Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reductionism: That's No Way to Treat a Lady!

I guess scientists are finally being forced to abandon the primordial soup theory, but I've never really understood why anyone would accept it to begin with. It was always a little like Steve Martin's technique for becoming a millionaire: first, get a million dollars. Next....

And yet, like its retarded cousin, ideological Darwinism, it was still taught as if it were objectively true. Why? Why can't we just teach children the truth -- that science has no freaking idea how life arose; or, for that matter, what consciousness is, or how such an exquisitely ordered cosmos came into being, or why human beings have so many extravagant abilities that are inexplicable on any Darwinan basis?

In short, why the mania for reductionism? I mean, I understand the appeal, because I understand that human beings are afraid of the dark. We are born into a world which we do not understand, and which we (super)naturally wish to understand. But few things interfere more with understanding than premature closure of the psychic field, or placing arbitrary boundaries on the subjective horizon -- which is why Bion's favorite adage was the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.

It is not possible to repudiate and discredit philosophical reductionism any more than it already has been. After all, how many times can you prove that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? In point of fact, you have only to prove it once in order to falsify any scientific theory that claims that the whole is nothing but the sum of the parts (I believe it was Alan Watts who called this the philosophy of "nothing buttery"). And yet, we still have these radical secularists, atheistic simpletons, and bonehead materialists who worship at the horizontal church of perpetual reduction.

There is nothing wrong with reductionism per se, specifically, so long as it is simply a part of the scientific method. But if you conflate method and ontology, you, sir, have beclowned yourself. You may call yourself a "philosopher" -- a lover of wisdom! -- but in fact you love wisdom like Andrew Sullivan loves women and Jews. You cannot have real intercourse with Sophia if your philosophy a priori reduces her to an inflatable party doll. (Seen at right, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnson --->)

Reductionism "always buys clarity and certitude at the price of mutilating reality, in a sophisticatedly seductive way of course" (Jaki). This is a key point, because if you exclude any reality above matter, then of course you can be certain that nothing but matter exists. Duh!

But that is not a statement about reality, nor is it any way to treat a lady. In fact, it's not even a statement about matter (or mater), for if lifeless matter is pregnant with life, than matter is not what scientists think it is. Indeed, one would think that the capacity to conceive life would be its most shocking property -- at least until one confronts the biggest cosmic surprise of them all, which is that it can also think -- and create, and love, and laugh, and ridicule. Charles Johnson.

Nothing is easier -- and more simplistic -- than reducing quality to quantity by abstracting the former and assigning it a number. But just because you've assigned a number to something doesn't mean it really is a number. You can't be reduced to your social security number (that is, unless Obamacare passes).

Of course there are fields that reveal virtually no qualitative aspects, for example, mathematics. And yet, even that isn't really true at all, for any first rate mathematician will tell you that they are motivated by a sense of mathematical beauty. Where does this beauty come from? Is it really just the sum of the parts? How can that be, when one of the fundamental characteristics of beauty is wholeness (along with harmony and radiance)?

Any hope of explaining life in reductionistic terms was rendered impossible by Gödel. If one takes a broad view of his theorems -- which I do -- the bottom line is that a system can be either complete or consistent, but not both. Or, to be precise, consistency will be purchased at the price of completeness (and vice versa). Thus, as Jaki mentions above, reductionism is ruthlessly consistent, but at what cost in terms of completeness? What must it exclude and even mutilate in order to maintain its consistency and its certitude?

Only everything. That is, only everything that defines us as human and confers meaning and purpose upon our lives.

But real science -- as we have been harping on lately -- steers that middle course between empiricism and idealism, between the extreme below of matter and the extreme above of the nominalist God who makes everything happen directly. Ours is in fact the approach of that father of modern science, Newton, who not only knew how to treat a lady (in this case, mother nature), but

"was driven back again and again by his scientific creativity" to the "explicit conviction about the validity of going mentally from the realm of phenomena to the existence of God. Such a mental process for him was not a hackneyed exercise in syllogisms but an unquenchable urge to secure a consistent basis for intelligibility and being" (Jaki).

Hey, that's no lizard, that's my wife!

27 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

How can that be, when one of the fundamental characteristics of beauty is wholeness (along with harmony and radiance)?

Or as I was just saying to F/Zero, "The green is in the purple and the purple is in the green."

Reduced and compartmentalized, they merely clash obnoxiously. But when part of a whole and playing as they were meant to play, the result is extraeordinary. (Thanks, wv)

2/10/2010 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

!
Where do you find these things?
And yet strangely, it works...

2/10/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Must be something in the water.

2/10/2010 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Bob,

I suspect that you already know this, but your word play on matter/mater has of course a legitimate etymologic basis.

Our local tree frog, "Hyla regilla," takes its generic name "Hyla" transliterated from ancient Greek "rough breathing (sounded-as "H")-upsilon-eta," which originally signified "wood," both the place (a wooded place, a woods) and the material, wood. Later the philosophers generalized this to mean "matter." Still later the Romans did the same with "materia, -ae" (wood), which became "mattter," (and "subject matter) and the same root came into "matrix," "material," and others.

Jamie Irons

2/10/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Matter, mater, material, matrix, Mary, maya.... see p. 16., f. 38.

2/10/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

By the way, "Hyla regilla" is sometimes classified as "Pseudacris regilla," but the taxonomy is not settled, and because I personally prefer the more fruitful "Hyla" designation, I'll stay with that for now...

Jamie Irons

2/10/2010 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"Why? Why can't we just teach children the truth"

I agree. And what about eagle rights and natual race horses? And why no more violins on tv?

2/10/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...human beings are afraid of the dark. We are born into a world which we do not understand, and which we (super)naturally wish to understand."

There you go, talking about 'Man' again!

We hear men chant the mantra, Won't Get Fooled Again, but then are, over and over again, and even seem to like it. NB asks yesterday (paraphrasing), "Don't folks ever notice...?" and it would seem, not often! Is this a kind of unconscious death wish?

Anyway, you speak here about Man, and perspectives proper to Man, and I appreciate that.

2/10/2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Sighhhhh.....everyone here sounds so edjimicated.....what hope is there of me makin' a good comment.....

/ : )

2/10/2010 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Hey, put some lipstick on that lizard and it could be my ex, just kidding I have forgiven her for being a slut ;-)

And what Mary said.

2/10/2010 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

M & J - All you gotta do is note my ravings and you won't ever worry about making good comments. ;-)

2/10/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Alan McCann said...

Keeping in mind Mater/Mary/Matrix/etc, the following prayer can bear much fruit in meditation

Hail Mary, Full of Grace
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.
....

2/10/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I mean, I understand the appeal, because I understand that human beings are afraid of the dark. We are born into a world which we do not understand, and which we (super)naturally wish to understand.

Really, if they can't handle the mystery, they need to find another line of work.

2/10/2010 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

The fundamental evil of leftism is in sharp evidence recently. Despite overwhelming evidence that the global warming story was a massive fabrication concocted by leftists posing as scientists, and also despite the fact that the resulting political and economic effect has to been to introduce organized crime into the highest levels of Western governance -- still the Left deviates not a whit from their despicable, nay evil course of action.

There is nothing more demonic on this earth than the force that animates the Left (even Islamism does not dip as deeply into the black hole of moral turpitude).

Sounds extreme, I know. But how else does one react to forces which are systematically attempting to destroy the civilization we constructed over two millennia? Especially those of us with (or soon to have) kids?

2/10/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Re Chuckles Johnson, about the only thing I can say in his defense is that he did not immediately and instinctively cleave to America's worst enemies the way almost everyone on the hard (and sometimes not so hard) Left do at every turn. Johnson for a few years was actually opposed to Islamism, while the hardcore Left skulked around quietly cheering for the enemy. Unfortunately the phase was short-lived, and now Johnson has not only reverted to his pre-911 persona, but has gotten a lot worse.

2/10/2010 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

And his disciples saith unto him, O B'ob, what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?

And he answering saith unto them, when thou seest the abomination of desolation, yea, even Charles Johnson with Larry King, "for the whole hour" (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let him who is in LA flee unto the mountains, staying on the surface streets and avoiding if possible the great tribulation of the 405

2/10/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Someone please explain to me how this AP press release on the IPCC is in any way different from the Soviet and Maoist propaganda that characterized those hellish regimes? This "news organization" is knowingly promoting the Big Lie. Ask anyone who lived through the cold war in the East Block about this (I have many times).

Black. Hole.

2/10/2010 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

It should be obvious that the evolution of our large, fast brain created the human mind (not to say spirit) to roughly the same degree that evolution of legs created the dry land and evolution of lungs created the air.

wv:persts

2/10/2010 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> Sounds extreme, I know.

Oh, I wouldn't say so, NB. Came to pretty much the same conclusion myself some time ago. We can be crazy right-wing extremists together!

>> the hardcore Left skulked around quietly cheering for the enemy

Quietly?!?

2/10/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

OK, NB I accept your challenge, it's different because, uh mmmmu uh, let me be perfectly clear, because uh is quite simple really, is because it's uh in ENGLISH, yea that's it. It's not in Russian or Manderinian or even Chinese. Hope that clears it up for you my right wing friend.

2/10/2010 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Mushroom, you're the man. I lol'd!

I'm nodding here, but not nodding off. Don't mean to be too much of a B'obblehead...

2/10/2010 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Reductionism: That's No Way to Treat a Lady!"

Love that title... Sophia tips her hat!

2/10/2010 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Nothing is easier -- and more simplistic -- than reducing quality to quantity by abstracting the former and assigning it a number."

And all the really scientisticacal humanista's from Bentham and Wundt on down have found that to be an excellent way to gain credibility. Just nothing like being able to point to ratios and percentages to help make a really good Non Sequitur.

"But just because you've assigned a number to something doesn't mean it really is a number. You can't be reduced to your social security number (that is, unless Obamacare passes)."

Huhhh?!!! Blasphemer! Numbers allow you to do anything! You can turn graft and corruption into hope and prosperity by just saying how many thousands... hundreds... er... millions of jobs you saved and/or created. Works great... and 9 out of 7 people will never call you on it.

2/10/2010 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Where does this beauty come from? Is it really just the sum of the parts? How can that be, when one of the fundamental characteristics of beauty is wholeness (along with harmony and radiance)?"

The Good, the Beautiful and the True... the original Three for One deal.

2/10/2010 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "There is nothing more demonic on this earth than the force that animates the Left"

Nothing extreme about it, just true. I know I've beat this one to death here, there and everywhere, but from one of mine on Descartes's Cogito,

"...Furthermore, if you pay attention to what has developed out of it over the centuries, you’ll see that not only is the Cartesian method of critical doubt in opposition to reality, but it attempts to raise the whims of the doubter over reality and give those doubts and assertions the standing of truth. Examine it for yourself… it is… critical that you do, because these days most of the ideas you are presented with to try on for size, have been cut from that inverted cloth. A deductive thinking process, begun in an area where there is no inferential structure and understanding, is doomed to a trajectory of self delusion and failure.

It is this aspect of Descartes method which is what I’m going to flog to death here, because it, more than anything else, is the common factor in all of his philosophy and also because the method most often used by those following in his wake and applying his methods.

If you want to know how a President of the United States of America can swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, while publicly working to destroy it (what makes you think I mean Obama? TR? Wilson? FDR? These would fit just as well), or in a nation of laws, not men, nominates a justice to the SCOTUS who desires its opposite in empathetic women applying laws over men (what makes you think I mean Sotamayor? Could be Ruth “Buzzy” Ginsberg as well, even on off days, O’Connor… ok, I do mean Sotamayor… but still….); to understand all of that you need to understand what is meant by “Cogito Ergo Sum – I think, therefore, I am” and, more importantly, the patterns of thought operating behind it.

This isn’t mere drawing room banter, it is of life or death importance, it is the weapon being used to destroy us and to destroy you. Today. Right now....
"

At it's very roots, all variants of leftism are in opposition to reality... all insist on raising what they want to be believed, up, up and away above what is actually true. Together with the claim that you can't really know reality anyway... what else could possibly follow from their ideas, but... to put it plainly... evil?

No matter how good the intentions of some well meaning leftists may be... ideas that are built upon falsehood, error and opposition to reality, cannot lead to good! It doesn't matter if you want them to! What is Good can only be Good, because it is True, and can only be True, because it is rooted in what is Real - opposition to that can only lead to Evil... and there's nothing Beautiful about that.

2/10/2010 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> Ruth “Buzzy” Ginsberg

Inspired. There IS a resemblance.

2/11/2010 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

Johnson for a few years was actually opposed to Islamism, while the hardcore Left skulked around quietly cheering for the enemy. Unfortunately the phase was short-lived, and now Johnson has not only reverted to his pre-911 persona, but has gotten a lot worse".

Matthew touched on this phenomenon.. (12: 43-45)

It is why dentists fill cavities in addition to drilling them out.

2/11/2010 11:57:00 AM  

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