Saturday, 17 March 2018

Humanity in a Creative Universe - what have I learnt?


Lent 2018 - Day 31

Time to sum up my summing up of Stuart A. Kauffman's book. This is the book I'd been waiting for many years to come along - but I had to be mature enough to read it. big A thank you to my brother; he bought it for me for Christmas 2016, but would be a year and six weeks later that I'd get round to reading beyond page viii of the preface.

This is a book written by a scientist who feels that the way science has progressed over the past three centuries has closed the door to our innate sense of magic and wonder. The reductionist materialism of classical Newtonian physics has made us feel that we're but meat robots witnessing a meaningless universe - we're born, we live, we die - that's it.

Yet many of us intuit that there's far more to life and the universe than those sets of quadratic equations that can prove where everything's from and where it's all heading. Rather than being another quasi-mystical hippy quest for transcendental something, it's a book based on the career of well-rounded scientist with a strong knowledge biology, theoretical physics and mathematics.

The enigma at the heart of quantum mechanics - namely how can something be and not be at the same time - until it is consciously observed to be either one or the other - opens the doors to a far more open-ended worldview than that offered by classical physics, suggests Kauffman.

Our universe is open ended, expanding at an accelerating pace; our society - our technology and economy is likewise unfolding exponentially in terms of what's possible, ever building upon and recombining with that which came before, creating a future that's intrinsically unknowable.

Kauffman's worldview is that it is better to be positive and optimistic and open to new possibilities than to be otherwise. One's outlook ought to be a worldview that makes one happy; good mental - and physical - health comes from being positive and optimistic. Living in fear of a vengeful God or in the hopelessness of a meaningless universe over which one has no control does not engender a positive, optimistic outlook.

These are general thoughts. But on to my deeper, more personal responses to the book.

As my regular readers will know, from my earliest childhood I have had anomalous memory experiences, every bit as real as unbidden and untriggered flashbacks from my life - but they are not of this life, but from another time and another place. I have written much about this phenomenon of my mind (most fully here).

Kauffman's book has opened up the notion that the vector communicating anomalous memories may be quantum-related. It may be (as I wrote before), be dark matter or dark energy related. I am now certainly a long way from believing in reincarnation as a religious concept, though it has occurred to me that for such a belief to take hold, many more people than I must have also experienced 'past-life flashbacks'.

The other notion that I've held since childhood is that of 'edge of chaos'; that our lives are in perpetual risk of tipping into disaster or tragedy, and that by consciously discounting the dangers that we could fall prey to, we can ward them off. This idea would neatly fit with Kauffman's (as yet unproven) assertion that the outcome of quantum experiments can be willed - and not just neutrally observed - by the conscious observer. And that we can therefore affect our fate by our will. Our greatest enemy in this worldview is complacency. "If you will it, Dude, it is no dream."

Eight years ago, I read another book suggested by my brother, neuroscientist David Eagleman's Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. Eagleman, a Possibilitarian, espouses the view that we cannot definitely rule out - nor rule in - any form of afterlife. Click! Given Kauffman's notions about the Poised Realm - moving from the Possible to the new Actual, which then creates new Possibles - the concept of 'Possibilianism' becomes, well, possible.

Let's go back to Schrodinger's cat. Alive and dead until the conscious observer peeks into the box. Assume Dean Radin is right, and the conscious observer can will the outcome of the experiment. "Hurrah! My beloved cat lives!" - or "Meh, I don't really care." Or: "The cat poos on my bed, scratches my furniture - this experiment is a good opportunity to be rid of that pest."

Could it be this way with God? With an Afterlife?

Those that want one, peek into the box upon their physical demise - and get what they willed. Those that deny, or simply do not need a God or an Afterlife, or just don't care - their consciousness is extinguished the moment their bodies cease to function - open the box and that's that. An eternity of nothingness, no consciousness to observe it.

Now ask yourself - what is your will?

[Coming soon - a tribute to Steven Hawking in the form of a Lenten review of A Brief History of Time.]

This time five years ago:
Always let your conscience be your guide

This time six years ago:
Lenten recipe with prawns 

This time nine years ago:
Polish economy - recession thwarted

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this vast and challenging philosophical thoughtwave - a testament to an active and searching consciousness . I shall refer back to these Lentern posts and marble them into my own searching of wills Atomic.

Frater Monad III