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
Comments

Give the poor man some credit. Kauffman is just a semantic hair from recognizing an immanent god. Half a loaf and all that, but folks like him will eventually concede transcendence as well. (With Kauffman personally, on the other hand, the convergence may prove to be asymptotic.)

Posted by: ghostcat at May 18, 2008 12:57 PM

Credit doesn't preclude comedy.

Posted by: oj at May 18, 2008 3:34 PM

Just try straightening out the confusion in his statement that the nonexistence of God is a religion. If some bearded guy on the street spoke this way to passersby he'd be arrested.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 18, 2008 7:11 PM

Although the reaction to God is a de facto religion.

Posted by: oj at May 18, 2008 9:09 PM

OJ:

It's certainly a largely predictable behavior pattern, as anybody who studies intellectual history can quickly discover.

But of course, for a supposed logicalist, the argument is surprisingly illogical...

[T]he 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.

So if we wrote this out as an equation (stay with me here), it would be:

Universe - God = God [!]

As you said, it's funny.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 19, 2008 2:35 AM

This charletan's pretended opening to spirituality without God bespeaks a great danger. We know all too well what kinds of spirits enter in when they find the house swept clean, empty and waiting for them.

Mt 12:43 Now, when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest and does not find it.

44Then it says, "I will return to my house from which I came," and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.

45Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

It is truly striking how these words fit this discussion. Of course the record puts the lie to to the atheist fool's hope for a Godless world we should want to live in. Have we not spent the last century fighting back these horrors?

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 19, 2008 3:35 AM

The beauty of Logic is that it can't prove that logic is logical.

Posted by: oj at May 19, 2008 5:52 AM

Do the math:

Universe = 2 * God

Which proves that the monotheists are all wrong, and that maybe the Satanists and Jedi are on to something.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 19, 2008 12:58 PM
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