And so, if we can’t restore honesty and integrity to these institutions, we have to watch out for ourselves by watching out for those who want to manipulate the system at our expense.

But this leads to a moral dilemma itself: Doesn’t it make me a sucker to play fair when so many are breaking the rules? Don’t I have to compromise my ethics to give myself an even shot, if I don’t want to end up as the nice guy who finishes last?

The obvious answer is, yes. If the world is a place of randomness, if society is nothing more than an arena for social Darwinism, if the ultimate end of man is food for worms and the ultimate end of the universe is entropic nothingness, then why worry about integrity? What do I gain by living a life of morals and virtue if nothing means anything in the final analysis?

All of which means to say that the rational basis for integrity hinges entirely on whether or not there’s a Monty Hall who knows what’s behind Door #3.

MAYBE; MAYBE NOT: Monty Hall Problem and Higgs Boson

god particle higgs bosonOn 4 July 2012, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, a cosmic energy field that provides mass to every subatomic particle in the universe. So critical is the Higgs field to our very existence that some scientists dubbed it the “God particle.”

But in the quest to explain the mystery of creation, the Higgs boson only makes things worse.

In a recent Ted talk, Harry Cliff, a physicist who works on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, explained it this way:

But there is something deeply mysterious about the Higgs field. Relativity and quantum mechanics tell us that it has two natural settings, a bit like a light switch.

It should either be off, so that it has a zero value everywhere in space, or it should be on. so it has an absolutely enormous value. In both of these scenarios, atoms could not exist, and therefore all the other interesting stuff that we see around us in the universe would not exist.

In reality, the Higgs field is just slightly on, not zero but 10,000 trillion times weaker than its fully-on value, a bit like a light switch that’s got stuck just before the off position. And this value is crucial. If it were a tiny bit different, then there would be no physical structure in the universe.

Theorists have spent decades trying to understand why it has this very peculiarly fine-tuned number, and they’ve come up with a number of possible explanations. They have sexy-sounding names like “supersymmetry” or “large extra dimensions.”

I’m not going to go into the details of these ideas now, but the key point is this: if any of them explained this weirdly fine-tuned value of the Higgs field, then we should see new particles being created at the LHC along with the Higgs boson. So far, though, we’ve not seen any sign of them.

In other words, the answer is not behind Door #1, it’s not behind Door #2, and Door #3 is cracked open ever-so-slightly, not nearly enough to see into.

Only Monty Hall knows what’s on the other side.

dark matter asteroids cometsDr. Cliff goes on to outline the problem of “dark energy,” the mysterious force responsible for explaining the accelerating expansion of our universe — which seems to contradict the basic laws of physics. He prefaces his remarks with this caveat:

Now, whenever you hear the word “dark” in physics, you should get very suspicious because it probably means we don’t know what we’re talking about.

Which seems quite likely, given that, according to Dr. Cliff, if the force of dark energy were strong enough to do what it does, it would simultaneously prove so strong that it would prevent the universe from ever taking form to begin with.

So in the case of dark energy, there’s only one door, which Monty Hall has bolted shut and sealed-off with police tape. In fact, Dr. Cliff concludes with the extraordinary confession that many physicists believe that we may never be able to explain “why there is something rather than nothing.”

The only question left to ask, therefore, is not whether some omniscient Monty Hall holds the keys to all the doors. The lack of reasonable options may soon compel us to concede that there is. If so, the more important question will become, “Is Monty on our side?”

IMAGINING PERFECTION

existence of god proofBack in the early 1600s, Rene Descartes grappled with the notion that an “Evil Genius” may have created man in order to deceive him.

Descartes reasoned that, since perfection is beyond the experience and therefore beyond the imagination of man, a perfect being must exist in order to have provided man with the ability to conceive of a perfect being. And a perfect being is, by definition, good.

Of course, later philosophers challenged Descartes’s reasoning, but there is a compelling simplicity to his logic. After all, why would a Creator bring into existence such an elaborate universe for no other purpose than to torment His creations?

If we accept Descartes’s conclusion, we may find our way clear to seeing what is behind the most important door of all.

Let’s look at life as a series of doorways.

Some are open, some are closed. Some we can see through clearly while others confuse us with ambiguous clues.

Some are locked against us at one time but open up for us at another. And even if other travelers through life try to block our way or steer us wrong, the One who holds the keys can always make it possible for us to find the doors that lead us on toward our final destination.

King Solomon said of wisdom: Fortunate is the one who listens to me, attentively waiting at my doors day by day, keeping watch by the doorposts of my entryways.  For whoever finds me, finds life.

Ultimately, all we can do is choose as wisely as we can, remembering that behind each door lies another and then another, pointing us forward and leading us on and on. And it is the choices we make that will determine where we find ourselves once we’ve reached the end and passed through the final door.

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