Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Weird and Weirder

Greetings, fellow weirdos! Look around, what do you see? I mean deep down, beneath this ocean of appearances?
First, existence; second, differences; third, movements, modifications, transformations; fourth, disappearances (Schuon).

Which reminds me of what we were saying the other day about the three-dimensional sphere passing through a two-dimensional plane: it appears, it changes, and it disappears. But only from the limited perspective of the Flatlander. In reality, the sphere didn't change or disappear at all, except insofar as it passed through Flatland. Hello, Noumenon!

Therefore, if I'm correct in guessing where I'm going with this stream of thought, it is possible that some of the changes we experience here in 4D are the result of a hyperdimensional object passing through. 

Now we're touching on the mystery of time, which, according to the physics department, is but a "stubborn illusion" with no ontological reality. You know what they say: time is of the essence. Well, not for physics it isn't.

To be honest, it's been awhile since I checked in on the latest scientific insights into the nature of time. Be right back.

Here's an example from the journal Nature:

According to theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn’t correspond to physical reality.... Even Einstein’s relativistic space-time -- an elastic manifold that contorts so that local times differ depending on one’s relative speed or proximity to a mass -- is just an effective simplification.... 
He posits that reality is *just* a complex network of events onto which we project sequences of past, present and future. The whole Universe obeys the laws of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, out of which time emerges.


To be honest again, I don't really care what physics says about time, because the question is beyond the reach of physics in principle. I suppose physicists don't want to hear this, but time is the province of the Metaphysics Department. Never mind that this department is composed of scattered freelancers and guerrilla ontologists such as myself.  

In the context of our discussion of emergence, time is obviously central, since emergence not only requires time, but must -- in my opinion -- reveal something about the very nature of time. 

Put it this way: in what type of cosmos is the creative emergence of novelty even possible? Correct: only in a temporal one, otherwise there can be no real evolutionary change, let alone the kind of dramatic transformations we see, for example, from matter to life or life to mind. 

In order to not notice that a living cosmos is fundamentally different from a non-living cosmos, one must be more than a little careless. Or incurious. Or just trapped inside a pre-Gödelian ideological matrix. 

It was back in 1985, when I was pondering this question of time, that I stumbled upon the works of Ilya Prigogine; also helpful were Michael Polanyi, A.N. Whitehead, and later, theoretical biologist Robert Rosen (plus a few others). 

Here are some relevant excerpts from the introduction of book we've been discussing, Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization. First, 

With the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century came the insistence that wholes -- including living organisms -- are no different from aggregates, and that secondary qualities are mere causally inert epiphenomenal and/or subjective appearances. 

Legitimate scientific methodology denied all ontological status to higher-level phenomena, insisting that any truly causal relationships between organizational levels be one-way only: bottom-up.

Did you notice what those sneaky unenlightened Enlightenment thinkers did just there? Correct: they covertly elevated a method of inquiry into an ontological reality. In other words, the map is not only conflated with the territory, but any territory not depicted in the map doesn't exist. Even if we're standing on it!

Which reminds me of the old story of the visitors to the Soviet Union standing in front of a church while looking at a state-approved map that shows no such church. Talk about separation of church and state.

That story provides a good metaphor not only for dialectical materialism, but for progressive ideology in general. For example, let's say you look at your newborn and conclude it's a boy. But then you consult the progressive map, on which there is no place for biology. What is a woman? Who knows. It's not on the map. Besides, have you never heard of the separation of crotch & state?

Anyway, shortly after the map of scientific materialism was developed, people started wondering about all the things that seem rather important but which do not appear in the map, many of which fall under the heading of "emergence," beginning with how a finely-tuned cosmos emerges out of a primordial explosion, and how this cosmos comes to life after 9 billion years ago -- at the very moment, by the way, that cosmic conditions permitted the emergence of life. 

This book surveys the off-road thinkers who began wondering about the inadequacy of the scientistic map. But "Not until Ilya Prigogine was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1977 for his work on Dissipative Structures"

did many serious scientists and philosophers dare to question "the goals, methods, and epistemology" of modern science. Doing so required scientists to reconsider the *creative* aspects of nature, made manifest in an evolutionary process displaying irreducibly emergent properties.  

Prigogine's work also attracted unserious philosophers such as myself, who focussed in on that little word creative. How is it, Bob wondered, that creativity can exist in a deterministic cosmos? 

After thinking about it for a good twenty minutes, possibly even more, I concluded that my conventional education hadn't given me the whole story. I mean, I had always suspected it was borderline worthless, but now I had reasons to believe I had been seriously and systematically misinformed about the nature of reality.

Yes, I was a matrix dweller, no better than any tenured yahoo or gaslighting journalist. But here was a window and possibly even doorway out! For Prigogine,

nature speaks with too many voices to be reduced to a single tone or captured by a single narrow mode of observation.... [But] what has come to be called Complexity Theory can "account" for the strong emergence of higher ontological levels of complex organization.

Such an approach was weirder than reductive scientism, but now the question became: is it weird enough? After all, this is a pretty weird place, certainly weirder than we suppose. To paraphrase Haldane, it may well be weirder than we can suppose, in which case we ought to suppose it's as weird as possible, because even that won't be weird enough.

Which is why -- of course -- my book has that weird passage in the beginning about how 

In the Beginning was the weird, and the weird was with God, and the weird was God.  

No deusrespect intended, but subsequent discoveries have only confirmed this suspicion about our weird and wonderful Creator. I don't want to say "I believe because it is absurd," but I will say that I am very much attracted to certain weirdities that take on all the more credibility because no one would make this stuff up. 

I'm out of time, so I only hope this post was mildly entertaining since it didn't get far into the actual substance of the topic. I'll bet something appropriately weird will emerge in the next post.


julie said...

He posits that reality is *just* a complex network of events onto which we project sequences of past, present and future.

Oh, is that all?

Do I detect a whiff of Descartes, or is that just a nasal hallucination?

julie said...

What is a woman? Who knows.

Even if you know, you probably aren't allowed to say it.

John Venlet said...

Well, after taking the time, if there is such a thing, to read through this most recent post, I'm thankful that the scientists so certain of their scientism have the CERN atom smasher to play with, as it takes up their time to smash up more atoms and find new, never before seen, sub-atomic particles, and then more of their illusory time to pen press releases and contemplate on what they had not perceived before. Perhaps they did not have enough time.


John Venlet said...

Having some additional time on my hands to enjoy a cigar on the back porch, I thought a bit more about time and this post. Though for The Creator, time may be meaningless; a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day; for us created beings, He did start the clock, so to speak. Consider simply the days of creation themselves, there were six of them, and on the seventh He rested. When you tie that to Mark 2:27, where The Messiah informs us that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, He confirms for us that time is real, that the hours in the days are trackable, and that as His created beings we need take the time, the Sabbath, not only for ourselves, but for Him to refresh us from our labors.

Gagdad Bob said...

I like to think of time and eternity as complementary. A book I recently read says something similar, that "A 'timeless eternity' devoid of anything remotely akin to cosmic time, would be static and eventless," and that the next world must be a timefull as opposed to a timeless eternity, perhaps with "multiple time dimensions or super/supra temporal dimensionality."

Van Harvey said...

"Did you notice what those sneaky unenlightened Enlightenment thinkers did just there? Correct: they covertly elevated a method of inquiry into an ontological reality. In other words, the map is not only conflated with the territory, but any territory not depicted in the map doesn't exist. Even if we're standing on it!"

Much like Kant's gimmick which all his convolutions served to conceal - he'd substitute a How, for the What - over and over and over, until he'd established that we couldn't know what was real because our senses got in between us and reality, and so our notions of what's real and true are all in our heads, or as Rand quipped "man is blind, because he has eyes—deaf, because he has ears—deluded, because he has a mind". Of course her idea wasn't much better, basically that consciousness somehow emerged from complexity. It seems that whatever foulness is in the air... it's more than Kant cutting the cheese.