Friday, October 25, 2013

Making the Most of Our Cosmic Home

About the problem of evil: if the existence of evil proves the non-existence of God, then this implicitly affirms that an "entire absence of evil" would be "deducible from the presence of God."

Right. But this assumes the possibility of creatures "wholly without freedom, able to make no decisions except those duplicating what God decides for them." Thus, they wouldn't actually be creatures at all, just extensions of God. So it seems that if free human persons are to exist, evils must come.

Okay. But what about nonhuman evil -- if it even makes sense to attribute evil to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, viruses, and gardening accidents? This, I think, actually poses more of a problem for the traditional view, since human evil may only contribute a small percentage -- depending on the case -- to the evils experienced by man. Do the existence of these evils preclude a good God?

Here I think the process view is the only one capable of adequately addressing this question. That is to say, in process philosophy, we don't begin with a rigidly deterministic cosmos that inexplicably manifests freedom with the appearance of human beings.

There is no materialistic explanation for such a shockingly discontinuous development, which is why scientism can cope with neither freedom nor ethics. Rather, it tries to eliminate the former entirely and reduce the latter to some sort of glorified animal instinct or impersonal genetic strategy.

But process philosophy begins with the principle of creativity, and therefore freedom. Thus, a degree of freedom is present in every process, every occasion, every event. Of course, it is much more attenuated in the quantum world than in the human world, but still, over time, we see what the cosmic creativity brings forth.

If there were no such creativity latent in matter, then it couldn't bloody well come to life, now could it? Likewise, if there were no creativity in the genes, they'd just produce more effective killing machines, certainly not poems, novels, and symphonies.

Creativity, like freedom, cuts both ways. For example, think of the tricky flu virus that each year finds a new way to get around our immune system. So, with the existence of freedom and creativity comes "risk as well as opportunity."

Now, there appear to be three long-term cosmic possibilities: either the cosmos is unchanging; it is getting "worse"; or it is getting "better." Physicists such as Einstein insist -- appearances to the contrary notwithstanding -- that time is just a "persistent illusion," and that the cosmos is really just a big brick.

Traditionalists adopt the view that everything is necessarily going downhill since the creation, as if subject to a kind of metacosmic entropy. Therefore, the past is better than the present, because it is "closer" to the first cause. Time in this view is essentially corrosive.

The converse of this is the evolutionary view held by people such as Teilhard de Chardin and various new age yahoos, in which the cosmos is "winding up." It's not getting older, it's getting better!

These three positions are entangled with the nature of God -- or of the absolute principle, if one denies God.

For example, Aristotle posits a First Cause, the Unmoved Mover, which was later incorporated into Christian metaphysics. Such a view implicitly argues that to cause is intrinsically superior to being caused. And if we consider this temporally, it "implies that the past is in principle better than the present," since the present is wholly caused by the past.

This, it seems to me, accounts for the romantic gnostalgia of traditionalists who exalt the past and denigrate the present. Like the "block universe," it is a highly problematic view, because it means that what looks to us like creativity is just a form of decay.

Ultimately it must mean that "whatever the creative process produces is in no way an enrichment of the divine reality, who must be cause only, in no way effect." Thus, "the creation is literally of no value to God."

This comes close to the Gnostic heresy that creation itself is a fall -- that existence as such is a sin, since it implies separation from God. In other words, sin isn't located in human freedom, but way before that, in the mere act of creation.

To insist that to cause is superior to being caused is also to say that necessity is intrinsically superior to contingency. Is this possible? If true, it would mean that a machine is superior to a human being. It would essentially define freedom as a bad thing, something wholly deviant, with no upside.

The third view, of an evolutionary cosmos, is also problematic, because it essentially embodies a mirror image of the fallacies of the second.

Indeed, this is why it is so compatible with a bonehead progressivism that denigrates the past -- tradition -- and exalts the future. Just as the implication of traditionalism is that people of the past were "better" than us, the implication of evolutionism is that we are just stepping stones to the future human beings who will be superior to us.

More ominously, it reduces human beings to a means to some future end. And this is precisely where the genocidal left jumps in to accelerate the process.

In my opinion, the only way out of these metaphysical muddles and nul de slacks is the Raccoon way, because it balances and harmonizes conservation, creative surprise, and evolutionary adventure.

(All of the quoted material in this post is from Hartshorne's Insights & Oversights.)

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."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Unexamined Lie is Not Worth Loving

Two points: I don't see what purpose religion can serve if it doesn't speak to man as he is, i.e., in his essential nature; or if it affirms principles (such as determinism) that no one can actually live (i.e., no one lives their life as if they lack free will). In other words, a religion can't do us much good if it applies to a different species.

I found the Hartshorne quote I was looking for the other day, that "every major mistake about God involves a mistake about human nature."

In short, erroneous anthropology necessarily leads to erroneous theology. Which is why, for example, liberation theologians worship a Marxist God, or why Islamists worship a genocidal one, or why Al Sharpton worships an angry pimp. That is, they simply worship their own projections, which amounts to idolatry.

That's all well and good -- or unwell and bad -- but just how are we supposed to distinguish truths from mistakes about human nature? Isn't this an area that is hopelessly subjective? After all, since the 1960s we've "evolved" into the view that there are no permanent truths of human nature -- let alone good and bad ways of being human -- and that we should celebrate all these wonderful differences.

So instead of hewing to the principle that the unexamined life is not worth living, our elites tell us that the un-diverse life is not permissible. If you should examine your life and discover unalterable truths, you're not just wrong, but evil.

For example, if you should examine human life and discover the truth that marriage involves the union of a man and woman, the prerogatives of an omnipotent diversity -- of political power -- trump truth.

Which itself is a great perversity, for humans, alone among creatures, have access to truth. To deny this principle is to prevent man (and maim him in the process). And yet, this is precisely what diversocrats and relativists do. And in so doing they cause collateral damage to God, given the above noted analogy between God and man.

Hartshorne writes that "We can only conceive God by analogy to ourselves as conscious beings, but we destroy the analogy if we impose requirements upon God that contradict the very meaning of consciousness."

I hope I don't have to remind anyone that the purpose of the analogy is not to reduce God to human proportions, but rather, to elevate us beyond our own limitations. For example, God knows truth perfectly, while we see it through tinted -- or sometimes frosted -- glass.

So, we don't only want to examine ourselves in our own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies -- although that's part of it -- but rather, examine ourselves with the view of discovering universal truths that apply to everyone -- or to consciousness as such.

Now, what are some universal truths of human consciousness? Well, not to belabor the point, but there is no such thing as a consciousness that is not intersubjective and in relation. We are not sealed off monads, but interiorly related: we are intrinsically members of one another. I suggest -- no, I insist -- that the notion of a "closed" consciousness is both inconceivable and impossible.

Which certainly goes to this otherwise bizarre and inexplicable idea that God is both one and three. His threeness is not to be understood in a quantitative, but rather, a qualitative way. If you ask how it is possible for three to be one, the answer is simple, because the same principle is reflected in us: a man whose consciousness is not open to the other is not superior, but rather, severely autistic. Every act of cognition involves knower, known, and knowledge, just as love involves lover, beloved, and loving.

In this context, God is not only sympathetic to (moved by) human suffering, but, in the words of Hartshorne, possesses an omniscient sympathy. He is surely the Mover, i.e., the Creator; but there is no reason to insist he is the absolutely unmoved mover.

Along these lines, he quotes the eminent Rabbi Heschel, who said that God is the most moved mover. In fact, Hartshorne tweaks the phrase, suggesting that God must be "the most and best moved mover" -- or in other words, the most perfectly sympathetic being.

Another grave fact you will unearth if you exhumine yourself is that you are free. No, not wholly free -- which is indistinguishable from Sartre's nothingness -- but rather, a mixture of necessity and freedom.

In fact, we can conceive of freedom in no other way, because unconstrained freedom -- like an unrelated consciousness -- is an inconceivable absurdity. It is just meaningless chaos, not meaningful freedom.

Here again, our own freedom is an analogy to, or reflection of, God's principial freedom. But is God's freedom a completely unconstrained chaos? I don't think so.

Rather, it seems that God is "constrained," so to speak, by his own nature. The difference here is that man can indeed violate his own nature, and in the pursuit of a spurious freedom, become unfree, which is to say, become -- or unbecome -- someone else entirely.

Leftists elevate this error to a principle in their struggle to create a new man who is no longer man at all. Thus the Raccoon tradition (or running gag) of greeting leftists with a sarcastic, Hello, new man.

Conversely, when we imitate God and become true to our own nature, this "sets us free."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Holy Change, B'atman!

I want to expand upon what was said yesterday about creativity, individuality, and the discontinuity of time, which must all be functions of one another.

Even though parts of this post may seem tediously pedantic, I am going to try to make it as painfully clear as possible. Still, you may want to read it slowly, and make sure you digest one sentence before gradueating to the next.

Hartshorne mentions the same passage from Kierkegaard that I independently discovered back when, to the effect that "Everything that comes into being proves precisely by coming into being that it is not necessary."

In this context, remember what was said a few posts back about the implicit relationship between necessity and eternity -- that the "unconditionally necessary" and the "always" are essentially synonymous.

This is because to say that something must be (i.e., is necessary) is the same as saying that it cannot possibly not-be (i.e., always is).

Therefore, "a thing is eternal if its 'being' is necessary; and if it is eternal its 'being' is necessary." A corollary is that "no eternal thing exists potentially," again, since an eternal thing must be unconditionally necessary, whereas potentiality means that something may or may not come into existence.

Thus, becoming is never necessary; or, to be perfectly accurate, it is necessary that becoming exist, but its specific contours are left open. In other words, to say that things can only become in one particular way is to be a determinist, and to therefore reduce becoming to necessity.

Now, "Coming into existence is the change of actuality brought about by freedom." Freedom -- if it is really free -- must be indeterminate, right? If it is determined, then we are once again back in the world of necessity and therefore eternity.

This is one reason why predestination must be "vigorously opposed," because it obviously robs man of his freedom and dignity, but more subtly, renders him eternal because necessary.

Frankly, it shouldn't even be necessary to say this, since the whole doctrine of determinism is absurd on its face. Nevertheless, there are people who believe it, both religious and secular (e.g., neurologists who claim free will to be an illusion).

Let's simply follow this line of reasoning where it leads. Everyone has their favorite Bible passages. Bearing in mind that the devil and even Cousin Dupree can quote scripture, one of mine is 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

Indeed, for a Jew, it seems to me that the dominant theme of the Hebrew Bible is exodus and freedom. The same themes obviously infuse Christianity, only presented in a novel and surprising way that no one could have guessed -- and indeed, even had difficulty comprehending retrospectively. In other words, a man nailed to a cross doesn't look like anyone's idea of freedom -- nor escape, for that martyr.

Both God and human beings are persons, which is to say, subjects. God, being the very principle of freedom, must be "wholly free," whereas man, a reflection of the principle, is only "partly so."

In other words, we are a mixture of chance and necessity, of contingency and determinacy. In fact, I prefer to say that we are the adventure of freedom and constraint. The tension between these two sort of creates the drama of life, does it not?

For Hartshorne, "where necessity does not hold, freedom decides." This is consistent with Polanyi's emphasis on how the boundary conditions of a lower level allow for the emergence of the higher (e.g., how the stability of an alphabet allows for the novel emergence of words, words for sentences, sentences for paragraphs, etc., all the way up to Ultimate Meaning).

Here is where things get a little ticklish, but one must not be afraid of the guffah-HA! experience. To be free is to make decisions. This is axiomatic, since freedom shows us an array of potential paths, and we must choose one.

Hartshorne notes that "the merely necessary does not decide, it simply is." Therefore, to the extent that God "decides," then this implies noneternal qualities in God. In other words, he can choose this, or he can choose that. Conversely, if he has no choice, than he simply "is," and is not free.

Hartshorne references Karl Barth, who, according to wikipedia, is considered by many to be "the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century." I can't say I've read much of him, and I don't mention this as an appeal to authority, only to show that there is mainstream precedent for the views we are exploring. And for Barth, "There is a kind of holy change [as well as holy constancy] in God."

This is not paradox, but necessity. We have to invert the traditional understanding, and affirm that to deny God the capacity for "holy change" is to limit him in an all-too-human way.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Missing Link Discovered!

No time for a proper post. But perhaps enough time to toss out some controversial sentiments by Hartshorne, and start a fight.

Think about this, for example: "a knowledge coextensive with truth, does not imply the immutability of truth," especially if God's Prime Directive is creativity (infused with love). If so, then it seems there will always be more truth to love.

Having said that, I see a potential problem here, in that people can forget the essential, unchanging truths, and instead focus on the continuous novelty. Clearly, there must be a balance between the changing and the unchanging.

Interestingly, this perfectly comports with information theory, about which we were rambling a few weeks ago. Remember the distinction between high entropy and low entropy carriers? In order to permit high entropy, upside change, we must have stable low entropy carriers that are not subject to change.

Could it be that this is the secret of God's "two sides," i.e., perfect stability and perfect growth? Don't get hung up on the word "change"; rather, think perfect change.

"If there is genuine freedom or creativity, if consequently truths are to some extent new each moment, then to know all in advance or eternally is to know falsely, for there is no final totality of definite truths to be known; rather, additions to truth occur with every new act of creativity."

Here again, I could only endorse such a view with certain reservations, because there are absolute truths and there are contingent truths, and the latter can only be true in light of the former. If there is no absolute truth -- i.e., truth as such -- then there is no truth at all, and we couldn't even be having this diatribe.

One point emphasized by Hartshorne is that "sufficient cause" is a misused concept. We all understand the distinction between necessary and sufficient causes: necessary causes are those in the absence of which something cannot occur; while sufficient causes are those with which something may occur.

But sufficient causes are never sufficient to explain any phenomenon. Rather, there is always a degree of "wiggle room," of freedom, of creativity -- an x-factor that prevents us from reducing anything to its antecedents.

And when I say "anything," I mean everything, because for Hartshorne (as for Whitehead), reality is "psychical" through and through, so the greater creativity and freedom experienced by human beings extends all the way down -- most famously, to the quantum realm of fundamental indeterminacy.

Importantly, Hartshorne does not root human freedom in quantum indeterminacy, as some have attempted to do. Rather, the freedom is more fundamental than the physics; in other words, physics is the way it is because God is the way he is.

Another key point is that the necessary -- and this is touched upon on p. 72 of the Encirclopedia -- cannot come into existence, because coming into existence involves a transition from not existing to existing.

In fact, "transition" isn't quite the right word, because it implies too much continuity. In point of fact, for anything to come into existence, there is a radical discontinuity with the past.

Please think about that one for a moment, because it's Really Important. If something is necessary, we have to think of it as extended through time. Even though it may appear different at differing times, it is nonetheless fully itself, just extended in time in a deterministic way.

Therefore, any real creativity implies radical discontinuity. To express it another way, to the extent that creativity is real, then the cosmos is discontinuous. It makes leaps -- which goes totally against Darwinian dogma, even though the discontinuity is an easily confirmable fact, empirically, experientially, and metaphysically.

For example, the gap between ape and man is real -- just as are the gaps between matter and life, life and mind, mind and spirit -- and no "missing link" will ever explain it. There is indeed a God of the gaps, and in fact, in the absence of God, there would be no blessed gaps at all -- nor any freedom, any creativity, any love, any novelty -- nothing distinct from the preprogrammed past.

In fact, to say "distinct" is to say freedom, and therefore individuality.

And that just made me think of a spontaneous composition by the singular Charles Mingus called Myself When I Am Real.

Well, that's all the reality we have timelessness for today...