|[5/1/05] I'm starting on a pdf for a prospective project with Jack Sarfatti: BPW Physics.
0.2b [5/2/05] Here is another point of departure for the project: The Just So Story of the Universe.
0.2c [5/6] Yet another perspective: The Lone Ranger & Tonto.
0.2d [5/22] Go west, young man: Parousia by the Bay.
0.2e [5/29] And here we have Fred Alan Wolf, d.b.a Dr. Quantum, of What the Bleep do we Know, along with Jack and myself. To view this file, open a QuickTime player v. 6 or later, and insert [http://bestpossibleworld.com/fredgod2.mp4 this file was taken offline on10/21 due to its size] into the place where it asks for a URL. The mp4 file is 66 meg. It will stream only intermittently, because the download is longer than the 20 min. runtime. Jack has it compressed down to a 10 meg 3gp file, but that is supported only with QT v. 7, which is available only for the Mac. We'll try to do better next week. The film was taken on Thursday morning, 5/26, at Fred's home in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco. Consider this the Blair Witch Project of eschatology. Parental guidance is suggested.
0.2f [6/2] On Being Focused.
0.3 [4/16/05] Here is a link to the contents of my original website Aquarium Contents. This was on clark.net, and any links still referring to that url will need to be updated. I will be attempting to explain the old website here: Comments on the original website. (The cosmology diagrams on the old website are as follows: here is one link. You will see some diagrams mentioned down towards the bottom of the page. Then there is this, and this.)
0.4 [4/27/05] The latest upgrade is to exploit Google's AdWord facility. Here is the 'landing page' for those clicking through from Google's right hand column.
1. Best Possible World (BPW):
The Best Possible World Page, How Many Worlds?, Best World for Whom?,
A Metaphysical Introduction, The Observation Factor, & (part 2),
* Mind & matter: Antipodes, Antipodes II,
* (Non) Reductionism: Materialism, The Nature of Mind, Post-Reductionism, Naturalism, Emergence, Mere Words, Hanging by a Thread,
* Immaterialism: Immaterialism, & (part 2), Explaining Science (part 2), Dream Atom, Idealist Cosmology,
* Relational metaphysics: Coherence II, The Relational Self, Relations, Relatedness, Coherence, The Level Playing Field, [later additions: Unreasonable Coherence, Coherence, Coherence Theory, Quine's Holism, The Observation Factor, & (part 2)]
* Other: The Intangibles, Teleology, History & Nature,
Introduction to God, & (part 2), Beyond Naturalism?, Rationalism, Rational Theism, The Ecology of Existence, Pantheism, How Many Buddhas?,
* concealing: Concealment, & (part 2),
* revealing: Revelation,
Introducing the Metanarrative
* Creation: Creation?, Genesis, Distinction, Explaining Science, Creation & Maya, Creation vs. Evolution, Bootstrap,
* Eschatology: Eschaton, Millennium & Eschaton, Our Dramatic Cosmos, Omega,
* Millennium: Millennium, but now see End Times & Apokatastasis for a possible major revision.
* Strategy: Strategy, Straw Man, Recap, Taking Stock,
* Messianism: Saving the World, The 'Competition', Christocentric?, Pre-Millennialism, Only One Show?, Messianism, Dummies,
* Messianic Initiative (in chron. order: 8/25/02 - 8/29): Messianic Gambit?, Breaking the Barrier of Materialism, On the Verge of God, Creation, Glass Ceiling, Trickster, & (part 2), The Messiah Contingency, How to Save the World, & (part 2),
We have come perilously close to losing our ability to view our world as other than an accident. In this vein we have gone so far as to postulate the existence of an infinity of universes conforming to all possible physical laws and boundary conditions in order to account for the otherwise inexplicable suitability of our universe to the production of complex life forms. This fact of suitability is sometimes referred to as the Anthropic Principle.
An obvious statistical argument would place us among the relatively few universes best suited to abundant, and even to self-conscious life. This sounds like a good deal for us -- a free banquet, it would seem. Perhaps we should leave well enough alone. It is the function of this web site, however, to inquire further into the basis for our existence.
What particularly motivates this inquiry is the peculiar nature of the mind -- especially peculiar from the point of view of scientific materialism. By almost every account, the mystery of the mind is the one abiding mystery of the world, possibly apart from the question of why anything exists at all.
Might there not have been every conceivable physical existence without necessitating the seemingly non-physical existence of the mind or of consciousness? The oddity of mind in an otherwise completely physical universe suggests the definite possibility of at least a quasi-independent, non-physical basis for its existence. This is just the possibility that is pursued in this inquiry.
To make a long story short, give mind an inch and it is liable to take a mile. How so?
Peculiar to the mind is its concentrated productive power. Mind is much more than a mirror of nature. It is the great embellisher of nature. If science is correct, reality is a purely quantitative affair. Our experience of the world is almost entirely qualitative. From whence come these qualities? Even more remarkable is the mind's unquenchable proclivity to create and simply spin out worlds of its own, often with little or no regard to the existing one. This production is ongoing in virtually every state of our variegated consciousness.
The most tangible product of the mind is our technology. But what is the function of technology other than the production and dissemination of virtual or altered realities?
If there were any reason to posit an independent basis for the mind, whatever balance might have originated between mind and matter would remain under constant revision on the part of mind. Whenever and wherever mind is given the opportunity to tilt that scale, it surely will. Matter is passive, just be definition, and mind is not.
Among other things, such considerations provide ample motivation to question the arbitrary Cartesian dichotomy posited between mind and matter that has been the basis of our modern worldview. The seeming artificiality of any rigid distinction between mind and matter should cause us to question under what aegis such a distinction might have been originated or be maintained. Without this additional posit of an external aegis, the original posit by Descartes is suspect.
Greatly abetting this suspicion is the increasingly elaborate mathematical superstructure being discovered by physicists investigating the nature of matter. The involution of matter with math, and of math with the mind, removes a logical barrier between matter and mind. The same suspicion is raised by the quantum, of course. Neutral monism and even panpsychism are increasingly being entertained by serious minded, cautious professionals in response to these and other considerations.
It is not my intent here to throw caution to the wind. It is my intent to anticipate the outcome of such intellectual inquiries. That I should foresee radical consequences stemming from such radical inquiries ought not be particularly surprising. Neutral monism smacks of artificiality almost as much as the Cartesianism it is supposed to replace. I agree with the materialists in acknowledging the reality of a Solomon's choice between materialism and immaterialism. We can't have it both ways. Coherence can and will be given its due. It is simply that the materialists have picked the short straw.
We immaterialists are then faced with the burden of re-explaining the world. Not since Darwin has there been a serious attempt at a coherent alternative. All I can do here is attempt to motivate such effort. The successful motivation of a successful re-visioning of the world will have consequences of 'biblical' proportions, I will claim hereinafter. The 'scare' quotes may be removed when appropriate.
Introduction (part 2) -->
Introduction (part 2)
Since the 1950's there has been a fairly steady decline in the intellectual hegemony of scientific materialism. The rise of postmodernism is a deliberate response to this decline of our modern worldview. I have not been able to find anyone who foresees as radical an outcome of this trend as I do. How come?
There are several differing interpretations of the decline of scientific materialism. The most common view is that we headed into an indefinite period of pluralism. There exists no overarching truth about the world to capture our allegiance, or if such existed it is not accessible to our powers of reason.
The other common view is that postmodernism is simply a symptom of cultural decline. Scientists and religionists alike see this trend as a further falling away from either the intellectual or spiritual rigor of the past. The apocalyptic minded sectarians are content to include postmodernism among the signs of the end times.
What do I see that the other observers do not? Coming from a background in physics, I am aware that there remains a hard core of scientists who are still in pursuit of Truth, with a capital 'T'. The recent progress in theoretical physics leaves some of them tantalizingly close the 'Grand Unified Theory of Everything'. And in general there is a silent minority which has not given up the strong desire for intellectual coherence. If and when a few of these stalwarts are presented with a viable, coherent alternative to scientific materialism, some of them will take it seriously. It would only take a determined and articulate handful of such individuals to constitute a publicly noticeable presence. The ensuing discussions would presumably lead to more 'converts', and would constitute an intellectual and eventually a spiritual trend, given that there does indeed exist a personally accessible coherent Truth as is being outlined here.
I can only hope that in this Best Possible World we do not have to be prodded with a 'stick' in order to become interested in the intellectual and spiritual 'carrot' being offered.
I am, for the first time, about to attempt a major, but still informal, (year end?) recap. I am not sure yet how to handle this, i.e. whether to make it part of the continuing web log, or to have it stand alone. I will continue chronologically for now.
The last major theme has been my sporadic struggle with the Monster Group, commencing on 2/26/03 and continuing up until 12/21/03. I claim partial victory by incorporating the MG and all of mathematics under the aegis of functionality. I am not thereby claiming that mathematics is merely conventional, certainly no more than a biological cell is conventional. I am saying that mathematics is a very significant part of the teleological infrastructure of the cosmos.
A second theme in the same time frame was the Archetypes commencing about 4/29. I am also claiming success with this endeavor. In their latest incarnation, they feel reasonably solid.
Despite these recent efforts, the BPW remains optional. But I would also claim that in the BPW, the BPW hypothesis remains optional as long as possible. No?
However, the human psyche is such that paradigm shifting, gestalt switching, tends to be dramatically unpredictable, especially now that we are living mainly on Internet time. A uniquely attractive and rational alternative to both religious and scientific fundamentalism, which the BPW claims to be. If it cannot be dismissed out of hand, it will necessarily take on an insidious, insinuating presence. That is the next and crucial phase. To reach that point there will have to be some strategically located links back to here. I doubt that Google alone could be a substitute for such links. Once those links are established, the Millennium clock will start ticking. The Tar Baby effect will kick in: kick these tires more than once, and your foot may not be disengageable. T'will be a pity.
Just how optional are we at this point? Admittedly, the Big Bang materialist cosmology will be a tough nut to crack. Even the Creationists have almost uniformly given up on their 'young Earth' scenario. They have fallen into line with a post-Copernican sense of deep space and deep time. Even my fellow idealists are strangely silent on the problem of cosmology. I could complain about this lack of competition in the domain of immaterialist cosmology, but I think it is due actually to the logical uniqueness of the BPW. It is either us or mysticism.
Cosmic coherence is in extremely short supply in these postmodern times. If I have indeed cornered the coherence market, if there is only this one corner to cover, the choice will be the BPW or cacophony. It would take very few articulate spokespersons to make a very big dent in the otherwise incoherence of the present Internet. In retrospect, will it not be obvious that the Internet existed as a gigantic means, moving us inevitably toward a coherent end, if there be such? Someone was bound to run the flag of coherence up the Internet pole. Even Google seems designed and destined to this singular end.
Over the juggernaut of scientific materialism I cast the fine net of normativity. Can its thin strands possibly be a match for that clanking mechanism? From our slumber of materialism will we awaken in the place of Gulliver captivated by the fine thread of the Lilliputians? That is the plan, anyway.
Yes, another continuing theme has been norms vs. nature, beginning effectively on 10/10/02: Nature & Plato, etc. There may be nothing more insidious in the entire materialist cosmos. Norms, rather like consciousness, seem entirely gratuitous in the larger scheme, that is until you attempt to exclude them or explain them. At first they may seem merely resistant, but they can quickly turn corrosive of even the most solid materialist fortress.
A case in point is the functionalism of Putnam, Dennett, & Co. ( 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). Functionalism arose from the ashes of behaviorism, but now, in the hands of the biosemioticians, function threatens to break the back of materialism. Once teleology gets its functional foot in the scientific door, it will not only be impossible to extirpate, it will, in the shape of normativity, simply take over the neighborhood. As with consciousness, there is nothing that can escape its reach. Kant clearly saw this inevitability long ago. At this final juncture, his revived cautions and precautions are much too little and too late.
Cannot the materialists simply nuke the norms? What chance does a little norm stand against their deconstructive WMDs? Can we truly 'normalize' the Big Bang? The anthropic principle goes only part way. By itself, it is too susceptible to a dualistic interpretation. Here is where my struggle with the Monster Group will have to begin to pay off. My Monster vs. their Big Bang. Ownership of the Monster, however, may still be in some dispute. Nonetheless, normalizing the MG is not inconceivable even by the most jaded materialist.
The normalized MG plus anthropics puts a very short leash on the Big Bang. Teleology is now raised to cosmic proportions. Quantum cosmology and a universal observer principle can no longer be set aside, as has generally been the case before. The anti-Occamist notion of (infinitely?) many worlds is now even less necessary and less attractive. The normalizing of the MG also undermines the dualist proclivities of the Anthropists and the Intelligent Designers. The net result is that everyone is emphatically being nudged toward immaterialism and the BPW corner therein. All we need is a very few in this crowd to jump ship. It would quickly set off a general alarm. Normativity when diligently pursued is one more straw that turns into a hefty stone that could, along with all the older baggage, just about break this camel's back. I wouldn't want to have to bet the farm on this beast's imperviousness.
It is the Telos that finally confronts the Big Bang. It has been my contention that teleology is an all or nothing proposition. There is no such thing as half a Telos. All politics may be local, but all teleology is global. Teleology is all about coherence. It verges on the oxymoronic to posit a partially telic or partially coherent world.
Of course, the atomists, reductionists, naturalists, etc. would much prefer that we accept a diluted or palliative version of teleology, if we have to accept any at all. Struggle as they might, you do not and will not see them making sense of any such palliatives. It is simply a desperate, rear guard distraction on their part.
Given the Telos, we can hardly avoid the notion of a BPW. They verge on the synonymous. We then must ask ourselves if the Big Bang cosmology is the best one possible. Search as you might, you will not find a materialist touting the intrinsic merits of any of his or her hypothesized worlds. If you don't like any given rendition, that is entirely beside the point. We teleologists, however, take the opposite tack. Everything answers to the principle of sufficient reason. Presence is what counts. The Big Bang universe of deep space and quasi-endless time is anyone's trophy for absence. However, and this is a big 'however', the appearance of absence may serve many esthetic functions. We'll take that 'natural' esthetic, thank you, but eschew its illusory substance. Is that not a possible world? Tell us why it's not possible, please. So much for saving the appearance of the Big Bang. Anything else you wish saved?
The Archetypes emerged here as a counter to evolution: Creation vs. Evolution. Also they are intended to counter Samuel Johnson's alleged refutation of George Berkeley's immaterialism. 'I refute it thus,' says Sam with a well placed kick at an errant stone.
The first choices were cycles (and here) and atoms. The Dream Atom is no laughing matter. We might also call it the quantum or normative atom, thereby challenging, along with Biosemiotics, the The Epistemic-Ontic Divide.
The archetypes are simply the organizing centers of Creation. A minimalist Creation posits a self-organizing cosmos. But unlike our Santa Fe colleagues, we do not eschew the self. The primal Self becomes 'X' in our AZO/X/QRP system of archetypes. It occupies center stage.
Now, better pay attention. Here comes almost the whole show. This may either be the weakest or the strongest link in the BPW system. X marks the spot. A cosmic self spontaneously emerges from the totipotency of the Matrix. Teleologically this is the creator, hero and, yes, savior. It is the Adam/Christos. It is the Alpha and Omega. It is the first and last of the Archetypes. It is the beginning and end of coherence.
We could do worse than follow St. Anselm's ontological argument. The only addition here is the Matrix as the ground of that Ontos. The primal mark of distinction is also the dialectic of the I & Thou. This schism sets up the main psychic oscillation, the primal cycle. This duality plus their dynamic relation is the trinity. This is the necessary buckle of the cosmic bootstrap. This is both head and tail of the ouroboros.
Relationalism and idealism are nearly synonymous. To be is to relate. We know of nothing more relationally promiscuous than the self. It is the necessary nexus of all knowable relations.
The materialists bet the farm on the illusory nature of the self. I bet the farm on its substantial nature. The materialists must have us believe that the self is epiphenomenal, accidental in the larger scheme.
If there is to be anything at all, there must be an ordering principle. Cosmos derives from the Greek word for order, as opposed to their Apeiron. Chaos can exist only relative to something more orderly. To exist is to relate, there can be no relation without order. For the materialists, space & time are the primary principles, but don't bother to ask from whence they derive.
There exist many potential ordering principles. The most potent among them will logically dominate any sort of bootstrapping process. Everything else will then either go along or be gone. Something on the order of self-love fits the bill. Creation is self-realization writ large. We are each an aspect or reflection of the cosmic Self on its inevitable way to self-realization. We see this process under the aegis of temporal flux, but that is just our worm's eye view of the matter. The only end of self-realization is eternal presence.
So far, so good. Where many people demur is with the anthropological problem, i.e. when we touch upon the Anthropos. I see no way to avoid this. No one does. The only escape from the Anthropos is abject mysticism. The only escape from the theos is the pantheos. The only escape from coherence is incoherence.
I can sympathize to a degree. Each of us contains a piece of the cosmos and a piece of the apeiron. The potential for rebellion and anarchy lies in every heart. We would not be here without it. Self-realization is a recreation of the potency of the self. With every construct there is a de-construct, with every light a shadow. With every affirmation there is a hesitation. This is the natural dialectic of being, q.v.
In hesitating, we are holding out for something better. No? That is why we have the BPW. But there is a caveat. Within the BPW, there is theistic minimalism. Atheism is pandered to, up to a point. I also believe in universal salvation. I am a Universalist. But there are limits, nonetheless. We cannot hesitate forever. If you have to ask how long that is, you may already be on thin ice.
Nihilism is nothing natural. It is pure posture. It can be a dramatic show, just don't make it your last show. Yes, Virginia, there is self-responsibility.
Finally, if we cannot believe in the self, in ourselves, in what else can we possibly believe? How can you possibly believe in an electron or the Monster Group if you do not believe in yourself. The self is the logical and phenomenological beginning and end of all substance, all being. Could there be any other source? We can try, but we will never be able to totally deconstruct the Cartesian cogito.
There will be those who wish to side-step the self in order to more fully embrace the Matrix. That could possibly be our final act, but do not attempt this at home. This is not a sport for amateurs. When you attempt that, you are truly alone. There will be no recourse. The self is just designed to point the way back to the Matrix. Don't leave home without it. I point to the Mahayana. For the Hinayana, you are on your own. Come to think of it, though, is not the notion of a self-salvation from the self oxymoronic? Don't get hoist on your own petard.
Let us not forget the ecological objections to the anthropic bias of any ontology of the self. Just who do we think we are? Is not the self to blame for all selfishness? The distinctions between selfishness and Selfishness are many and subtle. My only caveat is that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The deep ecologists seem bent to that untoward end. See the previous paragraph.
If there are going to be any archetypes at all, the psyche is the only place to start. This is particularly true with immaterialism where we must challenge the ontic-epistemic divide. We start with psyche/episteme. This is just our version of the cogito.
We have ample reason to assume a substantial universality for the psyche. It must be the basis of any possible coherence. The microcosm of the psyche is our only portal to the cosmos. There is indeed a bias toward the anthropos, a bias which we should be ready to amend according to the evidence. At present there is no evidence for any substantial alternative. Humans presently own the epistemic franchise. Unless and until some contender appears, we make do with what we have. To attempt philosophy without an anthropic bias is simply foolish, if not patently impossible. Indeed, if there is anyway to overcome human parochialism or anthropocentrism, it would have to be through some form of philosophy.