The Holy Grail of physics has always been Unifying Theory. (Macro-level) Relativity and (micro-level) Quantum Mechanics leave theorists with a seemingly intractable paradox – they are both demonstrably true, yet they contradict each other. The great scientific mystery has been how two seemingly contradictory albeit theoretically and empirically provable theories can be reconciled.
Metaphysical theorist and philosopher, David Birnbaum, may be closer than imaginable to an answer. In his three-part treatise, Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man (1988), II: Spiritual Man (2005), and III: Secular Man (2014).
Birnbaum presents a teleologically based (direction-based) model of the cosmic order in sharp contrast to the entrenched Theory of Randomness. Summa Metaphysica proposes a conceptual revolution, challenging entrenched Potentialism Theory. Conceptually, Birnbaum posits and defends that the universe is not driven by random-chance and decay, but rather by an intrinsic drive to advance and enhance. Without falling into a religious argument over the nature of the force of Potentialism, Birnbaum’s Quest for Infinite Potential proposes and describes a constant (Infinite Potential) for cosmic order.
At its most basic, Potential is the inherent force in the universe that drives creation – matter, energy, life and evolution. It is omnipresent and eternal. Potentialism is a well-defended and vetted theory of cosmology. But the true test of the strength of a philosophical cosmological theory is whether it can stand in the face of the spectrum of physics and reality.
Put simply, the competing ‘theory’ of Randomness does not. It throws in the ‘intellectual towel’ before even attempting to explain physical phenomenon, claiming that the entire universe is random, pointless and unknowable. By contrast, Potentialism not only accepts the challenge, it welcomes it.
Einstein and Planck
Here is the fundamental issue. Einstein is the creator of the General Theory of Relativity and the Special Theory of Relativity. Relativity shows the interrelation of time and space. The Special Theory describes a geometrically flat space-time universe. This universe is where Max Planck’s Quantum Theory lives. The basic issue with this is that the universe which Special Theory describes is not our universe. The Special Theory universe is a place where gravity doesn’t exist. To be clear, Quantum Theory was crafted in a universe that is not ours. Special Theory was only crafted as an intermediary step as Einstein was working on the General Theory of Relativity, which incorporates Einstein’s work on space-time with the Classical Mechanical Model of physics and Newtonian Physics, which governs gravity.
The General Theory does its job. It marries space, time and gravity into one mathematical model. That Quantum Theory was born as a derivative of the Special Model was unexpected. Here lies the problem though – Quantum Theory only works in a space-time model with a flat geometry. The addition of the Newtonian physics of gravity creates bends and depressions in space-time. These depressions are not possible in Quantum Theory. At the same time, they are not possible to remove in General Relativity.
How much stranger can this get? Quantum physics works. Not only can it describe the smallest particles of our universe, much of modern technology is based on its principles. Turning on a modern radio is proof of Quantum Mechanics. But General Relativity works as well. Time-space warping has conclusively been proven as well. Is this a mathematical mistake? Have two of the greatest minds in the history of science in reality both failed in their most important works?
Physicists say conclusively no. Hence, their exhaustive search for a Unifying Theory or what is called the (physics) Theory of Everything (ToE). What is missing for a (physics) ToE is the glue that melds these two models, or universes, together. If not a hard mathematical model, as it seems it is beyond math to explain, then a philosophical model. According to Planck and Einstein, the ToE would have to be simple and universal.
Potentialism already describes such a unifying force. Birnbaum audaciously proposed (1988) that one ‘simple and universal’ dynamic that the Quest for Infinite Potential drives creation and the laws of the universe. In the 26 years subsequent to Summa I no flaw has been discerned in the hypothesis. Included in Potentialism theory is the understanding that the universe of tangible reality (our universe) emerged from a grander cosmos of non-tangible reality.
According to conceptual theorist Birnbaum, Infinite Potential (operating in a grander cosmic context of non-tangible reality) harnessed the eternal equations of Physics-Math to ignite our (reality) universe (via the Big Bang). In turn this symbiotic dynamic – Infinite Potential in concert with the equations – is the catalyst for biogenesis, life as we know it, evolution and consciousness: The elusive ‘designer’ is thus discerned.
Now how does this apply to ToE? According to Potentialism, all things in the entirety of the cosmic order are simultaneously (a) what it ‘is’ and (b) the potential for what it ‘can be.’ That is, for instance, a person both (a) exists and (b) within that person exists the potential for their legacy and the ramifications of their legacy; included in their legacy are all the children they could create, as well as their children’s children (and their respective legacies, etc.) – hence the term, Infinite Potential.
Birnbaum offers a schematic: Quest for Potential ( Quest for Potential ( Quest for Potential.
He suggests the shorthand notation Q4P, thus the schematic would be: Q4P (Q4P (Q4P
To be able to display the formula (and the universe) succinctly: Q4P∞
How does this conceptualization apply to physics?
Let’s take a classical example from Quantum Mechanics. Say we take a piece of lead and cut two slits in it and release photons towards it. Any individual photon might go through either slit. And photons are waves, so after they pass through the slits, they will collide and interfere with one another. Common sense so far. However, according to the Quantum Mechanical model, any individual photon passes through BOTH slits. This has been proven to be fact. In tests, an individual photon has been shown to interfere with itself as it simultaneously passes through both slits.
As disturbing as this phenomenon might sound, Potentialism doesn’t just explain this, it predicts it. On a quantum, sub-atomic level, it is easier to witness Potentiality by inference. As predicted, and indeed explained by Birnbaum, the photon has the Potential to travel through either slit, hence in the quantum dimension it ‘exists’ passing through both until it necessarily is realized.
Potentiality and Actuality
To put things more simply, (micro-level) Quantum Mechanics describes the Potentiality of objects, (macro-level) Relativity describes their Actuality. In physics, a quanta is the minimal amount of something for something to happen. For instance, how much energy must be applied to make an electron move from one state of excitement to another? There is no in-between on the quantum level. It will be at excitement state #1 until enough energy is applied for it to exist at excitement state #2.
In Potentiality terms, Quantum Mechanics describes what must happen for something to exist. This is Potentiality at its most basic. Something has the Potential to exist – whether it does or doesn’t. Some Quantum Mechanical phenomena simply give us an inferential glimpse at the states of Possibility. When they are observed directly and necessitated, they are actualized.
So why does Quantum Mechanics only recognize flat time-space and not curved time-space? Quantum Mechanics is in a threshold position between the quasi-metaphysical realm of Special Relativity, and the reality-realm of expressed Potentiality. General Relativity, in turn, is an actuality. It represents what the current universe is.
More than Physics
There is a veil between what ‘can be’ (the quasi-metaphysical) and what already ‘is’ (reality). Physicists are uncomfortable with this and understandably so. However, Potentialism is not only comfortable with this, it daringly predicts it. Mathematical physics can only explain one part of the universe – what ‘is’ (reality). When it comes to what ‘can be’ – universal Potential (metaphysical and quasi-metaphysical) – it falls apart. Something more is needed.
The metaphysics of Potentialism has room for different universal rules for Quantum Mechanics and Relativity. Saying that they must mathematically agree limits Infinite Potential. It is necessary to understand that Quantum Physics is at the threshold between Potentiality and the Realization of the cosmological order; Potentialism is the bridge between the two. Thus, for lack of a more humble term, Potentialism is simultaneously the hitherto elusive Theory of Everything.