Finding Meaning In A Meaningless World

Science has defined the modern era in many ways and is truly the reigning knowledge paradigm in the modern era, even if it’s not always acknowledged. The key features of modernity–specialization and technology–were made possible primarily by the remarkable development of scientific techniques and knowledge over the last 400 years, since the time of Galileo and Kepler.

But while science has brought us the modern world, in a very real and direct way, it has also brought us to a point where man’s perennial search for meaning is imperiled. This is the case because today’s scientific worldview seems to deny the importance of many inquiries that humans have perennially found important, including questions about our place in the universe, the nature of consciousness, and questions about God, purpose, and many other deep topics. And where it doesn’t deny the importance of such questions the answers it provides are increasingly dissatisfying and, frankly, depressing.

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Scientific Materialism

Science is the basis for “scientific materialism,” the worldview shared by most of today’s scientists and philosophers. Scientific materialism holds, essentially, that the universe is nothing but matter and energy in motion; humans evolved through random processes, as did all life; and human minds emerged at some point in our species’ development as our nervous system became sufficiently complex.

Much of this is surely correct, but there are a number of problems with this worldview. For example, scientific materialism is unable to explain coherently when and why mind/subjectivity emerged. How far down the evolutionary ladder does mind extend? When did mind first appear in the universe? We shouldn’t expect science to be able to provide firm and specific answers to these questions because such answers are probably impossible to produce. But we should expect the intellectual architecture of our modern world to provide at least an outline of coherent answers to such questions. Thomas Nagel’s recent book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, makes a very similar point.

Is Today’s Science An “Absent-Minded Science?”

I’ve argued that today’s science is an “absent-minded science” because of this failure to adequately explain the role of mind in nature. The prevailing theory of “emergence” argues that mind simply appears with the development of sufficient biological complexity but no one today can provide a good answer as to when and why mind emerged when it did. These major questions remain unanswered within the materialist paradigm and its philosophy of “emergentism.” This inability to explain the most primary feature of reality for each of us — our own minds — seriously undermines the intellectual edifice of modernity.

Perhaps even more importantly, scientific materialism is, for most of us, an ill-suited foundation for our search for higher meaning in our lives. As human beings, we have an innate need for a life-affirming mythos. By mythos I don’t mean fantasy; rather, I mean we need a subtextual narrative that supports our sense of self and our place in the world. The more accurate this narrative is, in terms of its congruence with events in the external world, the better it works. Scientific materialism falls short in providing such a mythos because it denies the reality of much that seems most real to us. We have, with today’s scientific materialism, seen the pendulum swing too far.

The Copernican Revolution, which correctly shifted the center of our solar system to the sun away from our planet, has now gone too far in suggesting that there isn’t really anything special about us or our place in the universe. We are the product of random chance on a small backwater planet in a very boringly normal arm of a very normal spiral galaxy, so the conventional view holds. Independent of the grasping of ego, we can see that this worldview doesn’t provide much space for personal or higher meaning.

A key challenge of our time is to reconcile the truths and methods of modern science with this need for personal meaning.

Scientific materialism’s mythos was summed up well by the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg:

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

If this is the case, why don’t we all just commit suicide? Well, we don’t because each of us has a personal mythos, despite the claims of today’s materialism, that justifies the space we occupy and the air we breathe.

We Are In Need Of A More Life-Affirming Worldview Than Scientific Materialism Can Provide

We are, it seems, in need of a more life-affirming worldview than today’s scientific materialism can provide. This new series of essays will flesh out my thoughts on 1) how science can and should change to become more scientific, but also 2) how a new type of science can act as the foundation for a new mythos to better sustain our psyches.

This is what I mean by “deep science.” A new deep science will be more scientific than today’s surface-oriented endeavour because it recognizes the internal aspects behind the world of surfaces that is the primary focus of today’s science. Deep science is also more holistic than today’s overly narrow science because it can help us more comprehensively describe the universe and its amazing contents, and allow us to create coherent and useful theories about these contents.

Ken Wilber’s Deep Science

Ken Wilber coined the phrase “deep science” in his insightful book The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. Wilber’s suggestions in this area are a great basis for additional inquiry. I will use Wilber’s framework as the basis for my own discussion in these essays, but will expand and amend upon his original outline.

The key point of Wilber’s deep science is that all scientific and spiritual inquiries — which are united methodologically in his deep science, at least in an overarching manner — consist of three strands: 1) an injunctive method, which is a set of how-to instructions specific to the field at issue; 2) data gathering, in terms of direct experience, through use of the injunctive method at issue; 3) community confirmation or negation of the data gathered. Wilber states in The Marriage of Sense and Soul:

The three strands of deep science [what I’ll call the “triple braid” from here on out] separate the valid from the bogus … helping us to separate not only true propositions from false propositions, but also authentic self-expression from lying, beauty from degradation, and moral aspirations from deceit and deception.

Future columns will explore some applications of the triple braid of deep science and will also flesh out how Wilber’s approach might be a useful and fair reconciliation of scientific and religious ways of viewing the world.

If we are to find a way out of the existential trap of scientific materialism, we need not reject science; rather, we should look deeper into scientific method and reexamine its foundations. This approach will have two major benefits: 1) we gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the physical world; 2) as a nice side benefit, we also find a worldview that is more conducive to the long-standing need for finding personal meaning in our lives.

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36 comments
    1. silhouette, for some reason I can’t respond under your longer response directly above so I’ll respond here to some of your points.

      You write: “Can you provide me with a specific example [of the irreversibility of time]?

      If the state of my computer monitor is off, and then switched to on, only later to be switched to off again, what specific information is lost?

      If every shard of a broken pane of glass is collected, melted down, and then melted together using the exact same mold, what information is lost?”

      In both examples you give, information is lost because the computer system is of course far more than the on/off switch and countless aspects of the computer have changed in each iteration of on/off. In terms of the glass being melted down, the information that is lost is the original position and states of the atoms and molecules that comprised the glass originally. It is not immaterial at all that the state of the atoms/molecules is now entirely different. And so it goes with any example you can provide. It’s only in idealized/virtual systems that we can truly say change is reversible but this is because of their status as idealized/virtual systems that this is possible. The real world is far more messy and information is always lost in any process of change.

      You write: “I would argue that difference itself is more fundamental to being than change or at least equally fundamental as change is to being. Again, everything that we know or understand about the world and or ourselves is derived from the simple act of comparison (which is of course by its very nature necessarily dynamic), BUT for one thing to be considered dynamic, another must be considered static–and vice-versa. That is to say, one thing cannot be static if another is not dynamic.”

      Yes, difference is a type of change and contrast is one of Whitehead’s categories of change. If you’re interested I recommend that you read Griffin’s book, Whitehead’s Radically Postmodern Philosophy, then Whitehead’s book, Science and the Modern World, and only then tackle Whitehead’s book Process and Reality.

      Whitehead’s point is not that only change is real. Rather, his point is that change is as fundamental as substance and that all substance is always in a process of change. So the Parmenidean dream that we’ve been exploring for the last couple of centuries is now giving way to the Heraclitean project that takes change seriously.

      Also, the same process of actuality to potentiality to actuality applies to all things in our universe, not just animate beings. So even the electron, a molecule and every other actual entity in between these tiny entities and us, enjoys the same process of becoming. Whitehead was a panpsychist so all things have some iota of mind attached and it is the oscillation of mind with matter that is identical with the oscillation between potentiality and actuality at each level of reality. So the universe is nothing but potentiality leading to actuality and back to potentiality from the bottom to the top.

      Last , in terms of the arrow of time I’ll reverse the question and ask you to show me one thing that doesn’t obey the arrow of time in terms of proceeding from past to present to future?

        1. I’m not sure what to do. I emailed the owner, as was suggested, about a week ago. In addition to that, I’ve tried modifying the document and certain characters therewithin multiple times, in hopes of working around the security feature. Nothing has worked. So stupid.

          1. Hey Silhouette,

            There seems to be nothing wrong on our backend. You should be able to reply to Tam on this new thread. The original thread reached maximum reply capacity for the design of our site, so a new thread needed to be started.

            Sorry for the inconvenience,

            Mark

          2. @Mark Denicola

            It’s not letting me post the response that I had drafted up on any thread…

            For whatever reason it’s activating CloudFare, your supposed security system, which is preventing me from posting it.

          3. @Mark DeNicola

            The error message reads:

            “Sorry, you have been blocked
            You are unable to access collective-evolution.com
            Why have I been blocked?

            “This website is using a security service to protect itself from online attacks. The action you just performed triggered the security solution. There are several actions that could trigger this block including submitting a certain word or phrase, a SQL command or malformed data.
            What can I do to resolve this?

            “You can email the site owner to let them know you were blocked. Please include what you were doing when this page came up and the CloudFlare Ray ID found at the bottom of this page.”

          4. @Mark DeNicola

            “CloudFlare Ray ID: 1a47255ed9720520”

            Maybe with this you can unblock the message? I don’t understand why it’s blocked in the first place.

            :/

  1. Thanks to Tam Hunt for his thoughtful comments. I should like to address two of his themes, namely materialism and the nature of mind.

    Let’s consider the following remarks by Schrödinger:

    “If you ask a physicist what is his idea of yellow light, he will tell you that it is transversal electromagnetic waves of wavelength in the neighborhood of 590 millimicrons. If you ask him: But where does yellow come in? he will say: In my picture not at all, but these kinds of vibrations, when they hit the retina of a healthy eye, give the person whose eye it is the sensation of yellow.”

    This is a modern statement of a thesis found in ancient atomism and the fathers of modern science.

    “Hence I think that these tastes, odors, colors, etc., on the side of the object in which they seem to exist, are nothing else than mere names, but hold their residence solely in the sensitive body […]”

    ~Galileo

    “For the Rays (of light) to speak properly are not colored. In them there is nothing else than a certain Power and Disposition to stir up a Sensation of this or that Color. […] in the Rays they are nothing but their Dispositions to propagate this or that Motion into the Sensorium, and in the Sensorium they are Sensations of those Motions under the form of Colors.”

    ~Newton

    What if we were to borrow a page from Riemann and ask what sort of geometry would result if we were to invert this fundamental premise?

    That is, what kind of picture would we get if we assumed that colors and sounds and so forth do, in fact, exist in the “physical” world? How would the math work out?

    “[So] few and far between are the occasions for forming notions whose specializations make up a continuous manifold, that the only simple notions whose specializations form a multiply extended manifold are the positions of perceived objects and colors.”

    ~Riemann

    Weyl, who gave us gauge theory, expands on this observation:

    “The characteristic of an n-dimensional manifold is that each of the elements composing it (in our examples, single points, conditions of a gas, colors, tones) may be specified by the giving of n quantities, the ‘co-ordinates,’ which are continuous functions within the manifold.”

    Here, he tightens it up with respect to color:

    “Thus the colors with their various qualities and intensities fulfill the axioms of vector geometry if addition is interpreted as mixing; consequently, projective geometry* applies to the color qualities.”

    OK, then: Colors behave like vectors. This tells us quite a lot. Schrödinger tells us in his nice little book on ‘Space-Time Structure’ that vectors, and tensors in general, are useful in physics in large part because they embody important symmetries.

    http://bit.ly/1zBbTwA

    Weinberg makes the point with wonderful clarity: “It is increasingly clear that the symmetry group of nature is the deepest thing that we understand about nature today.”

    Ramond takes us deeper:

    “It is a most beautiful and awe-inspiring fact that all the fundamental laws of Classical Physics can be understood in terms of one mathematical construct called the Action. It yields the classical equations of motion, and analysis of its invariances leads to quantities conserved in the course of the classical motion. In addition, as Dirac and Feynman have shown, the Action acquires its full importance in Quantum Physics.”

    And here is Weinberg again wrap a ribbon around this package:

    “Furthermore, and now this is the point, this is the punch line, the symmetries determine the action. This action, this form of the dynamics, is the only one consistent with these symmetries […] This, I think, is the first time that this has happened in a dynamical theory: that the symmetries of the theory have completely determined the structure of the dynamics, i.e., have completely determined the quantity that produces the rate of change of the state vector with time.”

    Curiously, colors and sounds respect these basic symmetries, as we can see from a familiar illustration in relativity. Thus, an observer cannot tell us whether he is at rest or in uniform linear motion, nor whether he is being accelerated or in a gravitational field.

    It therefore follows that he can detect no difference in either case in the colors and sounds he observes in his closed spacecraft.

    Circling back to Weyl and gauge theory, we are unable to determine the absolute phase of a photon by observing its color.

    Let’s close by reflecting upon a seemingly simple observation from Helmholtz: “Similar light produces, under like conditions, a like sensation of color.”

    We can both broaden and tighten this comment and say, with a nod to Heisenberg, that the same state vector, acted upon by the same (matrix) operators(s), produces the same spectrum of colors, sounds, and so forth.

    Now, in a way, we have only restated the obvious in a slightly formal manner. But notice that we can describe the “mental” appearances of everything, everywhere, and under any circumstances, without leaving the familiar setting of Heisenberg’s formulation of quantum theory. How about that?

    The bit about the spectrum is key because, as the mathematician Steen reminds us, early on in the history of 20th-century physics, “The mathematical machinery of quantum mechanics
    became that of spectral analysis…”

    Here’s a PDF:

    “Highlights in the History of Spectral Theory”

    http://www.stolaf.edu/people/steen/Papers/73spectral.pdf

    And spectral analysis is just this business of matrices and vectors—and Fourier analysis, which allows us to describe and color or sound in respect of its constituent waves/vectors.

    ______________

    * The dualities which unite the various flavors of string theory into M-theory have their provenance in projective geometry. See, e.g., this PDF:

    “Towards an Algebraic Classification of Calabi-Yau Manifolds.”

    arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0002102

    1. Thanks Brian. In terms of how the physical world relates to our sensations of color, etc., I’m partial to a version of process philosophy that suggests that all things have both mental and physical components that oscillate in time. Colors for human perception are, in this formulation, what certain wavelengths of light feel like when “prehended” by entities that have light-sensitive organs. In this formulation, the universe is nothing but a vast web of cause and effect, with each cause doubling as a physical event (for other entities) and a drop of experience (for itself). Here’s an essay on this: http://www.noetic.org/noetic/issue-four-november-2010/absent-minded-science-part/.

      In terms of symmetries and relativity theory, I certainly agree that there is something profound about symmetry in nature. I worry that sometimes we take our attraction to symmetries too far, however, and my feeling is that this is what has happened with relativity theory’s conflation of space and time. Based on the evidence of our senses and instruments we see that time is fundamentally asymmetrical (there is a clear arrow of time), whereas space is symmetrical (there’s no limitation on moving left or right, front or back). Reconciling our experience of time’s arrow with various physical theories’ symmetry approach to time is one of the major problems of modern physics. My preferred solution is to accept the evidence of our senses and reject this aspect of relativity theory as being essentially falsified. There are other version of relativity theory that preserve the mathematics (Lorentz’s, for example) and it seems that we went astray in our treatment of space and time when Lorentz worked out his transformations in such a way as to include a “local time” different than global time. More on this: http://www.independent.com/news/2011/oct/01/relativity/

      1. Thanks for your reply. I’d like to address this comment:

        “Based on the evidence of our senses and instruments we see that time is fundamentally asymmetrical (there is a clear arrow of time), whereas space is symmetrical (there’s no limitation on moving left or right, front or back).”

        In an early paper, I floated a conjecture as to how the asymmetry of time was intimately related to the imbalance of matter and antimatter.

        Feynman thought that antimatter could be viewed as matter moving backward in time.

        http://bit.ly/1Ir9WJ9

        My idea was that the Big Bang arose from a quantum fluctuation and that it had twin aspects: Universe 1 went “forward” in time and universe 2 went “backward.”

        The scare quotes are there because the beings inhabiting both worlds would experience time as having an arrow pointing from past to future.

        We then kill two birds with one stone by means of twin “hidden” symmetries.

        Hidden gauge symmetry

        http://bit.ly/1zGosqx

        I was quite young when these ideas occurred to me (16), but am happy to see that others have recently aired similar notions.

        Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?

        http://bit.ly/1zGnqdU

        1. Why not simply have a single dimension of time that flows in one direction, thus matching the obvious facts of our experience and our experiments and avoiding contradiction or confusion?

          1. >Why not simply have a single dimension of time that flows in one direction

            There would be a single dimension, but with two directions, like the spatial dimensions, where one can move back & forth, up & down, to & fro.

            This move would restore the temporal symmetry as well as the symmetry between matter & antimatter.

            >thus matching the obvious facts of our experience and our experiments and avoiding contradiction or confusion?

            The experimental facts tell us that (1) there should be equal amounts of matter & antimatter; and that (2) the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to time reversal.

            As to our experience, that is clearly limited, as demonstrated by SR, which tells us that mass, time and length are dependent on the motion of the observer. We only see these effects at speeds approaching that of light, however, which is well outside our everyday experience.

          2. Hi Brian, what I’m suggesting is that we have no empirical evidence whatsoever for the symmetry of time so why do our physical theories persist with such an anti-empiricist approach when physics and science more generally is supposed to be entirely empirical? The solution, it seems to me, is to modify our physical theories to match observed reality, which I would hope would be an uncontroversial point of view. SR doesn’t demonstrate that mass, time and length are dependent on the motion of the observer. Rather, Einsteinian SR is one possible interpretation of the mathematics that Lorentz derived to preserve the laws of electromagnetism in moving frames. He introduced local time in order to preserve the principle of relativity (which is different than the theory of relativity that Einstein later developed). Einstein reinterpreted Lorentz’s transformations by eliminating any reference to relativistic effects resulting from interaction with the ether. Einstein’s theory of special relativity explained such effects based on the postulated constancy of the speed of light (with no explanation offered for why on earth this one physical phenomenon would be absolute when all other speeds we observe are not absolute) for all observers no matter what their state of motion. However, there is nothing written in stone about the principle of relativity or the Einsteinian theory of special relativity. We should, in my view, go back to the beginning and recognize that the insertion of local time into our equations was a mis-step because we have zero empirical evidence for time being anything but one way and omnipresent.

          3. “SR doesn’t demonstrate that mass, time and length are dependent on the motion of the observer.”

            None of these eminent physicists, however, put the whole story together. That was left to the young Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who already began approaching the problem in a new way at the age of sixteen (1895-6) when he wondered what it would be like to travel along with a light ray. By 1905 he had shown that FitzGerald and Lorentz’s results followed from one simple but radical assumption: the laws of physics and the speed of light must be the same for all uniformly moving observers, regardless of their state of relative motion. For this to be true, space and time can no longer be independent. Rather, they are “converted” into each other in such a way as to keep the speed of light constant for all observers. (This is why moving objects appear to shrink, as suspected by FitzGerald and Lorentz, and why moving observers may measure time differently, as speculated by Poincaré.) Space and time are relative (i.e., they depend on the motion of the observer who measures them) — and light is more fundamental than either. This is the basis of Einstein’s theory of special relativity (“special” refers to the restriction to uniform motion).

            http://stanford.io/1GIBNRn

          4. What I’m suggesting, to be clear, is that the young Einstein got it wrong. The consequences of Einsteinian relativity are the deterministic block universe where change cannot occur and the flow of time is an illusion. There is of course no room for free will in such a universe. And what I’m suggesting is that SR was falsified from the outset because it is abundantly clear that change does happen, and that there is an arrow of time. We have zero evidence that time can flow any way but forwards. So Einstein’s move to re-frame Lorentzian relativity in such a way that the ether (a background frame, essentially) became “superfluous” was a mis-step. Einstein himself recognized that his attempt to eliminate the ether was a mis-step and he stated on many occasions after 1916 that a “new ether” was necessary in physics. This history is recounted in interesting detail in Kostro’s book, Einstein and the Ether.

          5. Tam,

            I’d hate to sound like a broken record, but it is my opinion that we’re considering the notion of time in all the wrong ways.

            You, yourself, acknowledged that time signifies change, whereby the passage of time signifies a process of change.

            Concerning more specifically the arrow of time, which you suppose points in one direction and only one direction. Of course, for instance, one cannot undigest waste, unburn ashes, or unsmash a pane of glass. However, even though the direction of change of the first two examples seemingly flows in but one direction, one can collect the shards of glass, melt them down and melt them together, and restore the substance to its former state as a pane of glass. If my computer monitor is turned on and then turned off, restoring the monitor to its so-called initial state, how is this not evidence that time flows in more than one direction? If anything can be restored to its initial state, how is this evidence insufficient?

            The only evidence that supports the notion of prior conditions or a past is our very own memory, which is always of the present. One cannot remember the present moment. One can nevertheless recall information–sensations that are visual, aural, and otherwise–to the present moment, in the present moment.

            Much if not all of what constitutes my memories is still in existence, and has continued existing since the memories were first formed, in one form or another.

          6. You make some interesting points and I see where you’re coming from. What I think you’re leaving out, however, is the fact that even if we view time as nothing but change it is not equivalent to reversing time in trying to bring conditions back to an earlier condition because we never can actually achieve the exact same condition as was realized before due to information loss or what is generally called entropy. I don’t actually agree with time’s arrow as a result of entropy (the common way of trying to reconcile time’s arrow with the reversibility of most physics equations today), but it is certainly the case that for any system beyond a couple of electrons thrown together that any attempt to return the system back to an earlier state will necessarily be an approximation of that earlier state, not an actual return.

            So I don’t think we can rescue the symmetry of time in the manner you’re suggesting. Rather, I take a strong cue from Whitehead’s process philosophy and look at time as the result of something inherent in how our universe works, akin to but not the same as a computer’s clock time that relies on each iteration of the program as an instantiation of reality. So each moment is a literal re-creation of the universe and this is what we call time. Under this framing of time, consciousness is the process by which each moment is connected with past and present moments. This is the case because in Whitehead’s ontology each actual entity oscillates from physical to mental poles, from actuality to potentiality to actuality, in line with the insights of quantum mechanics. And this is fundamentally an asymmetric process because there is a clear arrow of time inherent in all things. To be is to be in time.

          7. “You make some interesting points and I see where you’re coming from. What I think you’re leaving out, however, is the fact that even if we view time as nothing but change it is not equivalent to reversing time in trying to bring conditions back to an earlier condition because we never can actually achieve the exact same condition as was realized before due to information loss or what is generally called entropy.”

            Can you provide me with a specific example?

            If the state of my computer monitor is off, and then switched to on, only later to be switched to off again, what specific information is lost?

            If every shard of a broken pane of glass is collected, melted down, and then melted together using the exact same mold, what information is lost?

            Is information “lost” because every particle of that object isn’t in its exact, initial position? If so, how do we know that to be true? What study has determined that to be the case? Who has determined that every particle isn’t in its exact, initial position?

            It is very likely that we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the “two” states (the pane of glass “before” it was broken into shards and the pane of glass that was restored from its own shards); hence we identify those particular conditions (a monitor that is turned off or simply a pane of glass whether it was reconstructed from its shards or constructed in another process) as definitively one state.

            I’m neither familiar with process philosophy, nor Whitehead’s process philosophy (although you’ve definitely sparked my interest–thank you).

            Nevertheless, Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that “Process philosophy is based on the premise that being is dynamic and that the dynamic nature of being should be the primary focus of any comprehensive philosophical account of reality and our place within it.”

            Of course one aspect of being is dynamic, however, I would argue that by the same token there is another empirically evident aspect of being that is static if less dynamic; otherwise we wouldn’t be able to identify, locate, understand, or whatever, anything at all.

            I would argue that difference itself is more fundamental to being than change or at least equally fundamental as change is to being. Again, everything that we know or understand about the world and or ourselves is derived from the simple act of comparison (which is of course by its very nature necessarily dynamic), BUT for one thing to be considered dynamic, another must be considered static–and vice-versa. That is to say, one thing cannot be static if another is not dynamic.

            Whereas it is true that we as things act, could it be said that I am no different from inanimate matter, that a pebble found on the street acts as we act? Could it really be said that inanimate matter has no actual being in the world?

            In my humble opinion, in spite of the fact that both things possess being, a rock and a human being cannot be lumped together as one thing. There is indeed a difference between animate and inanimate matter–to which the language itself is a testament–whatever that difference may be.

            To claim that being is fundamentally dynamic, is extreme or an extremist’s point of view.

            On another note, I asked you ‘what is a moment?’. You responded by saying that “each moment is a literal re-creation of the universe and this is what we call time.” Thus in this context, by your definition, a ‘moment’ is basically ‘creation’ or literally ‘the act of making or producing novelty or difference’. In other words, one moment or thing is differentiated from another moment or thing neither by time nor distance but noticeable difference.

            Couldn’t we then generally conclude that to reduce difference, or produce similarity, is to regress from one moment or one thing?

            You continued by stating that “consciousness is the process by which each moment is connected with past and present moments. This is the case because in Whitehead’s ontology each actual entity oscillates from physical to mental poles, from actuality to potentiality to actuality, in line with the insights of quantum mechanics. And this is fundamentally an asymmetric process because there is a clear arrow of time inherent in all things.”

            That is exactly my point. I’m neither arguing that the oscillation between two poles is in any way symmetrical, not that “time” or change does not exist; I totally agree with you and Whitehead.

            However, the oscillation of everything between two asymmetrical poles does NOT demonstrate that “there is a clear arrow of time inherent in all things [that sails or is only capable of sailing linearly in only one direction]”, but rather that inherent in all things is the potentiality and actuality to travel in two directions (BOTH towards AND away from; BOTH backward AND forward).

            I’m still trying to understand how from all of this you have reached the conclusion that inherent in all things there is an arrow of time that clearly travels in only one direction? Help me to understand 🙂

          8. I mean, oscillation from physical to mental poles, from actuality to potentiality to actuality and so on can be represented as A to B to A to B, not A to B to C to D, and so forth.

          9. Even considering the asymmetry of being, that process of oscillation cannot be represented as A to B to C to D to E to F (or, say, B to A to D to C to F to E)

  2. Although science leads us towards spiritual and philosophical questions, it, by no means, investigates spirituality or philosophy. It is for this reason, you can’t criticize science on a spiritual or philosophical basis. It’s like rejecting an apple because it is not an orange.

    1. “I am now convinced that theoretical physics is actually philosophy.”

      ~Max Born

      Here are a few highly respected works which evaluate physics from a philosophical perspective:

      Hughes, RIG. The Structure and Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

      Jammer, Max. The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1974.

      Putnam, Hillary. “A Philosopher Looks at Quantum Mechanics (Again).” Philosophy in an Age of Science, Harvard University Press, 2012.

      http://bit.ly/1zGpFOn

    2. John, there is no clear line between science and philosophy and also a bit of fuzzy line between spirituality and these other pursuits. Historically, many of the domains of science were part of religious inquiry and that line continues to shift today. Also, all science contains an implicit philosophy, which is broadly described as “materialism” today. I’m suggesting we need to change that underlying philosophy and to mesh the conventionally separate domains of science/philosophy and spirituality.

  3. This series looks extremely exciting.

    I’m not entirely sure of how to word this observation but I’ll give it a go…

    …is the search for meaning and purpose in modern day humans become harder to figure out? Is it because life itself is becoming ever more ‘meaningless’?

    Due to the economic and political models that have been adopted across the globe are we now filling our lives with things we don’t need, although we think we do, and gaining shallow knowledge we don’t understand fully , therefore confusing ourselves with what ‘meaning and purpose’ really are?

    Just some questions there that I can’t answer as not my subject matter but of interest to me, thoughts welcome.

    Great thought provoking peice Tam. Look forward to more.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I highly recommend ‘Absence of Mind,’ by Marilyn Robinson, one of the most astute intellectuals of our time.

      http://bit.ly/1vAGSol

      In general, I advise against accepting scientists’ thoughts on large philosophical questions. They are often laughably ignorant about such questions as pertain to their own disciplines. There are notable exceptions, but…

    2. It certainly does seem that we are more and more busy in our lives and that both provides a meaning of sort to our lives (from the routine of being busy) and reduces the time available to think deeply about alternative narratives for finding meaning. One of my series here will focus on the ways that the majority of people find meaning today: through family, work, sports, and simply staying occupied most of the time.

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