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The Mind

Looking First at Physics

The laws of physics, as noted earlier, are actually quite limited in their application. They deal with matter, energy, space and time. Twentieth-century physics has rendered these concepts considerably more confusing than they once were, but not by adding new entities, rather by muddling the distinctions between them. Thus space and time have become part of the same thing while matter (or at least mass, which is not quite the same thing) and energy are interchangeable.

The definitions of these concepts are intertwined. Time measures the rate matter moves in space; mass is a measure of the resistance to being moved; energy and matter are engaged in an eternal dance mediated by force — matter changing position or resisting change while energy changes its state.

All this takes place in space, which is the measure of both the structures of matter and its movement — distance. All of the properties of matter are ultimately defined in terms of space and time. Matter is composed of what are called particles, although the term is somewhat misleading to the extent that it seems to imply simply super minuscule grains of sand. These “particles ” may be simply points in space or possibly one-dimensional “strings,” the strings being so tiny that we can think of them as points.

So physics is essentially about how these points are arranged in space and how the arrangement changes over time. Anything that cannot be reduced to a dynamic structure (a mechanism) in time and space is outside of physics.

The rules that govern how the structure changes, generally called “forces,” are purely mechanistic in nature. That is, they operate, in Richard Dawkins expressive figure, utterly “blindly.” The forces emanate from a point and equally influence whatever they happen to encounter. They do not discriminate; they do not choose.

[Next page: The Nature of Consciousness]