On Knowing a Little Nothing About Everything
Could this be why he refused to eat his peas and accept the unsettling implications of quantum mechanics? Yeah, probably. If only he had practiced a less primitive and childish religion -- or maybe even understood his own -- perhaps he could have realized that complementarity and nonlocality are here to stay, irrespective of what mere physicists have to say about them. I mean, God is surely a physicist, but not only a physicist.
I think even Einstein would agree that physics can only discover truth, not invent it. And if physics arrives at a theory which renders the person who affirms it an illusion, well, so much the worse for the theory. Back to the drawing board.
As we said at the conclusion of yesterday's post, God will wait for the prodigal scientist. What did Robert Jastrow say? "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Now, what is so interesting about this is that, at the top of that mountain, man doesn't discover an equation, or a singularity, or subatomic particle. Rather, what he discovers is another... face? Jesus Christ!
We'll get back to this provocative idea later, but let's just stipulate at the moment that it is indeed possible to come face-to-face with reality and to graze in the mirror and recognize the phase before one was born. There I AM, just as I left him!
As we were saying yesterday, there is no object -- not even the teeniest tiniest ittybitty eerywhig of a torytale -- that lacks an "interior horizon" that is forever inaccessible to the cold and eager grasp of the materialist. Hate to be so antipromethean, but Way It Is.
"Even subspiritual entities are not completely bereft of this kind of protection.... There is no being that does not enjoy an interiority, however liminal and rudimentary it may be" (Balthasar, but see also Whitehead for exciting details).
The above holds true unless, I suppose, your faith in yourself is total, in which case there is literally no getting through to you, because you are entirely complete and therefore closed.
Congratulations, you unlucky bastard! You've come to the end of the lyin'. To you, we have nothing to teach. So why are you here? Might I suggest that it is because you are not even -- or especially -- fooling yourself? You're certainly not fooling us! So rejoyce, because ho ho ho Mr. Finn, you're going to be fined again! And again. And again. Until you're ready for your final exhumination.
At any rate, as we ourselves have said many times and in many ways, "what we actually experience of the world always remains an infinitesimal sector of the knowable" (ibid).
And not only! For as the "sphere of knowledge" expands, so too does the edge that shades off into the unKnown. Thus, if restricted to the horizontal plane only, it is quite accurate to say that "the more we know, the less we understand," and it is not difficult to see why this must be the case.
To playgiarize with another shopworn truism, it is possible to know more and more about less and less until we know everything about nothing, at which point we are granted tenure.
Conversely, only the Raccoon -- dues-paying or honorary, it doesn't matter -- knows a little nothing about everything. It's just how we roll, even on shabbos.
The little "nothing" we know about everything is that inaccessible essence known only to... God? But isn't it interesting that even this little "nothing" speaks to us?
In other words, as we were saying a day or two ago, in the act of knowing, there is a kind of "cosmic movement" from interior to exterior. But the moment we try to clutch at that interior, it recedes back to its private sphere, like a mirage in the desert road on the way to Vegas.
Thus, "even so-called exact science remains an approximation of the truth about the essence of matter. It is no more and no less than a never-ending attempt to woo the core of the material world, which is not directly available to sense perception" (ibid).
Rather, it is veil upon veil upon veil, just like Einstein's "primitive" religion, Judaism, says it is. Not sure if Einstein ever got to the next part, which is that the veil simultaneously conceals and reveals, which is why reality is always a reveilation.
Is this a bad thing? No, of course not, unless you think that a negligee on a Victoria's Secret model is a bad thing. Nature woos us with similarly seductive veils, and we don't mind at all. Rather, she can use us until she uses us up.
Does this mean that we are championing the romantic and irrational? Hardly. Well, sort of. Again, we can know any number of things about nature. Just not everything -- any more than one could know oneself completely. Indeed, assuming that you don't even know yourself, and that you know yourself best, what makes you think that you could completely know anything else? What are you, a machine?
Balthasar: "[R]eality, not merely by reason of some accidental circumstance, but by reason of an intrinsic necessity, must always remain richer than any cognition of it," and "the truth even of the lowest level of being contains a richness that so utterly eludes exhaustive investigation that it can continue to engage inquirers until the end of time yet never ends up as a heap of unmysterious, completely surveyable facts."
For those of us who actually enjoy science, this should be wonderful news, because it means that there is no end to the knowledge party, no matter how late one arrives. Like the burning bush, or the wine at the wedding, or the feeding of the five thousand, there's always more where that came from.
However, this cosmic fact will not be a liberating joy, but a frustrating persecution, for those who pursue science with secret pretensions to omniscience. There are always scientific party-poopers, those annoying know-it-alls who tell everyone to break it up and go home.
For such narrow-minded and snake-eyed scolds, it will be extremely disturbing to learn that God enjoys playing a little dice now and then. And history teaches that the biggest gamble of all was the creation of a bunch of big-brained Einsteins with the freedom to deny that he plays dice.
But even before that -- before mind -- comes the shocking phenomenon of Life and all it implies. For when God told the cosmos to get a life, he wasn't just serious but really yoking around with time. Time to roll 'dem bones!
To be continued....