Thursday, February 08, 2018

Nothing Can't Explain Anything, Let Alone Everything

What ceases to be thought qualitatively so as to be thought quantitatively ceases to be thought significantly. --Dávila

Continuing with our vindication of plain language and its access to simple truth, I am reminded of a eulogy given for a distinguished mathematician: His contributions to our field are incalculable.

I'm not sure if the eulogist was being ironic, but in any event, he conveyed the truth outlined in yesterday's post, that quality cannot be reduced to quantity -- and conversely, that no amount of quantity adds up to quality.

Indeed, you can't even say, for example, that the cosmos is a big place without the quality of comparative smallness. You've no doubt noticed that astronomers such as Carl Sagan like to blather on about -- scientifically! -- the billions upon billions of stars, and the vastness of space. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Compared to what? There's only one cosmos, and compared to its creator its actually pretty small, cozy even.

More troubling is the fact that they like to play up the vastness of space in order to cut man down to size. But this is a verbal trick rooted in a category error of epic proportions; for man may be physically smaller than the cosmos, but can nevertheless contain it. Who's fooling whom? What is more impressive, a dead cosmos or a living scientist? A cosmos that can host life, mind, and spirit, or one that can't?

You might say that the contributions of our cosmos to humanness are incalculable. Or, you can attempt the calculation, but will soon find yourself in the realm of the infinite. In other words, the statistical chance of persons emerging from the incalculable quantitative contingencies -- all the equations lining up -- is more or less zero. So on that basis alone -- i.e., quantity -- we need recourse to another explanation, which is to say, quality.

Now, notwithstanding what was just said above, sometimes quantities do have qualities. They just don't add up from below.

To take an obvious example, the threeness of the Trinity is not to be understood quantitatively but qualitatively -- as intersubjectivity, as an eternal relation of love. In fact, other primary numbers convey lessons of their own, especially the One, Two, Four, Seven, and Zero, the latter signifying both nothingness and infinitude.

The One, for example, has always stood for God, unity, the Absolute. Furthermore, that each subsequent number is just a multiple of One conveys the idea that God -- the principle of unity -- is in all subsequent quantities. Likewise, twoness is static duality unless reconciled in the living synthesis and harmony of the Three.

You might say that complementarities are downward projections of threeness, whereas dualities are always from below. Not only that, but one of Satan's favorite pastimes is reducing complementarities to dualities -- or, even worse, unities, for example, man and woman.

In other words, it is bad enough to render man and woman opposed to one another, worse yet to pretend they are the same. Feminists can't decide which of these they prefer, but neither comports with reality.

Here's an interesting claim in No God, No Science; either you get it or you don't, but it is true nonetheless: "the only universe in which natural selection could work was the universe Darwin inherited and then stole from the natural theologians." Why stole? Isn't that a bit inflammatory? Not at all, for it's like breaking into a house and stealing the jewels, and then burning it down with the family inside to eliminate the witnesses.

What are the jewels? Oh, little things like a rational cosmos that is uniquely intelligible to human beings, not to mention the prior existence of living organisms that inexplicably appear in a presumably dead cosmos.

A more subtle point is that Darwinism doesn't actually account for change, even while putting itself forth as the last word on the subject. To paraphrase Hanby, genes are abstracted from the teleological wholeness of the organism. According to natural selection, "change" is a consequence of random genetic mutations.

But notice that no entity has actually changed: we have one organism, then another. The first one hasn't "changed," nor has the second. They both simply are what they are. You could say "the species" has changed, but this is just the attempt to sneak an abstract essence or quality in through the back door.

In other words, we superimpose an imaginary backstory or line of continuity, when the whole operation has been discontinuous. But continuity can only come from the top. As I've put to before, if we can explain natural selection, then natural selection cannot explain us. Isn't this obvious?

From the perspective of natural selection, an organism is the sum of its accidental mutations. But from our perspective, "organicism" is a prior condition that is "localized," so to speak, in biological objects. Organisms are ultimately only possible because of the wholeness and interiority of the cosmos, itself a reflection of the unity of being. You cannot get from pure exteriority to interiority, or from existence to experience. Just ask a rock, which will give you an infinitely more honest answer than a materialist. A materialist is not as dumb as a rock. Rather, dumber.

Bottom line: the metaphysical Darwinian

is in the awkward position of affirming in practice what his theory would deny and denying in theory what what his practice affirms, of paradoxically failing to see what he cannot help but see, of presupposing the interiority and unity of living organisms, and yet being prohibited by his ontological commitments from rendering an account of them. Darwinian biology is predicated upon a denial of the obvious which, as obvious, will not be denied.

Ontological commitments. AKA faith -- or better, faith in faithlessness, which is a bit like Gödel in reverse. For with Gödel, we always know more than we can say, whereas Darwinism can't help saying more than it could possibly know.

But no Darwinian actually is one, because it is an impossible metaphysic. For it begins with a rejection of its own implicit cosmos (itself a metaphysical construct), and posits "a counterfactual world of inertial singulars indifferently related to each other." It then reconstructs "the whole as a mechanical aggregation of those singulars brought about by extrinsic pressures or forces," which only "empties reality of its interiority and deprives universals of any ontological foothold."

The Aphorist sums it up: As it is unable to explain that consciousness which creates it, science, when it finishes explaining everything, will not have explained anything.

I would put it this way: you can't get from zero to One. The One, however, radiates infinitely, ultimately tending toward zero without ever arriving there. Unless you count the tenured.


Joan of Argghh! said...

Well. What explains this post having no comments?

I know I enjoyed it. Thanks!

Gagdad Bob said...

A reader!

julie said...

But notice that no entity has actually changed: we have one organism, then another. The first one hasn't "changed," nor has the second. They both simply are what they are. You could say "the species" has changed, but this is just the attempt to sneak an abstract essence or quality in through the back door.

I find it interesting when, every now and then, some pocket of heretofore undiscovered fauna is unearthed (some cave that was isolated for millions of years, for instance). All that time, and an unusual environment, you'd think evolution would have resulted in some truly fantastic deviations from the familiar. Instead we get the same spiders, fish, shrimp, etc., perfectly recognizable except that maybe they don't have eyes, or the eyes they do have are essentially vestigial.

In any case, they are what they are and always have been, each individual a complete specimen in itself, and not merely a thing in transition to being something else entirely.

julie said...

And yes, it's a perfectly cromulent post. Even so, commenting takes a little activated slack on the part of the reader, as well...

Anonymous said...

Well, I didn't get to this post yesterday. I was giving the lefties the what for over on Reddit. I tend to attack the right on MWF, and hit the left on TTH. So, not much trolling can be done for this one.

I will say Darwinism is not completely useless. I mean, capitalism is somewhat Darwinist, in that the survival of the fittest organization seems to cause a sort of evolution of commerce, as it were. "But so what?", you might ask. I would have no good answer.