Thursday, July 23, 2015

You Are Entitled to the Damn Explanation!

Is there a freaking explanation? You know, for our freaking being here: where we come from, what we are supposed to be doing, where we are going, etc. Origin. Present Being. Destiny. All that.

Either there is an Ultimate Explanation or there is no explanation at all. What I mean is that if your explanatory cosmic area rug doesn't tie up every loose end of existence, then it is not the ultimate one.

Oh, and one thing the Raccoon insists upon is an explanation thank you very much. Say what you want about man's cosmic insignificance, but I insist we are entitled to a damn explanation.

Furthermore -- and this is key, so put your ear close to the screen -- all men, by virtue of being men, are so entitled, which means that there can be nothing special about the scientistic explanation.

To put it another way, if modern science provided the Ultimate Explanation, it would mean that all men prior to Einstein, Darwin, and Freud were denied this explanation, and that just wouldn't be sporting.

No, all earthlings are entitled to this earthright, even if -- and this is a another key -- they prefer to reject it. But no one can say that God didn't put forth the effort, even if the message can get a bit garbled along the human frontier (the one between the terrestrial and celestial spheres). For the truly motivated, it is always possible to clear this up, thanks to the grace of that Mysterious Third. As Petey says, God is a grace to the bottom.

This principle has some additional consequences. For example, it means that no scientific explanation can ever be ultimate. I mean, this is obvious now thanks to Gödel, but it shouldn't take a paranoid logician to bring home such an obvious truth -- that any merely human explanation is going to be soph-tautologous. Rather, unless something from outside the system can get in, then there can be no ultimate explanation, period.

Not to be cute, but that would constitute an exceedingly odd situation, for it would mean that relativity is absurdly absolute and that man's ignorance is therefore total. But wouldn't total ignorance and absolute relativity be a kind of ultimate explanation? Certainly it would touch on an absoluteness that is a priori forbidden by relativism.

In other words, even Obama cannot be totally ignorant, for totality is one of the names of God. The problem is, he lacks insight, for we can only have relative ignorance because it is relative to the absolute -- in this case, absolute truth. Again, absolute relativity = total ignorance, and therefore no possibility of an Explanation. That's what I mean by the either/or nature of this question.

For any phenomenon there is a hierarchy of explanations extending back and up. In the absence of an ultimate explanation, this will be an endless regression, such that causation isn't explained at all.

In other words, you're not truly explaining anything, just kicking it further back in time. But even on that basis, physicists claim that time only "started" with the big bang. Therefore, what happens to causation when there is no time?

That whole line of thought makes no sense anyway. Remember what we said yesterday about wave and particle? It's the same with cosmogony: the so-called singularity simply marks the end of what physicists can say about reality. It is an elementary error to conflate this with the end (or beginning) of reality. Reality goes on forever, whereas what physics can say about it has definite limits. In short, physics -- like any other logical system -- is a tautology.

I am not criticizing it. Indeed, it's a fruitful tautology, or I wouldn't be tap-tapping away at this keyboard. Or alive even. But it seems to me that the best any scientific discipline can do is expand its particular tauto-logos. Thus, the quantum-relativistic world is "bigger" than the Newtonian, but it still has its limits.

The other day a friend asked me about the snoopshots of Pluto. I guess it was a big story in the MSM, but I am not plugged into that grid. In any event, I told him that the vastness of the cosmos holds no particular interest to me. I know that many people look up at the infinite spaces of the starry skies and get a chill at the imponderability of it all.

Meh. As I told him, the size of the cosmos is simply an artifact of how long it has been here. In other words, since it's been expanding for 13.7 years, it had better be pretty damn big.

If you flip to p. 27, I've already cautioned mankind about this error: "Do not be impressed or daunted by the unimaginable vastness of the cosmos, for its size is simply a function of the time it has been expanding: as a matter of fact, we human observers have arrived on the scene just as quickly as this or any other universe will allow."

So don't complain about the long wait, for "from the standpoint of eternity, we have appeared in an instant overnight, like mushrooms out of a lawn or offers for discreet online pharmacies in your email."

Truly I say to you, we need to extricate ourselves from the whole scientistic thingy and reframe the existential data. Who says this isn't just what a mature cosmos looks like up close?

Unlike science, Petey and I do not ask readers to accept anything on faith. Rather, we rely on the strictest logic, although this only gets one so far, i.e., to the threshold of the divine. But that's still pretty far, at least compared to bonehead atheism.

Put it this way: if man is situated between two attractors, O and Ø, we believe we are not bragging if we claim to be able to help push you to the mid-point. But after that it is a matter of grace and effort, or (↑) and (↓), where it would be blasphemous or foolish or grandiose to pretend to usurp authority and influence. We are irreverent, but not irreverent enough to mess with the destiny of another! Let the Deepaks, Dalais, and Da Free Johns take the heat for that.

Gosh! that was a long riff on a single sentence in Who Designed the Designer? Not even a whole sentence, just the part that refers to an ultimate answer, an answer worthy of standing on its own two legs with no need of further explanation. One that finally extinguishes the otherwise infinite regression of Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

How about an infinite progression? I like the sound of that, because it implies that we are making progress rather than just dissolving into darkness and absurdity. Yes, that's the term we're looking for: an explanation that constitutes in an infinite progression, or an orthoparadoxical progress toward the Infinite and Eternal.

A "tip-off," writes Augros, "that a truth is universal and necessary is that you can't deny it without somehow affirming it."

A classic case would be "there is no such thing as truth." Another is the denial of free will, for no one denies free will without exempting himself. Leftism is full of similarly self-refuting principles, e.g., homosexuality is genetic while sexuality is a social construct, or women and men are identical so women need special protection by the state, or a female has a right to choose unless she is inconvenient to the mother, etc.

Augros describes some of the characteristics of the Ultimate Explanation we're talking about: such explanations "convict us of their truth independently of any particular cases that help us to conceive them. Once we conceive them, that's enough; our conviction is complete and does not increase when we see more examples of such statements." In short, these are not inductive generalizations but local crystallizations of a nonlocal Truth, either deductive or direct (i.e., intellection or poetic).

Augros says that "many trails lead to the first cause," but in actuality all trails must lead there. Scientism is like a pathological inversion of this, for all scientistic trails lead back and down to matter, energy, and chemistry. Again, the latter is an "ultimate" explanation until you ask, say, what energy actually is. If your interlocutor is intellectually honest, he will respond "who the hell knows?"

Which brings us back to paragraph one above, i.e., no explanation at all.

I really want to get a cosmic area rug for the slackatoreum. Maybe a fractal one. Then I can shake the surly bonds of the conspiracy by just staring down and gliding into eternity on wings of slack:

24 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

...no scientific explanation can ever be ultimate. I mean, this is obvious now thanks to Gödel, but it shouldn't take a paranoid logician to bring home such an obvious truth -- that any merely human explanation is going to be soph-tautologous.

Indeed, it's so obvious that any average middle-schooler should be able to understand. And yet often, the smarter people are, the harder they fight against the reality.

7/23/2015 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Meh. As I told him, the size of the cosmos is simply an artifact of how long it has been here. In other words, since it's been expanding for 13.7 years, it had better be pretty damn big.

I'm reminded of a bit of Sherlock Holmes lore, that he really didn't care to know whether the earth revolved around the sun or vice versa, since down here it pretty much amounted to the same thing and the space in his brain used to understand the planets could be better used for solving mysteries at the human level.

7/23/2015 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

But it seems to me that the best any scientific discipline can do is expand its particular tauto-logos. Thus, the quantum-relativistic world is "bigger" than the Newtonian, but it still has its limits.

I was reminded the other day of how Zeno's paradox, in a purely logical sense, must be true: for any one object to approach another, it must half and half and half the distance, in an asymptotic progression that never quite reaches its destination, and so perhaps on a quantum level they never actually touch (and thus the space between particles is essentially infinite). And yet, lived experience demonstrates that it is also completely wrong. Otherwise no existence would be possible.

7/23/2015 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...



At Vanderleun's yesterday, he had a post about transhumanism and the potential of science to eventually "abolish the human race" by technologies to increase IQ and lifespan to essentially give limitless intelligence and immortality.

To which I can only shrug. Even imagining for a moment that a person could have an IQ of 1,000, that would not change one iota the basic truths upon which reality is founded. Such a high IQ might simply drive one to madness in the face of the reality that no matter how smart one may be, there are limits to how the cosmos may be manipulated, and there are moral limits which no amount of towering intellect can overcome (see Solomon for details). Understanding these limits is wisdom, but it doesn't require a genius to get it.

7/23/2015 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Weird - the quote went missing but that last comment was in reference to nonlocal truth and Augros' Ultimate Explanation.

7/23/2015 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Augros says that "many trails lead to the first cause," but in actuality all trails must lead there. Scientism is like a pathological inversion of this, for all scientistic trails lead back and down to matter, energy, and chemistry. Again, the latter is an "ultimate" explanation until you ask, say, what energy actually is. If your interlocutor is intellectually honest, he will respond "who the hell knows?"

Which brings us back to paragraph one above, i.e., no explanation at all."

'Zactly. The pretense that pointing to some particular things, or more likely, calculations which presume them to be there, is any sort of satisfying answer to Whys or Wholes, is... like claiming to take deep and satisfying drinks from a sieve. And then wiping their lips.

7/23/2015 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The post-modern and modern mind doesn't want an explanation. It wants an excuse.

7/23/2015 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And an airtight alibi.

7/23/2015 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Along those lines, I realized just now that I finally and horribly understand, at a visceral level, the concept of original sin.

Earlier I saw a list of some of the top 40 donors to Planned Parenthood, which came with an increasingly sinking feeling as I noted that not only do I use the services of most of those businesses, I am pretty much dependent upon some of them and can see no way to avoid that dependency. Setting aside of course the tax dollars that go directly from my pocket to Planned Parenthood's. Even pretending for a moment that I could drop everything, move with my family to an isolated region and live off the grid on a homestead, even then I would be dependent upon the assistance of others. Every American life is tainted by this, and no small portion of the rest of the world. Even that guy who was living in the Maine woods unseen by another human for twenty years - even that guy subsisted on products supplied by some of those businesses, and he never would have survived out there without them. That's not even to mention our dependency on China, whose one child policy has resulted in the murder of untold numbers of babies and toddlers conceived without state approval.

The link here to original sin is that simply by existing, we are linked to that atrocity, pretty much from the moment of conception.

Here's something cute to make up for that uncheerful thought...

7/23/2015 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's an idea that occurred to me awhile back and also helped me understand original sin. Actually, it was from an author whose name I can't recall. The whole human system is so rotten, it is almost impossible to avoid contamination. Like touching pitch. Or picking up the clean end of a cow pie.

7/23/2015 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Julie, it is so true and, at first horrifying, but then, the reality of it sinks in, and all one can do is accept that you know it. My husband likes to tease me because I like clothing from a company that has a loathsome, leftist, celebrity endorser. I just fire back that the clothing he prefers, from a company in the NW, has gaia as its focus, so...there we go. Simply by existing. Sigh.

7/23/2015 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Bob - Yes. It's one thing to know this "intellectually," but entirely another to essentially look at oneself and realize that we haven't just picked up the cowpie, we've been bathing in it and probably eating it, too... and there's no option for taking it away. Or even if we do get cleaned up for a moment, it is as though the bathwater came from a basin surrounded by the same filth, and staying in the basin isn't an option.

Leslie - yes, I've long come to accept that sort of thing. I just don't know that I intuited it in quite the same way before.

7/23/2015 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said "...which came with an increasingly sinking feeling as I noted that not only do I use the services of most of those businesses, I am pretty much dependent upon some of them and can see no way to avoid that dependency."

Yep. Planned Parenthood: Putting the truth into the title of corporate Human Resources departments.

7/23/2015 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"A classic case would be "there is no such thing as truth." Another is the denial of free will, for no one denies free will without exempting himself. Leftism is full of similarly self-refuting principles, e.g., homosexuality is genetic while sexuality is a social construct, or women and men are identical so women need special protection by the state, or a female has a right to choose unless she is inconvenient to the mother, etc."

Or, Obama has to help Iran get nukes and money so they can make more war on civilization, otherwise we would hafta make war on Iran.

7/24/2015 01:21:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Yesterday, I went to the VA for a routine blood draw, and I noticed there were more profane signs all over the place than there used to be.
Inscribed on the signs:

For Your Safety
No firearms, knives or weapons are allowed at this facility.

Yes, for the safety of jihadists and other evil scum intent on murdering veterans (or anyone else).
I'm a bit surprised they didn't have at least some of the signs in Farsi, or Arabic. Being as how worried the left is with hurting their feelings.

7/24/2015 01:37:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Augros describes some of the characteristics of the Ultimate Explanation we're talking about: such explanations "convict us of their truth independently of any particular cases that help us to conceive them. Once we conceive them, that's enough; our conviction is complete and does not increase when we see more examples of such statements." In short, these are not inductive generalizations but local crystallizations of a nonlocal Truth, either deductive or direct (i.e., intellection or poetic).

I'll take conviction over confusion every time.

7/24/2015 01:45:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Nothing makes me feel safer than knowing the veterans who carried weapons in our name can't bring a pocketknife to their hospital appointments.

To get to the sheriff's office in our county now, I have to leave my "weapons" in the car, take off my belt and have my boots visually checked for contraband. Maybe I should wear a burka and sandals next time.

7/24/2015 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Not only do I hope there is a big difference between donating to PP (supporting) and simply buying a coke, I think there is one (gulp). God knows plenty and he must know I am pro life and doing what you can.

It reminds me a little of the cake baking thing. If it were me, I'd have probably just baked the thing. I think of it as, "am I blessing this?" and humility makes me think I'm not qualified to bless it.

I'm going with this for now. I'm still a stranger in a strange land.

7/24/2015 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I do believe there is a difference. But... that's not the same as saying that we are entirely clean, either.

Father Stephen had a good post up before Easter (Orthodox time), where he discussed the Orthodox Rite of Forgiveness; like the saying of "Peace be with you" during the Catholic Mass, except you say to everyone around you - friend, family, or total stranger, "Forgive me."

The point is, we may be entirely ignorant of the sins to which we are tied, and of which we are asking forgiveness. Nevertheless, like giving our money to people who then give some portion to those who murder children "for the common good," we are still connected to it, and since it is virtually impossible to separate our money from theirs, we are still funding it, whether we know it or not. We are not directly guilty, but neither are we clean.

This issue though stands almost more as an illustration of what original sin means: if it were not state-sanctioned abortion, it would be some other atrocity. It is some other atrocity, or host of atrocities, rather, and would be even if we were part of some tiny tribe living "uncontacted" in the middle of a jungle somewhere, where they occasionally bury their kids alive for being too annoying or burdensome.

What got to me yesterday was similar to what happens when one realizes, to one's very marrow and not merely intellectually, that one is going to die. It was as though my eyes were opened and I realized that every single living person was corrupted with the blood of innocents - or becoming rotten in some way, like a zombie or a ghoul. Everyone, myself included, even to those who, never having done any wrong (having only moments ago been conceived) - even they are already touched, because their very existence happened in part (however minuscule) because someone innocent was killed.

And now, some kittens.

7/24/2015 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I didn't disagree with our uncleanness. Years ago I suggested here that no one is off the hook. I'm offering some proportion (if it helps). I think a person can worry too much (I'm that kind of person) and it can become an obsession or render the person nonfunctioning (from time to time or worse). Basically, it can become an idol or -- turn one into a leftist. Benevolent vice comes to mind, also. Plus >>>> I have bigger sins of my own to fry than worry about what some marketing genius at Coke decides to make of my nickel today or maybe tomorrow. This nickelhead can't keep track!

On theotherhand, back to proportion and original sin, ever since Origen practically said something nice about Judas in Spirit & Fire (not really, only compared to what's always said about him), I couldn't help wondering, how much difference was Judas than the other eleven. (forgive me, I realize...) But there is a phrase in one of the Gospels something to the effect, "all of their hands were on the table".

7/24/2015 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, I agree. With apologies; what I was trying very inartfully to get across was something like an epiphany of the human condition. One of those ineffable moments that can't really be described, but instead of being beautiful it was like the inverse of "everything is all one and everything is groovy...," or "yes, God really loves everybody." A sort of put ON the glasses moment, if you will. Or like discovering that everybody has congenital leprosy, though some cases are advanced while others are barely noticeable.

Original sin is one of those concepts I've struggled with from time to time, though not recently, because it just seems so awful. Why should the innocent be tarred with the same brush as the guilty? The issues of the day simply clarified it, in a sense. If just a handful of those businesses act to support evil, it does affect everyone. And even knowing that, I have no plans to stop doing business with pretty much any of them. I am no better.

All that said, no worries. I'm not turning into the guy from today's post, much less a leftist ;)

7/24/2015 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

On the plus side, you may be able to enjoy that Coke guilt-free after all; apparently Coke is claiming to have had nothing to do with PP at all, as are Xerox and Ford. So that's something, anyway.

7/24/2015 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I think there are a number of parables which touch on this. Maybe all of them. The tares. The talents. The one about the two people working in the field, one is taken the other is left (I forget which one that is) This original sin bizness is ripe for exploration here. And by here I mean OC. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

7/25/2015 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.

7/25/2015 06:55:00 AM  

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