible connections between physics and spiritual realities.

Consider visual perceptions of the environment in out of body experiences.
Such perceptions would be made possible by the ability of consciousness to perceive matter. This can be either a perception of matter, or a perception of physical light, since light and matter are but two cases of physical systems, well described by our physical theories, and that can interact together.
Contrary to what some authors might think, I see no likeliness in the idea that wide perceptive abilities that experiencers may have of our physical landscape, would be any hint that these perceptions would take place as viewed from another dimension. Indeed our usual visual abilities are highly dependent on the presence of the physical light that "takes a picture" of objects, and makes this picture perceivable at a distance.
In order to receive this picture, we need to remain inside our usual 3-dimensional space (+1 time dimension). We could not have such a visual perception from outside this space. Otherwise this would not be based on our physical light but another, unphysical sort of light that has no reason to take any picture of our physical objects in the way that the physical light does.
Inside our space, the out of body visual perceptions of physical objects, insofar as they are based on physical light, can make use of many more wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that those of our humanly "visible" light: it should be possible to perceive the ultraviolet and infrared too (to name just those carrying most of the energy in usual conditions).

Then, when experiencers "enter the tunnel" or other such spaces differing from our usual space, suddenly lose all visual perception from our space. This is coherent with the idea that they left our space.
But does it mean that they also left all concern of the physical laws of our universe altogether ?
This is a hard question.
Indeed it still looks like there are still in a sort of space. But our space-time with its geometry, is a part of physics. The geometry of our universe (space and time) is in close interaction with the material contents, according to Einstein's theory of gravitation (general relativity). We have explained that time is a property of consciousness. So, if time is influenced by matter, it means that, in its time perceptions, consciousness is also influenced by the events of our material universe, as long as its stays inside our space. And as our space-time is linked with matter in our universe, is time (and maybe space) outside our universe, following any law or influence of a similar sort ? As there is a time (and maybe space) connection between this world and the beyond, can there be any other sort of physical connection too ?

consciousness can travel outside our space, as it seems. Still, the traveling distance seems to be finite, as it takes a finite and quite limited time to go there and come back to life here. The speed of this travel might be very fast, but can it be faster than light ? First, can this question make any sense ? It would make sense if there was a way to measure distances outside our physical space. This is far from obvious.
Still, there might be a way to give a sense to this.
In our physical space, there is an available definition of distance, once admitted a measure of time intervals, based on the fact that no information can go faster than light: just measure how much time must be waited on Earth when a signal goes from Earth to Mars and then back to Earth. This measures the distance between Earth and Mars.
We can give up much of our physical laws and still make sense of the question concerning spiritual realities.
But this depends whether the limitation of speed for transmission of information, still holds in the spiritual universe; or on the contrary, is it sometimes possible to reliably transmit information faster than light between locations of our physical space through parapsychological means ?
Sorry I don't have the answer to this question. I just know that such a faster than light transmission, would mean to break the relativity principle (the idea that the speed is relative, as is the case for physical phenomena) when it comes to parapsychological phenomena, and such a claim would need some observational evidence to be supported.

If faster than light travel (or information transmission) as measured in our space, is possible for souls, then it makes it hard or perhaps impossible to define any concept of space and distance as a fundamental character of the universe of consciousness.
But if this speed limitation holds for souls then the concept of distance can be extended to the universe of consciousness, while the limitation of speeds by the speed of light would hold by definition of times and distances, just the same as is expressed in our laws of physics.
It would make sense to ask "how far from Earth" is some space beyond, through the "tunnel", as defined by the minimum time it takes to wait on Earth from the departure of the soul from Earth and it arrival back to Earth.
As NDEs usually only take mere minutes, and the way through the tunnel may even be considered shorter, maybe seconds, this means that the space beyond being visited, is "closer" to Earth, than are other planets of our solar system (which are several light minutes away from Earth).
Does it make sense ? Well, not so bad. After all, if that trip drove us away from the galaxy, there would be too many risks to land on the wrong planet when trying to come back ;)
Also, reincarnation stories usually speak about past lives on the Earth, not on any other planet. This does not exclude the possibility of life on exoplanets and travels of souls between them, but distances are so big that it might "waste time" for souls that might prefer keeping connections with a not too old universe, rather than making big travels to other planets that would make them skip an interval of age of the universe (even if they would not have to wait this time in their own perception, according to the twin paradox).

Are the "tunnels" specific places inside some larger space (that may be of dimension higher than 3, though perceptions strangely seemed to remain 3-dimensional), or do they only exist to provide "artificial" bridges between otherwise spatially (physically) independent places (universes), with even no existence of a space beyond their width ?

There is a lot of work ahead for future researchers...
Part I: moral comparison of science and religion - Part II: Explaining reason and science - Part III - Part IV : explaining and refuting religions

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