Sunday, June 15, 2008

God, Intelligent Design, and Other Things that Cannot Not Be

Yes, I'm posting today. Why? Because I feel like it. Mrs. G. is leaving for mass, so I can keep going until Future Leader wakes up. Which could be any minute.

You may ask yourself, "that's strange. Why isn't Bob converting to Catholicism?" Well, perhaps I will someday. First of all, it's impossible for us to do it at the same time. Also, frankly, if I had my druthers, I think I would prefer something like Byzantine Catholicism, which seems to combine elements of Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism, which would be ideal for me. But it's not as if you can find one of those on every corner. Plus, it's a real commitment. You don't just run down the aisle and say "hallelujah, I'm saved." Look at Mrs. G. She has to attend 8:00 AM mass every Sunday for a full year before she even gets her decoder ring next Easter.

Anyway, at the end of yesterday's post I mentioned several books by the philosopher Errol Harris, which were instrumental in helping me to arrive at a total cosmic vision with no annoying shirttails hanging out the back. In reviewing his corpus, it looks like in recent years he might have taken a lurch into environmentalism and one-world government, but I cut him some slack, because I think he's like 100 years old.

Now, here is a man who has nothing whatsoever to do with the contemporary "intelligent design" debate, but was writing about these things in the 1950s. In this regard, I was totally convinced of the truth of what is now called ID way before it became a hot topic. The bottom line is that there are at least a dozen inviolable metaphysical reasons why reductionistic Darwinism cannot possibly be true, in that it cannot give an even minimally coherent and comprehensive account of human reality. The reasons are principial, not "accidental," meaning that they must be true. I first discovered these metaphysical principles, and only afterwards made the surprising discovery that these same principles are fully embodied in religious tradition, only given in symbolic and esoteric form.

To cite just one obvious example, Darwinism presupposes a certain very specific type of universe, and this is a universe that exhibits ontological wholeness rather than logical atomism. In other words, life presupposes wholeness; wholeness could never be built "from the bottom up," but must be woven into the very fabric of being. And wholeness is one of the necessary attributes of God, and therefore creation.

Another way of saying it is that ordered totality is logically prior to natural selection. It can only operate on existent wholes. Natural selection is really the progressive unfolding of a principe of order that is present not just in the organism, but in the cosmos. After all, to say "cosmos" is to say "ordered totality." Obviously, the ordered totality of biological organisms can only occur in a cosmos that is itself an ordered totality.

I should point out that Whitehead made similar arguments along these lines in the 1920s, recognizing that quantum physics revealed the nonlocal, organismic wholeness of reality; you could say that nonlocality is an artifact of wholeness, or that wholeness necessitates nonlocality. Either way, there is no way to eliminate the wholeness.

I would go much further than this, and say that the reason human beings have access to the Whole on the subjective plane, is that this interior space also obviously exhibits properties of wholeness. In fact, the human mind is quintessential in this regard, seeing as how a healthy mind instantaneously synthesizes literally countless synaptic connections to facilitate the emergence of a simple "I" or "I AM." There is a metaphysical reason why "I AM" is the name of God, as "I" refers to the prior space of ontological wholeness, while "AM" is its deployment in time and space; the former is nonlocal, the latter local.

Conversely, on the human subjective plane, pathology (mental illness) always involves some disturbance in the experience of wholeness. Words such as "schizoid," "schizophrenia," "bipolar," "paranoid" -- each of these categories describes a mind that is fundamentally at odds with itself. In fact, psychosis can often be conceptualized as a mind that his been torn into persecutory "bits" that cannot be synthesized, just as autism can be seen as a mind that cannot experience intersubjective unity with another mind.

Likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, the total unity of mystical experience speaks for itself. Such an experience would not be possible except in a cosmos that is fundamentally shot through with wholeness, so that each part is not just embedded in a network of relations, but has the whole within it -- the same way each part of the body contains the DNA of the totality.

That was brief. The Boy is starting to stir. Let me just throw in a few notes that I placed at the end of Harris's books. It is possible that they are at least partly his words, not mine.

"Time = the serial self-articulation of the whole."

"God's reality cannot be denied, as any such denial must rest on grounds which only God's reality can provide."

"Every proposition is contingent, but in order for this to be so, there is one fact that must be necessary, and that is the existence of the completed system."

"If we reason at all, it is on the basis of a systematized experience revealing the totally systematic nature of the Real. The perfected whole of knowledge and reality is, therefore, the necessary presupposition of all reasoning and proof. The denial of this reality is self-refuting. Without God's existence, all rational discourse is undermined."

"Natural selection sneaks in a principle of improvement by the 'selection effect' of the environment; however, this adds nothing, since all change is initiated randomly. Random = homogeneous, and there can be no homogeneous continuum."

"What the scientist takes on faith not even the philosopher can prove, for no proof of the ultimate rationality of the object of our thought is possible which does not assume what it has to prove."

Oh well. I can't possibly do justice to this subject in such a short space of time. Maybe I'll return to it later in the week.


walt said...

Happy Father's Day! May you have a fine Sunday!

hoarhey said...

I have a software developer friend who in years past used to speak of some day becoming as rich and successful as Bill Gates and whenever he spoke of this the thought always arose in my mind, "How do you ever expect to surpass Bill Gates by completely relying on, in limited software applications, the operating system that HE developed?"
I guess I could have articulated my doubts but I think I realized the futility of getting the point across.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Happy Father’s Day to you, and all Raccoons.

Not knowing there was a Sunday post in the baking, I was about to comment the below to yesterday’s truly great piece. It actually fits better with today’s. Thanks for recomposting it. I dug in there too and turned over the soil.
I almost missed this one line but it caught my eye brand new this morning:

“But to understand Darwinism is to have transcended it.”

You know, it means even more than what’s on the surface - that “Science can never account for the scientist.” Which is not to say that “what’s on the surface” there is any small thing. I’m just pointing to what it also means. It’s an indication of what you should do once you know it. It says what happens to the man when he finally sees his blind spot. Or rather what “should” happen to the man, properly understood: when he finally understands the “incompleteness” of Darwinism (or any science elevated to a metaphysic) he should transcend it, or have the sense to exchange (abandon, if he had to choose) the lesser for the greater. Fill the hole with the Whole that it is missing.

What is “missing” from Darwinism may be only one thing, but it is obviously so vast, the (W)hole so large, any normal person should be red-faced by his oversight. “Hey professor, your barn door is open!” He should have the honesty, the stomach, to look in the mirror and say, “You call yourself a scientist?” I mean, to ignore a gap so large is no way to treat your science either; “science” properly understood. Especially One so foundational.

Ricky Raccoon said...

“Another way of saying it is that ordered totality is logically prior to natural selection.”

This reminds of the “system” that must be “in place” before electricity can flow through a circuit. A complete circuit must be there first. In other words, if you touch an incomplete circuit (and it remains incomplete) you won’t be shocked by the electricity – almost as if the electricity knows the circuit is still incomplete before it flows, or rather, doesn’t flow. Is the electricity present in the wire all the way up to the “break” in the wire? If it isn’t, then how does it suddenly “know” when the circuit is then completed and then begin to flow through the circuit?

This is just an analogy of course. But as best as it has ever been explained to me is to think of the electricity as a “potential”. The potential to flow is what is present. The potential is what exists there. Either way, I think it proves an ordered totality exists “prior” to what is dependent on the ordered totality.

Or is it just an analogy? Do we completely understand even both forms of “electricity”.

Anonymous said...

Ok, firstly you'll have to clarify what you mean by wholeness, because frankly it's so vague I could agree with it, but obviously it's also so vague I could just say you've set up a mere straw man.

And also to point out, Darwinist evolution doesn't require wholeness, specifically it requires a few parameters, but it is far from wholeness. In fact, if 'wholeness' really were 'wholeness' then there'd be no evolution at all. Which is to say that every creature would be perfectly suited to it's perfectly whole environment, and no need for adaptation would be necessary.

Now if you were referring to the formation of life, rather than evolution, then that would be a different story. The formation of life definitely requires very specific parameters, however evolution definitely relies on those parameters changing. As in, if it you still believe that's wholeness then it's a wholeness that is continually changing, but if wholeness is whole, then why is it changing?

Essentially you used a very subjective term(wholeness) to point out a falsehood that is only a falsehood because of a dichotomy(between creation and evolution) that may not actually exist. Even then if evolution isn't happening animals are changing, which negates creation if "wholeness" is used as an argument, if you could figure out what wholeness actually is.

Gagdad Bob said...

As I said, I hope to further explain things later in the week, but when I say "wholeness," I am largely referring to the internal relatedness of parts. "Wholeness" is ultimately another way of saying "interiority." Or rather, the former is a property of the latter; or one could say they "co-arise."

Suffice it to say that the ontological category of interiority could never arise from pure exteriority, whereas exteriority is a necessary consequence of interiority, just as the relative is a necessary consequence of the Absolute (being that the absolute is necessarily both "within" and "beyond" all relatives).

One of the reasons I rarely discuss this stuff is because I'm way beyond relying upon these things to prove the existence of God. The bottom line is that God exists, which is why the universe is intelligible to intelligence.

Van said...

Happy Father's Day to all you Pa'coons out there!

(special thanks to the Ma'coons, without whom... etc, etc, etc)

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if you've confused Abiogenesis and Evolution. Abiogenesis clearly fits the clarification of that argument, but again Evolution goes against it.

Every sexually reproductive creature alive is in and of itself its own wholeness, however it is not of it's mother or fathers wholeness, nor will it's next of kin continue on as the wholeness of said being. But if we're referring to the wholeness of humans vs other apes relative to each other, then there is a difference, but at what point is would that be indistinguishable, and which example need be stated, because horses and donkeys may sexually reproduce, but the offspring are sterile. However the same thing can be said of a few very rare instances of humans.

Van said...

A fine post today.

"...In other words, life presupposes wholeness; wholeness could never be built "from the bottom up," but must be woven into the very fabric of being. And wholeness is one of the necessary attributes of God, and therefore creation.

Another way of saying it is that ordered totality is logically prior to natural selection. It can only operate on existent wholes. Natural selection is really the progressive unfolding of a principe of order that is present not just in the organism, but in the cosmos..."

Something so bobviously True that you know the reductionista's will have to argue with it with One "I" tied behind their backs.

Anonymous said...

... reproducing with other humans, not donkeys.

Anonymous said...

Essentially, I need a pretty distinct clarification, because right now the idea is too open to numerous interpretations.

Anonymous said...

I'll leave it at that if you intend to clarify later on.

Van said...

"Time = the serial self-articulation of the whole."

I like that. For some reason, it reminds me of Leonard Peikoff's (Objectivist acid washer in cheif) description of Teaching, words to the effect of "Teaching is the process of transfering a spherical whole from the teacher's mind, to the students, via a linear process, like a continous orange peel, where the student must reassemble the linear strips back into a spherical whole."

Gagdad Bob said...

Very much so, especially for a True Teacher who has an interior relationship to the subject matter -- which is to say that he knows it holistically. In fact, this is probably the mark of the master in any human endeavor.

Gagdad Bob said...

(Polanyi also discusses this in great detail, and in fact, elevates it to a general epistemology, i.e., "tacit knowledge.")

Joan of Argghh! said...

Is wholeness, as a concept, the reason that quantum physicists keep opening boxes and looking for cats?

Why do the smartest and brightest keep looking for more? Surely it's not to explain "wholeness" in some pedantic fashion for the purpose of debate or discussion.

The inexhaustible Truth keeps pulling them further up and higher into the hunt. They're not gonna be real keen to turn around and explain why it all looks vague to first-graders such as we.

I mean no disrespect, but to insist that "wholeness" be clarified to one's resistant satisfaction is possibly the largest straw-man dodge I've seen here up to now.

There is nothing vague about the term or its interpretation, but to define it would be to leap ahead of better minds who still grapple with what the Whole consists of. They know it's there, they just want to know what it's made of.

What we can know is how we feel when we are ill and out of sorts. Less than "whole." To define the concept is to assume a state of health and then we can argue with the doctors as to what "health" looks like for ME. Because secretly, our "I AM" is the only description of wholeness we have and we'll accept no other interpretation but our own.

Nevermind that we are woefully unrealized, sitting in a box waiting to be discovered dead or alive.

Petey said...

secretly, our "I AM" is the only description of wholeness we have


The expanding I AM is the real expanding cosmos.

julie said...

*clap clap clap*

Gagdad Bob said...


Wondering if you have a bottom line take on the new Orthodox Bible. Seems like the non-Orthodox might be happier with it than the Orthodox.

Bulletproof monk said...

In addition to Father's Day, today is the Great Feast of Pentecost according to the Orthodox tradition, in which we celebrate the coming of the Spirit upon the faithful. Such a calendrical conjunction is, I believe, fairly rare.

As the Creed states,

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father,..."

A blessed Pentecost and Happy Father's Day to all, wherever you may be.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Thanks, Julie.

Yeah, I went to church today, wanna make something of it?

Visited a "formula" Presby church full of youthful enthusiasm and sounding gongs and clanging cymbals of modern "Purpose Driven Worship" that had no destination, no tune, no inspiration. Not sure more than five distinct notes were sung in any one song.

In the car on the way home I promised myself I'd catch up on my reading here, listen to Van the Man, and that would be "church" enough for me.

I've studied up on the old/new Christian Orthodoxy and if only there were such nearby!.

There's a vibrant Greek Orthodox community here, but seriously? I hate Greek food.

dilys said...

Speaking of Fathers' Day...

Haven't looked at the "new" Orthodox Bible closely, but the scuttlebutt is that it's not really that well-fitted with the relevant non-obvious commentary from the Fathers of the Church, who pretty much set the interpretative framework for the Orthodox [in contradistinction to my earlier Protestant enthusiasms based on "Hey, gang, let's read the Bible and parse out some complex theory based on a verse in translation!"] Like other nourishment, reading The Fathers is best IMO cooked at home from a pantry full of unprocessed living material.

The other concern with an "Orthodox Bible," even with better commentary, is the whole proof-texting tendency of a certain kind of Western-import argument style which can sneak in under the radar especially with converts. Though the Orthodox are encouraged to read and study the Bible [with little evident result among the laity], Read your Bible or Quote a verse is never thought particularly helpful apart from deep contact with the comprehensive sacramental year-round richness of the Liturgy. My experience with the celebration of Divine Liturgy -- the Mass -- is that the Bible comes to life in the kind of tableau I'd never imagined from the Bible-school Sword Drills visited upon many of us in our youth. Yet a relatively dense and encyclopedic evangelical-style force-feeding (rarer now I understand) is beneficial ballast & provender upon incoming.

Worst-case scenario, by the hoo-hah around the introduction of TOB, a delusory authority may be created for intellectualized sorties in the semi-dark. Everyone brings tacit assumptions and knowledge to interpretation, and grounding and smoothing out the clash of those starting places [one role of the Tradition] is not much aided by this new publishing exploit because it can't really import the foundational work of The Fathers.

It is a truism in Orthodox spiritual guidance that prayer should have a ratio of something like 10:1(?) to reading. If I read 1/10 of the time I pray, I'd have to quit for today after Walt's first comment. Yet experience seems to bear out, after certain frameworks and principles are absorbed, that more reading -- even sacred texts -- without prayer and other practices is likely to expand the grasp horizontally, to further embroider the surface of "spirituality." I would doubt that any of us knows little enough of the Scriptures not to be bothered by what we know and ignore.

My own view, intensified since I became Orthodox, is that the Word is more about ever-richer contexts to foster Life, than about words, however canonical.

Above, Long answer.

Short answer: Not rushing out to buy TOB.

Gagdad Bob said...

Well then, me too neither.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm afraid to ask about Byzantine Catholicism....

Leslie Godwin said...

Happy Father's Day to all! I hope you don't mind my very small tribute to Bob the father,
Mrs. G

Dear Bob,
You're just the strong and caring father that Tristan needs. I thank God you are his father. But I also thank God that you are my husband. One of the magical ways you have changed my life is by being strong and caring with me. You stood by me, pulling me toward what is right and letting me know when I was wrong. I didn't appreciate it for a long time, but now I marvel at how much you've changed my life and helped my spiritual growth. Not to mention how beautiful it is to see you and Tristan, and to see what he's taking in being the son of a truly good man.

Happy Father's Day,

Van said...

That brightened up an already Sonny day!

Anonymous said...

Hello from the Tolle Troll. A note on time: Taking time out of life is a potent spiritual practice. Examples:

Think less about the past.
Think less about the future.
Concentrate more and more on the present moment. Get over the feeling that you need anything to happen or regret anything that has happened.

Past and future are mental constructs that humanity spends too much of its energy contemplating. On the other hand, the Now is where everything is concentrated. In a very real sense, there is nothing else except Now. Mske the most of it.

That being said, I'll weigh in with Anonymous as stating that Bob's talk on wholeness requires more work to rebut nuts and bolts Darwinist evolution theory. I would look forward to reading it, but I have learned not to have expectations as to what will occur in the future. Bob heads off on tangents and seldom returns to lines of thought he previously established. It's best to savor each post in the Eternal Now.

Yours Truly, an entity that likes Tolle but does not identify with any labels and has even disidentified with his given name.

Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of self-evident truths, I'm assuming that most of you have already read this article about how much happier and nicer conservatives are than liberals.

julie said...

From the article Bob linked,

"And it seems that today modern progressive ideas can often bring out the worst in people."

How depressingly true that is.

On a more pleasant note, I hope all you papa 'coons had a great day today!

Warren said...


If you fail in your Byzantine Rite quest, what about Tridentine Rite (Latin Mass)? You probably have a much better chance of finding one of those.

River Cocytus said...

Orthodox study Bible... I have one, it's not bad. But, I think, one can overestimate the importance of a Bible, anyway.

It has a few good uses that I've found, the first of which is that it is a full Orthodox Old Testament, that is, it has all of the Apocrypha. I think also a second good use is that it provides a decent study bible for Orthodox folks to use, so you're not required to use an NIV or other Bible that's a bit more questionable in its accuracy.

A few caveats, though. It's not really a liturgical Bible, so (for instance) the Psalms are translated more for comprehension than for poetry. The KJV tends towards poetry over comprehension.

The sort of odd reality is that the Orthodox Study Bible is an evangelistic tool; in the case of orthodox Christianity in general 'awareness' or basic 'knowledge' is in and of itself evangelistic.

In any case, its usefulness, like Dilys was astute to point out, is only as a part of a complete spiritual life, and proof-texting has limited merit. It is an excellent reference and has good sections on basic doctrine, plus references to the Fathers.

I'm a bit of an exception as I like to 'soak' texts, i.e. read through stuff I don't totally understand so that when I get the bit of information that makes sense of it, it comes to life. I don't know of too many people who do this (though Bob seems to) but I've found MOST bibles to be useful in this regard (though some of the most modern versions not so much.)

Anyway, it's nice, but not ASTOUNDING. If you know something about the conditions under which it was compiled and published (we spoke with Fr. Peter Gillquist) there is a certain haphazardness to the whole operation.

The astounding book I think is forthcoming in some number of years, which will include a better crossreference and perhaps fuse in parts of various epistles and writings of the Fathers.

mushroom said...

Bob says I would go much further than this, and say that the reason human beings have access to the Whole on the subjective plane, is that this interior space also obviously exhibits properties of wholeness. In fact, the human mind is quintessential in this regard, seeing as how a healthy mind instantaneously synthesizes literally countless synaptic connections to facilitate the emergence of a simple "I" or "I AM." There is a metaphysical reason why "I AM" is the name of God, as "I" refers to the prior space of ontological wholeness, while "AM" is its deployment in time and space; the former is nonlocal, the latter local.

The flatlander says, "I am a product of mindless, materialistic evolution," and never gets the contradiction.

Both weekend posts were great.

Joseph said...

I would be curious to know how many Coons have "converted" to Orthodoxy or Catholicism since being exposed to Bob's work.

Johan said...

The closest I have been to "converting" is that a reader on my blog (sorry still in Swedish only) suggested that I "was born a Catholic" (actually I am born protestant, but that’s only because all Swedes were until just a few years ago), and that was a comment I really appreciated.

Have I ever considered joining a religion? Yes. Could it be Catholic? Yes. When? I have no clue, but maybe that day will come when I least expect it, just like Bobs book and blog fell down from the skies in my lap. Right now I enjoy the coonish(?) way of wandering the garden and eat as much as I can of all the delicious, and not even forbidden, fruits.

Bonus - link to a photo I took of the ceiling in Sophia Hagia in Istanbul last week. It was marvelous.

Ray Ingles said...

Bob - To paraphrase your quote from yesterday, "I don't believe in the kind of evolution you disbelieve in."

(Speaking of the "conservatives more happy than liberals" bit, well, "self-evident" isn't always so evident.)

Petey said...

Given the evolutionary impasse in which you are mired, your statement is more than self-evident. It is a vivid demonstration of tautlogy.