Friday, September 27, 2013

Man's Faith in God's Faith in Man

Some interesting comments yesterday about divine foreknowledge, free will, the nature of prophecy, etc.

In rereading the post, the following passage caught my attention: "Rather, I can only provide some general outlines and directions, but I hope to begin fleshing things out on Monday. Anyway, don't jump to any conclusions just yet. It will all make sense in the end."

First of all: Napoleon, like anyone can even know that.

But... I do know it, at least in a kinda sorta way. I mean, I don't know it like I know the sun is shining outside, but I have this intuition that a number of diverse strands will somehow come together and make sense.

So, it's not yet knowledge. Nor is it foreknowledge, because it's not like a mathematical equation, which, given the variables, has only one solution. You know the feeling. Call it... faith.

Faith is always a kind of unKnowing, because it's not just blind stupidity or flat ignorance, but an irreplaceable mode in the search for meaning, guided -- or lured -- by an invisible gradient of deepening coherence. Faith points and we follow -- it's analogous to our natural compass that points us toward foodsexgrog, but on a higher plane. It's a supernatural compass.

The world is full of “particulars,” of loose ends and bits of disconnected information. The deeper philosophy will be the one that connects the most fragments into a unified whole. Therefore, reality is both “present” and hidden from us, depending on our skill in weaving our own psychopneumatic area rug and pulling the cosmic womb together.

But this goes to what one commenter said yesterday vis-a-vis the differences between present, past, and future. These three are so different that it is difficult to see how they relate to the same word, time.

For the past is fully real (or realized), the present is the space of possibility, and the future hasn't happened at all, so it is not "real" in the same way as the first two.

Anyway, you might say that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unSeen. Thus, it is both substance and evidence, but not a physical substance and not empirical or (merely) rational evidence.

This got me to thinking: faith is said to be such a commendable virtue, I wonder if there is something analogous with God?

Again, I go back to the principle that man is in the image of the Absolute, so if this modality is so critical to our existence, why wouldn't it also be present in God, albeit in some analogous fashion? (Or, more properly, our faith would have to be an analogue of God's faith.)

So, is there any evidence that God has faith? Or is there some kind of reciprocity going on, whereby we have faith in God and God has faith in us?

You biblical scholars out there will be better at this than I am, but my first impulse was to check out my concordance in search of God's faith, and there it was, all over the place. For example,

Even with the Holy One who is faithful (Hos 11:12).

But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No (2 Cor 1:18).

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (2 Thes 23:24).

... for He who promised is faithful (Heb 10:23)

He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).

So, it's almost as if we are called upon to have faith in God's faith in us. If God's faith is analogous to ours, I suppose it would mean he "hopes" we do the right thing, just as I hope this series of posts will make sense.

In both cases, the faith is not just "passive"; or rather, it is passive in the sense of opening up an unsaturated space of freedom and possibility in the now, but active in the sense of movement toward the source of our faith, which in turn is the "vector of coherence," so to speak, or the density and interconnectivity of wholeness. Our faith is the shadow cast back and down by the light of this wholeness.

This again touches on the issue of God's omniscience, and whether it is possible to have the same sort of omniscience vis-a-vis the past, present, and future.

It seems to me that omniscience of the past is not especially problematic, because it consists only of "what happened." And knowledge of the present would flow from God's interior prehension of the whole -- or in other words, there would be no coherent whole, no cosmos at all, in the absence of God.

But what of the future? When God "prophesizes," I wonder if it is, in a way, analogous to my "prophecy" that this series of posts will somehow "all make sense in the end." Thus, it wouldn't so much mean This is going to happen, and I know exactly how, but rather, Don't worry. This is gonna happen, even if the particulars aren't all worked out yet.

Thus, this would allow for genuine surprisal in history, and God's ongoing "adjustment" to it, so to speak, to bring about the "ordained" outcome. In other words, there are many roads, none of which were built in a day, all leading to home.

Well, that's about it for today. Still no time to get into the unseen substance of what I was hoping for.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Creative God of Information vs. A Predictable God of Order

As promised, I want to try to relate information theory -- as discussed in Gilder's Knowledge and Power -- to theology.

It's a little frustrating, because it's a huge topic, and I barely have enough time to scratch the surface this morning. Rather, I can only provide some general outlines and directions, but I hope to begin fleshing things out on Monday (not sure about tomorrow). Anyway, don't jump to any conclusions just yet. It will all make sense in the end.

First of all, do we have any reason to believe that the structure of the cosmos reveals anything about God? I don't see why not; there's always something of the creator in the creation.

That word: creator. If God is a creator, then that alone is full of implications. For as Gilder writes, "creativity always comes as a surprise to us.... It is a high-entropy event. Innovations are not an expression of equilibrium and order, like crystals or snowflakes," but rather, "disruptions of it."

The question is, does creativity come as a surprise to God? Well, only if he is a creator. If he is not surprised by his creation -- and by the creativity of his creatures -- then he is something other than a creator, perhaps an "orderer," or mathematician, or playwright, or puppet master.

A God of this sort doesn't play dice with the cosmos, or with anything else, for that matter. In fact, he can't gamble at all, because he knows the outcome ahead of time. Sounds a little boring to me.

Furthermore, if God knows the outcome ahead of time, this erodes our free will, revealing it to be an illusion of temporality. Many Christians are fine with this, but I personally have issues with this type of omniscience.

Indeed, I think one of the most shocking implications of Christianity is the idea that the Creator submits himself to his own creation; that God genuinely offers himself to history, with no foreknowledge of what is going to happen -- because he is free, as are the human actors involved.

Isn't the whole pathology of the left encrapsulated in the pretext of foreknowledge of an open and undetermined future? Again, they try to impose order at the expense of information. But since the cosmos is in fact informational, this means that leftism fails because it doesn't comport with the nature of reality. As Gilder writes,

"No rational determinist scheme can encompass entrepreneurial entropy," because it "begins beyond the boundaries of settled rationality. As a form of new discovery, it passes Gödel's threshold, the point where all logical systems, including mathematics, exhaust their completeness. Entrepreneurship transcends certainty and enters the always-evanescent realm of creation."

So God is some kind of businessman and not just an isnessman? Not just O, but CEO?

Before you laugh -- or wince -- consider the fact that the essence of the trinitarian God involves transactional giving. Let's not idealize the individual businessman, but let's just consider why the free market works. It works because of "an imaginative sense of the needs of others," which, in aggregate, constitutes "a pattern of giving that dwarfs in extent and essential generosity any socialist scheme of redistribution."

As mentioned yesterday, I've been reading a book on process theology (not raccoomended to the casual or maybe even formal reader). I've always had problems with process theology; or perhaps it's just with the most prominent process theologians, who tend to use it to undermine orthodoxy and to promote radical environmentalism, hysterical feminism, Marxist liberation theology, and other pneumopathologies. These vertical activists blatantly use theology to legitimize their political and economic preferences.

But I think a genuine understanding of process theology goes in the opposite direction, for reasons alluded to above: because the cosmos is more like an informational organism than it is an ordered machine. This is why the cosmos is full of surprising developments that cannot be deduced from, much less predicted by, prior states; or as Gilder writes,

"[C]hemistry cannot be reduced to physics -- the density of information is much higher," just as "biology cannot be reduced to chemistry, or human creativity to biology." To simply shout evolution did it! is to beg the question entirely. Such simplistic notions "stop thinking rather than stimulate it."

So let's start thinking about this surprising cosmos of ours. Let's do like Hartshorne, for whom metaphysics was a "solemn vocation," involving "as a philosopher, the pursuit of the nature of reality, and as a theologian, the search for a rational foundation for religion" (McMurrin).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Unboreable Lileks of Bleating

Reading this book of essays by and about Charles Hartshorne in conjunction with Knowledge and Power has been mutually illuminating. Hartshorne was the most famous acolyte of Whitehead, refining and extending his process philosophy, especially into theology. Both information theory and process philosophy describe a world of ceaselessly flowing information.

Again, mere order is not information. I hadn't appreciated this subtle point, but Gilder reemphasizes it in a section on fractals. Fractals are a form of order that reveals similarity across scale, but they actually contain virtually no information.

For example, I remember reading a couple of decades ago, about how researchers were attempting to predict the stock market by looking at the fractal pattern of day-to-day and year-to-year movements of the entire stock market -- as if its future were constrained by some macro-fractal pattern, or strange attractor.

But that makes no sense from the perspective of information theory, which again produces unpredictable novelty. Gilder compares the above approach to "analyzing water by focusing on the bubbles as it boils," on "trivial patterns yielding small or chaotic effects that are divorced from the actual substance of causes and consequences."

But one "cannot predict the future of markets or companies by examining the fractal patterns of their previous price movements," because "there simply is not enough information in current prices to reveal future prices."

It reminds me of an app Lileks has written about, which tracks his movements throughout the day. It produces interesting patterns that essentially depict the phase space in which Lileks lives, moves, and bleats.

But is he really constrained by that space? Does it really mean he has only the illusion of free movement? No, not unless he's severely OCD. But he's only a little OCD. Not to mention the fact that the exterior phase space doesn't say anything about his thrilling interior adventures. Another person running around in the identical phase space as Lileks would be totally boring.

But Lileks always manages to transform his low-entropy peregrinations and encounters into high entropy, entertaining bleats. It's called art -- a little like Joyce's Ulysses, only intelligible.

I mean, that's what art does, right? It takes the same materials available to all of us, but uses them to create novelty. Unlike Tom Friedman -- who always wants you to know that he lives in a very big phase space that takes him all over the world -- you never know what Lileks is going to say. Thus, there is no relationship between Friedman's expansive exterior phase space -- which seems so "free" -- and any meaningful pneumacognitive freedom.

For Gilder, "markets are more analogous to biological phenomena," which immediately calls to mind Whitehead's organismic approach to the totality of being: in short, reality is much more like an organism than it is a machine.

Hartshorne was a relentless critic of reductionism and determinism, because "chance and causal indeterminacy" are "negative but necessary aspect[s] of" of our freedom. In contrast, determinism "is a doctrine of the total insignificance of our freedom, giving human beings no greater scope of creative options than the lowest of creatures."

Thus, with the emergence of man, there is a huge ingression of freedom, novelty, creativity, entropy, and unpredictability into the cosmos. Where did it come from? To say that it comes simply from a prior state of low-entropy order makes no sense at all:

"Neither pure chance nor the pure absence of chance can explain the world" -- to which I would add that neither pure order nor the absence of pure order can explain it. Rather, "there must be something positive limiting chance and something more than mere matter in matter."

But what?

How about creativity? "Nuts and bolts cannot evolve," because "they have no intrinsic creativity. To have creativity is to have, in some sense, a goal or purpose. Future possibilities are causes in the present, both in sustaining the entity and enabling it to evolve." Conversely, determinism "is a theory of cosmic monotony, not of cosmic beauty."

Ah, now we're getting somewhere, because future causation is also vertical causation. Jumping ahead a bit, one of the essayists references Josiah Royce, who said that The best world for a moral agent is one that needs him to make it better. But how do we make it better unless we are lured by the attractor of a superior mode of being?

Or in other words, "The divine orderer works with entities that each have their degree of freedom to respond or not to respond to that influence. This may be tiny at the level of the electron" or the New York Times editorial page, but "is highly significant at the level of the human person."

And this is a very Raccoonish sentiment: "God, instead of being the all powerful manipulator of the creation, is its great persuader, providing its entities with specific goals or purposes and coordinating the activity of all."

In fact, this is where all the human information comes from -- in particular, I'm thinking of the "orienting" or "anchoring" principles that make a meaningful human existence possible.

A dog, for example is oriented by very simple attractors, e.g., food, sex, and companionship. But what is so surprising about man is that, the moment he becomes man, he is oriented around an entirely novel set of attractors, things like love, truth, beauty, virtue, nobility, courage, creativity, etc.

Where did these come from? From the past? From mere order? No. From the future -- or from the upper vertical (the former in time, the latter in space). In the absence of orientation to this upper vertical -- consistent with Voegelin's main point -- our lives are absolutely meaningless.

And ironically, this applies quintessentially to science, in that "the very sense of intensity in scientific activity is essentially bound up with the unpredictability of future discoveries and the frequent surprises in experimental results" -- for example, the surprising result that the globe hasn't been warming for the past 15 years after all.

Notice how the so-called scientists are attempting to characterize this as noise rather than information. That's not science. Nor is it religion. Rather, it is just the illicit attempt to impose a specious order upon surprising information so as to make it go away.

Gotta run. I'll leave you with another quote:

If becoming does not create new quality and quantity, new determinateness, then, we argue, it creates nothing and nothing ever becomes. And if nothing ever becomes, then there is no temporal passage from past to future. Everything simply is all at once.

Or in other words, history is just the time it takes for nothing to happen.

(The Sipster is another guy who can fling low entropy bits of his life onto the Internet floor and turn them into art. Few people can do that, and I'm not one of them. I always need to dialogue with high entropy folks like Gilder and Hartshorne in order to extrude a little novelty.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Socialism Would Be Easy If Not for F*cking Creativity

"The very nature of creativity is that it always comes as a surprise to us" (Gilder).

Right? An antiquated machine that extrudes the identical lame product over and over -- say, Tom Friedman -- is the antithesis of creativity. If something can be predicted by its antecedents, it isn't a creation, it's a mere effect of something else, fully reducible to predetermined causes.

Science, strictly speaking, explains everything but creativity. Not only that, but in its reductionist mania, it generally attempts to explain the creative via the uncreative, the intelligent via the mindless, freedom via necessity, and the living via the lifeless. It just waves a magic wand over the ontological discontinuities and pretends this is an explanation.

I noticed this yesterday while thumbing through a recent Scientific American in the orthopedist's office. No matter what subject they touched -- the Big Bang, the origin of life, the intersection of ideology and science -- every author had the same adolescent tone of smug superiority to go along with their dull absence of style and their one-dimensional shallowness of thought. The magazine seems to exert a heavy editorial hand that banishes seriousness of thought; or that affirms a frivolous certainty.

To put it another way, their minds are entirely lacking in creative surprisal, so perhaps the metaphysic they embrace is just a massive projection of their own experience and limitations. As the left likes to say, they are indeed speaking their truth. Which no one should confuse with Truth. Rather, these are just fairy tales for the tenured, chicken shit for the scientistic soul.

But to be trapped in that sort of mind would be a kind of living hell for anyone who has made it to freedom, or who has rotated in Plato's cave.

Freedom means nothing to someone who has never experienced it, which is why it is so difficult to export it to places where it has never existed, e.g., Islamistan. For such peoples, freedom has an entirely different connotation, meaning essentially the freedom to live in their traditionally unfree manner. For them, the alternative to such oppression is social chaos. What we think of as individual liberty doesn't enter the equation.

My own racket of psychology is no more a science than is global warming. Psychologists have no difficulty explaining something after it has happened. The trick is predicting the event before it happens, which is what a genuine science does. The best historian in the world cannot predict the future.

What this means, of course, is that man can never be exhaustively described scientifically. True, it is useful to consider certain human parts in a mechanistic/deterministic manner, but the soul -- or a person, if you like -- is quite clearly beyond any human calculation. A person is not reducible to an ape, just as taking a shower is not reducible to rubbing oneself with hydrogen and oxygen.

The same is true of the climate, but for different reasons -- not because the earth has a soul (although it may have some analogous, emergent large-scale interior unity), but because of the infinitude of variables, i.e., because of the complexity and non-linearity of the system. Climate cannot be predicted for the same reason we have no idea what the global economy will look like 100 years hence. In both cases, the researchers simply don't know what they don't know -- which swamps what they do know.

Scientism is afflicted with a bad case of WTSIATI: what they see is all there is. How sad!

If we could predict surprise -- a contradiction in terms -- then we could organize and plan for it. Nevertheless, despite the intrinsic contradiction, this is precisely what leftists presume to do, i.e., control the uncontrollable and predict the unpredictable. In short, socialism would work beautifully if only creativity didn't exist.

Or, to paraphrase Larry Sanders' self-serving agent, "our job would be so easy if it weren't for fucking talent!"

"In a free economy," writes Gilder, "a high degree of apparent randomness does not mean actual randomness. An apparently random pattern is evidence not of purposelessness but of an entrepreneurial economy full of creative surprises."

Again, it's just like a person, only worse. If you kick a rock, you can pretty much predict where it will roll. But if you kick a man, you have no idea what he might do. Freedom is a terrible thing. No wonder most cultures -- and most people -- hate it.

One of the most succinct definitions of a person is provided by Nicolás Gómez Dávila; it is simultaneously the least and most you can say: a person is the permanent possibility of initiating a causal series.

Now, to initiate a causal series is to create, since an "initiation" is not preceded by anything else. In other words, it arises in a genuine space of undetermined freedom of choice. This, of course, is one of the deeper meanings of being in the image and likeness of God, for only God and man have this power to freely initiate a causal series (God absolutely, man in a relative analogue).

So, just as knowledge and power are intimately related, so too are freedom and creativity. Only in a free-market liberal democracy are they all present and accounted for. The left wants the power but not the knowledge, the freedom but not the creativity. Mere power + freedom results in precisely the type of lawlessness we see in the Obama regime. e.g., Obamacare for thee but not for me. (Or Clintonworld, where the powerful trade their StupidPower for more of it.)

Ironically, the most important scientific developments of the 20th century should be a lesson in epistemic humility, not an excuse for promethean omniscience. Gilder catalogues some of these:

"In physics, mathematics, cosmology, and psychology, reason collided at every turn with an insuperable barrier of incompleteness, uncertainty, paradox, incomputability, or recursive futility."

Raccoons know the drill: Gödel's incompleteness theorems, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bohr's complementarity, Polanyi's tacit knowledge, Matte Blanco's symmetrical logic, the irreconcilability of quantum and relativity theories, the irreducibility of Slack, etc., etc.

It takes a big mind to know little -- or to unKnow a lot, to be precise -- the reason being that the largest spotlight has the largest area of surrounding darkness. But in a way, that darkness is a measure of our freedom, or at least makes it a permanent possibility. It certainly means that no one can shove us into their little prefabricated boxes -- boxes of class, or gender, or homophobia, or white privilege.

Perhaps the simplest and most suggestive definition of entropy is as a measure of freedom of choice: the higher the entropy, the larger the bandwidth or range of selection (Gilder).

Monday, September 23, 2013

On My Careless Linkage of Obama and Manson

First of all, about that last post -- I must apologize for implicitly linking Charles Manson to President Obama. An inexcusable lapse of judgment.

Rather, the link is much more explicit than I had realized. You might say there's just one degree of separation between the two, in the form of Obama's Chicago buddy and all around ghostrotter, Bill Ayers.

Guinn points out that in 1969, many on the left instinctively sympathized with Manson's anti-establishment credentials, and that the most radical among them "took it a step further; the presumed guilt of Charlie and his followers made him admirable."

No way. That's just another right-wing HateFact, isn't it?

Well, at a December 1969 meeting of the Weather Underground, Ayers' bitter half, Bernardine Dohrn, was unstinting in her praise of the Manson family:

Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even stuck a fork into the victim's stomach. Wild!

These lovely friends of Obama, Ayers and Dohrn, "probably had the most authority within the Weatherman." Thus, their tasteful salute became "four fingers held up into the air to signify the fork jammed into Leno LaBianca's abdomen" (ibid.).

Stay classy, Bill!

There's no point in refighting the battles of 2008, and besides, if Leno LaBianca had lived to see it, does anyone doubt that Obama's tireless work to jam socialized medicine down our throats "would have brought comfort to her in her old age"?

That's what you call even Steven on the left. We're all familiar with Joseph Stalin's omelette recipe, which begins with appropriating the power to break eggs and ends with no breakfast for you. Way it is.

Speaking of HateFacts, here is a helpful piece on how the left dupes its useful LoFo idiots into supporting its illiberal agenda. It is impossible to understand the left -- or Obama -- without the key of cultural Marxism.

Returning to our main theme of information theory, "the key issue in economics is not aligning incentives with some putative public good but aligning knowledge with power." The free market does this spontaneously.

In contrast, the state not only aligns power and ignorance (of which it is ignorant), but is then shielded from the consequences. Power corrupts what is supposed to be a low entropy carrier -- the state -- with noise. Obamacare, for example, has to be the noisiest legislation in the history of the country.

"From the perspective of information theory, regulation is mainly an effort to replace knowledge with power" (Gilder).

But the most complete regulation can never overcome its "epistemic futility," i.e., Hayek's knowledge barrier. Regulation is of course necessary, but it "should be a low-entropy carrier" rather than a high-entropy barrier to commerce, as is Obamacare.

Remember, for the left, politics is, and can only be, about power, if only because it lacks the information necessary to govern rationally. It is certainly not about universal truths, or ordered liberty, or human nature, or natural law, or limited government, or classical soulcraft.

But real effective power is always the result of a pneumasynthesis of natural resources with supernatural ones, i.e., with human intelligence and creativity. Power minus information pretty much = the left.

Thus, for example, in 2009, Obama-Reid-Pelosi "turned up the power to compensate for the lack of information. The most readily available lever of power was federal spending."

In short, "seeking to ordain outcomes from the demand side, the blind side, without information and by dint of dumb money, politicians sought to control investment by brute spending" (ibid.).

But "federal spending based on borrowing from banks that is loaned at 0-percent interest from the Federal Reserve is the epitome of dumb money" -- i.e. Stupid Power -- and "devoid of information and deadly to the real assets of the nation." Rather, "all the relevant information is on the supply side."

But this is unacceptable to the Mansonoid left, since these evil supply-side piggies are precisely the ones who need to be brought down and punished in the liberal Helter Skelter of class warfare.