Thursday, September 13, 2007

This is Your Cosmos Calling: Bang, Bang, Bang on the Door, Baby!

So, our mundane lives are simply a meaningless journey, in which we are rudely ushered through the turbulent corridor of time in our personal reality tunnel, a lonely tunnel inhabited by no one else. As any materialist, secular humanist, atheist, or other assordid metaphysical yahoo can tell you, there is no ultimate meaning to the journey. Regardless of what your instincts may say to the contrary, a human being has no intrinsic value. Like Wile E. Coyote, we are simply free-falling toward the canyon floor. Indeed, our life is that brief free-fall, and it ends with a futile splat that gets closer each day.

In fact, for a strict metaphysical naturalist, a human being probably has less value than “the planet” or “biodiversity,” but even that is an unwarranted assertion based upon the underlying metaphysic. For if the underlying metaphysic is to be self-consistent, it must insist that any meaning we encounter is entirely self-generated and ultimately meaningless, including the statement that there is no meaning. (Don't ask the naturalist how that last absolute statement is possible -- how monkeys can know the Absolute, even if it is absolutely nothing. But they most certainly can know absolutely nothing, especially if they are tenured monkeys.)

What is meaning? Meaning has to do with information. Even if we remove humans from the deuscussion and vice versa, our cosmos is filled with information such as DNA or the handful of mathematical parameters that govern the nature of the whirled process. In order for information to exist, one thing must be able to stand for, or symbolize, another. In ether worlds, the symbol and symbolized must be of a different order, the former more abstract than the latter.

So before we can even say anything else whatsoever about the cosmos, we have to concede that it is the kind of cosmos in which some things can symbolize and stand for other things -- almost as if the cosmos were having some kind of complex conversation with itself even before humans arrived on the scene. No matter where we mind, information is everywhen and where. When they study creation, scientific Adams are simply eavesdropping on the conversation, trying to get the details right without distorting the message. If that weren’t true, there would be nothing we could say or know about the cosmos.

Normally, when we think of information, we think of communication. The purpose of language, for example, is to communicate from subject to subject, interior to interior. But the cosmos was full of information before there were supposedly any sentient beings to pack or unpack the message. Now that we’re here, we can do that.

For example, we can trace information from the very edge of the cosmos -- the red shift -- all the way back to the primordial event that gave rise to the cosmos. But even then, we cannot get back to a time that there was “no information.” Rather, the best science will be able to do is come up with a mathematical equation that unifies the four fundamental forces of physics -- a “theory of everything” -- but that will still be an equation containing information, and therefore, meaning.

Even leaving aside Gödels’ theorems -- which would make it impossible in principle to discover any complete and consistent theory of everything -- this would have to be a very special occquation, because it will have to account for our bearthday presence. Obviously, any equation that is incompatible with the evolution of living beings capable of comprehending it will be a nonstarter, since we are undeniably here. Therefore, quantum cosmology us ultimately constrained by the presence of human knowers.


The paradoxes of quantum physics demonstrate without question that ours is a nonlocal cosmos that is thoroughly entangled with itself. Being that space and time are functions of each other, this must mean that the cosmos is not just spatially but temporally nonlocal, which helps to account for the mystery of memory, of the copresence of the past and present. Just as every part of the cosmos participates in every other part, all times are somehow copresent as well. This is reflected in dreaming, which may be a more normative form of thought than we appreciate. James Joyce certainly thought so.

Regarding the temporal entanglement of the cosmos, if you look up at a star in the night time sky, you are registering an event that likely took place before you were born -- indeed, perhaps before humans even existed. The sun, for example, happened eight or nine minutes ago. The nearest stars happened several years ago, while more distant ones happened thousands or millions of years ago. Quasars occurred so long ago that we are looking at an event from billions of years "back" in time. Britney Spears is so "yesterday," that her stardom might as well have been an eternity ago.

But what does it all mean? Oh, nothing. Just meaningless information. Or so says the slack-jawed materialist (which is an insult to Slack). Just meaningless information somehow entangled with a primate brain.

What's that? The cosmos gives you a sense of wonder? Oh, ignore that. “Wonderment” is not a source of empirical information, even though all great scientists have been guided by it. Awe? A sense of the sacred? Again, these are scientifically empty words that convey no information about the awesome adventure of scientific knowledge.

Okay, information is one thing. But why are the cosmos and the planet and some of the people on it so beautiful? The answer: they aren't, even though most any great mathematician would reject an equation out of hand if it were insufficiently beautiful, let alone a girl friend.

“Metaphysical naturalism” is so impoverished a philosophical view that it prides itself on its poverty. It denies itself all of the supernatural qualities that make the metaphysical naturalist possible. Could his impoverished philosophy possibly be true? Who knows, since his philosophy cannot make any meta-statement about itself. The most that the metaphysical naturalist can say is that his philosophy is truly not true, but that he’s working hard not to deny the illusion that it is true.

Since science cannot solve the really difficult philosophical coonundrums, it either eliminates the questions or reframes them in terms it can understand. Therefore, the metaphysic of scientific naturalism simply presupposes its own conclusions and omits the other 99% of reality, somewhat in the way that a neurotic individual reduces reality down to the scope of his compulsions and fixations. They don't live in the real world, but they do live in a secure and predictable, if rather crimped, one. To tell you the truth, it is a cosmos unworthy of man. As a matter of fact, it is a cosmos incapable of having given birth to man. At least a real man -- not the artificially intelligent kind.

Being that time is, as Einstein said, a "stubborn illusion," then if any part of the cosmos has ever been conscious at any time, then by definition it is as if all of creation has always been and always will be conscious at all times. I don't know if you can really prove that with airtight logic, but you certainly can by ironyclad translogical experience. It's another form of empiricism, but an empiricism that touches eternal objects, not just material ones. In fact, I'm touching one right now. Or vice versa.

When you boil it all down, the Cosmos is exactly as Petey has always said it is: a love shack, that is, a little old place where we can get together.


River Cocytus said...

Framulous! Speaking of the love shack, the internal monologue was discussing it today.

Same wavelength, different channel.

Yes, isn't the knower the real question? I think I asked this question once, aren't even meaningless symbols deployed for a reason, if even just whim? You can't evade meaning; just like you can't evade death. If you're confined you must go inward and upward, not outward and round, and round.

Are we on the record?

walt said...

I don't feel smart enough to understand all the secular/scientific/materialistic theories on the one hand, and the metaphysics and theology on the other. But I certainly notice this:

"They don't live in the real world, but they do live in a secure and predictable, if rather crimped, one. To tell you the truth, it is a cosmos unworthy of man."

And by way of your writings, both here and in OCUG, I've been able to form a basis for choosing my beliefs, based on "elegance" and "beauty" as expressions of truth. This has been very valuable. Oops, there I go deriving meaning, again!

"Great understanding is broad and unhurried; narrow understanding is cramped and busy." ('Cramped' or 'crimped' - what's the difference!?)

Robin Starfish said...

"-- almost as if the cosmos were having some kind of complex conversation with itself even before humans arrived on the scene."

Later That Same Eternity
sawtooth harmony
pavarotti joins the choir
o paradiso

julie said...

I've been watching a lot of shows about astronomy lately, and I always find it fascinating when science proves what faith already knew.

There was a show on this weekend about Hawking and his theory, which he finally (30 years later) admitted was incorrect, that when things get sucked into black holes, they eventually completely disappear as though they had never existed. According to the show, the physics community was up in arms when he came out with this one; on the one hand, the formula was "beautiful" and "elegant," and seemingly airtight. On the other, they knew that "Information (The Word!) does not disappear. It may shift forms, but it can't cease to exist altogether, because if it did there would be no coherence and the cosmos as we know it would not be. So went the laymanized (laicized?)argument, anyway. The solution was that information only appeared to disappear, from a certain perspective. From another perspective it just got flattened out and spun around. (I know there's a lot more to it, but that's essentially how I understood it.)

There was another show, possibly The Universe, that discussed the Big Bang, which I also find fascinating. From a point of infinite smallness (presumably surrounded by Void?) the Cosmos came into being. When I think of this, I imagine (in my small human way) God withdrawing, and once the void was formed placing an infinitesimally small piece of Himself right smack in the middle. Shazam! Existence.

The more we learn, the more it seems we already knew, even if we didn't know we knew it :)

CrypticLife said...

Hi julie,

I'm missing how science proves what faith already knew in your example. Maybe it's just that I'm not sure what faith knew. You mean, faith says that information doesn't get destroyed, but just "flattened out and spun around" (so to speak)?

Mizz E said...

OK, you asked for it and I must oblige:

The Love Shack is a little old place
where we can get together
Love Shack bay-bee! Love Shack baby!
Love Shack, that's where it's at!
Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin',
wearin' next to nothing
Cause it's hot as an oven
The whole shack shimmies!
The whole shack shimmies when everybody's
Movin' around and around and around and around!
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby!
Folks linin' up outside just to get down
Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby
Funky little shack! Funk-y little shack!

River Cocytus said...

Headache inducers.

Living record of the loggorhea that is the left. I couldn't get past the first one. It is true vulgarity; amplification of the ugly and downplaying of the good.

julie said...

Actually, Cryptic, what I was thinking of at the time was John 1:1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

This is actually a concept I first encountered here quite some time ago, when Bob had a post about it. The point is that John, way back when (and even lacking the scientific theorems, proofs and knowledge we now possess) knew that everything that is is made of information.

In my example, the "flattened out and spun around" part is, or was meant to be, somewhat beside the point. The important thing is that the information, the smallest particle of particles that form bits that form bigger bits that eventually form atoms, stars, matter and life exists, and can be comprehended by things that are really just a swirling dance of those infinitesimal bits. It exists, and even black holes do not, apparently, cause it to not exist.

From your perspective, it must just all be a coincidence, and perhaps not even a particularly interesting one. From mine, it simply clarifies and validates John's opening statement, which might have sounded pretty bizarre back when it was first written, before men knew as a verifiable fact that everything that is is made of the same information.

julie said...

More concisely, would the science and the concepts have been changed at all if, instead of saying "information," the scientists used "The Word" as John meant it?

River Cocytus said...

The Word never changes except in outward appearance; it is infinite except when it is contained within a finite container, but then it is still infinite. It can be bent, spun out, shrunk, twisted, but it still comes back on the third day.

Would be wild if black-hole/worm-hole travel took three days.

NoMo said...

Speaking of eternal information, and in addition to what Julie said re: John and the Word, I am reminded of what Jesus said as recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” That’s eternal information. Makes it sound kind of funny to call this the “information age” – perhaps “misinformation age” is a better fit. The true information age always was and always will be.

And how much information is enough? Back to John and how he ended his gospel, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” Maybe we have enough information.

And lastly, how important is the right “information”? Paul wrote to the Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (10:17) How do you believe? By being informed. Faith and the Word are intertwined.

Cryptic – It's best not to be misinformed.

Tim said...

I just wanted to say, before this moment in time and space slides by,
I love you man.

Gagdad Bob said...

Thank you, Tim!

For those of you expecting a post tomorrow, it seems unlikely, since I've been fasting all day in preparation for the screening test that dares not speak its name -- you know, the one you're supposed to get when you turn 50.

I guess I'd rather be me than the doctor. The view is better.

Van said...

cryptlife said "I'm missing how science proves what faith already knew in your example."

julie said..."More concisely, would the science and the concepts have been changed at all if, instead of saying "information," the scientists used "The Word" as John meant it? "

I think it may be as simple as the observation that Truth is whole. We often behave as though physics and metaphysics are separate, when in fact they are differently focused studies of the same whole.

We shouldn't be too surprised that broad metaphysically true descriptions of the universe, should bear out a relation to the far more detailed description given by physics. As the shape and coloration of a fragment of an anceint greek vase can give us a very good idea of the shape and style of the entire vase, so an atomic level scanning and examination of stress paterns of the same vase, would give us a similar report of its structure, design, and pigments used in decorating it.

The first would better convey the beauty of the vase, the other an appreciation for its construction, but both would describe the same vase. Each would have different methods for testing for the truth of their conclusions - one more pricise but focused, the other more open to judgment but broader in its scope.

One description:
"...vases bear clear traces of changes in composition even after the figures had been painted with clay paint, and yet others show that black-figure painters sketched even those parts of figures which would be obscured in the final version, e.g., the head of Peleus on the amphora Munich 1541. Traces of spacers on the bellies of large amphorae indicate that vases were also stacked horizontally and that ..."

is useful for one type of discussion, another
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
is better suited to a different sort of discussion, with different aims and appreciations, but in the end the Urn remains the same.

...And crypt? Before you have at the obvious, remember analogies and methaphors only go so far, all they can do is point towards the truth..." thing must be able to stand for, or symbolize, another. In ether worlds, the symbol and symbolized must be of a different order, the former more abstract than the latter. "

Van said...

Gagdad said "...preparation for the screening test that dares not speak its name ..."

Preparation Hell...

Van said...

Not that it matters much, but this was the snippet & link "Scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive detection of emitted x-rays (SEM-EDX) may be useful in the study of ancient ceramic materials coated with glossy sintered slips. Backscattered and secondary electron images of fresh fractured or polished sections may give information on slip thickness and sintering degree and on slip-to-body contact features. "
... that I meant to use for the first link in my first comment above.

wv:bzmdoc ... no, 'fraid Gagdad is going to be far from the bosom doc tomorrow.

kibbutz monkey said...

Bob writes in his post:

"Regardless of what your instincts may say to the contrary, a human being has no intrinsic value. Like Wile E. Coyote, we are simply free-falling toward the canyon floor. Indeed, our life is that brief free-fall, and it ends with a futile splat that gets closer each day."

Bravo! Once a person really feels and accepts the truth of the above statement, then real growth can begin. The absolute nihil must no longer terrify or dismay; only then can we stand on brave shaky legs before the Master.

God himself has to confront His own insignificance; God must, like any existentialist, supply his own meaning. There is nothing else to really on. We must rise to that same level of bravery before we can look Him in the eye.

Yes. Insignificance and then splat. Feel it. Own it. Not so bad, is it?

NoMo said...

GB - From recent personal experience, the preparation is the worst part (but truly cleansing), the act itself you don't remember (for good reason), and the rest of the day is a drug-addled blur as you slowly return to reality (heh, don't rush it). In the end (pun intended), it's the right thing to do for you and those who love you.

Best thing is that you don't have to think about it for another 10 years!

wv: gwvgres (whatever)

cosanostradamus said...

Those of us who have downed the Gallon O'Lemon-Lime raise a glass in your honor. May your output exceed all expectations!

julie said...

Apropos of the Procedure, I stumbled across this today while roaming the blogosphere. If the link takes you to the bottom, scroll up to the top. Avoid consuming any foods or beverages while reading.

I do hope Bob's experience is less dramatic ;)

Magnus Itland said...

In utterly unrelated news, The Economist magazine has an article about a spectacular case of political correctness in higher education. In the end, one of the professors who condemned innocent students purely because they were white and male, made a college course about the event. In the words of The Economist: "proving that some academics are as far beyond parody as they are beneath contempt".

Just for the casual reader who may think Bob is exaggerating his tales about American academonica.

NoMo said...

Julie, Julie, Julie...what a way to start my Friday off - tears in my eyes and a gut ache from the laughter. OUTRAGEOUS!

Thanks for the link.

River Cocytus said...

kibbutz: What are you waiting for, then?

Jupsa said...

gOD DAngIt, mr. Bob!

Reading your Thursday post I curse the days I'm not spending the lousy five to ten minutes letting your amazing insights soothe my being. My final year at the university, translating Ken Wilber into Finnish and maybe finally getting around to read your book. Have to order it first, though. You seem to be one of the Genuine Philosophers of our times, truly. Bless you, Bob.

Cousin dupree said...

Outstanding: What Kind of Person Calls Himself a "Progressive?"

walt said...

"If you can put the world at a disadvantage by implicitly accusing them of sin, you can also manipulate and oppress others, conscious of your own moral superiority. Evidence is not required."

In fact, contrary evidence is almost always 1)ignored, or 2)dismissed as "old news." Followed by "Time to Move-on!"

Ricky Raccoon said...

When you check in on Bob tonight, tell him I said Happy Birthday, would ya?

Ricky Raccoon said...

RE the AT article, similarly I always found the term "companionate conservative" a bit of an insult. Even though the left didn’t coin the term. It was damage control for being called “mean spirited”. Being called mean spirited should never have been dignified with a response.

Susannah said...

"Being called mean spirited should never have been dignified with a response."

100% agree. Mean-spirited is as m-s does, as the article Bob linked makes abundantly clear. "Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." And, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."

Susannah said...

Just a for-instance (warning: a few not-very-pleasant nekkid pix at this link):

When people of this choler call you mean-spirited, "rejoice and be exceeding glad."

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

That was hilarious! Heh! That Brit should be with Monty Python!

Hope yer alright Bob. I also hope you took the knock-out drug. :^)