Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 25

Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 24
Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 26

The last blog in this series focused squarely onto the Problem of the Central Puzzle facing modern science, the question which is implicit in the explanatory method of modern science —deconstruction of tiny entities like genes, molecules, atoms, protons… into still tinier entities. The central puzzle is very clear:

Whatever could the entities on the final level consist of?

Let’s recap the reasoning. Either there is an infinity of such entity levels, or not (=there is a finite number of levels).  This fork is quite unavoidable.  There are no other options. No one thinks that today’s tiniest entities (Quarks and Leptons) are the end of the road, but the end of the road could be only one or two levels tinier. Now the alternative notion that there could be an infinity of levels is too pessimistic to entertain. If there were an infinity of levels, the eight levels we presently have would be only an infinitesimal part of the complete set. This would mean that physics’ grip on the material nature of the world had only, so far, explained 0% of the whole, but… even worse, that it would be for ever condemned to being able to explain no more than 0%.  This does not accord to the facts, because physics, though currently conflicted, has previously successfully explained many deeply puzzling things.

Science, as we now know it, is based on the foundational thought that the world could be explainable, and that new theories about the nature of the physical world must not contradict this axiom. This means that new theories in science must have the quality that they offer sustainable explainability. Metaphysics is very tempting to physicists, especially at times of total bafflement like the present. But it presents answers which are supposed to be set in stone, lacking sustainable explainability. They cancel any hope of subsequently getting deeper understanding, while relying on large swathes of dogmatic, take-it-or-leave-it postulation. 

The answer given to the Central Puzzle in last month’s blog was that the entities on the final rung of the explanatory ladder can only exhibit totally random vitality. This points towards jumping-random sequences of different tallies, typically four different types.  A four-tally system is the first to offer something greater than a single-dimension universe, because at each point-of-jumping a three tally system has only two options.  This means that everything can be reduced to either A or B and, in effect, every “entity” is equivalent to a bicimal on a single implied line.

Are there alternatives to this?

Well, today almost no one is raising the Central Question about final entities, but there are two answers which are in limited circulation:

  1. The final entities are mathematical objects.
  2. The final entities are pure energy. 

The first answer shows a complete lack of understanding mathematical objects, which are honorific existents or, if you prefer,  ways of talking about adjectival mathematical symbols as if they were nouns.  (They are essentially “objects of attention”.) The broad picture is that mathematics is a study of forms or structures which we encounter when they are embedded in some medium or “stuff”.  In other words, there has to be a “stuff” of some kind for any mathematical form to have. To suppose that mathematics itself could supply the “stuff” is a category mistake equivalent to saying that what caused a shadow was another shadow.

The second answer postulates that the final entities are pure energy, but energy has predictable consequences, and the question how it does  produce these effects needs to be explained. So such entities would require further explanation, and a fortiori could not be the final entities. 

It follows that the entities on the final explanatory level must totally lack anything which would cry out for further explanation. This points unmistakably towards representing such entities as jumping-random sequences. Randomness itself cannot be represented by mathematics, because mathematics is timeless and hence predictable.  Jumping-random tallies have their own kind of vivacity, but it exhibits no sign of pattern, form, structure or order.

This conclusion is dramatic enough, but it has consequences which lead to other dramatic conclusions. We know that human beings have created a vast world of timeless sophisticated logical structures (modern mathematics)  by imposing judgments onto symbolic conglomerates which can ultimately be traced back to inert tallies. To those higher mathematicians which have created these structures they seem extremely “real”.  So the explanation of the physical universe can only be that it must have come about as a by-product of implied definitions made by a super-mind of some kind.  There is only one viable alternative to mathematical modelling working with inert structures:it is that of a super-mind imposing physical structure onto a non-inert (jumping-random) substratum.

We also know, as a result of the cybernetic insights of the last sixty years, that “Mind” is not a primitive, ultimate “given”, but rather it is the performance which arises from the presence of a highly organically structured brain or (in the case of some elementary mindlike effects) from a cybernetic machine composed of microchips.

So the only super-mind capable of imposing the necessary structures onto a wholly random substratum could be the corporate human mind.

This is a re-discovery of Kant’s brilliant insight of 200 years ago —that the laws discovered by science must be pre-conditions for our existence as intelligent, conscious, sentient beings.  The difference is that this synthesis now has blue-chip credibility, because a research programme comes with it,  allowing us in principle —at some future time— to understand the exact details of how it all works.

We are left with a vista of potentially exceptionally difficult intellectual challenges to exercise the minds of the future.  There is an immense agenda of problem-solving to be done.  This amounts to a source of purpose and meaning in the human future.

The conclusion is that the physical world is much closer to us as human beings than the four Whammies of (1945-1960) led us to think. At the time of the four Whammies it was supposed that science was necessarily the study of an essentially hostile objective reality. The new analysis shows that science can be more than this. The science of the late 20th century was provisional science based only on partial, as-yet-unfalsified data. That was not a basis for final values, final beliefs or anything final at all. Only a vision which pushes analytic explanatory imagination to the end of the road can form a basis for final beliefs.    The supposedly secure science of sixty years ago presented a heartless, alien, coldly objective, pitiless picture, which we can now see was only a passing chimera.  The future is warming up, and a great time for the human race can lie ahead. 

CHRISTOPHER ORMELL 1st November 2021