Friday, May 13, 2005

Some More About: Life, The Universe and Everything

Some More About: Life, The Universe and Everything --- An excerpt from an email to Philip And Michael

Zach's Web Log

What with the ID (Intelligent Design) folks in Kansas carrying on and the folks in Afghanistan upset about someone in Guantanamo Bay flushing a copy of the Koran and others what we need is a new look at religion.

I've been thinking about this and here is where I am so far.

I recently purchased a copy of "The Question of God" a PBS DVD of a program of the same name (an absolutely fantastic program that should be required viewing by anyone who has a brain and thinks about religion, here is a link).

Also, I am currently reading a popular physics book by Noble prize winning physicists (Robert B. Laughlin) who did his work in quantum physics . The book talks about emergent properties of complex systems. This idea is basically the carry on self organizing systems which come from chaos theory which is rooted in nonlinear dynamical systems.

To make a long story short emergent properties/behaviors of complex non linear dynamical systems are being talked about more and more formally.

The bottom line here is that sufficiently complex systems exhibit behaviors that can not be explained from first principals or reductionism. What is coming out of all this is that this (emergence) is just how the universe and reality work.

It can be proved that reductionism fails to scale up to what we see around us. One way to put this is to repeat that the old saying "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." and to say that all this is being studied in a more formal way by the scientific community.

All this can be thought of as less of a proof of the existence of the Almighty and more of an absolute proof of the limitations of human intelligence (and for that matter any intelligence that one can think about in any formal way, as opposed to an informal, imaginative or faith based way).

The idea that humans are not at the top of the intelligence chain is a very old idea it goes back to the Greeks and the meaning of the word hubris. This word means pride or belief that you are better than the stuff around you. It is even interpreted by some religious scholars as the being equivalent to the concept of "Original Sin".

Another way to put all this is to say that science is starting to formally put man in his place in the universe and to show that the universe really is much more complex that we can possibly imagine. This is because we are part of it (the universe) and you can show in a formal way that no sufficiently complex system can ever understand itself. This last bit comes from Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem which is a mathematical result.

Because there is a fundamental disconnect between folks who do not understand the difference between faith based philosophies and scientifically based philosophies we still have a long long way to go.

I feel very strongly that these sorts of ideas are in no way whatsoever damaging to faith based philosophies what they do instead is to throw into sharp relief the fact that faith based and scientifically based philosophies are different.

To say that science explains the faith based philosophies is not correct. It is better to say that science talks about such things. Scientific inquiry can suffer just as much as non scientific inquiry from "The Sin of Hubris". I am ok with saying that faith based philosophies are an emergent behavior of human intelligence and they (these emergent behaviors) are unavoidable. The human mind is somehow hardwired demand an explanation of its surroundings.