Is Uncle Remus about to go the way of Aunt Jemima? Let's hope that we can preserve the best and move on.
Science and religion, over the centuries, have grown much too comfortable in their mutual neglect. The few lackluster exceptions help only to prove the rule. The same habit of neglect now carries over into their lack of regard for Postmodernism and the New Age movement. Holistic health, in the latter case, however, is a more substantial exception.
How much further to the Millennium, us kids in the back seat would like to know. The foundations of materialism seem as strong as ever. The two main cracks in that facade, mind and the quantum, can continue indefinitely to be treated as mere puzzles, it would seem.
Any cosmology requires its epicycles. Hindsight will show that materialism has acquired far more than its share. Even the truest believing Ptolemaist would have to blush at the sight of it. Will this Rube Goldberg system collapse under its own weight? If it were going to, it already would have, and long ago. It just keeps on trucking.
We can only borrow a page from the book of Copernicus. A little coherence can go a long way, especially if there is no competition. Our minds thrive on patterns and stories. We are witness to a mushrooming plethora of each. There is, however, no meta-pattern, no meta-story. The lack of any such cohering center has led to rampant intellectual and spiritual fragmentation. This fragmentation is no healthier for society than it is for the psyche. The depth of our anomie can hardly be fathomed. There is nothing present to which it may be compared. We have no choice but to slog on.
The only coherent world is the best possible world. There is no coherence in being second best. My own little contest is to remain near the top of Google's BPW heap. That is my 'tar baby' strategy.
With each long page, coherence comes one page closer. In this age of exploding fragmentation the number of loose ends to gather up is nondenumerable. With sufficient patience, however, a new pattern gradually asserts itself. It takes on a life of its own. The new cosmos emerges out of the miasma of its disintegrating predecessor. If it is anything at all, it will have to become remarkable. And then, one fine day, Brer Fox will no longer be able to ignore it. Well, you know the rest of that story....
Our work on the archetypes is far from finished. It's hard for me to believe that it began here, in explicit fashion, over six months ago. If there is progress to be made in this endeavor, we have made some. Immaterialism is a very slippery beast, and any handles to be found on it are invaluable. We may have seven of them. This exercise is as much epistemic as it is ontological. We can judge the archetypes only by the fruit they bear. Their relative consistency, though, is a prime consideration, and we have already explored this to a fair degree. Settling on a stable set of archetypes brings us a long way toward rendering plausible the fact that we do inhabit the BPW.
As with any puzzle, the addition of each piece renders the rest of the pieces that much easier to fit. Of course, there will be misplacements, requiring significant backtracking. But even significant mistakes can be informative.
Something mentioned frequently in these pages is the 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics' (UEM) (note the old URL). It's source remains obscure. Let me attempt to shed some more light on it.
A closely related issue is the source of mathematics. I have discussed the Pythagorean vs. Platonic views of the matter. (Hold the phone! I have just discovered Amazon's new search feature, and I'll test it here. Oh dear, it does appear that one can use this feature to read through the book in stepwise fashion. The publishers may decide there will be too much cheating. It's nice while it lasts.)
As with any new gimmick, it is easy to get sidetracked. While looking up UEM on Amazon, I got sidetracked by Michio Kaku's discussion of reductionism vs. holism in theoretical physics. Remind me to come back to this later.
The unity of math and physics depends largely on symmetry principles, all of which have specific mathematical expressions. That just pushes the question back a step: from whence comes symmetry? In a recent page on this topic I simply posited an 'initial' state of total symmetry. This is begging the question. Will every possible symmetry be realized? Can there exist unknowable symmetries? This parallels the posit of unobservable worlds.
In the present scheme of things, mathematics is ontologically overprivileged. In too many people's minds mathematics represents the highest level of existence. This is the view of Pythagoras, Spinoza, Einstein, etc. I have been at pains to present a more holistic or integrated picture of mathematics relative to the rest of the world.
Mathematics may be seen as one of many human skills. As such, it is correlated with diverse skills whose origins remain obscure: verbal, artistic, moral, aesthetic, pattern recognizing, game playing, technological, social, etc. It is an integral part of what we call 'natural intelligence', as if there might be any other.
There are many normative and aesthetic aspects of math that cannot be formalized. Even the nature of proof remains informal, not to say, entirely elusive. Above all, mathematicians pride themselves on their consistency, and, yet, that factor seems to have as much to do with aesthetics as it has to do with logic.
Given an immaterial world, are we surprised to find a mathematically describable order? Yes, and no. Let's face it, our world is 'unreasonably' coherent. Mathematics comprises a significant part of that coherence, but that statement can in no way be quantified, or even well qualified.
Atoms and humans are generally law abiding, atoms rather more so. But, with the advent of the quantum, who is to draw any logical distinction. Observation, only ever normatively defined, is not epiphenomenal to any quantum phenomena. And what are these laws of physics? Nature is lawful to a surprising degree. There is no logical way to distinguish the lawfulness of physics from the lawfulness of nature. And are we not all part of nature?
We cannot imagine a world that has no logic, or is not quantifiable. If ours were not so, and to such a considerable degree, then, probably it would not be compatible with any form of intelligence. The non-intelligible world is just a non-world. Is our world minimally intelligible? No. It is optimally intelligible, according to my informed opinion.
Biology and technology (is there a real distinction?) both rely on the quantifiably predictable nature of the world. If the laws of nature were not sufficiently formalizable, there would be no nature to speak of. Yes, nature does stand on formality. Don't we all? Just don't ask me or anyone else to formalize the formality.
The world is a surprising place, and optimally so, I would say. Living without a constantly evocable sense of awe is simply not living. Mathematical effectiveness is awesome, and so should be everything else. (Should we expect anything less from our BPW?) And, by god, we ain't hardly seen nothin' yet.
Fine, but how does it actually work? We are in the process of finding out how the world works. Scientists presently think they know much more about that than they actually do. Their sense of awe has been singularly suppressed, in a manner that would be criminal if it weren't so naive. The only thing that scientists really understand is the formalism of their own formalities. What they like to think of as their success is a pale shadow of where we are all headed. If such a severely straightjacketed mind can be so 'successful', then we know nothing of success.
Math works because it has to? To fully understand why, is also to understand how. That we distinguish the why and the how is just another reflection of our abysmal ignorance. We are merely taking a few faltering steps toward reintegration. The disintegration of the world is 98% in the eyes of its beholders, not to belittle that residual 2%.
The main problem for us immaterialists posed by atoms is the apparent independence of their existence. They seem to do just fine on their own, to the degree that we may wonder why they ever bothered to produce us creatures. The fact, however, that the world has not disintegrated and that we are still here, may indicate that atoms are not as quite independent as the materialists would like us to believe. On the contrary, it is not difficult to get the impression that there is more than a bit of atomic conspiracy taking place behind the scenes.
What's an atom to do? How does an atom come to know what it's supposed to be doing in any given circumstance? Atoms are moved by forces, or course. Every particle is acted upon by every other particle within the visible universe. They do this by exchanging virtual quanta of each of the four known force fields. This is a mind boggling mess of interactions to be sorting out for every instant of every particle's existence. I just don't think that Occam would be happy with such an extravagant picture of microscopic existence. There must be a simpler way to run the world.
It's not going to be easy to wean ourselves away from atoms. They have a beguiling simplicity. Unfortunately they are too simple to explain the world. We have then only two choices. We can work from the bottom up, in a step-wise fashion, or we can go the other way.
Science has chosen the former path. It is arduous, a quality recommending itself to our residual puritanical inclinations. It also promises to be minimalistic: to be maximally sparing in our ontological commitments. We remain committed to reductionism, only accepting as irreducible those items that have been forced upon us, and about which we think we have a thorough understanding. That is the way science is supposed to work.
The practice of science is something else. In practice it is only the physicists who are given ontological license. They are relatively free to invent elaborate structures, but only of a mathematical variety, and only in support of their hoped for Grand Unified Theory. Everyone else is only granted provisional, ad hoc license. All the other sciences proceed phenomenologically. Given any complex system, they apply labels to persistent or recurring phenomena and hope to be able to quantify and formalize them to some degree. There is virtually no attempt to explain or predict these phenomena on first principles, i.e. starting from the basic laws of physics and working back up. Only thus does the spirit reductionism maintain its iron grip on ontology. It must always be given the benefit of the doubt. Reductionism has actually never completely explained anything, not even in physics. But by the same token, it has never been demonstrated that there is any phenomenon that is irreducible in principle.
Reductionism is an all or nothing commitment. There is no such thing as partial reductionism. It is a thumb in the dike situation. If one irreducible property is permitted, then there is no longer a logical defense against an ontological flood. This is a precarious situation. The reductionist status quo is maintained so carefully in science just because it is so precarious. There is no logical middle ground. Non-reductionism necessarily entails downward causation. With downward causation there is no limit in the upward direction. In other words, there must be a finality to final causation, a Telos for teleology. Naturalism is just the attempt to formulate an atheistic non-reductionism. It is simply a new form of panpsychism, pantheism and, inevitably, mysticism. Nothing to recommend itself to the spirit of rational inquiry.
Here you see the only other path. We trade reductionism for coherence. Unfettered coherence necessarily entails cosmic intelligence and the Best Possible World. Easier said than done. It will be a long slog from materialism to immaterialism. As in any long journey the first step is the most difficult. Given the present unstable equilibrium in our postmodern world, the taking of one convincing step toward metaphysical coherence could hardly be anything less than earth shaking. Look, Ma, no atoms....!
The archetypes are nice, but can they do the job? Heretofore, archetypes have been introduced only in an implied dualistic context, as something to be appended to the physics. The singular step to coherence will be to show how the physics may be appended to the archetypes. Physics becomes epiphenomenal.
The primary tool at our disposal will be the principle of sufficient reason: nothing happens without a cause. Most simply, this is just the obverse of mysticism. Here the quantum is on shaky ground. What are we to do with spontaneous events? We may invoke hidden variables, Probability, or a strong observer principle. Beyond this fly in the ointment, the PSR is good to go, with all us rational folk. Things get sticky only when one speaks of final cause or downward causation. Speak of it we will.
To cut to the chase, the shaking will come when we can derive QRP from AZO.
Starting with a totipotent, toti-symmetric Matrix, I posit a symmetry breaking, thereby taking my cue from the physical cosmologists. Here, however, the primordial symmetry breaking is not spontaneous. It is self-sustaining as a deliberate departure toward cosmic self-realization. There is a cosmic schism into a pantheon of 'personalities', a cosmic MPD, if you will. It would involve a daisy-chained, ouroboric, bootstrap dynamic. This is the primal psychic circuit 'emerging' from the Matrix, but beyond all space and time. I label this as the Zodiacal archetype, or just Z.
The metanarrative that we call Creation emerges as the dominant gap between the 'head' and 'tail' of the Ouroboros. This is just our Alpha and Omega. The symmetry breaking discontinuity (spark gap?) between the A&O becomes our historical time frame. So much for AZO. We now have to confront the actual 'mechanics' of this bootstrap process.
Previously I have speculated about the 'cloning' of the Z cycle. Well, no. The Z already is the potential for every cycle. According to Leibniz' other great principle, the Identity of Indistinguishables, there is ever only one Z. It is tantamount to the Matrix itself. What happens to Z is more akin to spectrum analysis. It is self-analyzed into is logical constituents. It is the mutually compatible and supporting cycles that are sustained. In symbiotic fashion they reintegrate into mutual coherence. Our space-time frame is defined and fleshed out in this manner.
For example, there have been some spectacular solar flares in the last couple of weeks. To grasp this phenomenon we may appeal to atoms or to the PSR. Provisionally assuming a more or less heliotropically explained sun, we go on to consider its details. First of all, why the details? Why not just place a nice round sunlamp in the sky, and leave well enough alone? There are two reasons for the details. No, make that one reason: aesthetic. God and the Devil are in the details. The fascination of this world is in its details, in its photo-realistic quality. Painters and animators have their work cut out for them, not to mention the scientists.
The aesthetic of nature lies simply in its naturalness. It all hangs together in a self-contained cosmic PSR. It does not appear artifactual. Is not the avoidance of artifice the first and last measure of great art? Surely then, God has outdone herself, just ask your friendly local atheist! It is the bible thumpers who are exercised with God's subtlety. It makes their job so much more difficult.
So did God just say, let the sun be natural; let it have eruptions? Where then, we might wonder, is the model of solar naturalness? Where is the Jurassic Parc? No, Virginia, there is no model. There is no Garden of Eden. This is it. It's all happening right here, right under our noses, or, perhaps, behind them.
Next to the PSR, holography is our touchstone. If you have seen one physical phenomenon, you have seen them all. If not, then you weren't looking closely enough. Holography is a manifestation of the GUT, and vice versa. But does that mean that someone has to calculate the dynamics of a solar flare starting from first GUT principles. I hope not. I'm not volunteering. God is not a workaholic, certainly not in that slide-rulerish fashion. With God, if you have done one calculation, you have done them all, as with the Z-cycle. With all our super-computer calculations and simulations we are only gilding that lily. None of our calculations is wasted, it's just that we may not fully comprehend the reason for them.
With that warm-up, here is my solar narrative. It may not measure up to Rudyard, but it could still suffice. Fluid dynamics is ubiquitous. To chug-a-lug a brew is to get a pretty good feeling for it. The art of imbibing is a fine art. I won't, wouldn't, couldn't, say how God discovered/invented this art, but, obviously, it was much too good to be missed, even hard to be missed, given metabolism and all. And, given the demand, it sure helps to have a goodly supply on hand, and so we quickly get into oceans and atmospheres, you know, the hydro-cycle. With nature it's as below, so above. Storms down here, storms up there there, and, presto, you have your basic solar flare, after figuring in some textbook style magnetohydrodymanics, love that word. If one were to dream up a sun, then chances are pretty good that it would have a few flares, fifteen at least. Now there is just a minor logistics problem. We must arrange for the flares to be where the astronomers can see them. For some folks, the logistic is the whole problem. I can say, folie a deux, and you can say, no, pinch me and I'm awake. Admittedly, this is not quite a sequitur, but I'm counting on you to catch my idiomatic drift, nonetheless.
Folie a deux: a madness or fantasy shared by two. If I'm correct, ours is a fantasy shared by several billion, not counting our furry and feathered friends.
F24 -- Induced Delusional Disorder:
A rare delusional disorder shared by two or occasionally more people
with close emotional links. Only one person suffers from a genuine
psychotic disorder; the delusions are induced in the other(s) and
usually disappear when the people are separated. The psychotic illness
in the dominant person is most commonly schizophrenic, but this
is not necessarily or invariably so. Both the original delusions
in the dominant person and the induced delusions are usually chronic
and either persecutory or grandiose in nature. Delusional beliefs
are transmitted this way only in uncommon circumstances. Almost
invariably, the people concerned have an unusually close relationship
and are isolated from others by language, culture, or geography. The
individual in whom the delusions are induced is usually dependent
or subservient to the person with the genuine psychosis.
This 'rare disorder' is precisely the basis of our reality and all reality. It seems to fit very snugly into our monistic context. Every religion, every cult, and even science also fit this mold to some considerable degree. So, yes, there can easily be fantasies within fantasies. No one doubts that the mind is fertile, but very few suspect how fertile. I am here to raise our suspicions. God is the great Inductor. We are her unwitting co-conspirators.
The hermetic alchemist mixes together two chemicals that have never been mixed before. Something will have to happen. The PSR will fill in the blank with a teleological turn, it has nowhere else to turn. After that, our collective expectations can be given full power. One may willingly deviate from those expectations only with considerable force of mind. That deviation may be labeled as either madness or magic. It all depends....
Galileo turned his new instrument to the sky. He saw the Mandelbrot we call Nature in greater detail. It was a surprise, but it also fit the larger pattern. The Hubble does the same. But now we see a surprising organicity emerging. Does it not compute? Does it reveal any brush strokes? Not unless you have a scorecard; something which I attempt to provide.
Does the Mandelbrot not compute? Is it truly a mystery? How could it be so precisely replicable if it does not precisely compute?
Here's the deal w/ computers, and everything else. Computers aren't real. Mind is real. Minds are a bit less so. The multiplicity of mind is illusory, but it is a very functional illusion, come Creation time. Bodies are very important appendices to certain kinds of minds, but are still epiphenomenal relative to the latter. Going on down the scala natura, mind wanes, illusion waxes. If computers had a mind, they'd be real too, but, alas alak, strong AIers chaseth after the wind.
There is in Plato's heaven something resembling Alan Turing's universal computer. It never crashes. Our pc's down here struggle to emulate her. We test them down here by giving them Riemanns and Mandelbrots to chew on. If they don't chew properly they are casteth upon the junk heap. The Mandelbrot we know and love is the survival of the fittest. The generating function, z' = z^2 + C, is a bit like the alchemist's empty retort. The Matrix abhors the vacuum, and pours herself in. You cannot do more than five zooms on the MB without seeing something no one has seen before or ever will again. Yet, there she is in perfect harmony. It is a piece of heaven dropped into just your lap. The perfect detail surpasses any dreamt phantasmagoria. You pinch yourself and you are awake.
Take one pixel on the screen and calculate its iterations by hand. If you are careful you will get just the right color. Where is the magic? As I keep trying to say, it is everywhere, which need not entail that it is also nowhere. It is just that our minds become surfeited if we are not careful.
By the same token, telepathy preempts telephony, but don't tell that to Ma Bell or she will put static on your line. Telephony is a functionally restricted form of telepathy, along with a few extra bells and bills. How else are we to share thoughts in the mental cacophony we call modernity? With the wireless Internet, we are moving toward a less restrictive medium.
One may more easily imagine the Matrix impressing herself upon a quantum computer, but the digital domain should be too restrictive. By the same token there could be a soul hiding in every pc. Determinism, however, is not the issue.
What I may be running into here is the problem of self-similarity. This is the type of symmetry manifested by the Mandelbrot. Self-similarity is ubiquitous in nature. It also relates to the problem I was getting at earlier concerning virtual quanta. Permit me to divert back to that problem and see if we can make any connections.
You may not have heard of the 'ultraviolet catastrophe'. I am not referring to the ozone hole, but rather to a fundamental problem of theoretical physics. It has to do with the self-energy of the electron.
By symmetry, the force field around any point source will vary as the inverse square of the distance from the source. As you approach an electron, it's electric field tends toward infinite strength. A static electric field is a form of potential energy. The energy density is proportional to the square of the field strength, so it will vary as the inverse forth power of the distance. The total energy is proportional to the volume, which, for a sphere, varies as the distance cubed. Within any sphere centered on the electron, the energy of the field inside that sphere will always be greater than the inverse of the distance. Thus the self-energy of any point source would be infinite. From special relativity we know that mass is proportional to energy, and so the electron would have an infinite mass. One way to avoid the infinity is to posit a finite radius for the electron, thereby placing an upper bound on its mass. I have just stated the problem using 'classical' physics, but the same problem occurs in the quantum theory of the electron, but in this case the field energy is quantized into virtual photons. The cut-off then takes the form of an upper bound on the photon energy, which is colloquially referred to as the 'ultraviolet cut-off' thus avoiding the 'ultraviolet catastrophe' for the self-energy of the electron.
The more technical term for the limitation of the self-energy of point particles is 'renormalization'. This was always one of the most contentious areas of physics up until the invention of 'string' theory, which effectively eliminated the problem of point particles by replacing them with strings of finite radius.
Part of my tar baby strategy in these pages is to reawaken our sense of the mystery of the ordinary. The strategy of materialism, in contrast, is just to put us to sleep, as in the 'slumber of materialism'. Materialism accomplishes this death of the spirit by means of a 'thousand cuts', i.e. by its analysis and reductionism. To resist the atomization of the spirit requires an act of deliberate naiveté. In keeping with the present context, let us reconsider Newton.
Newton was astonished and mystified by his own theory of gravity. Gravity, it turns out, is at once the most mundane and most exotic piece of physics. Imagine trying to explain gravity to a premodern. The hardest part would be to convince them that it even existed. How does one do that? We do that by playing ontology. The first move in any ontology game is analysis. It is like cutting the calf out of the herd. Before that time, the calf and herd were inseparable. Only by gross intervention against that natural order do we accomplish our objectification of the calf vis a vis the phenomenal herd. Look at this process subjectively and historically. Consider our long hard slog from tribal mind to ego mind.
Imagine trying to explain the concept of self-interest to the primitive tribesperson. Even the concept of self would be utterly alien. There would be virtually no such thing as self-consciousness. There would be no comprehension of abstraction. Even today, we are fascinated by Robinson Carusoe. To the primitive mind, separation from the group is identical to death. There is literally no distinction between death and banishment. Now, to us moderns, self-consciousness is something that we have to struggle to overcome.
Only to those of us immersed in the space age, is gravity truly objectifiable. Newton was simply the first citizen of space. Or perhaps it was Descartes who objectified space with his coordinate analysis of it. Be that as it may, the objectification of gravity, space and time went hand in hand, and together they constituted an enormous, and now almost unimaginable, mental leap. We are trying to look at one part of that leap.
The problem for Newton was the 'action at a distance'. How was it that the earth and moon, separated by thousands of miles, could exert a force on each other? Now we know the answer. It is by means of a force field. We simply put a label on the mystery, and it is no longer mysterious, we think. The fact is, though, that centuries later, the explanation of gravity remains the biggest challenge in physics. Only by invoking the Monster Group, the biggest mystery in mathematics, do we even hope to 'explain' the biggest mystery in physics. Our attempted objectification and reduction of gravity is actually turning out to be the reductio ad absurdum of reductionism itself.
What is a force field? It is what we now call a 'counterfactual', i.e. a sometimes useful conceptual fiction. Let us attempt to analyze 'counterfactual'. In order to do so, we must invoke modal logic, a very controversial metaphysical concept itself. To make sense of modal logic we must invoke the concept of 'possible worlds'. Uh, oh! Now I'm in trouble. Am I not about to deconstruct my precious BPW? I would do that gladly, in order to prove my point.
I wish to reconstruct or reenchant gravity. To do so, I must deconstruct its prior scientific deconstruction or reductive analysis. This is a two-step process. First we return gravity to its Newtonian-style, singular, mysterious objecthood, and then we nudge it back into the holistic phenomenal subjectivity of our one and only BPW, i.e. back into the primal 'dream-time'. I am not thereby turning the clock back, but rather advancing it into our Millenarian act of 'final participation'.
If the apple were to become detached from the tree, it would fall, under the influence of the gravitational field, and strike Isaac on the head, thereby propelling him into knighthood. Such is modal logic. How innocuous is it? We analyze modality by the reification of the non-denumerable set of all possible worlds. There are actual forces and possible forces. A force field is just the sum of all possible forces associated with a given source. My charisma is just such an attractive force field. It is the potency or potentiality of my charming presence. It is my magical aura. Is the gravitational aura of a given body any less magical? Certainly it was not to Isaac and his contemporaries. Only now can its familiarity breed our indifference to its mystery.
How do I work my attraction? How does a body work its gravitation? By influence. By sympathy. I vibrate, you resonate. Our spirits are moved to want to come together. If the earth and moon are spiritless, then how are they moved?
In science text books, force fields are reified by drawing in the lines of force, like so many little strings. It is as if the earth had the moon tethered by means of these lines of force. Force may be transmitted by an intervening substance, e.g. a rope. In our case, there is only the intervening emptiness of space. But this can be fixed. We posit the 'ether'. The ether is posited simply as an otherwise undetectable medium with the sole purpose of transmitting gravitational forces and electromagnetic waves. Case closed? Yes, for awhile.
The ether was subsequently deconstructed by Michelson & Morley, and Einstein. Or was it? One explanatory fiction was being replaced by another. Instead of the ether, we now had the space-time 'manifold'. Was that not progress? After all, both space and time are independently and objectively measurable. The deconstruction of the ether, logically, could only be had at a price. The price was the reification of space and time. Prior to Einstein, and going back to Descartes, space and time were independent absolutes. They could be reified only by bringing them into the physics arena where they would logically fall under the sympathetic influence of every other physical entity. And so, notoriously, they did. Instead of two independent abstract entities, we now had a single physical 'manifold' subject to every physical influence.
With Descartes, space and time were the frame of physics, but now the frame had been sucked into the action. The consequence would inevitably be dire. Overnight, our supposedly eternal universe became unstable to self-eradication. There could no longer be a gravitational balance. Now the space-time manifold could and would collapse as if under its own weight. Albert, in a desperate attempt to save the apparent cosmic stability, introduced his 'cosmological constant', and thereby committing, by his own later admission, the 'greatest blunder' of his life. As it turned out, the cosmic appearance would soon be saved by a very much more extravagant device: the notorious Big Bang, in whose shadow we now, oh so, contingently, and, yes, mysteriously, exist. End of story? Not on your life! But I cannot leave Albert unvindicated. Ironically, even the mind blowing extravagance of the Big Bang, it turns out, is not sufficient to save the celestial appearance. Oh, no! Albert's constant has now officially been exhumed, much to his posthumous, but now embarrassing, vindication.
Now begins the fun. It turns out that the physicists have not been able to leave bad enough alone. Things get worse, much worse. Do I chortle? Only with dramatic license, but I do sincerely admonish. There are lessons yet to be learned, even, and especially, by the most learned amongst us.
Matter bends space and time, but how? How does the space-time manifold know how much it is supposed to bend? That information must be communicated, somehow. Communication implies a transmitter and a receiver. Each elementary particle must be able to bend the entire universe, or else none will.
It seems that the choice is yours, and it is obligatory. You will get stuck to a tar baby, and there are only two around. There is the one made of atoms, and the other made of coherence. You pick up on one and let the other ride. All else is mere cacophony.
The materialists are stuck with the atomic baby. The more they struggle to overcome its incoherencies, the stickier it gets. I have spoken of the ultraviolet catastrophe or incoherence. We avoid an infinite mass for the electron by using the topology of supersymmetric non-Abelian gauge theory to turn the electron into a string of finite dimension, all eleven of them! No mean feat!
Next comes the infrared catastrophe. This is just the flip side of the UV problem. If I recall my history, the IR catastrophe was invoked prior to the advent of strings in order to explain quark confinement. That was about its only ever useful attribute. Otherwise, it spells nothing but Trouble. Physicists like to brag about how they finally solved the UV problem (2,500 hits), but they are pretty quiet about the IR problem (400 hits).
I see from the UV list, however, that I woefully neglected a major point. The cousin, or actually grandfather, to the UV catastrophe is the UV cut-off in the black-body radiation spectrum.
The Ultraviolet Catastrophe:
The first crack in the edifice of classical physics came with attempts to explain the colour of hot objects using classical physics and electromagnetism. The light from these objects is a mixture of different frequencies (colours). Observations reveal that such objects have a distinctive spectrum (pattern of energy distribution at different frequencies). However attempts to explain this in classical terms failed abjectly - they predicted instead that the amount of energy would tend towards infinity at the high-energy (violet) end of the spectrum - an ultraviolet catastrophe.
It was Max Plank in 1900 who 'solved' this problem by introducing the Quantum of light. Talk about the Big Sticky!
The UV problem turns out to be almost single-handedly responsible for the shape of modern physics. It is not subtle. The IR problem is more subtle. It is still sneaking up on us. The UV problems provoked most of modern physics; the IR problem provokes only hand waving. The UV problem is a photonic energy problem. The IR problem is just a photonic, or, as in the following example, a gravitonic population problem. It is also emblematic of the incoherence of atomism.
Let us return to our communication problem. Consider galactic superclusters. Our Milky Way galaxy belongs to the Virgo supercluster. Our local Andromeda group orbits within it. The superclusters can be hundreds of millions of light years in dimension, and contain upwards of a hundred thousand galaxies, all moving under a mutual gravitational attraction. Using high-school physics one may easily calculate a typical gravitational force exerted by the supercluster.
Moving on to graduate level physics we would say, following Einstein, that the gravitational force is transmitted by the bending of the space-time manifold, i.e. it is a bulk property of the manifold. Thus we have explained the phenomenon of supercluster gravitation. Should we not leave well enough alone? Perhaps we should have, but it is too late to turn back now. This is the atomic tar-baby in action.
The human mind seeks coherence, and this is true even for atomists. They did achieve an enormous success with the Grand Unified Theory of Howard Georgi and Sheldon Glashow, based on SU(5) symmetry. There was then, however, an irresistible temptation to quantize gravity. There was no way that the atomists could have walked away from this challenge. Only in retrospect might it be seen as leading to their undoing. The intellectual juggernaut of scientific materialism was not about to stop on a dime. And, besides, mere matter no longer mattered. It was the mathematically besotted Pythagorean physicists who would now lead the materialist parade to the brink, like so many Pied Pipers. Resistance was muted. Could their followers not see the looming Monster? There must have been great ambivalence inside the intellectual fortress of materialism, or was it hubris? The atomic tar-baby was now disguised in a mathematical garment of ravishing elegance.
Should we have been surprised by this turn of events?
[I return to gravitons briefly below.]
Indeed, what might we have expected from science with some educated hindsight?
Certainly the existence of atoms should have been no great surprise, having been anticipated for more than two millennia. Predicting the existence of rudimentary chemical reactions forming molecular compounds from the elemental atoms was equally a no brainer.
But could we have anticipated technology? Certainly not in the first instance, but let us examine the question further. If we had set out as materialists, in the footsteps of Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius, etc., and not been distracted by Cartesian dualism, then we could have anticipated significant aspects of the Anthropic problem. That is, without being able to appeal to a Creator or to an immaterial mind, there was going to be a lot of explaining to do. There would be placed upon matter a heavy explanatory burden. Without a Creator, there would have to be a gradual evolutionary process providing for the emergence of biological forms. There could then be a partition of the explanatory burden between evolution and its physical base.
Only gradually, over the course of science, has the enormous complexity of the world impressed itself upon our minds. There are two domains of complexity: the physical and the biological. Our understanding of the complexity in each of these domains has grown in an independent but parallel fashion. In the process of attempting to explain one fact, more facts requiring explanation come to light. As our technology evolves, our increasing observational acuity provides us with an ever more detailed picture of nature, with most every one of those details needing to be explained. As the scope of our knowledge expands, there is an exponential increase in the possible correlations in our data, many of which manifest significant patterns.
One of the potentially most significant correlations to be drawn is between biological and physical complexity. To what degree may the biological complexity be taken to be independent of the physical? Logically there must be some dependence, and the preliminary investigations of the anthropic problem indicate there could be a strong dependence. It certainly should not be surprising that there would be.
As our investigative tools become increasingly complex and sophisticated, the measurements they produce will be increasingly removed from and devoid of normal sensory experience. The patterns produced will correspondingly be recalcitrant to verbal description. The abstract nature of the data, and the desire for greater precision, require the quantitative collection and treatment of it. The resulting patterns will then only be amenable to mathematical treatment.
We then have to inquire about the complexity of mathematics, and particularly concerning its correlation with biological and physical complexity. What of our capacity for mathematical cognition? A universal computer or Turing machine is, conceptually, an exceedingly simple device; yet, such devices are able to perform enormously complex feats of calculation and analysis. Their complexity resides almost entirely in the software. Mathematics could be an entirely learned skill. The only issue would be the nature of our learning capacity. The consensus is that our learning capacity is strongly correlated to the complexity of our nervous system.
It occurs to me that I may have been asking improper questions. I have, for instance, asked how it is that mathematics and physics come to be related to each other. That is not a proper question for an immaterialist. The proper question is how did we come to think of them as being somehow separated. Was it merely an accident of our intellectual history that we came to regard mathematics and physics as separate entities?
The impropriety of this question came to light in the above discussion of complexity. In the primal context there would not be separate types of complexity. Ur-complexity, like the ur-cycle or Z-cycle, emerges from the Matrix all of a piece. It is later that we come to see it as existing in diverse contexts. Complexity is the entanglement of diversity. A diverse Creation will necessarily be complex. The complexity will appear in a holographic or holistic fashion. Only as we analyze the holograph does the complexity takes on its analytic guises. It could then appear in the form of the Mandelbrot, the Monster Group, proteomics, string theory, neuroscience, etc. Complexity arises as we extract, or abstract the QRP from the AZO. The emphasis here is on 'we'. 'We' designates the cosmic intelligence of which we humans may represent the greater part.
This shift in emphasis from the part back to the whole may signal a significant shift in, or perhaps a tightening up of, our explanatory and narrational strategy, and that would certainly be the case with regard to the scientific aspect of the story. It simply appears that I was not being sufficiently consistent in my storytelling. I was too easily backsliding into the analytic, atomistic mindset. Does this mean, however, that it will be more difficult to speak to the scientists? That remains to be seen. Inconsistency, though, is seldom beneficial, and especially not when communicating difficult ideas. There will be some reshuffling here as our ducks get a realignment.
It is the math/physics separation that we should be discussing, not the connection. In regard to our strategy, perhaps a Piagetian approach to a developmental cosmic psychology would be appropriate. On second thought, my dialectical, transactional, constructivist, structuralist approach to developmental cosmic psychology may be closer to that of Lev Vygotsky. But let's drop the name dropping for a bit.
The archetypes emerge in constructivist fashion, first AZO, then QRP, with the latter emergence being mediated by X. The separation of Q & P is at issue, with their representation of physics and math, respectively. Together, and along with the bio-cycles, R, they are, 'following' AZO, emerging from the Matrix. It is the zodiacal transactions that do most of the pushing. The incarnational aspect is being mediated by X into R, which then differentiates into physics and math.
I'm getting into even deeper water than usual. I struggle, I flounder, but can I turn back?
The zodiac speaks to phylogeny. A, O & X speak to regeneration. With R we have a reproductive ontogeny on the macro side of the bio-cycle. X & Q speak to incarnation and the bridge between mind and matter. Now we just have to take these, along with Pi, and spin a yarn, but I'm still missing the primal constructs for Q & P.
Q & P are both involved with cycles, projections and symmetries, and let us not forget the quantum 'trinity' of e^i*pi. But I still don't see a yarn. Z & R are cycles, simpliciter. A, O, X, Q and P are crucially and disparately involved in the completion of circuits. P may be a stand-in for X in the mathematical domain. The lack of full symmetry here may be crucial to the dynamic; however, Q & P may be related to A & O, respectively. The Matrix, A and Q express potentiality, and exhibit indefiniteness. They are sources of being. Under the influence of Z, O, X, P and R, Creation is played out on various levels. P operates through Q to enable R. X, P, Q and R are strongly involved with anthropics and incarnation. Pi, particularly in the form of e^i*pi, and operating on M & Q, generates the symmetries that are subsequently broken. These symmetries include those of atomic and particle physics.
I will be away for a few days, and in the meantime I have been reviewing the role of memory. I am further inclined to discount memory in favor of direct perception of other times. Our singular Creation is forever. Access to it is restricted to various modes. Time asymmetry is subjective.
I was going to say that the substance of atoms was related to memory, but that it too restrictive, by the foregoing atemporal hypothesis. Now I can only reiterate that being is relative, mainly to the cosmic self. This is the omnipresent cosmic self, of which we are the reflective agents. Our participation in that presence has been greatly attenuated, but now it will becoming less so, as we gain in our gnosis. Technology facilitates this change, but only at the behest of the spirit. Our sense of temporality is a measure of the attenuation of our perceptions. The archetypes should remain unscathed by this continued downplaying of the temporality of Creation. The logical role of the Logos is unaffected by this issue. The cyclical or circuitous nature of being is emphasized thereby.
Still struggling to line up my loose ducks. The time away has left me with a desire to return to the basics of mind and matter, leaving alone the archetypes, for the nonce.
Meanwhile, I must note the recent review of Simon Conway Morris's new book, Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. It is a surprise to see Morris's explicitly theistic resurrection of a Lamarckian style of teleological convergence, even being neutrally reviewed in the NY Times. He digs up many not previously collated examples of convergent evolution. The Darwinians are accused of treating this evidence with a not so benign neglect. The personal conflict between Darwin and Lamarck has left its scars on the history of biology. Morris points to the 'self-congratulatory atheism' of many modern Darwinians. He takes pains, however, to distance himself from the creationists.
One reviewer takes Morris to task for not giving sufficient credence to the self-organizing ability of matter. We are entitled to wonder anthropically, however, about the extent to which this ability must be based upon the intricacy of the mathematical symmetries which actually comprise what we so glibly refer to as 'matter'. Where would biochemistry be without the Monster as its platform?
A notable link between mind and matter lies in the notion of complexity. The epistemology and ontology of complexity must be closely correlated. Mathematical complexity resides on this divide. Scientific realism pushes us to the side of ontology, even at the expense of forcing us to embrace Pythagoreanism. Why so much complexity in the world? Is there an optimal complexity? How does the value of diversity weigh into this equation? Are our seven archetypes sufficient to account for the complexity?
I find this abstract (Complexity International, 2001) useful, coming from a pickle maker, no less, Russell Standish:
Numerous definitions for complexity have been proposed over the last half century, with little consensus achieved on how to use the term. A definition of complexity is supplied here that is closely related to the Kolmogorov Complexity and Shannon Entropy measures widely used as complexity measures, yet addresses a number of concerns raised against these measures. However, the price of doing this is to introduce context dependence into the definition of complexity. It is argued that such context dependence is an inherent property of complexity, and related concepts such as entropy and emergence. Scientists are uncomfortable with such context dependence, which smacks of subjectivity, and this is perhaps the reason why little agreement has been found on the meaning of these terms.
And from the same paper:
Emergence is that other area of complex systems study that has experienced controversy and confusion. Its importance stems from the belief that emergence is the key ingredient that makes a system a complex system. Putting things colloquially, emergence is the concept of some new phenomenon arising in a system that wasn’t in the system’s specification to start with. There is some considerable debate as to how this happens, or whether emergence can truly happen within a formal system such as an agent-based model Rosen, 1999; Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1994.
These references lead me to a Virginia locale (VCU, VT (N.B. the ouroboric logo)) for biosemiotics. This might provide us, over here, with a counterweight to Santa Fe. A site search at Santa Fe for biosemiotics comes up empty handed. This is more than a bit odd, more than just an oversight.
The ouroboros is used above as a symbol of semantic closure. What is the simplest system exhibiting this property? According to Godel, it is just the arithmetic system. This is not quite accurate.
According to Alexei Sharov:
Biologists may ask why to use semiotic terminology in simple population models? In particular, why to talk about semantic closure instead of self-reproduction? "Self-reproduction" seems to be a convenient term that does not have uncertainties associated with signs or semantics. But this simplicity is illusive; self-reproduction includes the word "self" which comes from the field of semiotics rather than physics or biology. In the process of self-reproduction, an organism defines itself; in other words, self is what is preserved in the process of self-reproduction. Self-reproduction is simultaneously a process of self-measurement, self-interpretation, and communication from parents to offspring.
Semantic closure entails the big R, as in AZO/X/QRP. The minimally complex system exhibiting self-referential symmetry in a metabolic context would entail QRP.
But what is communication and what are signs? We are used to these terms because we use signs in our everyday life. But is it possible to define a sign without referencing to humans? I am going to show that this is possible using the conception of semantic closure (Pattee 1995).
I demur: thus X. The simplest 'autonomous' system would include X/QRP. And why metabolism? The quick answer invoked symmetry. The only way to go much beyond the complexity of Z is to use the ordering principles of space-time. Relationalism in this context is enforced through metabolic constraints, as in R. The aesthetics of naturalism quickly lead to anthropics and then to MG and so back to Pi. I am just reminding myself of the BPW aspects of complexity. There would be no need for greater complexity unless we wanted to go beyond our allotted 10^10 souls. There are ample aesthetic reasons to restrain ourselves in this respect.
Back to mind and matter. Does complexity entail mind, or is it spontaneously emergent? As Alexei proposes, might we have semantic closure without X? Even the most radical biosemioticians, at best, seem only to invoke a diluted panpsychism, not unlike the quantum mind crowd. I must show that panpsychism is incoherent. Of course, I have been arguing this all along.
Let's see what Howard Pattee has to say, Artificial life needs a real epistemology (1995): :
Life is peculiar, said Jeremy. As compared with what? asked the spider.
When a problem persists, unresolved, for centuries in spite of enormous increases in our knowledge, it is a good bet that the problem entails the nature of knowledge itself. The nature of life is one of these problems. Life depends on matter, but life is not an inherent property of matter. Life is peculiar, obviously, because it is so different from nonliving matter. It is different, not so obviously, because it realizes an intrinsic epistemic cut between the genotype and phenotype. Our knowledge of physics, chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, development, and evolution is enormous, but the question persists: Do we really understand how meaning arises from matter? Is it clear why nonliving matter following inexorable universal laws should acquire symbolic genes that construct, control, and evolve new functions and meanings without apparent limit? In spite of all this knowledge, most of us still agree with Jeremy.
A good statement of the problem.
Metaphysical questions, like whether reality is material, formal, or mental, are empirically undecidable, but nevertheless, discussion of these concepts are an important part of scientific discovery. Historically we have seen concepts of reality shifting ground and new horizons discovered, especially with the advent of quantum theory, computation theory, and cosmology. The question is: Can artificial life add some new ideas to the problem of knowledge and the epistemic cut or will it only increase the confusion?
Ditto. My quarrel with the biosemioticians is that they do not take relations and holism with sufficient seriousness. My contention is that the minimal semantic (ouroboric) closure is just AZO/X/QRP. Attend to the singularity of the BPW. There can be no lesser worlds than the BPW. Even I had been wondering if God would need to intervene to abort lesser (spontaneous?) creations. I think not. They would be self-abortive. Relationally, they could exist only as appendages to the BPW. Their only identity would be in their functional relevance to the BPW, e.g. certain angelic orders. Otherwise any contingently incorporated selves are welcome to join the big metabolic party. Such subsystems exist mainly in the cosmic imagination, e.g. Jurassic Parc. The BPW is unanalyzable. Our AZO/X/QRP mnemonic is just that, a mnemonic.
Occasionally Pi threatens to detach itself from our metabolic party, in some Platonic fashion. Not to worry, God keeps Pi on a short leash, or, at least, in a small boat. In short, the BPW is its own relational tar baby. You can't live without it. It would be like taking a fish out of water, or a materialist out of a space-time manifold.
It seems as if the world could fall apart at any minute. The more realistic concern is that it might fall together. But neither is truly possible. All things in due course, i.e. according to script. If you wish to see an atomized God, just look in the mirror.
Speaking of atoms, perhaps I should reiterate the graviton problem. How does it differ from the photon problem? What is the difference between seeing stars and being gravitationally attracted to them, from a purely (fictitious!) physical perspective? The retina can do a sum over photons to allow perception of the dimmest stars. Not too big a deal. Photonic emission and absorption are strictly a surface phenomena, and they involve putatively real photons. Gravity is a volume phenomenon involving putatively virtual gravitons. There is no emission to speak of, or even to think about. The gravitons hang in the air, probabilistically. Who calculates the probabilities? That's my problem. Strictly, this is not different for photons, but it underlines the problem in the most emphatic manner possible.
One can do the mathematical physics of a sand pile, without seemingly having to invoke any notion of micro-computation on the part of the individual grains. They just do their physical stuff. But in speaking of quarks and virtual gravitons, we must appeal to much more abstract symmetries. Each potential interaction necessarily invokes the whole of the Monster Group, which, recall, is quite as bulky as Jupiter. The number of potential types of interaction at any instant is then the bulk of Jupiter times the bulk of the Super Cluster emission volume, measured also in quarks. If you think that Times Square is busy, well, think about what is going on in the micro space of every single quark in your body, 24x7. This is panpsychism with a terrible vengeance. Imagine trying to describe this to a child. Would she not think you were pulling her leg? By God, somebody around here is doing a lot of leg pulling, and if you think it's me, well, better check again! Can no one else see that this King is naked? Here endeth the graviton story.
But we must go beyond panpsychism. Three centuries of science have been expended in removing the psyche from nature. Its success remains controversial. The psyche is slippery. It keeps slipping back in. It seems to haunt every dark corner, and some corners that aren't so dark. It keeps being swept under the rug, but soon it piles up, for all but the doggedly oblivious.
Nature has been carved into myriad specialized fields. None of the fields logically overlaps. On every boundary accumulate the leavings of the psyche. The apparent messiness of the academic situation is simply an artifact of the analytic process, pushed well beyond its design limits. We proceed to trace the leavings of the psyche, attempting to track it into its lair.
The fact of the matter is that we can define neither complexity nor computation objectively. They are ineluctably functional and normative. Thus the biosemiotic loop must include the subject. Panpsychism does not fit this bill. It is not sufficiently relational or holistic. The Telos may not be deconstructed. It is an all or nothing proposition. We cannot look our gifted, ouroboric Telos in the mouth. All cycles are a spin-off of Z. Every one is functional and contextual; none can exist beyond the orbit of the Big Seven. That is truly beyond the pale.
The biosemioticians would like to take their holism in measured doses. Someone will finally convince them that immaterialism is not a twelve-step program. There is an emphatic gestalt switch here which may not be avoided. You either get it or you don't. When it comes to breaking the habit of materialism, you just have to go cold-turkey.
Why does our millenarian script have to include this quantum jump of the mind? Frankly it makes for a better story, IMO. We have to turn over a new leaf. This was meant to be a dramatic cosmos. And it is. Even the most refined of equilibria must be punctuated on occasion. This is one of those. This will be our paradigmatic asteroid, out of the blue.
Will this trauma be too much for the collective psyche? It will push the envelope of our 'sanity' to its limits. That is just how it was designed from the git go. We are given the opportunity to clear the pipes of our psyches. This is an opportunity we will not wish to refuse. Waking up from the slumber of materialism will require more than a gentle tap. But we must be confident that the only violence will be to our misconceiving egos. There will be no call for, or tolerance of, any other duress.
What about the more colloquial or mundane adjuncts of materialism? I would like to have more to say about the cultural aspects of the Millennium, but I am not feeling disposed to transgress my metaphysical calling, for whatever it may be worth. Once we see the general direction we're headed, the path will be relatively easy to discern.
In the terminology of Howard Pattee, if the epistemic cut is arbitrary, then we have no business making it at all. The incoherence of the epistemic cut is simply the incoherence of Cartesian dualism. The further we push that cut into matter, the more we must appeal to a unifying cosmic psyche. There is no such thing as half a psyche. Even the dimmest of psyches must partake of that logical whole. Only its access is limited.
Semantic closure must finally be all inclusive. The many sub-loops can convey only partial or tentative meaning and information. The further that any loop becomes detached from the totality, the less becomes its coherence. This all inclusiveness is just the hallmark of natural intelligence as opposed to its artificial interlopers. Accept no substitutes.
Howard Pattee, Evolving self-reference: matter, symbols, and semantic closure (1993):
A theory of emergent or open-ended evolution that is consistent with the epistemological foundations of physical theory and the logic of self-reference requires complementary descriptions of the material and symbolic aspects of events. The matter-symbol complementarity is explained in terms of the logic of self-replication, and physical distinction of laws and initial conditions. Physical laws and natural selection are complementary models of events. Physical laws describe those invariant events over which organisms have no control. Evolution by natural selection is a theory of how organisms increase their control over events. A necessary semantic closure relation is defined relating the material and symbolic aspects of organisms capable of open-ended evolution.
Howard was considered courageous among biologists just for attempting to delve into these murky issues. I now have to refute his bold effort.
[...] self-reference that has open-ended evolutionary potential is an autonomous closure between the dynamics (physical laws) of the material aspects and the constraints (syntactic rules) of the symbolic aspects of a physical organization. I have called this self-referent relation semantic closure (Pattee, 1982) because only by virtue of the freely selected symbolic aspects of matter do the law-determined physical aspects of matter become functional (i.e., have survival value, goals, significance, meaning, self-awareness, etc.).
I have emphasized in many papers (e.g., Pattee, 1969, 1972, 1982) that the matter-symbol distinction is not only an objective basis for defining life but a necessity condition for open-ended evolution.
Like all dualisms, this must be incoherent. Is not a symbol just about the least objective thing in the world?
Biologists call this matter-symbol distinction the phenotype and genotype. Computationalists call this the hardware-software distinction. Philosophers elevate this distinction to the brain-mind problem. What is not as well known is that even in the formulation of physical theories a form of matter-symbol distinction is necessary to separate laws and initial conditions.
Nice try, Howard.
For my argument here, I will mean by matter and energy those aspects of our experience that are normally associated with physical laws. These laws describe those events that are as independent of the observer as possible, i.e., independent of initial conditions. The laws themselves are moot until we provide the initial conditions by a process of measurement. Laws and measurements are necessarily distinct categories. Laws do not make measurements, individuals make measurements. Measurement is an intentional act that has local significance and hence involves symbolic aspects usually in the form of a numerical record. This is the physical basis of the matter-symbol distinction.
You have just begged the whole issue, Howard. Since when is a measurement physical? In that sense, initial conditions are not physical, they are normative. Laws are also symbolic and normative. Where is the distinction? Where is the physics? If there is any physics, which I doubt, it must be a Kantian noumenon. Everything you speak of is phenomenal. The initial condition for the cosmos must be something like our AZO/X/QRP. Nothing less will ever fly. Nothing less could have semantic closure. There is no epistemic cut. Everything is episteme. The only substance to the world is its relational coherence. That coherence is the present noumenon and then the ultimate phenomenon, as it is finally, eschatologically revealed.
From the origin of life and evolutionary perspective the most difficult problem is how material structures following physical laws with no function or significance were gradually harnessed by syntactical rules to provide function and significance as symbols (e.g., Pattee, 1969; 1992). I will not say much more about the origin problem here. For several reasons, one of which is its difficulty, the origin of symbols is not considered one of the central problems in any area of philosophy or science. Another reason is that for most scientific models it is not necessary to know the nature or origin of symbols. Natural language, logic, mathematical symbol systems, and computers are most commonly treated simply as well-developed tools, and for most models there is no need to ask how they originated.
Thank you for your honesty, Howard. But is this not throwing in the towel? Are you not then whistling in the dark? How will you know if you are looking at the problem backwards, upside down and inside out? You are ripping out some of the scraps, treating them entirely out of context, all in the name of scientific progress. Why not just give coherence a chance?
[...] Material reductions are certainly one necessary type of model for understanding symbol systems.
However, I am not a reductionist in the sense of those who claim that symbols are "nothing but" matter. "Nothing but" implies that the only model that is required to understand symbols is a complete materialist or physical law model. Reductionists are generally happy when they have discovered the material correlates of higher level behavior. My position is that no complete physical description of these material structures, although correct in all details, will tell us all we need to know about their symbolic function.
[...] I will only elaborates on the well-established value of using complementary models without entering into the undecidable metaphysical issue of which model represents reality. Complementary models are well- known in physics. Particle and wave, microscopic and macroscopic, deterministic and stochastic, coarse and fine grained, reversible and irreversible models are necessary for fully understanding any complex system. Rosen (1977) has usefully defined a measure of system complexity by the number of models that we require to adequately under stand its behavior.
Well, somebody will eventually have to address the metaphysics. To assume that you can do the physics without the metaphysics is to presuppose a non-contextuality. This is just to prejudge the whole ball game.
Symbols are difficult to define in any simple way because symbols are functional, and function cannot be ascribed to local structures in isolation. The concept of symbol, like the more general concept of function, has no intrinsic meaning outside the context of an entire symbol system [...]
The concepts of closure and entirety are virtually synonymous. Gnosis and coherence are all or nothing. We are able to survive on scraps of knowledge only because the noumenal coherence acts as our invisible hand, on all levels of our existence. We put up with ignorance only because we can imagine no alternative.
The reason that laws cannot describe symbol function, or any function, is because we specifically restrict physical laws to describe only those properties of matter that are, by principles of invariance and symmetry, as independent of observers and individual measurements as possible, as I stated in Sec. 2. This is necessary to achieve the characteristic universality of laws. Symbols, by contrast, are generated with few physical restrictions but are eventually selected for their contribution to the survival of individual units in a local environment.
Is the contradiction in these two sequential definitions of symbol not perfectly stark? For Howard, contextuality seems entirely fungible. Survival is sometimes a local issue. Evolution, by definition, cannot be. By not paying attention to the metaphysics, Howard loses the thread of any logic. Without a compass, you are bound to walk in circles.
Of course if one believes that everything is a computation, or that by improving simulations they will eventually become realizations then one sees no matter-symbol problem (Pattee, 1988). At the other extreme there are physical reductionists who see symbols only as an illusion, like phlogiston and the ether, that will be unnecessary when an adequate material description of symbolic behavior is found (e.g., Churchland, 1981; Crick, 1993).
From Complexity to Simplicity: Nature and Symbols, Arantza Etxeberria & Alvaro Moreno(1999):
The question is: do control constraints arise spontaneously? Many researchers expect that the science of the future will explain the evolutionary transition leading to closed organizations solely by means of physical, dynamical theories, such as self-organization. Although this may seem to be the ideal kind of explanation, Pattee’s work, in fact, aims to show that such explanation is not possible, because there are in principle problems to reconstruct the causal sequence leading to the production of a control hierarchy and its typical interactions.
I'd like to see someone pick up on this point. It is not clear from this statement whether the problem is only epistemological or is actually ontological. Is Pattee alleging that the origin of constraints is a case of 'strong emergence'?
Once again I find that biosemioticians are masters in the avoidance of metaphysical commitment. The state of the art of this avoidance may be witnessed in a collection of essays noted just one year ago. This avoidance is in the venerable tradition of the 'linguistic turn' in philosophy where the strategy is to talk every problem to death. Is this not what semantics is for: Rhetoric?
Organicism, functionalism and biosemiotics are non-reductive in a similar fashion. They take emergent properties seriously, while downplaying their ontological commitments. They must all, however, deal with with the problem of closure. It is here that they stumble. Howard Pattee emphasizes closure more than the others, and yet he fails to do it justice. Closure is a more emphatic instance of holism. It embraces coherence.
The bone I must pick is with the notion of partial or local closure. There is the local pluralism of Pattee & Co., or there is the global monism of the BPW sort. When Quine introduced semantic holism to the philosophical community, it was not of the partial or local variety. Anything less than a complete holism ought to verge on the oxymoronic, one would think. Yet, somehow, the problem of completeness has eluded the biosemioticians. The reason must be that they remain committed to evolution. They see biological holism or organicism as an emergent property. It is something that can reemerge and operate in a local context.
More directly put, the biosemioticians remain anti-teleological. In like manner, they eschew vitalism. To do otherwise would be to invite a confrontation with the biological establishment, a development that this already fringe group could ill-afford. Into their silence, we must venture.
Naturalism is the defining term here:
Naturalism, as a larger category than materialism, can give a more credible account for moral realism than the narrower thesis of materialism. Naturalists that allow for essences and teleology can account for morality as part of human flourishing and natural properties of the universe, but this requires a pluralist ontology. Naturalism in a classic sense of this word (ala Aristotle) is a "thick" naturalism that holds that things have natures and essences. Value is irreducible to physical properties. Value, such as moral properties, can be found in natures; fact and value are linked, and morality flows from this view. It is metaphysically and normatively rich.
The teleology (a) mentioned here must be highly restricted: a minimalist teleology. This 'thick' naturalism is what the biosemioticians are attempting to reintroduce, as a pluralistic counter to reductive, monistic materialism, or simply physicalism. That there is a slippery slope from naturalism to supernaturalism is evidenced by the wariness with which the materialists treat these back-sliding neo-naturalists.
Let us reconsider Quine's language model. Natural language is the model of a complete, holistic system, and, yet, supposedly, it did evolve ex nihilo. It is an entirely emergent system. Or is it? Once again, I must demur.
I submit that natural language could have evolved only in the context of a organismic or holistic natural intelligence, only in a society of conscious agents. I apply the same model to the 'emergence' of biology. I do not accept the notion that language and thought are synonymous. There must exist archetypes of the form of AZO/X/QRP well beyond the confines of space and time, as the necessarily anthropic context of Creation.
Jaegwon Kim's critique of non-reductive physicalism still stands, but his 1989 'Myth of Non-reductive Materialism' is not available online. Instead, we may examine William Hasker's How Not To Be A Reductivist, (2003):
"Non-reductive" accounts of mentality are relatively common these days; it is widely recognized that certain kinds of reductivism should be avoided. However, on closer examination it often turns out that these accounts are reductive after all in a way that undermines the significance of mentality – and, it will be argued, results in a position that is in the end simply untenable. Not being a reductivist requires going further in the other direction than a great many philosophers are willing to go.
Bill has an interesting thesis, but first I must apologize for missing an important book: The Last Word by Thomas Nagel (1997). Check out the last chapter, "Evolutionary Naturalism and the Fear of Religion," by searching on 'religion':
My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and design as fundamental features of the world. (p. 131)
And this coming from a staunch anti-theist. Then referring to Charles Peirce's fervent naturalism:
The reason I call this view alarming is that it is hard to know what world picture to associate it with, and difficult to avoid the suspicion that the picture will be religious, or quasi-religious. . . . Even without God, the idea of a natural sympathy between the deepest truths of nature and the deepest layers of the human mind, which can be exploited to allow gradual development of a truer and truer conception of reality, makes us more at home in the universe than is secularly comfortable. (pp. 129-30)
[...] I suspect there is a deep seated aversion in the modern "disenchanted" Weltanschauung to any ultimate principles that are not dead -- that is, devoid of any reference to the possibility of life or consciousness. (p. 133)
But as Mark Johnson has said to me, if one asks, ‘Why is the natural order such as to make the appearance of rational beings likely?’ it is very difficult to imagine any answer to the question that is not teleological" (p. 138 n.).
Thomas is not pulling any punches here. Certainly there is a refreshing honesty coming from the academic heartland, a turn that I had almost discounted.
As effectively as anyone, William Hasker and Thomas Nagel have described the awkwardness of academia's attempt to disentangle itself from the centuries of its deconstructive reductionism. The slipperiness of the reconstructive slope is what makes this incipient back-sliding so problematic for the otherwise thoroughly secular mind. Once you let the teleological genie out of its bottle, God only knows what havoc may be wrought.
In grappling with teleology you are, very simply, grappling with a tar-baby. My entire thesis is just that there can be no teleology without a singular Telos, which, quite logically, is precisely the BPW. It is not particularly controversial to point out that virtually any form of non-reductionism is latently, if not patently, teleological. Thus it is impossible for the materialists to retreat into a 'thick' naturalism without finding themselves falling under the influence of the Great Attractor that is the Telos. Kim and Nagel acknowledge this fact reluctantly, Hasker enthusiastically. The rest of the intelligentsia? They remain stoically silent. Something will break their silence, and not long hence.
We ought to wonder where are William's theological colleagues. The paper to which I have referred has been published by ISCID &ff., ironically an organization with which I recently interacted. Perhaps we can trace Bill's theological connections through it. Two of his books were previously published by IVP, and two others by Cornell. This is hardly a low profile theologian. Here is a critique of his 'emergent dualism'. Let me examine the ISCID journal for any other traces of the Great Attractor.
The first paper in the same issue as William's is Timothy O'Connor's Groundwork for an Emergentist Account of the Mental. He defends an ontological account of emergence in place of the more prevalent epistemological accounts. As for the reason for the disparity:
(I have the impression in discussing this matter with other philosophers that many think that if there were emergent properties, they would be ubiquitous in nature, appearing at many or all importantly unified levels of natural organization. This strikes me as a groundless judgment.) More generally, the commitment to micro-reducibility, particularly among philosophers, is partly an overreaction to the now falsified crude conception of levels of nature propounded by early emergentists, one based in a much simpler picture of higher-level phenomena than we have at present.
Well, pardon my 'false crudeness'. So much for coherence! On the last two pages of the paper, Tim grapples with the emergence of selves:
Taking the phenomena of freedom of choice seriously brings yet further difficulties. It appears to involve the idea of a fundamentally personal causal capacity to initiate behavior for the sake of reasons. If there is such a capacity in normally-functioning, mature human beings, one should be able to determine the precise underlying properties on which this distinctive capacity depends. Conversely, what structural transformations in the human nervous system would result in long-standing (or permanent) loss of this capacity?
Is there to be a recognizable personal self in Tim's ontology? If so, is that not a folksy or 'crude' kind of emergence? He seems to waffle on this point. If one admits a unified human self, have not the worst fears of the materialists and secularists very nearly been realized?
In the third paper in this issue, Functionalism Without Physicalism: Outline of an Emergentist Program, Robert Koons defends his own 'neo-functionalism':
There are two critical differences between Functionalism and Neo-Functionalism. First, as I have said above, Neo-Functionalism rejects the causal closure of the domain of first-order physical states. Neo-Functionalism embraces genuine, emergent downward causation, causation that makes an ineliminable difference to the objective chance of physical events. Second, unlike Functionalism, Neo- Functionalism is not committed to denying that mental states lack any intrinsic character. For Neo-Functionalism, higher-order, mental and other teleological states are first-class citizens of the ontology, not an ontological free lunch. These higher-order properties have instances in their own right -- they are not merely instantiated by virtue of the instantiation of other, first-order properties.
It would be hard to be more ontologically committed than this.
In fact, in Realism Regained, I gave several arguments for thinking that it is effect-tropes that necessitate their causes, and not vice versa.
Can anyone be more blatantly teleological? Robert goes on to employ the Principle of Least Action (LAP) in physics as a model for mentally mediated teleology. This is his TPE, Teleological Propensity Enhancement, model. Darn, why didn't I think of that? Indeed, our BPW may be viewed as a ramified LAP/TPE on the cosmic level. I had better flesh this out, in due course. I do speak only semi-facetiously of God's laziness, or, more accurately, her minimalist proclivity w.r.t. Creation. This is just the Tom (Becky?) Sawyer model of Creation.
I'm getting a clearer picture now of why my rear end got canned over at the ISCID forum back when. There is some pretty direct competition going down here. They promote a piecemeal paradigm shift. I'm holding out for a piece of prophetic drama, i.e. millenarian revelation. You takes your choice and you places your bet. Where's Jimmy the Greek when we need him? Les jeux sont fait?
Robert may just be my most formidable competition in this moderate crowd. But where does he sit w.r.t. the BPW? His evolutionary ontogeny ('emergent dualism'?) is pretty much in the mold of the moderate ASA. When the IDers latch onto this Neo-functionalism and TPE business, they are more likely to make a federal (cosmic, cosmogonic) case out of it. They're not going to like the BPW metaphysics, but it won't be so easy for them to avoid it, especially not if I have anything to say about it. Are they not already out sniffing in these precincts?
The ones who are missing in action are the Christian idealists, i.e. Jack & Co. at Oxford, not to mention Owen. Have they left no remnant? Even the Christian Science immaterialists have fallen on hard times. The closest to such a remnant, outside of the pantheist tradition, may be the New Thought Movement of 'religious idealists'. It now seems to include some process theology as well. Actually I'm impressed with this NTM home page. What's going on here? Has the action picked up since their Bicentennial conference? I notice, however, that Alan's featured New Thought Alliance links (Clearwater, Scientology??) are inactive. At present, the NTM seems to exist mainly in Alan's mind. It would take some sleuthing to find another focus. And while on the subject of Christian idealism, consider this review of a critique of Jacob Böhme. It may be that transcendentalism remains the primary refuge of theistic idealism. My hometown of Concord, MA, was once its radical source on these shores. However, transcendentalism seems to have devolved into a diffuse literary movement whose main successor was theistic existentialism.
Consider, however, American idealism (3,700 hits). Here is an excellent set of reviews (August 2003) (mostly from the British perspective) of this Anglo-American tradition. The roster is impressive, and one can catch a sense of excitement in many of the abstracts. Clearly there is a sense of movement and anticipation. Let us not disappoint. We need to get hold of these papers. It almost seems to have been a revival meeting! Leslie Armour is a contemporary (Canadian) idealist of note. The dearth of U.S. participation here or the lack of an equivalent domestic collection may be significant.
I will need to review McTaggart:
J. M. E. McTaggart would readily qualify as a personalist on the grounds that he held that ultimate reality consists of a society of persons. But his personalism is deflationary since he does not recognise the necessity for one controlling Person. He recognises the Absolute, but this Absolute is not a person. It is a unity of persons but not a personal unity. Second, an attempts is made to point out that J. M. E. McTaggart is negative on the idea of a personal , creative God. To affirm the reality of a creative God would mean to affirm the reality of time - and this is something that he rejects.
One can see why evangelicals are wary of idealism. My effort to resolve these potential contradictions remains to be tested. My absolute is the Matrix, a proto-person. Now there's an ugly expression!
In the meantime, and in parallel, I am reexamining Thoughts on Thinking Matter by James Barham, the self-same paper that got me into trouble on the ISCID forum. Is the gap between biosemiotics and idealism conceptual or just professional in nature?
The Anglo-American version was the last refuge of the continental Idealism that focused on Hegel. This refuge, however, was wasted by the World Wars. It seems that the fates of Idealism and idealism are closely related. Can the former be revived in the midst our anti-idealist zeitgeist. That is the trick. And you must see Thomas Friedman's American Idol on this latter.
A connection between Robert Koons and the IDers is Robert's lengthy review of William Dembski's book, No Free Lunch (2001):
As new data about the specified complexity pours in, especially from computer-driven analyses of the functional regions in the configurational space of proteins, the informational challenge to Darwinism should soon reach a critical level. At that point, even the best efforts by the biological establishment to squash this challenge through name-calling, bullying, and stonewalling (which have already been so much in evidence) will be doomed to failure.
There is no doubt of Robert's creationist sympathies. His espousal of their cause is not reciprocated, however. The IDers and creationists pay scant attention to the more subtle philosophical issues being raised by Koons & Co. The IDers posture themselves as hard-nosed scientists and wish to engage in a direct confrontation with their materialist colleagues. From their perspective, philosophy just muddies the waters. I have noted on previous occasions that the creationists are emphatic Cartesian dualists. Their God is the big Mechanic in the sky. The Matrix is the very last thing they want to hear about. So, no, I don't think we should hold our breath waiting for the creationists to become born again immaterialists or non-dualists. We'll have to look elsewhere for co-conspirators.
We might wonder whether there are any other non-dualistic creationists on the Internet:
non-dualistic creationist OR non-dualistic theist OR non-dualistic theism OR non-dualistic creationism (0 hits).
Not yet, evidently. What will it take to turn this situation around?
It is one of the great, if not the greatest, historical ironies that (Western) rationalism bases itself on the irrationality of dualism, while it is the 'mystics' who have adopted the coherence of non-dualism as the basis of their mysticism. It is as if there were an historical conspiracy to avoid, until the propitious time, the only possible foundation for coherence and rationality: non-dualistic theism. It must be part of the script of our self-concealing, self-revealing, dramaturgical God.
The Hindu creation story comes closest to what I have in mind. Here is a quote from Joseph Campbell:Vishnu is pictured as the divine dreamer of the world dream. Vishnu sleeps on a great serpent, whose name is Ananta [ouroboros, no doubt], which means “Endless.” The serpent floats on the universal ocean, called the Milky Ocean. But this Milky Ocean and the Serpent and the sleeping God: these are all the same thing. They are three inflections of the same thing, and that thing can be thought of also as the subtle substance that the wind of the mind stirs into action when the universe of all these shifting forms is brought into being. Vishnu, the God, sleeps, and the activity of his mind stuff creates dreams, and we are all his dream: the world is Vishnu’s dream. And just as, in your dreams, all the images that you behold and all the people who appear are really manifestations of your own dreaming power, so are we all manifestations of Vishnu’s dreaming power. We are no more independent entities than the dream figures in our own dreams.
Howard Abrams then appends his own thoughts:
Do I really think we are nothing more than God’s dream? Perhaps. There are plenty of rabbinical and mythological references to God who dreams, thinks, or speaks, and the things come to be. Not much different, I suppose. I know, that is not the unsettling question here— Do I think we are not substantial, like a dream? Perhaps. Would explain a bit, don’t you agree?
But I like to put this myth on its sleepy head… is this world just an expression of our own dreams? A figment of our imagination. Clearly, our perception and interpretation is nothing more than cerebral projections on the stimulation of our senses. But this idea doesn’t diminish their worth!
I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction that alters our perception of reality. And it is nice that movies are trying to render those ideas, like that Truman Show or The Matrix. Does questioning reality, make it any less real? Perhaps. But it certainly makes it richer.
I agree. The only problem with the mystical tradition is that it eschews the obvious logic of the BPW. Only the prophetic tradition posits a unique Creation, which by implication must be the best possible world. The only problem with creationism is that it has become the exclusive domain, simply by intellectual default, of the very literal minded fundamentalists. Their literalism forces them into a dualistic, almost mechanistic interpretation of Creation. Theirs is the 'watchmaker' God. It will be a struggle to wrest Creation from their very tight grip. No, it will be a stealth operation, carried out right under their noses, here on the Internet. I know that I cannot be the only one in the world who is willing to gamble everything on coherence. I just keep blogging away here until that someone else shows up. Then I can retire. Right?
Vishnu & dream & world (17,000 hits). This is hardly an obscure idea on the Internet. So why does no one else in the prophetic tradition see this as the ticket to avoid our three-century-long struggle with the antinomies of Cartesian dualism? Does not everyone agree that the mind-brain problem is the unparalleled conundrum of modernism? There must be some great psychological barrier standing between us and coherence. Is it an unconscious fear of the eschatological implications concerning a final cosmic revelation? Anything less could hardly account for the magnitude of our aversion to what would otherwise be the most obvious of ideas.
I'm thinking further about the historical irony concerning monism, dualism, mysticism and rationalism, and especially about the choreography thereof.
Of all the spiritual luminaries in history, two personalities stand out: Buddha and Jesus. Have I not forgotten many other outstanding spiritual leaders: Mohammed, Moses, Lao Tse, Zoroaster, etc., etc.? Yes, and no. I'm just looking at the body count, or, more specifically at the effigy count. After Buddha and Jesus, who has the most effigies? I frankly have no idea. But this is unfair, you say. An Islamic effigy is a sacrilege. We could say that Mohammed was a modest being, but then perhaps, to paraphrase Winston, he had much reason for modesty. What were his reasons? Really just one reason: he was, by his own repeated admonition, just the messenger. Such was not the case with our dynamic duo. In both instances the medium emphatically was the message.
Reconsider our 'lazy', or least-action principled, optimizing Matrix. The dramaturgical nature of M is manifested in Z, the zodiacal cycle of psyches. We, along with our feathered and furry friends, are the incarnation of Z. Is that not enough drama? No. There has to be a plot line, a story, a metanarrative, a beginning, middle and end, if there is to be coherence. What then is the story, and who has the speaking parts? To a first approximation there is just the Hero. Between X and B, that figure is clearly X. What then of B and Mo, etc.? They have the supporting, conflicting roles. They provide the romantic-gothic twists and turns and flourishes.
What then is our hero? That depends on the optimal story-line. Can there be a better line than the soteriological one? We're still open to suggestions, anyone? Lacking such: hero = savior. This is not brain surgery, now is it?
And where do we place our protagonist: beginning, middle or end? Should X not have been at the end? Admittedly, this does get a bit tricky, but, to make a long story short, X goes in the middle, with the caveat of a another, final appearance. X is then bracketed mainly with B and Mo. To understand the convolutions of history, we had best start with this peculiar seeming bracketing.
The bracketing is mainly in the furtherance of diversity. With only this one BPW, we will need to work overtime to squeeze every last drop of diversity out of it. Does this not contradict the LAP? Yes, and no. Consider the gothicity of the Mandelbrot (z' = z^2 + C). Our mandel-braided world optimizes diversity and simplicity at the same time, using the generating formula of AZO/X/QRP. Ma(tricks) does not have to worry her pretty little head with the details, if she just gets the generating formula right. And Ma does give herself a cameo, that is just B, as I propose for the sake of argument. And Mo? Mo, dialectically would be the antithesis of B, in order, at least, not be be the antithesis of X. After that, history can pretty much take care of itself. In fact, that is what you and I are doing right here, just taking care of business, just wrapping things up, or is it just rapping?
I look toward the optimal reappearance of the hero. In the style of dialectics, this would be, finally, the antihero, or the anti-X. Perusers of these pages will know that my rap does not quite end there. I am an observer in the postmodern, quantum tradition. I know that mere observation is impossible. It is with no small relish that I attempt to make that point. The rest will just have to be history, or the end thereof.
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