Thursday, October 24, 2013

Obamacare and Other Cosmic Errors

One of Robert Rosen's central conclusions is that the sort of systems described (or that are describable) by physics are actually the exception, not the rule. Being that Rosen sits in the Raccoon emeritus chair in theoretical biology, we should listen to him.

The reason why physics is powerless to explain life is that physics is not nearly general enough, applying as it does to special cases. Such a simplistic model doesn't allow for creativity, indeterminacy, organicity, information, holism, complementarity, incompleteness, relation, complexity, upside surprise, or positive entropy, all of which now appear to be fundamental.

While I'm working on my coffee, I'll let this more alert amazon reviewer summarize Rosen's views in a more turgid way than I can manage at the moment:

Rosen lays "the groundwork for a relational biology based on functional organization and methodically investigates the theoretical limits of mechanistic systems.... The distinction eventually becomes clear that any such algorithmic mechanisms cannot embody the kinds of unpredictable complexity that are characteristic of an organism. Because the syntax of Newtonian physics can express no such closed loops of entailment,'life' cannot even be described in that model of physics, much less modeled in any complete way. Thus it is that biological organisms are not a mere subset of current physics, but are representative of complexities that require physics to be enlarged."

Or you could just say that life is the rule, not the exception. I don't think you need to completely master the science in order to intuit the consequences. Even in a fully caffeinated state, Rosen is a daunting read. Rather, you may simply suspect -- as I do, and as another reviewer puts it -- that "the present axioms of science are much too limiting to explain anything we really would like to know about the universe," because "we are trying to solve problems in too limited a universe of discourse."

I mean, right? The existing toolbox of the tenured is "only useful for predicting the N+1 [i.e., quantitative] state for some dead (and therefore uninteresting) mechanistic universe." But it's nice to have the prestige of science -- or the science of the future! -- on our side.

The problem is, none of these futurians seem to know of or talk to one another. The reason for this, I think, is that, in order to climb the greased pole of tenure, one must internalize the existing paradigm, whether one is a physicist, biologist, neurologist -- even theologian! In short, academia is is full of conformists and secondhand intellectuals.

Therefore, the nonconformists who resist the indoctrination must either be very stubborn, independent, and creative; or just eccentric crackpots. The softer the science, the more room for psychoceramic flights of fancy, which is why my field, psychology, is plagued by so much mandatory bullshit masquerading as science.

When I say that none of these folks talk to one another, I'm looking in the indexes of Rosen's books, and see no references to such luminous predecessors as Whitehead, Polanyi, or Errol Harris, whose many books touch on some of the same themes.

Hartshorne -- an acolyte of Whitehead -- proves with logic what Rosen proves with science, that determinism is "incapable of being true." This is because "necessity is a special case, not the universal principle." Again, the universal principle, if not "life," must at least permit life! It cannot render life inexplicable, or else we have a theory that is held by people who don't exist.

As we've been saying, necessity cannot explain creativity, novelty, progress, etc. Therefore, just as disorder must be parasitic on order, necessity must be parasitic, so to speak, on creativity. Creativity allows for disorder, indeed, requires it, in order to break out of an existing pattern and reorganize at a higher level.

Thus, just as pure necessity explains nothing, so too does pure randomness explain nothing. These are just complementary positions at the extremes of metaphysical error. And no human being (or community) could actually live at these nonsensical extremes, of leftist tyranny at one end, anarchy at the other. This suggests that the ordered liberty of our founders works because it is an image of how reality works.

The same goes for certain religious doctrines. Say what you want about Vedanta or Buddhism, but no functioning society could be built around people who don't regard reality as real, and who dissolve the individual into the formless void. Rather, in order to even allow for such useless people (and I mean that in the best possible sense), we need an awful lot of useful people.

Indeed, it is the identical problem with Obamacare, and with socialism in general -- that in order for it to work, we need millions of healthy and productive people compelled to do things they don't want to do, in order to support unproductive people who don't have to do anything but vote for Obama. Leftists don't like to admit it, but in order for it to work -- for a while, anyway -- it needs reality to support all the unreality.

Note that the reverse can never be true, i.e., unreality supporting reality -- which is why the ideas of the tenured only "work" within the artificial confines of the looniversity bin, not in the real world. Let's see Enron advisor Paul Krugman run a business.

Harshorne proves that God exists necessarily. However, he believes that a metaphysical blunder was committed along the way, which conflated God's necessary existence with an existence of pure necessity -- which, ironically, is the identical error of scientistic fundamentalists. But not so ironic, in that western science emerged in the context of the Christian metaphysic of a rational and law-abiding Creator.

The problem is, they used too restricted a definition or reason, and too narrow a definition of law. Because if the law is creativity, this places everything in a different light.

One of the features of the Coonifesto is it's circularity. This can be taken in two ways -- the right way and the wrong way.

The wrong way would be to equate it with Nietzsche's dreary "eternal return," whereby the same things keep happening over and over, in a deterministic way. That would be awful, and I can't imagine a Creator who would actually enjoy an eternity of summer reruns instead of a new bleat every day.

The correct way to interpret it is in the process way, whereby the Godhead is "enriched," so to speak, by its own cosmic adventure. I am hardly the first to posit this divine-cosmic circularity. Precursors include Origen, Denys, Maximus, Erigena, Eckhart, and more. Likewise, that little quote from Voegelin in the comment box expresses the same idea, of "reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable."

But given the divine creativity, it must be a creative spiral, not a closed circle, because otherwise, in the words of Hartshorne, the creation was just "a nonaction, effecting nothing."

16 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

Rather, in order to even allow for such useless people (and I mean that in the best possible sense), we need an awful lot of useful people.

This reminds me of Jack Nicholson's character in "A Few Good Men". I've never seen the whole movie, but I am very sympathetic to him smacking down Tom Cruise in the clip I have seen. I assume Jack's the bad guy. But he's right. Burrough's had a famous phrase, "The long newspaper spoon" -- it keeps the raw reality at a distance and allows us to cling to our morals, ethics, principles without getting all dirty over it.

Everybody like bacon. Most people aren't up for scalding, scraping and butchering a hog.

10/24/2013 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The second point is about physics. I agree with Rosen, but I suppose I am so indoctrinated with the superiority of physics -- everything OUGHT to be like physics -- that I can hardly bring myself to accept that it is true.

10/24/2013 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, fortunately, physics turns out to be more mindlike than we had previously believed. It's just that, with the exception of a few people such as Whitehead, folks haven't grappled with the implications.

10/24/2013 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I have some Whitehead stuff on the shelf I need to read. More motivation.

10/24/2013 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I wouldn't attempt to tackle Process and Reality, but other books are quite accessible, such as Adventures in Ideas and Science & the Modern World.

10/24/2013 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Well, fortunately, physics turns out to be more mindlike than we had previously believed.

The whole idea is really rather shocking. It's like finding a recipe for ordinary cake, with a footnote that once every hundred or so times it's baked, a dragon will come out of the oven instead, but only if someone is watching. But then, isn't that sort of the way life came about in the first place?

10/24/2013 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

This post makes a nice bell-like "bing."

10/24/2013 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT but NR:

Bob, can you raccoomend a good book on Origen?

10/24/2013 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I'm pretty sure Balthasar's is still the best. Got a lot of people interested in the early fathers.

10/24/2013 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... with a footnote that once every hundred or so times it's baked, a dragon will come out of the oven instead, but only if someone is watching. ...

Somewhere in heaven, C.S. Lewis just stopped what he was doing and hollered, "Yes!"

10/24/2013 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Deepak in the news. Kind of sad that no one will be able to take communion with the Deepak chocolates.

10/24/2013 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Strange someone as enlightened as Deepak can exercise such poor judgment in a partner. Maybe he'll rethink his support of Obama.

10/24/2013 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Thanks, Bob, for the book..

10/24/2013 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Math proves God exists.

Haven't read it in detail or looked for source, but it is based on Gödel, so it could be interesting.

10/24/2013 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said "Well, fortunately, physics turns out to be more mindlike than we had previously believed.

The whole idea is really rather shocking. It's like finding a recipe for ordinary cake, with a footnote that once every hundred or so times it's baked, a dragon will come out of the oven instead, but only if someone is watching."

;-)

Physics enables us to take that cake, and tell you the molecular composition of the ingredients it was baked from, which is marvelous. The problem with physics, is physicists who take that analysis and then claim to be able to successfully reverse engineer not only the recipe & kitchen it was baked in, but the diners and the cook too.

Sometimes you just want to tell them: "Hey buddy, just eat the cake."

10/24/2013 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - yes, exactly.

Back to implications, it occurs to me this morning to wonder how it may pertain to the mystery of transubstantiation...

10/25/2013 05:34:00 AM  

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