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Massless Is Not Nonmaterial

Pseudoscientists and Eastern mystagogues have been propagating the myth that only objects that have mass are material. Their efforts have been so successful that even some physicists adhere to that myth. Here is an astrophysicist describing the myth to a gleeful Dalai Lama: “You can see [energy transforming into mass] happening in elementary particle processes. A photon is transformed into two material particles: an electron and an antielectron. Material is produced from pure energy, from a photon” (Zajonc 2004, 205). The statement is actually wrong in more than one way (Hassani 2016, 46).

Using four different approaches, this commentary shows that the myth of nonmateriality of massless particles is just that—a myth.

Let’s start with what is not material. Everyone, including the most opportunistically dishonest pseudoscientist, agrees that spirit, soul, God, universal consciousness, as well as “energy,” “field,” and “energy field” transmitted via the practice of qi, reiki, touch therapy, prayer, and other alternative medical protocols are nonmaterial. What is common among them is that they cannot be seen, heard, touched, or subjected to any quantifiable measurement. Let’s summarize this by saying that nonmaterial objects are not detectable. The undetectability of nonmaterial entities suggests that detectability determines the materiality of an object. Depending on the physical properties of the material objects, we can identify at least three kinds of detectors: sensuous, interactive, and microscopic.

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