The Law states that “no energy can be destroyed or created, for it is constant; it can only be transformed from one form to another”. Do you think this alignes with many of the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism (Eastern philosphy in general) about everything infact being one “oneness” so to say, and death being non existant (which is weird to say since death implies non existence)? All is being, shifting from one form to another, everywhere the same, completely full like a sphere; constant outpour of energy cycling into eternity. What is your stance on this?

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    "Do you think this alignes with many of the teachings of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism ... ?" NO. It is a phisical law and it is clearly "compatible" with death, as we can see every day. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 13:25
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    You can see Philosophy of thermal and statistical physics and Wilhelm Ostwald and Ernst Mach for a "philosophical" movement called Energetism. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 13:58
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    This law is clearly compatible with the world-view you mention, and in fact no established scientific data is incompatible with it. But what we read into this is up to us. We could just dismiss it as a coincidence, as so many do. Or we could see this as an unscholarly approach and delve more deeply. Which we do seems to depend on our temperaments and prejudices more than anything else. I'm not sure anything can be made of your thought without a lot more development. Otherwise your just back with the ineffective woolliness of 'The Tao of Physics' or 'The Dancing Wu Li Masters'.
    – user20253
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 14:10
  • Ex nihilo nihil fit, nothing comes from nothing, was also a motto of Parmenides, one of the founders of Western philosophy, and the One, timeless, uniform, and unchanging, is a cornerstone of his metaphysics. Spinoza and others held vaguely similar views. So to the extent that conservation of energy "aligns" with vague platitudes extracted from philosophies it is not East/West specific.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 23:15
  • Prove to me that you exist. Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 18:08

3 Answers 3


The Law states that “no energy can be destroyed or created..."

Not quite. In its classical formulation, the 1st law says that energy is constant in a closed system. As this isn't entirely true, it has had a number of reformulations to include rest energy and virtual particles. I'm not a big fan of them, scientifically speaking, as they require you to measure the energy content of the universe to verify.

Do you think this aligns with many of the teachings ... Eastern philosophy

It really doesn't. The religions you mention are very well developed and absolutely are not talking about energy in the thermodynamic sense. There are, of course, some points of crossover but it's generally superficial.

and death being non existent

Minor point but they tend to see death as a transformation rather than not actually existing.

And a comment on the attempt to link scientific theories to most extant religions. Please exercise caution here. These religions are very well established, very well documented and very well understood. They are not enhanced or validated in any way by superficial linking to modern science. The same goes with similar attempts in Christianity, usually with Genesis.

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    Indeed, many attempts to link scientific theories to any philosophical ideas are superficial. Careful consideration must be paid to exactly what is the connection.
    – Era
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:13
  • You can formulate energy conservation purely locally: Any energy change in a region is exactly of the same size as the net energy flow into or out of that region. There is no need to involve the complete universe for that.
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 20:22

The law has one implication for dualism, specifically Cartesian dualism. If the mind controls the body (as in causing one's arm to rise because one wants to raise it), then where does the energy come from in a physically closed universe of which the arm and the body are parts ? Raising one's arm needs energy but this cannot derive from a non-extended, non-temporal substance such as the mind. If it did, then the mind would be creating energy in addition to that existing in the physical world.

  • The energy to raise the arm is taken from glucose in the muscle. It is <em>not</em> derived from the nerve impulse that causes the muscle to contract. So already on the purely physical level, that argument doesn't work.
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 20:15
  • @celtschk. Many thanks for comment. I defer to your expertise in physics but am I wrong about the extra energy from nowhere, added to the physical world, that dualism involves ? Great to have this kind of exchange. Appreciated.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 21:07
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    A non-physical mind might just modify the flow of physical energy. Think about what happens to the water if you open a tap: You don't affect the amount of water that exists, you only allow it to flow where it would not have flown otherwise. No water is added to reality or removed from it by opening the tap.
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 21:46
  • @celtschk. I take your point but just how, I wonder, could a non-physical mind operate in this way ? Your examples are all the physical world. But you have set me thinking in a direction I would not otherwise have followed, and that is greatly appreciated. Best - GT
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 23:14
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    One obvious place where the mind could influence physical systems is through quantum randomness. According to the current theories of physics, for most quantum events there is no way to predict which of several possible results will occur. There are several competing interpretations of this, but at least some of them assume that there is some genuine physical randomness (that is, the actual state of the world changes randomly). If the mind could influence the probabilities of those events, it could manipulate physical systems that way.
    – celtschk
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 10:32

Although I agree with Alex’s answer, I think the following offers a different perspective. I don’t think it is in the best interests of religions to link too closely with the “energy” concepts from physics.

Energy is an idea that describes reality. Subjectivity is removed from this description and the description becomes data. We try to isolate our subjectivity further by using mathematics to manipulate the data and look for patterns. We then project those patterns back onto reality and proclaim that the patterns are not just in our mathematical models of the descriptions but they are also in reality as laws of nature. Since subjectivity was removed at the start of the process, subjectivity has no place in the resulting laws of nature.

Religious ideas are also descriptions of reality. Subjectivity turns these descriptions into stories and we project them back into reality. Out of this comes various deities. Since subjectivity was not removed, our deities are conscious like we are. These deities are like the laws of nature except the deities are conscious and the laws are not.

I assume that honest descriptions of reality reflect some truth about reality no matter their source and no matter how small. However none of the descriptions are reality itself. They are not complete descriptions. What I presented above is itself a description of reality and people may disagree with it.

How far should someone with a predominantly religious perspective associate with something like the first law of thermodynamics which describes reality in terms of unconscious energy? To what extent should that person align with an unconscious description of reality? Furthermore, a law of nature can be viewed as an unconscious deity that is deterministic and valid throughout all space and time. To what extent should that person align with a deterministic law?

Given a physicalist perspective, one can ask similar questions about various religions. They do provide stories about subjectivity, but some of those stories contain conscious deities. Conscious deities and unconscious laws of nature conflict with each other.

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