Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Incoherence of Naturalism

In philosophical circles “naturalism” is a shibboleth. Just about all academic philosophers and most self-described intellectuals in the West are quick to reassure each other that however strange their pet philosophical beliefs might sound to the common folk, the thinkers would never even consider abandoning the ship of naturalism. “Naturalist” is an honourific term so that if you admit to being a supernaturalist, you’re revealing that you haven’t thought things through, that at best you’ve studied theology rather than philosophy. Modern philosophy has helped drive the Age of Reason, but the engine has been science, and by definition science’s subject matter is nature. Whatever scientists discover that they can explain becomes part of the natural world. Both American and French-dominated philosophies take scientific knowledge for granted, although the latter is more pessimistic about science’s social impact.

However, if naturalism is supposed to be the philosophical upshot of the scientific world picture, the standard presentation of this philosophy turns out to be a nonstarter. There’s a difference between exoteric and esoteric naturalism, and as in the case of any comparable distinction such as that between vulgar (literalistic) and enlightened (mystical or cosmicist) theism, the exoteric variety is half-baked and rife with delusions. Instead of invoking the pertinent technicalities such as “supervenience,” “physicalism,” or “nomic relation,” which function as mantras and memetic incantations that mesmerize and distract professional philosophers, we should consider a more grounded, intuitive interpretation of what’s at issue. Naturalism is set against the idea that there’s anything supernatural or unnatural. In particular, naturalism is taken to be well-established on at least three grounds. Metaphysically, science is supposed to have established that everything is part of the material world. Epistemically or methodologically, science is supposed to engage in unifying causal explanations, leaving no room for anything outside science’s purview. And institutionally or culturally, science impresses with its practitioners’ intellectual virtues which far outshine the faith-based drivel of religion, the latter being science’s arch rival. On each of these grounds, however, naturalism is incoherent. Indeed, the one ground leads to the other as a defense, so that with the collapse of cultural naturalism, that is, of rationalism or skepticism, we must look elsewhere if we wish to supply content to this shibboleth.

Miracles in the Mechanical Cosmos

The metaphysical point about nature is that nature is composed of stuff that scientists can understand. If we think in analytical terms, cognitively dividing and conquering systems, as it were, breaking them down into their constituent parts to see how the mechanisms interlock, the world is supposed to cooperate with this approach. Indeed, the Scientific Revolution was progressive in so far as these cognitive methods were applied in spite of defeatist religious traditions, and the universe turned out to be largely material and mechanical. The heavens were demystified and depersonalized, the divinities having been reduced to stars and planets. Organic design turned out not to be divinely intended, but the product of blind processes such as natural selection. And so naturalism entails, in short, that there are no miracles.

But having discovered discontinuities in the world, scientists themselves showed the limits of their analytical methods. Gödel’s Theorem showed that mathematical descriptions are necessarily incomplete, while Bell’s Theorem confirmed the direst suspicions of quantum physicists, that at the quantum level the world isn’t mechanical at all. At that level, one thing doesn’t impact another by locally pushing or pulling it, as it were. There is what Einstein mockingly called “spooky action at a distance,” when particles become entangled and affect each other irrespective of the distance between them. Moreover, singularities were discovered in black holes and at the universe’s point of origin, in which the natural laws break down. 

Finally, however much biologists have demonstrated that our species is part of the continuum of animal life, there remains a neo-Cartesian divide between the natural and the artificial. Homo sapiens are as anomalous as a black hole singularity. There is in fact a prior divide between nonlife and life so that only the nonliving portion of the universe is best understood in mechanistic terms, whereas living things operate teleologically since they have beliefs and desires. But our species is like the top tenth of the top one percent of Americans who have taken a vastly disproportionate share of that nation’s wealth: as strangely out of place as are organisms in general in the lifeless universe, the species of so-called wise apes adds discontinuity to discontinuity like a black hole inside a black hole. For example, as Yuval Harari points out in Sapiens, our species is by far the deadliest ever to have evolved on this planet. Whereas other species reach equilibrium with their neighbours, we cut down branches from the Tree of Life with cancerous indiscriminateness, like madmen with chainsaws. Whereas other species occupy a niche within a natural environment, we’re defined by our quest to undermine all such niches by undoing all non-anthropocentric environments. We replace the natural wilderness with artificial habitats which extend our weird madness, testifying to our satanic creativity. Artificiality is unnatural, and we’re the lords of artificiality; we’re thus ironically the miracle-wielding gods we’ve been worshipping all this time since the births of culture. The abyss between the natural and the artificial or the teleological is due to the fact that nature is undead, not the intended product of any intelligence. Naturalistic explanation ends by positing nonliving matter at the root of all things. Material bodies are thus zombielike in that their animation is an abominable simulation that mocks purpose-driven creatures at every turn.

There’s a temptation to bridge the divide between nonlife and life, by likening energy and force to mentality. Indeed, the scientific positing of natural forces or factors that affect the ability of material things to work proceeds from intuitions that are at home only in the world of living things. Just as we deliberately recreate our surroundings, the whole world was traditionally thought to be created by an external, sovereign deity so that every event would have been an outcome of God’s plan. Modern scientists eliminated the deity but not the forces or energies, so that natural forces became physical in the sense of being irrationally violent, merely pushing or pulling things with no forethought or purpose, and energy became likewise purely physical power. The temptation in question, then, must be merely tantalizing, because the intuitive meaning of the scientific narrative rests on truncated anthropomorphism. Whatever the intuitive origin of scientific terms like “energy” or “force,” the naturalist is committed to abolishing all anthropomorphisms, that is, all animistic projections of organic or personal qualities onto nonliving nature. As a result, nonlife must be fundamentally as mysterious as an undead walking nightmare: the naturalist is stuck with obsolete and misleading terms inherited from the deistic infancy of early modern science, so that everything she explains naturalistically is thereby effectively deemed only half alive.

Pragmatism and Our Jumbled Road Maps

On the contrary, says the naturalist, there need be no such discontinuities, because scientists are busy building bridges with causal explanations that show how the world can be united in a single cognitive framework, a so-called Theory of Everything. If Quantum Theory isn’t yet united with Relativity, the progressive history of science indicates that some causal explanation unifying the phenomena will be forthcoming. String Theory is the current consensus as to how to begin laying out the all-embracing theory of nature. In any case, just as chemical processes emerge from physical ones, biological processes must emerge from chemical ones and likewise consciousness and other higher mental functions must derive from lower-level biological ones, so that although nature evolves layers of complexity, the layers are connected by intermediary, stages: you get from here to there only by some mechanism, that is, by a series of causes and effects, not by a magical leap into woo.

As is now well-known, however, String Theory has come in for criticism not merely on technical grounds of quibbles over details, but on the meta-ground that string theorists irresponsibly rewrite what it means to be doing science. In a nutshell, String Theory makes mathematics rather than observation central to justifying its world picture. Moreover, this theory takes away with one hand what it gives with the other: it unifies the world only by positing many ways (between 1010 and 10100) in which its parameters can be configured, giving rise, in fact, to a panoply of string theories and to the problem of how the theoretical constants are fine-tuned. One of the leading solutions is the multiverse interpretation, according to which the landscape of possible string theories corresponds to the actualization of all the universes made possible by fluctuations of the quantum vacuum.

Be this as it may, this development is devastating to philosophical naturalism. First of all, if we combine Smolin’s explanation of what Wigner called the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics,” which is that mathematical entities are evoked like characters in a shared fictional universe, with Harari’s point about the evolutionary role of fictions and collective delusions in maintaining the cohesion of massive human populations, we should infer that the mathematical turn in physics prevents naturalists from dismissing nonscientific fictions, including religious or foreign political ones. Second, there is no unity in the multiverse, so a Theory of Everything that subscribes to the multiverse interpretation is oxymoronic. The theory amounts to saying that just about anything can and does happen, that even the natural laws vary from universe to universe. Calling the whole multiverse or megaverse “natural” would be utterly vacuous.

Moreover, math-centered physics ignores the evident pragmatic conditions of modern science. Although there may well be lone scientific geniuses who solve equations for the love of pure knowledge with no thought spared for the reward, the institutions of science are merged with industries. Most scientists explore hypotheses without much concern for how they all hang together, which is why it’s impossible for anyone to comprehend all of the relatively recent empirical findings: modern knowledge has drastically fragmented, not been stitched up in a unified conception. Indeed, instead of thinking of scientists as being in the business of discovering natural laws or ultimately general patterns in the world, there’s increasing recognition that the practice is the much more practical and tentative one of proposing models which are tested against observations. A model is like a map of some terrain in that you can choose which part to focus on in your map, ignoring some parts or zooming in on others. Whether one map can be read alongside another is almost an accident, considering the enormous number of potential theoretical frameworks which needn’t be commensurate with each other.

Note that maps of the artificial world are more easily combined in a meaningful synoptic view, since that world happens to be pre-united by human intentions and ideals. For example, you can smoothly transition from reading a subway map to reading a bus route, because the relations between those terrains are pre-planned: the buses and streetcars work in tandem with the subways. But all that need unite one scientific field with another is the scientists’ interest in usefully charting some terrains. Whether the terrains themselves flow comprehensibly or “naturally” into each other needn’t be presupposed. At any rate, even when they do so flow, the causal connections are largely subjective, as David Hume showed. That is, the notion of a natural order depends on the implicit prescriptions of the scientific models’ idealizations of the terrain. Whether the terrains “obey” the maps is up to mad Azathoth: the universe’s structure could radically alter itself in an instant and nothing will have gone wrong, our primitive, parochial expectations notwithstanding. Methodological naturalism is pragmatic in that scientists are obviously interested in understanding how the world works, because that knowledge is prized—but the world needn’t cooperate. Our intellectual elites stretch their cognitive powers to the limit, attempting to fathom the mind-bending ways of nature, but whether even their endeavours will prove adequate to the cosmic facts is dubious, given precisely what cognitive scientists have shown with respect to the animal basis of reason. As godlike as we may be in our creative and destructive capacities, we may be intellectually and morally childlike; indeed, as is often said, progress in social values hasn’t proceeded apace with advances in our technological power.

In fact, the very notion of objective truth doesn’t make sense without the pragmatic background. The relation of truth, of a set of symbols’ “agreement” with some facts, is as fictional as gods or human rights. At least, if symbols can magically reach out and mirror objects at a spooky distance, this is further evidence against naturalism, meaning that the nonpragmatic, realistic conception of science presupposes a Cartesian rupture in the universe that’s akin to the one between the quantum and relativistic domains. By contrast, the pragmatic view is that knowledge is a means of acquiring power to participate in some larger process. Scientific models and their ceteris paribus, context-sensitive rather than perfectly general “laws” usefully distort the real world, analyzing it indeed by way of dividing and conquering its parts. The windows we thereby open onto the world are tools that may or may not work well together. Either way, the world is indifferent and it evidently contains both continuities and mechanical orders, on the one hand, and strange, miraculous discontinuities and unnatural (artificial) transformations on the other.

The Myths of Secular Humanism

The naturalist’s final retreat is to the refuge of modern culture in general. Perhaps philosophical naturalism doesn’t prove the world is metaphysically united, after all, nor does it show that strictly rational methods of inquiry are likely to generate a complete, coherent world picture. Still, naturalists join ranks against antimodern cultures such as those that are faith-based. The battle may not be between rationalists and the amoral, impersonal cosmos, but between rational and irrational cultures. Naturalism wouldn’t be so much a defense of science, since science needs no philosophical defense; instead, it would be a barricade around the precious Light of Reason which barbaric irrationalists would snuff at the earliest opportunity. This is the refrain of Carl Sagan whose torch was passed to Sir Neil deGrasse Tyson, to the noble New Atheists and to liberal comedic culture warriors such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher.

Unfortunately, the secular culture in question has been undermined—once again—by science itself. The neoliberal social order can withstand the flailing of bitter and crazed omegas such as the militant jihadists. But the danger isn’t that the proverbial barbarians are battering the Roman imperial door; the threat, rather, is the dark revelation of the hollowness of modern institutions that are supposed to substitute for the openly theocratic ones which served for thousands of years. The problem, you see, is that scientists discovered we’re not what Enlightenment rationalists flatteringly called us: austere masters of our passions, rational conquerors of our base nature, liberated by awakened consciousness and by skepticism and scientific inquiry. Some of us are more influenced by those ideals and methods than others, but it turns out, as postmodernists have shown since the 1960s, that this is a modern metanarrative, a myth that’s just as gratuitous in light of the facts as the stale theistic stories. The facts in this case are sociobiological. As Daniel Dennett shows in Breaking the Spell, theism arises from our predilection for detecting social patterns. We overextend this talent and project these patterns onto inanimate nature, as though there were ghosts around every corner. And as I said, fictions in general evolved to enable humans to live in large groups. Prior to fictions such as religious or political myths, we could keep social order just by passing along rumours, but that depended on us living in small bands in which we could keep track of a limited number of personal details. In a large group we must function alongside thousands or millions of strangers. Memory alone won’t suffice to direct members to where they belong in the dominance hierarchy, so higher-order ideas step in, keeping everyone on the same page through faith in some ideal, that is, through faith in what is strictly speaking a fiction.

The relevance of this is that modern secular culture doesn’t escape from these sources of rank irrationality. The naturalist wants to say there’s an enlightened culture that doesn’t fall back on mass delusions, but cognitive scientists have shown that we all have an inherent weakness for committing a range of fallacies throughout the day. Objectivity itself is unnatural and it functions only under antisocial conditions, when we isolate ourselves, set aside our emotions and think logically about a situation or when we don our lab coat and follow strict institutional protocols. The lifeblood of culture is far removed from any such borderland activity. Culture is shaped by the fictions that motivate us to act, not by truths that compel us to think. The more we think, the more introverted we become and thus the more removed from the social interactions that are regulated by cultural ideals. This is why moderns deluded themselves when they assumed they could progress by transcending the childlike behaviours of ancient animists and theists. Whereas the ancients naively presupposed that the universe revolves around their affairs and that their happiness is of cosmic importance, moderns conclude on the basis of careful observation and analysis, that most of the universe is natural (undead) rather than artificial. But the philosophical ramifications of that grand truth of naturalism were largely ignored because a modern culture sprang up which substituted one form of anthropocentric myths for another: instead of animism or theism, there’s secular humanism; instead of being central to a spirit world, we’re crucial to the artificial worlds we create to flatter our grandiose self-image; instead of being God’s children, Reason dictates that we have rights due merely to the existence of our human nature; instead of passing on to heaven after death, we strive to emulate the top one percent of power elites who allegedly carve out a terrestrial paradise for themselves.

Secular humanists are sustained by irrational myths at almost every turn: from the economic myths of the “free market” to the liberal and feminist myths of equality, freedom, and reason, to the political myth that democracies are meritocratic and peaceful, to the myth that social progress is entailed by the technological kind, to the new atheistic myth that liberal atheists are irreligious, lacking blind faith in anything. Modern mass culture is awash with delusions, as is every other such culture. We require delusions, myths, or fictions to function in mass societies. That obvious fact has been scientifically confirmed and so even this third, most tenuous formulation of philosophical naturalism is incoherent. Respect for science ironically leads to the downfall of the culture that’s been put in place of the medieval mores which science made quaint. This approaching downfall is glimpsed in every facet of postmodern relativism, nihilism, and apathy. Disenchantment with the modern metanarrative began with Sade’s and Nietzsche’s radical atheistic speculations, along with Freud’s model of the unconscious and Marx’s critique of capitalism. Now popular culture features the desperate attempt to avoid the embarrassment of our downfall, by relying on irony to insulate us against uncomfortable self-discoveries. Instead of being self-consistent naturalists who understand that our animal nature makes us mostly ridiculous and unwise, we play the role of the class clown who feigns humility by being the first to poke fun at himself—as if comedy could keep an authentic nihilist from committing suicide. We pretend to be hyper-self-aware, never committing to any belief, always speaking as if this or that were true, as if the modern enterprise were sustainable and respectable instead of being a catastrophe for life in general.      

Just to dwell on a couple of examples of how we turn vices into virtues to avoid facing our cultural decline, notice that we treasure personal liberty without appreciating that this liberty wasn’t earned as a victory in the name of Progress, but was incurred as a result of the Enlightenment’s repudiation of all the great myths that sustained collective undertakings. You’re freest when you don’t know what to do because you’re perfectly uninspired. Then you could indeed go either way; you seem to hover over the available choices, waiting for the wind to blow you in either direction. By contrast, when you’re strongly motivated, because you’re captivated by ideals enshrined in some revered metanarrative, you don’t construe free, that is, uncaused choice, as a virtue; instead, you pity those who miss out on the ecstasy of belonging to something greater than themselves, who cherish their independence, since you surmise that most folks who consider themselves free are merely isolated so that they’re easily exploited by more driven individuals. In fact, this ideology of individualism was originally fit only for “persons,” defined as white, property-holding and thus financially independent males, that is, as the naturally more psychopathic individuals at the apex of the early modern dominance hierarchies. This is why classic liberals could rationalize their subjugation of women and Africans, because their stand-in “humanistic” faith was a transparently infantile way of flattering themselves. After all, myths succeed when they resonate with our irrational, childish longings. And so today we think we’re free because we can go wherever we want, say whatever we want, and buy whatever we want. But because we don’t care much about anything at all, suffering as we do from the unsustainability of the modern project of rebuilding the ancient Greco-Roman secular world, we take those liberties for granted since they’re rendered meaningless and we lack the insight that such “liberties” are in any case signs of systemic failure. Note the oxymoron of the United States’ informal title, “Leader of the Free World.” That title displays our ambivalence about our personal freedoms: we don’t want anyone forcing us to do anything, but we want to be led, because when left to our personal devices we’re pitifully clueless creatures.

Or take the comical delusions of liberal atheists such as that conservative values are less rational than liberal ones, that theists are generally less rational than atheists, and that all religions ought to end. On the contrary, all values are irrational and faith-based. Reason tells us which propositions are true and thus which facts obtain in the world of ascertained processes, but values derive from faith in fictions which inspire us to change those facts, to make them adequate to our ideals. Conservative and liberal values are equally asinine and counterfactual, equally ludicrous in view of the cosmicist upshot of modernity. According to conservatives, we should bury our head in the sand, pretend the Scientific Revolution never happened, and go on mouthing bits of archaic foolishness about a spirit world, all by way of rationalizing theocratic dominance hierarchies which prove our evolutionary rather than divine origin. According to liberals, we should take pride in voting and pleasure in consuming products in spite of the gross deficiencies of democracy currently on display in America’s farcical, demagogic politics, and in spite of consumerism’s being antithetical to life and to human dignity in particular. These values are equally faith-based and foolish. There is no rational defense of either of them, only rationalizations that perpetuate our hubris by preventing us from confronting the humiliating existential truth. Atheism is indeed more rational than theism, since theism is palpably false and atheism itself is just the denial of that set of preposterous beliefs. But liberal secular humanism or Atheism+ is more than that denial, since these atheists subscribe to alternative myths, having just as little self-awareness as their theistic counterparts. Finally, religions will end only when we lose all our creativity, when we’re enraptured by our personal freedom which amounts to our stupefaction, such as when our machines will relieve us of the burden of caring about anything by performing all our tasks for us, allowing us to bask in our glorious independence from the world until we decay as vestiges.   

Naturalism as Cosmicism

So much for naturalism as it’s commonly conceived. This arch-philosophy is incoherent, meaning that despite its being nominally science-centered, science undermines this philosophy’s triumphalism. Of course, science is only the messenger: naturalism is defeated by nature itself, by its indifference to our calls for metaphysical and epistemic unity and to our pride in occupying our particular time and place. The universe is colossally discontinuous, popping out of and into existence at each moment at the quantum level, whole galaxies being swallowed into monstrously unnatural (lawless) black holes, and tool-using primates scurrying all across the earth bent on wholesale satanic replacement of the wilderness with worlds made in their image. Instead of absolute theories, we have models or fragmentary, utilitarian maps that empower us in part by simplifying the data, allowing weak animals like us to under-stand the undead cosmos by likewise reducing it to the level of our limited cognitive powers. Finally, modern secular societies are absurd in their upholding of anti-myth myths. 

Should we then discard naturalism as a piece of nonsense? The semantic issue of whether we prefer to call some hip philosophy “naturalistic” isn’t as important as that of the philosophical implications of science and technology. We should reconcile our naïve intuitions with scientific discoveries, but we shouldn’t do so by pretending that modernity isn’t enormously subversive: science devours not only the prescientific delusions but the humanistic ones that are supposed to be able to live alongside it. The humanist’s optimism is at odds with the content of scientific explanations, which is why naturalism is incoherent. Thus, coherent naturalism must be pessimistic. In fact, we can begin to define naturalism simply by calling attention to the above three facts which undermine what we might think of as popular or exoteric naturalism: the universe is discontinuous, science is pragmatic, and because we’re animals we’re driven largely by irrational desires including the quest to rebuild nature according to our myth-laden vision of how the undead phenomena should have been. Taken together, these imply that naturalism is, in short, Lovecraftian cosmicism. Cosmicism, in other words, is the most important philosophical point to emerge from the Scientific Revolution: the world ranges beyond our comprehension, our attempts to understand nature are ultimately pitiful, and a culture that takes these facts to heart should be steeped in humility rather than hubris. As godlike as our recreation of the world might seem, the enterprise mitigates our latent disgust with nature’s undeadness and is orchestrated not by divine wisdom but by irrational leaps of faith.  


  1. Hello. Im from Paraguay. Your blog is always interesting and disturbing. Raul

    1. Thanks, Raul. I may be heading to Guatemala in October for a week on business. That may be as close as I get to Paraguay for a while. ;)

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I follow you on just about every point until that last paragraph there.

    "We should reconcile our naïve intuitions with scientific discoveries, but we shouldn’t do so by pretending that modernity isn’t enormously subversive: science devours not only the prescientific delusions but the humanistic ones that are supposed to be able to live alongside it. The humanist’s optimism is at odds with the content of scientific explanations, which is why naturalism is incoherent. Thus, coherent naturalism must be pessimistic."

    Actually I follow you all the way up until that last sentence! Why rush to say naturalism must be pessimistic when it could very well be that an adequate scientific explanation of nature requires neither simple optimism nor simple pessimism alone. Understanding nature may be as much an aesthetic affair as a cognitive one. Yes, supposedly modern scientific ideas like force and energy are still just as animistic as the old Aristotlean entelechies. But what if nature is itself at least some kind of proto-personal, larval life? What if the best way to know nature is to feel nature? What if another science is possible, one which inherits the method of Goethe rather than that of Descartes and Newton? Has 21st century physics really ruled out the possibility of an organic universe, of a world-soul? Hardly! The mechanistic world-theory has been scientifically refuted. You call the post-quantum conception of physical reality "undead"... maybe this is not all that far off from what I have been calling the world-soul? https://matthewsegall.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/physics-of-the-world-soul-whitehead-and-cosmology.pdf

    1. Just to flesh this out a bit more... The conception of matter that emerged with the Scientific Revolution and lasted until the 20th ce. was really a covert form of idealism. Latour makes this case quite compellingly. http://footnotes2plato.com/2013/10/11/reflections-on-bruno-latours-an-inquiry-into-modes-of-existence-ch-4-learning-to-make-room/
      In my above review of his recent book "An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence," I compare Latour's Whiteheadian panexperientialist perspective to Schelling's comments:

      "The concept of “force” that has proven so irreplaceable to physicists in their study of microscopic particles and far away galaxies is, we should remember, a concept that emerges from and gains its meaning only by continual reference to experience, to our feelings of attraction or repulsion, of being forced, in one way or another, by the insistent presence of an other. As Schelling, speaking to the Newtonian scientist, wrote in his Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1803),

      “you can in no way make intelligible what a force might be independent of you. For force as such makes itself known only to your feeling. Yet feeling alone gives you no objective concepts. At the same time you make objective use of those forces. For you explain the movement of celestial bodies–universal gravitation–by forces of attraction and maintain that in this…you have [a physical ground of explanation for] these phenomena” (transl. by Harris and Heath, CUP, 1988, p. 18).

      In point of fact, experience can grant us no such physical principles, if by “physical” it is meant that which exists “outside” experience, in the so-called “external world” of mute matter in motion. All our scientific knowledge of distant quasars and black holes hits its mark, not because the Mind has correctly represented the formal essences of Nature, but because our organism (equipped with its world-wide network of geometrical notations, telescopes, satellites, computers, and well-trained peers) has succeeding in translating the lines of force at work outside itself into the feelings of life at work within itself. All our knowledge, no matter how abstract, must make its final appeal in the courtroom of experience, since the court of Reason, having disavowed the the facts of feeling involved in all its acts of knowing, has as a result been cut off from its only means of concrete relation to reality. If everything were submerged in abstract “space-time/matter-energy,” science could never follow the threads of experience, could never arrive at the immanence of a truly de-idealized material (106)."

    2. I agree completely that, from the perspective of the person doing the conceiving, this limitation seems to apply (never arrive at the immanence...). But what the sciences are *trying* (in the benign ideal sense) to do is provide and then act on a collective perspective.

      There is a way to bring the collective shift that is metaphysically profound. Comes down to conceiving of a modally primitive complementarity born of the two most basic cosmological properties.

      cosmicomorphic.com or healinggeneration.com

      Thanks for the deep-diving post Benjamin.

    3. Hi, Matthew. I suppose you're right that my point about pessimism is a non sequitur, which is to say I set up a bit of a false dichotomy. The more precise distinction is between triumphal and cosmicist philosophical interpretations of science.

      I see from your blog that you're also interested in pantheism. I'll have to read some of your articles on this, but I wonder whether you think organic life is crucial to the universe's spiritual side. I call the cosmic body undead because I see no compelling evidence to speak of any Mind of the universe, which makes the existential point that the vivification is up to us: our solemn, crypto-satanic responsibility as sentient creatures is to bring meaning and purpose to the robotic and indifferent wilderness (thus to undo the monstrous creator god; hence, the existential mission is essentially "satanic"). We do this by technologically transforming the natural into the artificial, and so spirit isn't a ghost in the machine, but the program of intelligently designed functions that replace undead processes.

      I'm also interested in a naturalistic religion, in what you call a cosmotheandric worldview. I include some links below to articles where I talk more about this. Indeed, it looks to me like a dialogue might be fruitful between us about the optimistic versus pessimistic kinds of pantheism and naturalistic religions. If you're interested in putting one together by an email exchange, perhaps for posting on our blogs, let me know by sending me a message through the Contact the Ranter section of my blog just below my blogger profile (in the non-mobile version of my blog).







    4. Regarding the connection between intuitive experience and technical scientific concepts, the key battleground now would be string theory. As I point out in the above article, its proponents effectively rewrite what it means to do science, downgrading the need for experience (for observation) and focusing on mathematical inferences. As long as the math bears fruit, though, such as technological applications, the new science will likely get a pass since the abstract conceptions will be indirectly grounded in the experience of the success of those applications.

    5. Hi, Michelle. Looks like you're more on Matthew's optimistic side of pantheism or naturalistic religion. I'll have to look more into that take on matters, since I'm sort of hung up on existentialist and cosmicist doom and gloom.

    6. lol. I can relate, and concede the pitfalls of optimism! I just experienced over the last few days in my depths an expectation that I will die in obscurity. As I allowed it to surface, I felt the toll of this, especially the effect on my ability to experience my outward vision inwardly, as fully available to me right now with complete clarity, and able to reflect to outward experience in a way that is comfortable within my own life. I saw myself alive but buried face-down in vision. I felt what it is like to operate within a sort of "obscurity-of-vision" curse.

      On a different note, this ironic question of science and verifiability is taking such a weird twist of late, because many scientists are working to co-opt the "open book" approach for themselves! Ee-gad! I spent a few days commenting on this recent article that is in the same vein. I felt good about the numerous comments I had to share (as MK McGee).

      Here's the text of a few:
      It is a fallacy to conclude that theoretical physics is or has ever been the kind of Science that can rightly be associated with experimental validation. I thought you were going to take your comment in the interesting direction of noting that science on the horizon of the unseeable is in fact a hybrid between science and the imagination! Within the biggest scientific paradigm of reproducibility, science and the imagination actually work well together, but validation is not necessarily of anything real. If you apply validation rules in ways that are self-referentially, or internally consistent (like the rules of D&D!) then nothing "real" is actually validated. It's disconcerting but fascinating, I think.

      The use of consciousness as a central construct in reality collapses reality itself into the Essential Knowledge Trap, separating the universe from the knowing of itself! Doesn't make sense, though it's a tempting solution when we feel that there's nothing else coherent to go on than making the universe a big self.

      As I'm sure you are aware, most people are not comfortable with a vision of *answers to life's questions* happening in a way that is non-dogmatic or, more subtly, not externally guiding or guided in any way. Has to do with a desire to maintain a sense of influence in the world by having a system of blame (perhaps even of ourselves) when something goes wrong -- or take credit when it goes right!

      What is most ambiguous (in a lovely way) to me is your conclusion to "let the world impose its logic on us." That could be "us," as in individuals, or "Us," as in the collection of adults with roughly the same perceptual and self-integration capacities.

      Asking individuals to be aware by getting out of their own way in getting answers is great, healing, correct. Yet it is also well worth holding on to the vision that collectively-held answers can be and have been useful. For those who do not find great comfort in things beyond the power of their own knowing, existential dissonance (doubts and nihilism in an interconnected world) will continue to plague their reality models, that is until the universe's logic is brought into focus in a way that humanity can know.


    7. Subject: From Grand Illusions to Grand Solutions: hold theoretical physics to a higher standard


      There's a rising up within science right now asking deep ethical questions like "How do we keep ourselves in check from over-reaching, that is, stating and publishing as fact what we do not in fact know or trust?" A nobel pursuit, except that many theoretical physicists are responding by stupefying us with still more over-reaching nonsense about reality that they peddle as fact. Act now to let academic scientists and philosophers of science know we want them to hold theoretical physics to a higher standard.

      That's why I created a petition to Ralph J. Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences and Michael P. Federici, President, The Academy of Philosophy and Letters.

      Will you sign this petition? Click here:



  3. When is mainstream science going to admit, that some races have higher average IQ's than others?