Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Creation Myths of the Tenured

Without a doubt, the ultimate Black Swan is whatever it was that permitted merely genetic human beings to emerge into full humanness just yesterday (cosmically speaking), some 50,000 years ago.

Prior to this there was existence, but so what? There was life, but who cares? With no one to consciously experience it, what was the point? Without self-conscious observers, the whole cosmos could bang into being and contract into nothingness, and it would be no different than the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it.

One of the reasons why this is such a lonely and unpopular blog is that it takes both science and religion seriously. Most science and religion are unserious, but especially -- one might say intrinsically -- when they exclude each other.

A religion that cannot encompass science is not worthy the name, while a science that cannot be reconciled with religion is not fit for human beings. And I mean this literally, in that it will be a science that applies to a different species, not the one that is made to know love, truth, beauty, existence, and the Absolute. Science must begin and end in this principle -- which is to say, the Principle -- or it is just a diversion. Nevertheless, Stupidity appropriates what science invents with diabolical facility (Aphorisms of Don Colacho).

In taking science seriously, we must obviously take "evolution" seriously. I place the word in quotation marks not because I don't believe in it, but for reasons we have discussed at length in the past (cf. here or there). Evolution was around long prior to Darwin, and the word didn't even appear in the first five editions of The Origin of Species. It was only inserted later, after which time evolution and Darwinism (natural selection) became conflated, even though they are in many ways at antipodes. In other words, evolution disproves Darwinism, and vice versa, despite the semantic and metaphysical games materialists deploy to try to reconcile the two.

In our effort to demonstrate the essential unity of religion and science, we specifically want to avoid the superficial and metaphysically incoherent approach of the materialists, which essentially reduces to magic -- no different than the young earth creationist who sees God as a kind of magician. But creation is not magic; rather, it is thoroughly rooted in, and infused with, order and Reason. Yes, there are myths that describe creation as if it were a giant magic act, but the purpose of myth is to awaken Truth within, not to force consent from without.

This is something that used to be taken for granted by theologians, but as they have become increasingly intimidated by the findings of modern science, it seems that they have retreated further into a protective bubble of faith in the incredible -- or faith in things that are not worthy of the intrinsic dignity and nobility of man's seeking Intellect. The Intellect is noble precisely because it may know truth, so that anything short of an integral and total truth undercuts man at the root. It's an insult, really.

In The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Ridley tries to account for the evolution of man in wholly naturalistic terms. In one sense, he recognizes a fatal problem with the Darwinian account, in that there is an insurmountable gap between our finite genes and our infinite capabilities.

In other words, we know that human beings were genetically "complete" (which itself is an absurd word to apply to natural selection, since nothing can be complete or incomplete) long before the appearance of what we would call humanness.

Furthermore, the suddenness (especially in Darwinian terms) of man's psychospiritual transformation also surpasses anything natural selection can explain. It can try, but to say that a random genetic mutation accounts for the human capacity to know truth and beauty makes no sense whatsoever.

Anyway, at least Ridley is honest in acknowledging the problem, although he doesn't exactly name it or draw out its full implications. But the problem is this: that there is a literally infinite gap between man and animal (even though there is an obvious continuity as well), just as there is an infinite gap between nothing and existence or matter and life.

One can say that this gap is infinite because man intuits the Absolute, or one can say that man intuits the Absolute because of this infinite gap. Either way, once man consciously enters the sensorium of time and space, he is implicitly aware of both Absolute and Infinite, and therefore Love, Truth, Justice, Beauty, Virtue, and Eternity. These are the things that define man, not his genome.

Ridley notes an important fact that I discussed in my book, which is that early hominids remained trapped in their niche for "more than a thousand millennia." They basically produced a single tool, the stone hand axe.

Clearly, "the creatures that made this thing were very content with it," in that it changed very little during the course of a million years, across three continents. As I mentioned in the book, it's almost as if this tool were analogous to a bird's nest or a spider's web, i.e., something we were genetically programmed to produce.

As long as 600,000 ago, there were hominids with brains nearly as large as ours, and yet, with no discernible payoff: "they did not experience anything remotely resembling cultural progress. They just did what they did very well. They did not change."

But again, this is normative for Darwinism. Once a creature successfully adapts to its environmental niche, there is no pressure to change. As we mentioned yesterday, "natural selection is a conservative force. It spends more of its time keeping species the same than changing them" (Ridley).

And just what kind of "pressure" could force an ape to suddenly become Buddha, or Beethoven, or Shakespeare, anyway? What, is evolution the mother of all Jewish mothers? (Hmm, before you dismiss that outright....) Yes, there was a pressure, but as we shall see, it was from above, not below. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

So quite suddenly "there appeared on earth a new kind of hominid, one that refused to play by the rules. Without any change in its body, without any succession of species, it just kept changing its habits. For the first time, its technology changed faster than its anatomy. There was an evolutionary novelty, and you are it" (Ridley).

Yes, we are without a doubt an evolutionary novelty. But are we a Darwinian novelty, which is to say, a random accident? I don't think so. In fact, a wholly contingent being could never know truth anyway, let alone its own truth.

To be continued....

36 Comments:

Blogger Mikal said...

Thought of you when I saw this....

8/18/2010 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"Anyway, at least Ridley is honest in acknowledging the problem, although he doesn't exactly name it or draw out its full implications. But the problem is this: that there is a literally infinite gap between man and animal (even though there is an obvious continuity as well), just as there is an infinite gap between nothing and existence or matter and life."

So, the gap between levels is both contiuous and discontinuous.

A both/and thingy.

There should be a nice word to capture this concept.

What word works to describe somethign that is both continuous and discontinuous?

8/18/2010 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"One of the reasons why this is such a lonely and unpopular blog is that it takes both science and religion seriously. Most science and religion are unserious, but especially -- one might say intrinsically -- when they exclude each other."

Well, that explains why this blog is interesting to me.

I've basically come to the conclusion that science and religion basically have to keep up with each other, so to speak, or no real progress can be made.

8/18/2010 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Waitaminute..., did you say pressure in quotes, Bob, or did Ridley?

8/18/2010 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Vertically speaking It is continuous from the top down and discontinuous from the bottom up, corresponding to immanence and transcendence, or involution and evolution.

8/18/2010 08:47:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"A religion that cannot encompass science is not worthy the name, while a science that cannot be reconciled with religion is not fit for human beings."

I cooncur. In fact, science without religion usually means that science substitutes a cult to glam onto in the vacuum, as we have seen ad nauseum with the over population/power lines will kill everyone/the ozone is gone! Wait...no it ain't but it could be gone soon!/global cooling/global warming/climate change/polution/polution even though it ain't as bad/ DDT will kill us all! Oops, no it won't but we still don't like it/acid rain/Hey, where's the acid rain?/styrofoam will kill us all!Eleventy!!11!911!912!/etc., etc. crowd(s).

There's literally no end to the scientism plus materialistic apocalypse (so many to choose from! Don't limit yourself to just one!) denominations.

They may have their minor differences but they all agree that mudda Gaia would be better off without us, and WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!SOON! HORRIBLY! ANY.MINUTE.NOW! WE REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!AAAHHHHH!

Hey. Where's Godzilla?

8/18/2010 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Schuon uses two images to convey the idea of continuity/discontinuity. The latter may be visualized as a series of concentric circles, with God at the center. The latter may be seen as a dot at the center of a circle, with an arrow radiating from the center out.

8/18/2010 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Well, ice, water, and steam are all continuous discontinuities.

We use phase diagrams to show the phase changes in that example of clearly horizontal discontinuities (due to increased energy).

There should be a phrase we can use for the vertical continuous discontinuities as well.

Concentric circles work for visualization, I suppose, but I was looking for some sort of word or phrase.

8/18/2010 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Not sure if there's a single word, but the principle of complementarity applies to the irreducible wave/particle character of reality.

8/18/2010 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Funny how defensive these materialists get when you question their religion.

8/18/2010 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tomorrow we'll explain why.

8/18/2010 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

Bob says:

"Funny how defensive these materialists get when you question their religion."

I don't think religion is quite the word for a purely horizontal worldview.

8/18/2010 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Lemme try that again..

Does Ridley use the word "pressure" too, and likewise place emphasis on it, Bob?

That's what I meant to say..

8/18/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Because if he does, that's a pretty big matzah ball hanging out there..

8/18/2010 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

JP:

Yes, but since human beings are intrinsically vertical, Flatlanders displace it to the horizontal, similar to how mentally ill individuals displace unconscious conflict. In short, Flatlanders suffer from pneumapathology, or spiritual illness (as our troll vividly demonstrates on a daily basis).

Rick:

No, I put the word in parentheses, as one must do with virtually all Darwinian terminology at risk of conveying ideas the theory doesn't permit.

8/18/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Ah.. too bad for Ridley. Maybe.

8/18/2010 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Always on the lookout for arrows. Those things don't pluck themselves, you know.

8/18/2010 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Darwinians can't help anthropomorphizing the theory, being that the dullest of them are still anthropomorphs.

8/18/2010 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

Ben -

No worries. 'Zilla is on the job.

8/18/2010 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Jason T. said...

Bob said..."Prior to this there was existence, but so what? There was life, but who cares? With no one to consciously experience it, what was the point? Without self-conscious observers, the whole cosmos could bang into being and contract into nothingness, and it would be no different than the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it."

During an incredible peak experience I had last year I saw that one of the potentials for a superconscious entity passing out of the bodily form was to enter into a body composed of light and consciousness, a bodily vehicle that is simultaneously spiritual and universal. One of the properties of said vehicle is the ability to experience any point in the universe or any moment in the history of the universe, meaning that the years before the emergence of HUMAN observers take on a new significance.

Additionally, said light being will not only be able to observe an experience, but actually enter into it and interact with it directly, feeling the passion and pain and ecstasy of particular moments. Imagine, if you would, visiting planet earth during the Jurassic period and being able to experience the power of a Tyrannosaurus-Rex first hand, or being there when Jimmy Page records the solo for 'Stairway,' or literally entering into an explosions and massive continental upheavals of a new planet, or even a supernova or the birth of a solar system.

It always puzzled me why God would create a universe filled with so much with such a limited potential for enjoyment by conscious beings, but that was before this experience. Seems to me that there is a mad amount of majestic enjoyment being had by the grown-ups (spiritual entities who call the Sun home). Looking at life on earth as a conveyor belt of consciousness (plant, insect, fish, reptile, mammal, ape, human) the next evolutionary step is a home inside the yellow sun as a superconscious wave-length, which serves at one and the same time as a means of travesing the totality of this universe and as a doorway into vertical, ascending reality.

8/18/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Mikal said...

Jason T: Are you sure you want that experience?

8/18/2010 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"One of the properties of said vehicle is the ability to experience any point in the universe or any moment in the history of the universe, meaning that the years before the emergence of HUMAN observers take on a new significance."

Yes, even in the most banal sense, the only reason we can talk about the cosmos prior to human beings is because we can experience it in some sense, or project ourselves there. And not just project, but actually be there, for example, when a photon from a distant star touches our retina and we are literally entangled in the past of the star we're gazing at.

For the materialist to place an arbitrary limit with regard to what the human being may know and experience is purely arbitrary and incoherent, for what is the principle that says we may only know this truth but not that truth, or this reality but not that?

8/18/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Good one, Ben!

Kind of O.T., but the post on narrative threw some light on why someone who's sound on most things is so wrong-headed on illegal immigration. I think the reality of that situation wrecks their narration of the American immigrant.
Interesting...

and a belated Happy Anniversary to you and Mrs. G.!

8/18/2010 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

This is something that used to be taken for granted by theologians, but as they have become increasingly intimidated by the findings of modern science, it seems that they have retreated further into a protective bubble of faith in the incredible -- or faith in things that are not worthy of the intrinsic dignity and nobility of man's seeking Intellect.

Theology is also intimidated from the other side by those religionists who think myth means false.

Yes, there was a pressure, but as we shall see, it was from above, not below. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Really advanced aliens, man, 2001 and the giant flat screen monolith -- that's the reason we gave up the stone axes.

I even made wordveri blecha with that one.

8/18/2010 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ridley has a good line about the ubiquitous anti-capitalist hysteria over depletion of natural resources, and the idea that we should worry about what the climate will be like in 100 years, given the fantastic technological advances that will undoubtedly take place:

"The Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stones."

8/18/2010 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

sometimes i think there may be hope for you Blackie! besides getting thee to a nunnery
check out Aivanhov 1900-86 the Bulgarian-French solar guru and Hira Ratan Manek who's still alive

wv=
buckies
ok! buckets of 'em

8/18/2010 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/18/2010 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

...I remember once hearing a
man, who was an adept if ever there was one, say, “If you want to know what God is, I can tell you in one word: God is pressure.” And immediately an image leapt to my mind and a realisation followed. I could conceive the outflowing of life through every channel of existence. I felt that a genuine realisation of the nature of God had been conveyed to me. And yet, if one came to analyse the words, there was
nothing in them; nevertheless they had the power to convey an image, a symbol, to the mind, and the
mind, working upon it in the realm of intuition beyond the sphere of reason, achieved a realisation, even if that realisation could only be reduced to the sphere of concrete thought as an image...
[Dion Fortune book on QBL]

8/18/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Much truth there. The Descent of the Force.

8/18/2010 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Jason says:

"Looking at life on earth as a conveyor belt of consciousness (plant, insect, fish, reptile, mammal, ape, human) the next evolutionary step is a home inside the yellow sun as a superconscious wave-length, which serves at one and the same time as a means of travesing the totality of this universe and as a doorway into vertical, ascending reality."

Yes, right from human to "superconsious wave-length".

That's not even a good science fiction plot.

At best, it's bad anime.

8/18/2010 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

black hole is expressing his banal glands all over the page again. Which would be OK if s/he was at least funny.

Can't we find an entertaining Fool?

8/18/2010 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Either way, once man consciously enters the sensorium of time and space, he is implicitly aware of both Absolute and Infinite, and therefore Love, Truth, Justice, Beauty, Virtue, and Eternity. These are the things that define man, not his genome."

Without that, while it may walk like a man, and it may talk like a man, but such a resemblance is only skin deep - I mean, if you go by appearances alone, you might even mistake a troll for a man!

"As I mentioned in the book, it's almost as if this tool were analogous to a bird's nest or a spider's web, i.e., something we were genetically programmed to produce."

How does one get over the hump of the discontinous to the continous? From the Perceptual to Conceptual? I'll bet with all the wandering those primitive trollmen went through, there was a whole lot of matching up their mental donkeys & horses & coming up with nothing but mules, before they finally got the right two to come together.

Must have been a real kick when they did.

8/18/2010 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

JP said "There should be a nice word to capture this concept."

Uhm... marriage?



(Happy Anniversary Bob & Leslie!)

8/18/2010 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

here i might merely add:
'Blood is a very special fluid'
'Greater works than these shall ye do' ...untapped powers, like healing or hovering

8/19/2010 04:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To JP re:

"So, the gap between levels is both contiuous and discontinuous. A both/and thingy. There should be a nice word to capture this concept."

Would the word "zanzinspark" work for you? If so, you can thank Captain Beefheart.

odd wv: ingsnest

8/19/2010 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

confession:
I tend to stick with the myth, primarily because it was deeply entrenched before I was able to even be aware of the science, and partly because the science keeps changing.
And not in an adding layers of meaning way, as you can do with a myth, but in an "oh- we now see we were wrong about that. Please X out that paragraph in your text" way.
So, I mentally add the "as far as we know at this time" disclaimer to all the already qualified statements of science. Not hostile- it's certainly fascinating, as a flavor enhancer.
I suppose not having to reconcile religion to science, as most here seem to have had to do, having started from the oposite point, makes a difference.

I've expressed this badly- but you may get the gist.

8/19/2010 07:12:00 AM  

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