Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Angina Monologue 13

March 22nd, 2015 by Vader

I could hear His Majesty cackling over the paper even before I emerged from the kitchen with his breakfast pancakes and porridge.

And ham and eggs. His Majesty does not eat bacon, I think out of pure contrarianism: Everyone else loves bacon.

An important cosmologist (or, at least, a self-important cosmologist) has declared that the central tenet of science is that nothing is sacred. He is quite plain that he means sacred in a literally religious sense.

Heh. This must be awkward for you, Lord Vader, as one who identifies both as a scientist and as a religious believer.

Of course, this is palpable nonsense. The central tenet of science is that the natural world behaves according to laws, and those laws can be discovered through reproducible observations. This belief in natural law has its roots firmly in the Christian theological tradition, whatever Dr. Krauss may wish to believe.

Not according to Doctor Krauss. From his article, one would be justified in concluding that the central program of science is to abolish religion and put secularism in its place.

Of course, the good doctor doesn’t really believe that nothing is sacred. He only believes that nothing religious is sacred. I am quite certain that, when push comes to shove, his attitude towards science is indistinguishable from worship. Scientific knowledge is sacred to him. Thus Dr. Krauss’ piece boils down to a rather tawdry bit of special pleading.

He believes the way to enlightenment is via doubt and skepticism. This is quite interesting. There is very definitely an attitude, among Dr. Krauss’ breed of scientist, that the bare reality of the physical world is quite beyond ultimate human comprehension. We can only make better and better approximations, which can be disproven but never proven, so that none really gets to the heart of the matter and all are therefore tainted worldly imitations of an unattainable Platonic ideal. This ideal is incomprehensible; that is the beauty of it.

I do not believe that it was always so. The first scientists believed that the laws of nature were written by God, and one need but read the book of nature to understand everything about the natural world, and thereby understand part of the mind of God. And one could read the book of nature by careful observation of natural phenomenon. At first, this program was fantastically successful, so much so (because the framework of classical physical law was so mathematically elegant) that many scientists came to view natural law as a kind of axiomatic system based on self-evident first principles. We could become fully enlightened, if only we could discover what those first principles were and work out their full implications. God was replaced by a set of Platonic ideals. Not really much of a transmogrification, I think, given what I know about medieval theology and philosophy. However, the God that remained was no longer personal in even the abstract philosophical sense of the creeds. Regrettably, this left precious little room for divine love.

But then the program went all wrong. Relativity destroyed the ideal of Euclidean geometry. It also partially destroyed causality, by denying any possibility of causality beyond the light cone. Then came quantum mechanics, which denied that there was any determinism aside from a probabilistic one. The old, beautiful framework of classical physics was merely a low-order approximation of a much messier reality. Finally, the mathematicians discovered Godel’s Theorem, a blow from which I think neither science nor mathematics has fully recovered. It is now provable fact that we can never apprehend all reality through mathematical methods alone. I think this is when the notion that all science is, and will ever be, a tainted worldly imitation of an unattainable Platonic ideal really took hold.

The scientists sense the ultimate futility of this exercise, which may both explain and be explained by the failure of theoretical physicists to get any real traction on any new problem in over thirty years. We know neutrinos have mass; we don’t know how. We know there is dark matter and dark energy but we have no idea which either is. The physicists are reduced to arguing over string theories which are either unfalsifiable or have already been falsified. The ones who are content with approximations, which after all is all they can hope to ever have, are considered something of an inferior breed. They are mere applied scientists, or, worse yet, engineers. Perhaps it’s no surprise they are growing more interested in social engineering — though that thread was always part of the fabric, I think.

The pure in heart must continue to strive to see God, while denying that you can ever really see God, or that there is really a God to be seen.

Of course, in this particular attack on religion, Dr. Krauss is demolishing, if not quite a straw man, at least something close to a straw man. Yes, there are fair numbers of people who actually believe the Earth is six thousand years old. Dr. Krauss dodges the question of why there are still significant numbers of believers among those who accept that the earth is billions of years old. He thus deftly avoids grappling with the really interesting questions, by implicitly denying that religion can ask any.

Yes, I noticed that. Dr. Krauss is a cosmologist. He should be wrestling with a question that one of my atheistic colleagues (not of the obnoxious variety) candidly acknowledges is a very good question science will never answer: Why is there anything?

A cosmologist who has never wrestled with that question is remarkably dense. A cosmologist who has wrestled with that question and still insists on dogmatic atheism is either drowning in cynicism or drowning in despair.

Well, it’s not like the two are really distinguishable, Lord Vader.

But there is an answer, of course: There is a universe because I think.

Oh, I know that’s not terribly original. The answers to the terrible questions are never terribly original. But they are sometimes terrible. For one thing, they raise other questions.

What happens when I die?

When I go to sleep, my consciousness goes somewhere I can’t always remember when I wake up. Oh, I have dreams, from time to time — often very odd dreams having very little to do with this reality. But even when I don’t remember dreaming, I wake with the sense that I have been somewhere for the past several hours — almost like I was lost in thought, was rudely interrupted, and have now lost all that train of thought.

There are cultures, such as the Australian aborigines, who regard the “dream time” as the ultimate reality, and this world as the passing nightmare.

I have been anesthetized. That was different from sleeping. One moment I was awake in the preparation room, and the next moment I was awake in the recovery room, with no sense at all of any elapsed time. The universe simply ceased to exist during that time, so far as I can tell. Others tell me the world went on, but after all, I don’t know that these others themselves exist as anything but figments of my imagination.

The old retreat into solipsism. We’ve talked about this before.

Solipsism is unproductive, but the temptation to retreat into solipsism is something anyone with any awareness must wrestle with at some point in his life. Back to my original question: What happens when I die? Does the universe cease to exist? And why does the thought of ultimate oblivion, no anything anywhere ever again, carry such horror?

Or is it more horrifying to think that the universe will go on — forever deprived of my awareness of it, the only awareness I can actually be sure of, like a great cosmic chicken with its head chopped off? I can’t decide.

Why does the mind recoil from the thought of its own extinction?

Because I Am.

The good people of Nazareth would throw you off a cliff for that blasphemy, as they attempted to do to their most famous son.

But you are quite right, for once. I Am. Jehovah I’m not so sure about.

I find myself increasingly fascinated with C.S. Lewis’ description of the devils’ program, which I think shows remarkable insight. The devil (it does not matter which devil, which is one of the clever features of Lewis’ description) is attempting to expand the universe by adding more to his Self, Shelob-like (I note Tolkien and Lewis were close friends). After all, his own reality is the only reality any devil can be sure of. Only in this way can the primordial chaos be brought to order, as part of one great Whole — Himself.

It’s the same with the Sith. Like the devils, I seek to bring all the universe into my Self. What else can a rational being do? Death — I’ve never experienced it, but if my Self is the ultimate reality, I am certain that Self must somehow continue.

And if your attempt to corner the Universe collides with another ambitious devil or Sith?

You really have God in mind, of course. Well, I haven’t collided with Him yet. If there is a God, which I doubt, then He is simply an unusually chewy morsel to be added to my Self.

But, ultimately, if all existence is merely a case of forever expanding a Self composed of … what? … brought into utter submission, what’s the point?

His Majesty glowered at his newspaper, then the malicious twinkle came back into his eye. He was reading the comic page.

I think Lewis and His Majesty have the devils pegged, even if they have opposite attitudes towards the morality of the diabolical program.

But God is not a devil, and He is not embarked on an eternal program of expanding his Self. Quite the contrary. The program of God is to organize something which is not part of His Self, namely, children with Selves of their own. With whom His relationship will be truly a sacred one.

I Am. To God, that is not a blasphemy, but a fulfillment of His work and glory.

 

 

 

Comments (3)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , ,
March 22nd, 2015 19:19:53
3 comments

G.
March 23, 2015

His Majesty is even more horrifying when he’s being candid and reflective instead of cynical.

There is some kind of tie-in between the doctrine of theosis and our species identity with God and what you are saying about God’s delight in others self-existence. It seems like the same kind of insight I got from Charlton’s thought that Mormonism meant that we are all First Causes.


Vader
March 23, 2015

It appears some psychologists have gone even further than Krauss, denying even the one thing that ought to be most real to them: The existence of their own minds.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415745/doubting-psychology-spencer-case


Zen
March 23, 2015

To be fair, I have been doubting the existence of psychologists minds for some time.

I once attended a lecture by Krauss and Dawkins, expecting to get some science – they were supposed to talk about why there is something, rather than nothing. I was hoping for some interesting science… should I have been so lucky. Krauss didn’t spend more than a few sentences on science, and that just boiled down to, my equations say so. As if you would make equations that say otherwise. Dawkins likewise said little of science, but if he had listened to what little he had said, it would have contradicted the long rambling condemnation of religion I had to endure.

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