Monday, February 12, 2018

In Search of the Missing Cosmic Trust Fund

We're all familiar with the mystery of dark matter, which only constitutes, oh, 84.5% of the total mass of the universe, but is nevertheless missing in action; combined with dark energy, 95.1% of mass-energy is unaccounted for.

In reality, dark matter is simply an epistemological placeholder; it is where the theory -- not the matter -- "goes dark," so to speak. Which is the case with all scientific theories, especially when they touch upon origins. In short, it is easy to conflate where reality begins and where one's theory ends. It's like refusing to leave the theater, because you want to find out what happens after the movie is over.

For it is written: Every beginning is an image of the Beginning; every end is an image of the End (Dávila), and these two -- Beginning and End -- are outside time. Thus, We call “origins” the limits of our science. If you only remember these, you will be less prone to confusing your model with what it is modeling.

One could as readily refer to consciousness as dark matter, on the presumption that we aren't yet able to reduce it to a material explanation, but eventually will be. Materialism is the god of secular gaps; but it reifies the gaps, since only wholeness can account for their transcendent unity.

(Incidentally, apropos of nothing -- or possibly everything -- it occurs to me that consciousness isn't so much dark matter as bright immateriality; and that if something appears dark to us, it is only in light of -- or relative to -- consciousness.)

In this regard, all forms of materialism, scientism, naturalism, etc., are merely postdated checks drawn against future (omniscient) explanations. It's a bit like a Ponzi scheme, in that the presumptive wealth is enabled by new investors, as the illusion of materialism is sustained by freshly indoctrinated graduates.

Have you ever tried to fill your swimming pool by pouring buckets of water from the shallow end to the deep end? Or maybe you didn't attend college.

At any rate, another missing reality is the organism. Yes, you can explain it in reductionistic terms, just as you can, as a commenter put it the other day, reduce Hamlet to a box of Scrabble letters. In which case, to be or not to be is simply a matter of correct spelling: being is just the ultimate spelling bee.

What am I buzzing on about? About chapter 6 of No God, No Science, called The Mystery of the Missing Organism. Yes, all of the above is the same old nous for senior Raccoons, but it's always nice to have some scholarly hollering and academic backup for my more visionary and prophetic stylings.

As Hanby explains, the unity of the organism "transcends and, thus, ontologically precedes the coordinated interaction of its parts as the principle and subject of their interaction, though the full manifestation of this unity in this coordinated interaction awaits the organism's historical development and maturation."

This passage highlights an important orthoparadox that makes sense of the whole human journey, indeed, of the human station: that man is always on the way to his own antecedent unity. Note that this is the inverse of what was said above about writing rubber checks against imaginary future wealth, because the wealth in this account is real.

For in this case, we are drawing against a kind of atemporal treasure -- an inheritance, as it were -- that is deployed in time; yes, an eternal Trust fund, which of course brings to mind the investment advice of Jesus:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"A transcendent order of being, form, and finality," writes Hanby, is intrinsic to the "identification of entities and to the intelligibility of history." He cites Ratzinger, who "regarded the reduction of being to history as perhaps the principal factor responsible for the eclipse of even the idea of truth."

Several aphorisms come to mind: for example, that Truth is in history, but history is not truth. For if historicism is the case -- if history is truth -- then no one could know it, because we must await the end of history to reveal it. Besides, if social and cultural phenomena are determined by history, then this must include the idea that social and cultural phenomena are determined by history, so the theory falls by its own hand.

But Real history exceeds what merely happened. Ho! History transcends mere history, in the same sense that the meaning of Hamlet transcends the letters used to compose it.

Are you -- your organism -- merely an epiphenomenal placeholder for an evolutionary process that will some day exhaustively explain you and eradicate all mystery? Are you the frozen sum of a litany of accidents? A soft robot animated by selfish genes?

Can't be. For if the Word isn't in the beginning, nothing can be written.

Nor can anything more be written until Thursday, since it's a busy week, at which point we will dig a little more deeply into this line of thought.


julie said...

Are you -- your organism -- merely an epiphenomenal placeholder for an evolutionary process that will some day exhaustively explain you and eradicate all mystery? Are you the frozen sum of a litany of accidents? A soft robot animated by selfish genes?

Not even that - rather, simply an accumulation of an assortment of particles that happened to come together for a relatively brief period of time, during which the clump of molecules inexplicably meanders about, adds to and sheds particles, and even on occasion creates more animated particle blobs, for no apparent reason. Materially speaking, we aren't the same from one day to the next, much less across the course of a lifetime.

And yet, we are, which is so surprising that some of us even discuss the matter via electrons and glowing screens.

debass said...

We are composed of the same elements as the stars. I think God created us for a purpose. We may or may not know what that purpose is, but strive to discover it. Although in my case, it really doesn't matter. But to coin a phrase, "the world wouldn't be the same without you".

Gagdad Bob said...

It takes all kinds. Even yours!

Roy Lofquist said...

Julie, you have nailed the crux of the matter:

"Materially speaking, we aren't the same from one day to the next, much less across the course of a lifetime.

And yet, we are, which is so surprising that some of us even discuss the matter via electrons and glowing screens."

True paradoxes are mythical beasts. It is invariably true that one of the premises is wrong. In this case the false premise is that the "we" that "are" depend upon the chemical bag we walk around in for our essence. There is a great essay that examines this in detail:

From the essay: "The information processing (IP) metaphor of human intelligence now dominates human thinking, both on the street and in the sciences. There is virtually no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour that proceeds without employing this metaphor, just as no form of discourse about intelligent human behaviour could proceed in certain eras and cultures without reference to a spirit or deity. The validity of the IP metaphor in today’s world is generally assumed without question."

For sake of brevity (risk of terminal boredom) I'll skip my spiel and get to the summary and conclusions.

The current state of AI (Artificial Intelligence) gives us robots that can (clumsily) negotiate uneven terrain, recognize spoken words, and (sometimes) tell the difference between your grandmother and a giraffe in a photo. My little dog spot can run and jump and snatch balls out of the air, recognize words and tone of voice, and spot the neighbor's cat from a block away. Spot's "brain" chugs along at 30 Hz (cycles per second) while the AI runs at 3 GHz - 100 million times as fast. If you think that a pound of chemicals can outperform a super computer I'd like to talk to you about a good deal on a bridge I have for sale.

The compelling implication of all this is that Mind-Body Dualism is the correct interpretation of the world.

This is hardly an original argument. In fact, it is older than the hills:

"Aristotle shared Plato's view of multiple souls and further elaborated a hierarchical arrangement, corresponding to the distinctive functions of plants, animals, and people: a nutritive soul of growth and metabolism that all three share; a perceptive soul of pain, pleasure, and desire that only people and other animals share; and the faculty of reason that is unique to people only."

But there's more. Make sure nobody's looking over your shoulder because I'm going to write the word Vitalism. That can get you burned at the stake in some intellectual circles.

There. Now we're both troglodytes.

debass said...

I represent that remark.

Anonymous said...

Great Post Dr. Godwin! I might pipe in that I don't think there are many that subscribe to the selfish gene thing anymore. It was just a skirmish in the culture wars, now done. There is a global majority consensus O is real, but a great deal of debate on the specifics of it.

Being an English Professor (yes, tenured, have at it old boy), I am interested in the mechanics of various genres, as to how they gives clews to the make-up of the Cosmos. Take any drama. It must have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a conflict, or it will fail to capture any attention. Bob alluded to the privation of evil in a previous post, and it is singular that privation is built into all stories. It is remarkable how much of the activity on this planet is propelled by the good, the beautiful, and the true, encountering privation in all forms.

Is God essentially out to tell a ripping good story? Is that the main business of Earth?

Jesus tells his parables; most of them follow the usual arc of story. Introduction of the characters, the situation, and then the conflict, as it unrolls to catharsis and resolution.

My two cents. Carry on my wayward sons and daughters. There will be peace when you are done.

Gagdad Bob said...

Balthsar composed five thick volumes on the Theo-Drama of it all.

Anonymous said...

Oh. The Theo-Drama angle has been worked already by Balthsar, in five thick volumes, you say?

Well then. I'm an old blighter, just as well I give my noggin a rest. I shall build a fire, and before it sit rheumy-eyed, toddy in hand.

Tomorrow, the joy of lecturing on Joyce bedecked in tweed.


Gagdad Bob said...

Ted, I'll bet you'd enjoy this documentary on Ginger Baker. Crazy!

ted said...

Very cool, I will check it out!