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Posted by Michael Levine on July 21, 2003 20:04:31 UTC

One thing you wrote was: "Well, the universe is too big and complex a thing for anyone to be sure of anything about it. I'd rather stick with math and logic, if only because I'm not able to handle much more."
MP replies:
I feel sure that you can input the observational data to math and logic/science logic equations.

Agreed. It's just that the word "universe" brings to my mind more stars, lightyears, and empty space than I'm able to count. It's quite funny that we can't even say for sure whether there are X stars or just an infinite number of them. So I'd rather stay with things I can count.

Lots of phenomena have not been systematically observed. Metaphor is a vehicle for enabling the
human mind, however well trained to begin step one of a more rigorous investigation using tools of math and logic including science logic. There is more to this. "For that you have to buy the CD." Kidding.

That was funny! Seriously, I think physics got into a deadlock, because everything we can't understand can be explained as the result of a huge number of things we do understand. It's kind of a philosophical fallacy, like claiming that if you can write one word then you can write a great novel. I don't think we have found the intellectual mechanisms to understand why the whole is not only greater than the parts, but often an altogether different thing. We're still locked into serial thinking without being able to find a way out of it. Which is good; it will keep thinkers employed for several generations to come.

MP: I think Kiersey elaborated some. Physical processes, you say? But you made the case earlier for the importance of abstract processes.

You are right, in the end it's all a matter of the kind of abstractions you can come up with. Surely the abstractions of physics don't work in biology, but that is only because biology asks different questions. If you want to calculate the wave function of an elephant, quantum mechanics is still your tool. But of course, who cares?

And there has been a long-discussed dichotomy between mechanistic and organic processes. You might note that the human brain appears to consider various scenarios abstractly before proceeding physically. That is something the physical universe, as far as we know, does in such grand detail only when an apparatus is arranged for doing it -- such as an advanced brain.

I guess it's really hard for the one-thing-at-a-time conscious mind to understand the everything-at-once world in which it is immersed, a world which includes the source of the one-thing-at-a-time thing itself. That's why I think the best thing we can do is relax and enjoy the ride. Something far more powerful, and absolutely unfathomable, is taking care of everything.

So we have a meta-universe of abstraction, mind, whose complexity enables us to depart from mechanistic energy pathways into the future
and in fact, consider various possible pathways.

Exactly. But that meta-universe is incredibly beautiful to behold as it is unbelievably complex. I suppose the best way to deal with it, so that we wisely choose among the various possible pathways, is to become friends with that unfathomable entity I mentioned above.

What causes the waves has not been figured into what you wrote. Metaphors are an entry point.

Sorry, I actually meant "what the waves are waving" or something like that. Like, your voice waves the air around you, and the wind waves the water on the ocean. The question of what it is that electromagnetic fields are waving does not seem to be a legitimate one though. My point was that metaphors can sometimes stand in the way of understanding. That said, I like a good metaphor as much as the next guy.


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