Thursday, February 06, 2014

If information underlies the universe, then meaning underlies the universe – Denyse O’Leary

Last time, I wrote about how materialism harms science, in “Banging our heads against a wall until finally the wall complains.” 

Predictably, we find ourselves in a multiverse, where everything is true except philosophy, religion, and of course common sense reality. As noted there, “Well, materialism has sure made a difference, all right. Not a difference it was wise for our culture to support, promote, and fund. ”

Since then, I went on to complete the series, as linked below, and move on to start a series on origin of life:

 Science-Fictions-square.gif The multiverse: Where everything turns out to be true, except philosophy and religion
The extent of the shift in thinking that the multiverse entails is often underestimated. It is now orthodoxy. Stephen Hawking has blessed it, dismissing philosophy and religion in the process. Multiverse cosmologists look out on a bright future, freed from the demands of evidence. Leonard Susskind reportedly told Alan Guth, "You know, the most amazing thing is that they pay us for this," and Nobelist David Gross (the fellow who "hates" the Big Bang) has admitted about string theory, "We don't know what we are talking about." But they do know what they are not talking about, and that is enough.
Science-Fictions-square.gif As if the multiverse wasn't bizarre enough Many Worlds
In 1957 physicist Hugh Everett suggested that the universe constantly splits into different futures each time a subatomic particle goes one way as opposed to the other. In other words, not only is there an infinite number of universes, but they come into existence every time you turn right instead of left. Today, such ideas come thicker, faster. We are told that we are "on the brink of understanding everything," when our cosmology guarantees that we can understand nothing and there is nothing to understand anyway.
Science-Fictions-square.gif But who needs reality-based thinking anyway? Not the new cosmologists
A question arises: If, in the multiverse (especially the many worlds version) everything possible is true, why do cosmologists trash traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs? Because there is a critical catch: Anything may be true, including contradictory states, except serious dissent from the Copernican principle--the principle that Earth and our universe are nothing special. Physicist Rob Sheldon sums it up:
Multiverse theory is designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that is to defend atheism. It makes no predictions, it gives no insight, it provides no control, it produces no technology, it advances no mathematics, it is a science in name only, because it is really metaphysics.
He warns that science cannot thrive outside reality: "Now some will say that this is still a small price to pay for the freedom it provides from a creator-god. But I want to make it very clear what the terms of the exchange will be." Lest any reader think that the circus outlined in previous instalments of this series is an unfortunate, temporary side effect of the onward march of science, here are some of the terms:
Science-Fictions-square.gif Multiverse cosmology: Assuming that evidence still matters, what does it say?
The multiverse has always been principally a religious concept. Science writer Marcus Chown underlines this:
Religious people say that, by invoking a multiverse, physicists are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid God. But physicists have to go where the data lead them.
Actually, the data are not leading Chown or any other multiverse advocate. That much is now obvious. Desire alone sustains their faith. It is the sort of religion that is true, Copernicanly speaking, even if the supportive facts never appear and the theories that undergird it fail.
So ridding science of God has turned out to mean ridding it, not of religion, but of the need for evidence. We are not left with nothing, as philosophers and artists have wailed, but rather with everything and its opposite.
Is there a road to reality? Science-Fictions-square.gif In search of a road to reality
If science finds the universe "uncalculable," surely the meaning of "anti-science" changes. Isn't "anti-science" a mere unwillingness to waste valuable time and funds on matters into which no one may usefully inquire?
Here's an alternative: On the road to reality, evidence must matter again. The weight of the evidence must count. And when it does count, if our cosmos is orderly, new approaches will emerge. They may be emerging now.
Intriguingly, a recent article in Scientific American noted, "Some researchers think that the world, at root, does not consist of material things but of relations or of properties, such as mass, charge and spin." But information, not matter, is fundamentally relational. More.
Science-Fictions-square.gif The bill arrives for cosmology's free lunch (and we realize we can't afford to dine here any more)
Now let us suppose that the ID theorists are right, that the underlying substance of the universe is information. Just as information is measured in different ways from matter or energy (bits and bytes vs. kilograms and joules), information theory is a different way of thinking. It prompts different queries.
If information underlies the universe, the physical laws are most likely information that need not and probably cannot be explained away. Information-based explanations are not reductive. One seeks the right level of information to answer a question, not the lowest level as a matter of principle (because the needed information might not even be at the lowest level). If an information approach is adopted, our way of looking at key questions in cosmology undergoes a radical shift. As such shifts are apt to do, it may well shape a different future.
Science-Fictions-square.gif If ID theorists are right, how should we study nature?
But now, what if the ID theorists are right, that information rather than matter is the basic stuff of the universe? It is then reasonable to think that meaning underlies the universe. Meaning cannot then be explained away. It is the irreducible core. That is why reductive efforts to explain away evidence that supports meaning (Big Bang, fine-tuning, physical laws) have led to contradictory, unresearchable, and unintelligible outcomes.
The irreducible core of meaning is controversial principally because it provides support for theism. But the alternative has provided support for unintelligibility. Finally, one must choose. If we choose what intelligent design theorist Bill Dembski calls "information realism," the way we think about cosmology changes.
First, we live with what the evidence suggests. Not simply because it suits our beliefs but because research in a meaningful universe should gradually reveal a comprehensible reality, as scientists have traditionally assumed. If information, not matter, is the substrate of the universe, key stumbling blocks of current materialist science such as origin of life, of human beings, and of human consciousness can be approached in a different way. An information approach does not attempt to reduce these phenomena to a level of complexity below which they don't actually exist. More.
Next: Is there a good reason to believe that life's origin must be a fully natural event?:
The definition of life has reached the point where science historian George Dyson tells us, "Life is whatever you define it to be." Richard Dawkins has suggested it is "anything highly statistically improbable, but in a particular direction." And at a year 2000 international "What is life?" conference, no two definitions were the same. Biochemist Edward Trifonov noted that there are 123 definitions available and, undeterred, promptly proposed his own: Life is self-reproduction with variations. Which was just as promptly contested. In a 2012 issue of philosophy journal Synthèse, Edouard Machery concluded that "scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life."
So we can’t even define life but we are sure it happened by material causes alone? Not the most promising beginning.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.


Tracy Krauss said...

Definitely deep... and very thought provoking.

Peter Black said...

Intriguing and mind-blowing! Thank you again, Denyse for introducing us to more of your careful 'delvings' into the realm of science and so-called-science and their intersections with faith. ~~+~~

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