Friday, January 18, 2019

Sharing the Muck

Still mucking about in the archive -- I've probably looked at over 700 posts by now, so less than 3,000 to go. Clearing out the entire stable will probably take six months of mucking. Fortunately, the quality picks up after about mid-2007, so it wasn't just my imagination that there were some interesting posts along the way.

Some random sentences, sentence fragments, questions, and partial answers from 2007 that I still like, or at least don't totally get on my nerves:

A clue that it isn’t the ultimate explanation is that you can fully comprehend it.

One can’t write anything on the subject of reality without saying something that isn’t true.

What kind of cosmos gives rise to Subjects who may know Truth?

It is somewhat bizarre to think that our own thinking could solve the problem; but even more bizarre to think that it couldn't.

There is something in the human mind that wants to contain novelty and demystify the world -- to make the anxiety of not-knowing go away. In a sense this is perfectly understandable. Ironically, it is a legacy of our evolved genotype which, after all, was not designed to ponder the mystery of being but to survive and obtain tenure.

If intelligence could be reduced to senses + logic, human beings wouldn't be intelligent enough to know it, since no logical operation can inform them of this.

As far as we know, information is something that must be stored in a differentiated and stable physical substrate, but the Big Bang had no time to store anything and no place to store it, since time and matter didn't exist.

The wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. An organism is not just a sack of genetic material, and a mind is not a pile of neurological facts.

All other animals merely inhabit a world, whereas human beings are privileged to (potentially, at least) live in the world. Animals are confined to the environment to which they are adapted, and from which they can never escape. Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally didn't come into existence until human beings happened upon the scene. Prior to subjects there is nothing.

Given Darwinian principles -- which, by the way, we can only know about because we have transcended them -- how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world? Or did we? Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible.

While other animals have only their little slice of Being, the human is able to engage with Being as a whole.

Science can never be complete or exhaustive because "it explains things in terms that are themselves left unexplained," and is therefore inevitably circular.

Of course, it is always possible that the scientific ideas capable of being hatched in the mind of man just so happen to coincide with ultimate reality. But the chances are so remote that we may dismiss them out of hand. In a way, the atheist is asking us to believe something far more unbelievable than religious revelation, which is that the cosmos reveals its true inner and outer nature to man just by sheer luck.

As Magee points out, "The only plausible possibility of a reality completely corresponding to our conceptions of it rests on the possibility that reality itself could be mind-like, or could be created by a mind, or by minds."

The existence of man's mind tells us much more about the nature of this cosmos than does the cosmos itself.

Subject and Object are irreducible existential categories, and we can burrow into the cosmic mountain from either end. Clearly, no cosmos is possible without both. Science -- for reasons it never examines -- disregards the Subject, which ineluctably ends in metaphysical absurdity, since it leads to a situation in which it explains everything except the mysterious one doing the explaining.

You can fail to take cognizance of the Absolute, but it will always return through the backdoor. For example, it is impossible to consistently maintain that "it is absolutely true that nothing but the relatively true exists." One might just as well write that writing doesn't exist.

There is a dimension of suprasensible information readily available to human minds which is neither material nor logical, and that is other minds. Normal humans are equipped with what developmental neuropsychologists call a "mind reading" capacity, through which we may instantaneously -- without thinking -- access the "interior" of another.

To say that the intellect cannot know God, the Absolute, is to place an artificial boundary around intelligence as such. And if our intelligence were bounded, we would not know where the boundary lay, so there would be no reason to accept anyone's boundary as anything other than arbitrary.

Science can never arrive at any ultimate explanation, because the scientist doing the explaining will always defy quantification. For he is an irreducible subject, an ontological category that slips through the coarse cognitive nets of science like a herd of cats trying to nail Jello soup to the wall with a fork.

Steinsaltz: "Man's question should not be how to escape the perpetual struggle but what form to give it, at what level to wage it."

I'm waging it against my own years of logorrhea.

UPDATE

This was also mildly amusing:

Neuroscientists have identified a network of brain regions activated when people feel aa if God doesn't exist. Artificially stimulating the brain in this way, they say, might allow people to have atheistic experiences without disbelieving in God themselves.

Lead author Rufus T. Firefly at the University of Feedonia says that he wanted to know what was going on in the brain during materialistic, secular, or atheistic episodes because of his own personal experiences. During such moments, people have the illusion that they are separate from the source of being, and may feel existential anxiety, absence of ultimate meaning, and even a sense of absurdity.

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people...

Earlier studies have suggested that such experiences might originate in one specific part of the brain. Work with autistic patients who are incapable of religious feeling has suggested that a hypertrophied region in the temporal cortex, dubbed the “secular spot” or “materialistic module,” could be largely responsible. There has been controversy over experiments suggesting that stimulating this area of the temporal lobes can induce the illusion of materialism.

The "Sam Harris Switch"

Dr. Firefly says that it is already possible to use machines to mimic the type of brain activation that atheists experience. "It's feasible to bring people into such a state where the mind is reduced to such machine or robot-like experiences." This research might eventually be used to undo the deleterious mental and physiological health effects that various studies have linked to the absence of religiosity, he suggests.

But many secular scientists and people with materialistic beliefs would be opposed to such an idea because it suggests that the philosophy of scientific materialism is just "junk metaphysics," a stubborn but ultimately superstitious illusion rooted in our evolved nervous system, says Dr. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, professor of applied voodoo and witchcraft and an authority on authoritarianism at Dawkins College in New York.

"I don't know what useful information can be gleaned from this study," Wagstaff says. "Just because we have an advanced diagnostic technique doesn't mean we should use it on anything that comes to mind," he says. "People's beliefs are sacred, even if they're technically profane."

However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved.

8 comments:

Roy Lofquist said...

Bob: "Prior to subjects there is nothing."

"In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it." ~ Martin Rees

Bob: As Magee points out, "The only plausible possibility of a reality completely corresponding to our conceptions of it rests on the possibility that reality itself could be mind-like, or could be created by a mind, or by minds."

"The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment." ~ Bernard d'Espagnat

At the limits of our knowledge science is compelled to acknowledge the mysterious. The following video, of a lecture by Richard Feynman, is cued to the part where he admits to the mysterious. There's about 3 or 4 minutes of pure gold.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdZMXWmlp9g&feature=youtu.be&t=1344

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes: the laws of the universe are necessarily constrained by our being here. Therefore, any law or principle that renders the transcendent intellect impossible -- say, materialism -- is a nonstarter. If materialism is true, then we don't exist.

Gagdad Bob said...

Another sentence I like:

"The best way is to end discrimination is to begin discriminating, since discrimination is the opposite of indiscriminately lumping individuals into groups. For a person with discrimination, Thomas Sowell and Cornell West belong to wildly divergent groups with virtually nothing in common. There is nothing similar about them -- that is, unless you are a leftist racist who notices only their skin color."

Gagdad Bob said...

Back to what Roy said, here's a sentence I found today:

"If 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."

So there.

Roy Lofquist said...

What's time to a brick? Physicists, and laymen, view time as a fourth "dimension" but it is fundamentally different from the physical dimensions. Width, depth and height are properties of a single entity whereas time is a group property. It can only be discerned as a change in the relative position of single objects. It can only be measured by referencing yet another object that changes in what we perceive as a regular, recurring pattern. And that requires an observer.

julie said...

Are we as trapped in a narrow cross-section of reality as any other tenured animal? If so, then both science and religion are impossible.

The older I get, the more madness I see in the world, the more I think that for a large percentage of people, this is so. I just read a headline at Instapundit that doctors actually need to tell women, in this day and age, not to stick parsley where the sun doesn't shine.

That this happens enough that something needs to be said speaks volumes about humanity.

Most of the world is simply not perceived or even capable of being perceived. In fact, the world literally didn't come into existence until human beings happened upon the scene.
...
how did mankind escape its environment and enter the real world?


Along those lines, Vanderleun has a couple of lovely videos up today about the mining of marble in Pietrasanta, Italy. Had Michelangelo never gone seeking for something pure to give form to the substance of his vision, the beauty of the stone may well have remained hidden for all time. Instead, it is the vessel through which not only he, but generations of master sculptors have made the world a more beautiful place.

julie said...

Firefly and his colleague, Dr. Otis Driftwood, recruited 15 secular scientists from academia, slid them into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, and asked them to fully relive the most meaningless moment in their lives.

As a comparison, the scientists also relived a schizoid experience in which they brooded over their sense of being isolated and detached from other people...


I've seen many stories lately, by women who have lived the feminist dream, hit the Wall, and have nothing to show for it but a string of failed, sterile relationships and a houseful of cats. The struggle they face is one of existential meaninglessness and the depression that must go along with that. Genuinely sad.

Van Harvey said...

"However, his colleague, Professor Hackenbush, says that neuroscientists are keen to explore the brain activity that underlies atheism because... because... because they have nothing better to do, and there’s a lot of grant money involved."

:-)