Friday, July 08, 2022

New Dimensions in Old Universes

The previous post about emergence and anticipatory systems left off with an unanticipated remark about the Incarnation, which in turn touches on the presence of additional dimensions in our cosmos beyond the usual plain vanilla three spatial + one temporal.

Sources confirm the truth of that chance remark. Specifically, later in the day I was reading a book called The Pope Benedict XVI Reader, chapter 13, The Resurrection. I'll cite some of the passages while italicizing the particular words and phrases that slapped my interior mama: 

Whether Jesus merely was or whether he also is -- this depends on the Resurrection.

Those italics are actually Benedict's, but go to the very nature of time, because if Jesus is, then either history isn't what we think it is, or else it has become something else, more on which as we proceed. (In fact, the last aphorism at the end of the post touches on how the Was and Is relate in the Now.) 

From the perspective of the original witnesses, Benedict asks, "What actually happened?" For

They were confronted with what for them was an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their experience.

For this is not merely a resuscitation or reanimation -- like, say, Lazarus, who eventually died just like the restavus will. Rather, this is "utterly unlike anything they had previously known." There is no existing intellectual, religious, or philosophical category or paradigm for what is taking place.  

It's starting to sound like a genuine emergence -- or better, a kind of "meta-emergence," the only comparable prior cases of which might include the emergence of the cosmos from nothing, the emergence of life from an inanimate world, and the emergence of an immaterial soul in bipedal primates. 

If this were only "a resuscitated corpse, it would ultimately be of no concern to us" -- lucky for Jesus, to be sure, but having no bearing on our own luckless rendezvous with death. 

I suppose it would be more like a typical "near-death experience," in which case we'd want to know if Jesus saw the familiar white tunnel with his relatives awaiting him at the other end. 

But it's not like that at all, rather, "about breaking out into an entirely new form of life," one "that opens up a new dimension of human existence." 

A new life in a new dimension? Yes indeed,

a new possibility of human existence is attained that affects everyone and opens up a future, a new kind of future, for mankind.  

This is beginning to sound like a new kind of cosmos, again, analogous to the transition from a nonliving to a living one, or a nonthinking to a thinking one. 

Correct:

Christ's Resurrection is either a universal event, or it is nothing

Either/or: a new universe or the same old cosmic nothingburger. 

Exactly what is going on here? Is this an evolutionary leap into a new kind of species, or is this the inbreaking of a higher dimension into ours, like the sphere passing through the plane? Whatever it is, it is

something that surpasses all experience and yet is utterly real and present

How can something beyond experience be present? Easy: it's called a "numinous experience," which comes down to an experience of the Noumenon. But this seems to go beyond these prior close encounters with O, to a... how to put it... to a face-to-face encounter with the actual Person-Source of the prior meetings. For the disciples clearly

speak of something new, something unprecedented -- a new dimension of reality that is revealed..., a further dimension, beyond what was previously known

Even Benedict stammers before the radical novelty of this emergent n-n-new d-d-dimension of r-r-reality. But it sure looks like this is an evolutionary universe and thensome, like we're seeing -- and offered participation in -- a "last and highest 'evolutionary leap,'" which is to say, a "union of the finite with the infinite," or nothing short of "union of man and God."

I just had to get that material out of the cosmic inbox. We'll return to our irregularly unscheduled programming in the next post. Meanwhile, Aphorisms that touch on the subject from various angles:

Faith is not an irrational assent to a proposition; it is a perception of a special order of realities.

Religion is not a set of solutions to known problems, but a new dimension of the universe. The religious man lives among realities that the secular man ignores...

Christ was in history like a point on a line. But his redemptive act is to history as the center is to the circumference (Dávila).

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Our Anticipatory Cosmos and the Music of Science

On the subject of music, I was thinking of how it has three characteristics -- or at least these three must exist in both composer and listener: memory, present moment, and anticipation. One must have a present memory of what has transpired, flowing in anticipation toward what is to come; in order to apprehend music, the unheard must somehow be implicitly present to the already heard.

A clever composer or soloist may play with our anticipation and give us one note -- or sometimes just silence -- when we were expecting another. Thelonious Monk was famous for this: sour when we are expecting sweet. I'll bet this unexpectedness is a metaphor for something more important. 

Off the top of my head, it seems to touch on the very nature of creativity, the products of which are always unanticipated. Machines are never creative, because they are linear, not complex, systems.

Now, creativity is synonymous with emergence, in the sense that it is not, and can never be, predicted from its lower level constituents. But if the world is regarded as a machine, then genuine creativity and emergence must be impossible. To the extent that they do appear, then we can be sure that they are reducible to lower level causes.

Along these lines, theoretical biologist Robert Rosen's first book was called Anticipatory Systems. I've never read it, because I'm not about to pay $60 for a book. But I can check out the amazon preview, and sometimes with a scientific book you have only to read the introduction in order to get the main point, the rest of the book consisting of proof. But we don't need no steenking proof, because we are metaphysicians. Our proof is in the very nature of things.

Time out while I raid the preview for any useful bits.

Rosen notes that while writing the manuscript in 1979, 

I felt (and still do) that I had arrived upon the threshold of some entirely new perspectives in the theory of natural systems, and of biological systems in particular.

He's not talking about a mere scientific discovery, but rather, the meta-discovery of a new and deeper paradigm for understanding living systems. 

This itself, in my opinion, is an example of the creative emergence alluded to above. Importantly, this doesn't render it merely "subjective" -- just his opinion, man -- but explaining why would require a lengthy foray into Polanyi's post-critical philosophy of tacit knowledge. We'll probably circle back to Polanyi in due time.

Anticipation. It sounds like something that could only be present in a mind of some sort, but what if it is "fundamental in its own right" and built into the nature for things, into the rug-like fabric of being? And in what type of cosmos is anticipation even possible? 

Strictly speaking, an anticipatory system is one in which present change of state depends upon future circumstances, rather than merely on the present or past.

This obviously touches on teleology, but not in a fixed way, as in a machine, rather, in a more open ended manner. But what does it mean to be open to future circumstances that do not properly exist? 

Well, it must be similar to what we were saying above about music: we can only appreciate it in the present moment, but in so doing, this moment is reaching forward to some future creative development and resolution.   

Rosen's book is "about what else one is forced to believe if one grants that certain kinds of systems can behave in an anticipatory fashion." Forced? Since I'm not a materialist, you'd have to force me not to look at the world this way. Indeed, the weirder the better. 

It seems to me that the anticipatory paradigm cannot replace the mechanistic paradigm, but rather, complements it. For example, in the human body -- or any other organism -- there are machine-like  "closed-loop" and more creative "open-loop" subsystems. Indeed, if the entire biosphere weren't in some sense an open system, then evolution itself would be impossible. Rather, the identical process would simply repeat itself like any other machine. 

Here again there is a great deal of overlap with Polanyi, for whom living systems are under "dual-control": such a system relies on the principles of a lower level -- e.g., the laws of physics and chemistry -- to serve as boundary conditions for the emergence of a higher level. 

Analogously, we require the fixed structure of grammar and spelling in order to say something novel or creative, and one cannot deduce meaning from the lower level structure. Or as Rosen puts it in a later book, semantics cannot be reduced to syntax, meaning to order. Take that, DNA!

Back to Anticipatory Systems:

Living organisms have the equivalent of one "foot" in the past, the other in the future, and the whole system hovers, moment by moment, in the present -- always on the move, through time....

The truth is that the future represents as powerful a causal force on current behavior as the past does, for all living things. 

Oh, I get it: reality is musical

In her preface, Rosen's daughter suggests that 

Perhaps time is not quite as linear as we have always presumed it to be. My father's view, in fact, was that, "Time is complex."

(Speaking of which, a true and embarrassing story which I've mentioned before: when writing my book, I contacted Rosen's daughter -- herself a biologist -- for a blurb, and she sounded excited that someone should be interested in the work of her late father.) 

(But after sending her an excerpt, I never heard from her again, nor do I blame her, because I think it might have actually included the sub-Joycean prelude. I'm only surprised she didn't obtain a restraining order. But the whole darn point of Finnegans Wake is that time is not only weirdly complex, it is more complex than we suppose and more complex than we can suppose!)

(In my defense, I ask you: if we want to understand the complex weirdity or weird complexity of time, is science somehow more competent than literature?)

(According to Campbell & Robinson, "The Wake, at its lowest estimate, is a huge time-capsule, a complete and permanent record of our age. If our society should go to smash tomorrow, one could find all the pieces, together with the forces that broke them, in Finnegans Wake. The book is a kind of terminal moraine in which lie buried all the myths, programs, slogans, hopes, prayers, tools, educational theories, and theological bric-a-brac of the past millennium. And here, too, will be found the love that reanimates this debris.)

The love that reanimates the debris? Didn't anticipate that one, but enough about the Incarnation. To be continued...

Nothing that satisfies our expectations fulfills our hopes. --Dávila

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Harmony, Melody, and Rhythm in the Cosmos

This is one of those titles that came to me before the post was written, so we'll have to wait and see where it leads. But as I've mentioned before, if music isn't somehow important, then I've wasted a good deal of my life. I'm with Nietzsche on this one: Without music, life would be a mistake

I'll bite: a mistake relative to what? 

Relative to the Truth which is symphonic. Now, what is a symphony?

In a book of anticipatory plagiarism called Truth is Symphonic, Balthasar writes that 

Symphony means "sounding together." First there is sound, then different sounds and then we hear the different sounds singing together in a dance of sound. A bass trumpet is not the same as a piccolo; a cello is not a bassoon. The difference between the instruments must be as striking as possible. Each one keeps its utterly distinctive timbre, and the composer must write for each part in such a way that this timbre achieves its fullest effect.   

Balthasar cites Mozart as the quintessential example, but I don't know classical, so I'm going to go with the greatest jazz composer, Duke Ellington. What Balthasar says about Mozart could equally apply to Ellington, who also

had this whole sound in his ear to such an extent that, on occasion, he could write down the single instrumental line of an entire movement because he "heard" it within the sym-phony of all the parts. The orchestra must be pluralist in order to unfold the wealth of the totality that resounds in the composer's mind.

Ellington famously wrote to the strengths and tonalities of particular instrumentalists, to the point that it sounded as if the instrumentalist were personally making it up on he spot. In other words, Ellington made compositions sound like improvisations. 

Which reminds me of the orthoparadoxocal fusion of God's foreknowledge and our free will.  

It sounds like I'm going to have to read this book, because at the moment I'm just yoinking from the amazon preview:

The world is like a vast orchestra tuning up: each player plays to himself, while the audience  take their seats and the conductor has not yet arrived. All the same, someone has struck an A on the piano, and a certain unity of atmosphere is established around it: they are tuning up for some common endeavor.

Lots to unpack there. First of all, where is the unity located in the human symphony, or the symphony of humanness? Is it in the genes? In a common trans-genetic nature? 

Or is it in history -- which is to say, time -- which is trickier than the first two, being that the song of history isn't yet finished? We know history has an end, whether it is the one foretold by scripture or by the heat death of physics, and we even know where we are situated in the latter timeline

As best as we are able to determine, the human symphony strikes that A chord about 70,000 years ago, and the last note will be sounded no later than.... I don't mean to bum you out, but entropy giveth and entropy taketh away: the "heat death" of the universe

follows from the simple fact that the flow of heat from hot bodies to cold bodies eventually brings every piece of matter in the universe to the exact same temperature. When everything registers an identical temperature, heat flow everywhere ceases. The universal cessation of heat flow implies the end of any possible performance of work, including such basic activities as respiration and digestion. The end of all work, then, spells the end of all physical life (Ross).

Oh great, as if Brandon and AOC didn't have enough on their plate, what with the EXIZTENCHUL THRET! of climate change. Because this is an ontological threat -- not just a threat to life, but to mind, spirit, and anything else you care to name.

Notice the importance of entropy, because -- literally -- we can't live with it and we can't live without it. As mentioned in the previous post, it was Prigogine who noted the critical connection between life and entropy, since emergent, living structures are only able to maintain themselves by dissipating entropy.

So, entropy is like our best frenemy. Similarly, while God banged the cosmos into existence 13.7 billion years ago,

With every passing year, the universe stretches out faster than it did the previous year, which hastens and exacerbates the consequences of the coming heat death (Ross).

That is the ultimate good news / bad news.  

So, just how long is the human symphony? We know when it began. When does it end -- not for me in particular. I'd rather not know that. But for HCE (Here Comes Everybody)?

Hold on. I'm checking. I'll have to google it. The first estimate that pops up says suggests that 

Earth has at least 1.5 billion years left to support life.... If humans last that long, Earth would be generally uncomfortable for them, but livable in some areas just below the polar regions.

Hold on -- I just found a better estimate of how long the planet will be capable of hosting human life, and it's not nearly as long as the estimate above. A lot of things are going to go sideways before the sun burns out -- for example, the Earth's rotation is going to continue slowing down, such that in 100 million years our days will last 25 hours. 

Well, good, you might say. More time to get things done. However, it also means that day and night time temperatures will grow more extreme, and that rainfall distribution patterns will change dramatically. We're also enjoying a period of unusual stability in the Sun, which started about 50,000 years back and will end in another 50,000 years. Lots of problems after that.

Bottom line: "the maximum time window in which the cosmos can possibly sustain [human civilization] amounts to less than a few million years" (Ross). And gosh! A less optimistic estimate by a credible source gives human civilization "no more than 41,000 years."

But who cares? Either way, we won't be there. Well, I care because it means the song will end: the cosmos had a beginning and it has an end. In between was everything: life, love, consciousness, thought, beauty, joy, music...

So, just what was all that stuff? We don't have to wait in order to ask that question, but can ask it now: is that the end of everything, or just of the universe? I'm gonna say that it's only the end of appearances, not Reality. Obviously, ultimate reality can't be subject to decay.

We'll get to the point of this ditty in the next post. 

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.

Just.

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.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Independence Deity

Emergence: what is it, and is it actually a single thing, or very different things we place under a single rubric because we don't know what else to do with them? 

Emergence occurs when two or more very different ingredients or causes combine to form a third thing that has little or nothing in common with its components. Obviously it happens all the time in chemistry: neither sodium nor chloride alone taste like salt, nor do hydrogen or oxygen look or behave like water, and the sum of these four parts doesn't add up to the salt sea, let alone the mystery and majesty of the ocean.

Another way of conveying the idea is to say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts: the combination of Lennon and McCartney is much greater than the banality of either one alone. More generally, if one plus one didn't often add up to three, we would't be here. Nor would God, but that going into that subject would take us far afield.

Another question is, what is the ontological status of the emergent system or thing or property? Does it have a real reality of its own, or is it just an epiphenomenon safely reducible without remainder to its component parts? 

Our sensibility recoils at the notion that a human being is worth his weight in water and chemicals -- which, factoring in inflation, comes to about $17.18. Looked at this way, a fat person is intrinsically more valuable than a fit one, and children are a complete ripoff.

I suppose it all begins with the general question of whether our cosmos is more like a smooth ramp or a discontinuous ladder. Our official scientistic paradigm maintains that nature makes no leaps but is always a gradual process. This despite the fact that leaps nonetheless occur. 

As alluded to in the previous post, I have no problem acknowledging the leaps because I am not wedded to an ideology that forbids them because it implies You Know Who. Since I am on excellent terms with YKW, I say, the more leaps the merrier. 

The Flatlander will counter that these aren't leaps, they're temporary Gaps, and that You Know Who is just a name for our present ignorance of an exact explanation that will eventually eliminate them. 

For example, we used to think there was a chasm between man and ape, but Darwin revealed the actual mechanics of the ramp. Thus, there is no ontological distinction between man and his subhuman ancestors.

Of course, we disagree with that simplistic assessment, since the differences are literally infinite. I say literally because there is an infinite gap between the qualities of spirit and of matter. The former is immaterial, simple (composed of no parts), and open to further transcendent realities that in principle are not reducible to matter, e.g., truth, beauty, creativity, unity, etc.  

Now, I understand materialism as method, but I do not understand the motivations of the person to elevate it to doctrine. Why would anyone do that? 

I know: because they are faithfully committed to truth, no matter where it leads. Good. Now define "truth."

I'm not actually interested in your definition, because whatever it is, it crumbles under Schuon's Hammer:

Fundamentally it consists in propounding the claim that there is no truth as if this were truth or in declaring it to be absolutely true that there is nothing but the relatively true; one might just as well say that there is no language or write that there is no writing....

The assertion nullifies itself if it is true and by nullifying itself logically proves thereby that it is false; its initial absurdity lies in the implicit claim to be unique in escaping, as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared to be the only possibility. 

Okay, hold on a sec... I'm thinking. I know: truth is an emergent property of matter!

No, that doesn't get you anywhere, because it means that matter isn't what we thought it was, since it possesses properties and potentials that essentially render it immaterial, which violates a little thing called the principle of non-contradiction: if you redefine matter as both material and immaterial, you've landed in absurdity. 

Philosophical alternatives to our view include existentialism at one end and process philosophy at the other; as to the former, it "postulates a definition of the world that is impossible if existentialism itself is possible"; if true, 

then its own promulgation is impossible since in the existentialist universe there is no room for an objective and unwavering intellection. 

A similar affliction permeates all process philosophies, or philosophies of pure becoming. These are superficially attractive, since they at least recognize the reality of emergence, creativity, and novelty in a non-reductive way. 

But if becoming is posited as the ultimate reality, it too falls apart, this time under Garrigou-Lagrange's Hammer, which he borrowed from Thomas; for if Being dissolves into a sea of Becoming, it too violates the principle noncontradiction, which results in

the destruction of every kind of substance, and the admission of a becoming that takes place without anything that undergoes that becoming. Indeed, such a denial leads to a destruction of all truth, for truth follows upon being. Likewise, it leads to the suppression of all thought and every opinion, which would thus come to deny itself at the very moment it affirmed itself.

As Fr. G-L reminds us, "philosophical systems are generally true in what they affirm and false in what they deny," for "reality is richer than they are." So, I am all for scientific materialism as far as it goes. It goes pretty far, but obviously not far enough. 

It's a nice model, but it's only a model, and we'll take reality over a model of reality every time. Or as expressed in this book on emergence, "nature is too rich to be described in a single language."

Along these lines, Fr. G-L writes that

materialism is true in its affirmation of the existence of matter and false in its denial of the existence of spirit, and vice versa for idealistic or immaterialistic spiritualism. Truth is found at the elevated peak set in the middle of these two errors.

And we can eliminate with the Hammer of Metaphysics any notion that becoming can "exist by itself without an efficient cause superior to it, without a Supreme Uncaused Cause, and without a true ultimate end known by the Supreme Intelligence."

We will have much more to say about emergence, but let's stipulate that "Becoming is not self-sufficient" and that "The more perfect cannot come from the less perfect" but "requires a cause superior to becoming."

Today being what it is, let's examine Coolidge's famous July 4th speech from 96 years ago under the light of principles discussed above:

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful

Because it is grounded in permanent Being, not endless becoming. Yes, but

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. 

Becoming marches on: evolution has the last word, and the last word is ETERNAL CHANGE.

But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.

Have you not gotten the memo? Did you not attend college? Those are old White ideas, and we have new and improved ones such as equity, moral relativism, "diversity," race essentialism, infanticide, transgenderism, and best of all, a Living Constitution that never stops becoming what we want it to become! 

Good for you, Brandon, but

the only direction you can proceed with those is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Always ahead of their time because timeless. 

Now the Lord is Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17).

Sunday, July 03, 2022

The Emergence of Emergence

In my polymathic peregrinations I've been revisiting the concept of emergence, about which I suppose I haven't seriously thought for two or three decades, being that it is only a mystery -- or cosmic brick wall -- in the context of a stubborn prior ideological commitment to purblind a- or antitheism. 

Since I'm okay with God, I'm okay with the existence of a lot of things -- emergence being one of them -- that must frustrate the bejesus out of anyone who seriously wishes to understand how we and everything else got here. 

For them, it's analogous to figuring out how to power a modern civilization without fossil fuels. That it is impossible in principle doesn't enter into it. Likewise the elementary biological fact that a man can never actually be a woman, or the monetary fact that buying votes by printing trillions of dollars is going to be a tad inflationary. 

Anyway, I'm reading a couple of books on the subject, including one that surveys the history of the concept -- the emergence of emergence -- from the 18th century on, called Emergence, Complexity, and Self-Organization: Precursors and Prototypes

Once upon a time I was indeed big into the subject, as evidenced by the portentous title of a monograph I published in 1994 called Psychoanalysis, Chaos, and Complexity: The Evolving Mind as a Dissipative Structure

What happened? Why did Bob throw away a seemingly promising academic career for... this, whatever this is? No offense, but you people aren't tenured elites, just smelly deplorables and Christo-fascist MAGA insurrectionists (properly woke trolls excepted).  

I guess the problem is, I kept on thinking after 1994, which inevitably led to God, of all things, and now what? That's a nonstarter for any mere psychological journal. 

And not just any God, a la new agers and the like, but the one and only n-dimensional Creator of this or any other hypothetical cosmos. Problem is, I fell between the crackpots and therefore constitute a population of roughly one; or one + whoever reads these words and sometimes finds themselves silently nodding in the affirmative. 

Now, when I first began thinkin' & scribblin' about God, I could have squeezed myself into the new age camp -- e.g., quasi respectable types like Ken Wilber, William Irwin Thompson, or Joseph Chilton Pearce. 

Looking back, the course of my devolution took a similar path to my deterioration from left to right: never in my wildest did I ever expect to become a rightwing kook, and I resisted mightily until finally admitting to myself in 2001 or so that It Was Accomplished: goodbye Chomsky, goodbye The Nation, goodbye NY Times, hello Hayek, hello Sowell, hello Prager, and worse.   

Similarly, although I found myself hot on the trail of O in the waning days of the second millennium, never did I imagine it would all end in Christian orthoparadoxy. But here we are.

The book is dedicated To the Memory of Ilya Prigogine. I certainly remember Ilya Prigogine, since his theories were the basis of both my doctoral dissertation and the 1994 paper mentioned above. No offense, but does he still matter to me today? Or have subsequent discoveries and experiences rendered him superfluous?

The latter, if only because metaphysics trumps even the most perfect scientific model. He is a kind of weigh station between reductive materialism and something beyond, although with no ontological anchor in the latter. 

We see the identical problem in any non-reductive psychology: let's suppose you are bold enough to affirm the ontological reality of human consciousness. Okay, now what? By virtue of what principle is this consciousness possible? 

You say it "emerged." But what does this even mean? How is it different from saying "it just magically appeared out of nowhere, and for no reason we can identify"?  Which comes down to: We see that it can't be reduced to matter, but since God doesn't exist, we know that can't be the explanation.

Once again we see how science without metaphysics is condemned to its own self-limiting circle, a la Gödel. All you have to do is remove your own arbitrarily self-imposed limit, and voila! The whole cosmos comes into view. This is when things really get interesting, because it's very much like discovering a new dimension to the cosmos. Literally.

Imagine a science strictly limited to two dimensions (plus time), AKA Flatland. There is and must be a third dimension, and the two-dimensional people will indeed see evidence of it everywhere. For example, let's say a sphere passes through Flatland. The two-dimensional scientists will exhaustively describe it as a point that expands into a circle, only to gradually shrink down to a point and disappear: a complete explanation.

Yes, but how did the changing circle "emerge" to begin with? What if it is actually the result of a higher dimensional object passing through our spacetime?

Now, as we mentioned a few posts back, we see clear evidence of an explosion into the psycho-pneumatic space of humanness around 70,000 years ago; this big bang is every bit as dramatic and explosive as the prior ones into Existence (13.8 billion years ago) and Life (4 billion years ago). 

Metaphysically you are faced with only a couple of options to explain the sudden emergence of these dimensions. You can say that they aren't actually discontinuous, rather, that any so-called emergence can safely be tucked back into the ontological flatland of matter and physics (while stopping short of wondering where they came from).

Or, you can be like that enterprising Flatland dweller who peeps outside his cave and has a close encounter with the sphere, O.

We're only just getting started, but one has to stop at some point. To be continued....