May 18, 2008
OCKHAM'S RAZOR VS EINSTEIN'S PAPER CLIP (Via Rene Rigal):
BEYOND REDUCTIONISM: Reinventing The Sacred (Stuart A. Kauffman, 11.13.06, Edge)
Two fine authors, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, have written recent books, The God Delusion and Breaking the Spell arguing against religion. Their views are based on contemporary science. But the largest convictions of contemporary science remain based on reductionism.
I would like to begin a discussion about the first glimmerings of a new scientific world view — beyond reductionism to emergence and radical creativity in the biosphere and human world. This emerging view finds a natural scientific place for value and ethics, and places us as co-creators of the enormous web of emerging complexity that is the evolving biosphere and human economics and culture. In this scientific world view, we can ask: Is it more astonishing that a God created all that exists in six days, or that the natural processes of the creative universe have yielded galaxies, chemistry, life, agency, meaning, value, consciousness, culture without a Creator. In my mind and heart, the overwhelming answer is that the truth as best we know it, that all arose with no Creator agent, all on its wondrous own, is so awesome and stunning that it is God enough for me and I hope much of humankind.
[R]eductionism, wrought by the successes of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Planck, and Schrodinger, and all that has followed, preeminently in physics, has, as I will expand upon in a moment, left us in world of fact — cold fact with no scientific place for value. "The more we know of the cosmos, the more meaningless it appears", said Stephen Weinberg in Dreams of a Final Theory. For example, Wolfgang Kohler, one of the founders of Gestalt psychology, wrote a mid 20th century book entitled hopefully: The Place of Value in a World of Fact. And just a few days ago, a conversation with a humanist professor at the University of Pennsylvania astonished me with her account of how we are again a meaningless world in the post modern world view rampant in the North American humanities.
On the other side of this vast divide than those who hold to a transcendent God and His authority for meaning and values, are the innumerable secular humanists, children of the enlightenment and contemporary science, who hold firmly to reality as revealed by science, find values in their love for their families and friends, a general sense of fairness and a morality that needs no basis in God's word. Yet we secular humanists have paid an unspoken price for our firm sense that (reductionist) science tells us what is real. First, we have no well wrought scientific basis for our humanity — despite the interesting fact that quantum mechanics on the Copenhagen interpretation assumes free willed physicists who choose what quantum features to measure and thereby change the physical world. The two cultures, science and humanities, remain firmly un-united. And equally important, we have been subtly robbed of our deep capacity for spiritualism. We have come to believe that spirituality is inherently co-localized with a belief in God, and that without such a belief, spirituality is inherently foolish, questionable, without foundation, wishful thinking, silly.
In turn, we lack a global ethic to constitute the transnational mythic value structure that can sustain the emerging global civilization. We tend to believe in the value of democracy and the free market. We are largely reduced to consumers. Here it is telling that Kenneth Arrow, brilliant Nobel Laureate in economics and friend, took part in a commission to "place a value" on preservation of National Parks and was stymied in his attempt to find a way to calculate that value based on utility to citizens. Thus, even in our enjoyment of the wild, we are reduced to consumers in our currant Weltanschauung. [...]
I would like to begin a discussion about the first glimmerings of a new scientific world view — beyond reductionism to emergence and radical creativity in the biosphere and human world. This emerging view finds a natural scientific place for value and ethics, and places us as co-creators of the enormous web of emerging complexity that is the evolving biosphere and human economics and culture. In this scientific world view, we can ask: Is it more astonishing that a God created all that exists in six days, or that the natural processes of the creative universe have yielded galaxies, chemistry, life, agency, meaning, value, consciousness, culture without a Creator.
It's funny enough that the confidence of such folks in science and fact is entirely dependent on nothing but faith, but it's even more amusing when they completely disregard the scientific method and insist that they can reason back from a result to create a theory that they prefer to reality. Thus, in arguments like these they accept the values rendered by God and then try to contort their own theories until they'll produce the same result. Of course, their initial concession gives away the game and the subsequent complexification of the sublimely simple puts Rube Goldberg to shame.
There's a famous story about Albert Einstein where he needed to clip some papers together. He and his visitor searched for a paperclip but couldn't find one. Then they found a bent one and Einstein tried rebending it into its original form. Finally, they found a box of fresh clips and Einstein promptly took one and began using it as a tool to repair the bent one. Apochrypal or not, it's an apt metaphor.
Posted by Orrin Judd at May 18, 2008 11:29 AM