Thursday, July 03, 2008
Exchanges between Dr. Science and Julia (a humanist)
This text is adapted from a commercial book, so there is no claim of originality here. Dr. Science is a composite of current authorities who are well-known to the initiated. The text is far more instructive when the authorities are not named and when the material is detached from the original context.
Dr. Science. Your brain was exquisitely fine-tuned to manipulate your world—but not to comprehend its fundamental reality. You are an animal like any primate. You evolved like them, you reproduce like them, you have the same basic neural structures. Only 200 genes separate you from the chimpanzee. Natural selection fitted you to throw rocks like a chimpanzee.
As a result of natural selection, you see the world in fundamentally deluded ways. You believe yourselves to occupy a three-dimensional space in which separate objects trace smoothly predictable arcs marked by something you call time. You call this reality.
Natural selection has given you the illusion that you understand fundamental reality. But you don't. You evolved to see the world as being made up of discrete objects. That is deluded. From the beginning of the universe, all was entangled. What you call space and time are merely emergent properties of a deeper, quantifiable reality.
Journeyman scientist. Are we so ignorant that our physical laws are a sham?
Dr. Science. You constructed your physical laws on the assumption of the existence of time and space. All your laws are based on frames of reference. This is erroneous. In the near historical future your cherished assumptions about the real world will crash and burn.
Journeyman scientist. Our science works.
Dr. Science. Your laws are workable approximations that are fundamentally incorrect.
You think of yourself as an individual person, with a unique and separate mind. You think you are born and you think you die. You fear death because you fear the loss of individuality. All of this is illusion. Birth and death, pain and suffering, love and hate, good and evil, are illusions. They are atavisms of the evolutionary process. They do not exist in reality.
You have a meat-limited process of thinking. The human mind is imprisoned by the medium by which you think: the meat of your body, nerves, cells, biochemistry. You only know a biochemical existence, a meat existence. You live in a prison of biological intelligence. You are tyrannized by the flesh.
Your sense of individuality is an artifact of natural selection. Your biochemical existence allows, and produces, your sense of individuality. Your sense of individuality allows fear, pain, suffering, loneliness, love, happiness, compassion. In fact, this is a prison.
Julia: What is death?
Dr. Science. Human beings are like cells in a body. Cells die, but the body lives on.
The human sense of individuality is lost at death. You the individual will be lost in the storm of time, your molecules dispersed. But who you were, what you did, how you lived, will always remain embedded in the universal computation. With the death of the body, the information created by a life changes shape and structure, but it is never lost. Information in the universe cannot die. No step, no memory, no sorrow in your life is ever forgotten. Death is an informational transition.
Julia. What about the soul posited by religion?
Dr. Science. There can be no reconciliation between science and religion. The collision of worldviews is well under way and worsening. Science and faith cannot coexist. One will destroy the other.
Julia. Your grandiose vision of "existence as computation" is mechanical.
Dr. Science. Intelligence exists in living and nonliving processes both. A thunderstorm is a computation more sophisticated than a human mind. It is intelligent.
Julia. A thunderstorm has no consciousness. A human mind has awareness of self. It's conscious.
Dr. Science. As I already said, consciousness of self is an illusion, an artifact of natural selection.
Julia. A weather system isn't creative. It doesn't make choices. It can't think. It's merely the mechanistic unfolding of forces.
Dr. Science. You are the mechanistic unfolding of forces. Like the mind [sic!], a weather system contains complex chemical, electrical, and mechanical properties. It is thinking. It is creative. Its thoughts are different from your thoughts. Hoffer creates complexity by writing an inspirational text on the surface of paper. A weather system creates complexity by writing waves on the surface of an ocean. It's the same thing.
SCOPE OF REALITY
Dr. Science. Everything you humans are perceptully aware of is part of a vast computation. Thinking is the same as computation.
The universe is one vast, irreducible, ongoing computation. No part of the universe can calculate things faster than the universe itself. The universe is predicting the future as fast as it can.
"Something" which is cosmic is thinking, calculating—and that comprises existence. As just explained, the "something" does not know the future in the sense of being ahead of the universe's calculation.
[The explanation breaks down here, because on the one hand, a subject of thinking which is a person is posited, and on the other hand, we are told that all is One, the "something" and the universe. We are told that personhood is a human illusion. (Humans belong to this One also—but it is superfluous to say that, since humans are small physical masses).
Dr. Science. The universe exists because it is simpler than nothing. The universe cannot be simpler than it is.
The "something" that is thought's subject exists because its existence is simpler than nothing.
Julia. Why isn't nothing the simplest?
Dr. Science. Nothing cannot exist. It is a paradox. The universe is the state closest to nothing.
Julia. What came before the beginning of the universe in finite past time?
Dr. Science. The initial singularity was the beginning of existence. From one point of view, Being has a start time.
Before, there was no space, no time, no existence. There was no cause. The "something" appeared; existence came into being.
Before the initial singularity, time did not exist. Without time, there can't be any kind of definable existence.
To you humans, the initial singularity looks like an explosion of space, time, and matter from a point. But if you peer into that first fraction of a second, you 'll see that there wasn't a beginning at all; time will seem to have always existed.
i) time did not always exist;
ii) time has no beginning (time is eternal).
Both are true.
When time didn't exist, there could be no difference between eternity and a second. Once time came into existence, it had always existed. There was never a time when time did not exist.
In more specificity, nonexistence has a kind of spatial potential. Under certain aberrant conditions, space can turn into time and vice versa. If a minute bit of space morphs into time, the appearance of time can trigger the initial singularity. Suddenly there could be movement, there could be cause and effect, there could be real space and real energy. Time makes it all possible. The appearance of time would trigger the initial singularity.
Dr. Science. Science offers a method of truth. Science is a search for truth, a journey. The purpose of human existence is to find truth. The search for truth is the ultimate commitment.
Dr. Science. The next evolutionary step is for humans to free your minds from the meat of your bodies.
[This is included to show that Dr. Science is invested in a mystique of nonconscious ratiocination and truth.]
Texte: Dr. Science Musing about Life and Science
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Comments on "Dr. Science" by Carl Praetorius
A few remarks that entered my mind on reading this.
Fundamental reality, it seems to me, is another myth which evokes the picture of an hierarchical set of layers or types of realities. This myth is just as delusional as is the delusion of personhood or of space and time.
Conventions about the laws of nature are as practical as any other working hypothesis. They allow for manipulating the world arround us, even if they are "wrong" in the light of philosophy.
I've come to the conclusion that as persons, we are, psychologically, parts of a big thing which one might describe as an all-encompassing soul-being. The individual's personal soul lights up like a flame of methane over a bubbling mass of swamp, it burns for a while and then, slowly but steadily, goes out. The swamp itself goes on being there. It's life cycle is circular and it sort of feeds on itself. I admit that this is a rather sad and swampy metaphor, although, it does have blue light in it.
Play, Thought, Humour and Creativity go beyond the boundaries of the physical realm. But they are motivated by and depend on the basic organism and its urge to survive and reproduce. So, any concept of man that goes beyond the idea of man as the perfect predator in the planetary ecosystem is by definition founded on neglecting ("transcending") the brutal facts. On the other hand, "The Nature of man is Culture." As a cultural being his goal is to step across any boundary, physical, natural or otherwise. This inherent human urge, to go to and beyond all limits is a big part of what makes us essentially human. And so are Love and Compassion, which to my mind, once the Ego is put in its rightful place and has reigned in its predatorial nature, have a quite distinct quality to them, which, it seems to me, transcend the quarrel of all other emotions.
What I am trying to build up here is a concept of transcendence within immanence and vice versa. I can't say though that this is, so far, more than a shot in the dark.
Does a weather system criticize itself? Does it laugh about absurdity? Does it care about the meaning of its own existence? Does the mind live in the brain? Do You mind?
Thinking is probably more than computation as it is capable of skipping logical thought, moving to emotional thought or even putting itself into an altered state where there seem to be no borders between even diametrically opposed concepts.
The universe as a sort of divine calculating machine is an interesting metaphor, but it misses the point.
The point is that it seems to behave as if there were rules without having rules. Algorythms are fixed sets of rules that are mechanically executed. This is the reason why there will never be artificial intelligence. At least not in the precise sense of intelligence in human beings.
The universe 's existence is independent from the logical problems and aporias of human thought, which depends on logic. The unspeakable cannot be spoken.
Language confines thought into a rigid pattern of dialectic terms. Is there a way of thinking beyond the confines of language?
Eternity is not a very long time and it is not "forever". It is a concept of timelessness which actuates itself in the realization of now.
Our goal should be to recognize and accept the frailty of our existence and its boundaries. The Übermensch is the desparate fiction of a tortured mind.
The platonic "Mind over Matter" is antihumane in consequence. Meat is what you buy at the butcher's. The body is the mind.