Tuesday, May 23, 2017

--- Notes on creation and the material world ---

The man who looks only at himself cannot but sink into despair, yet as soon as he opens his eyes to the creation around him, he will know joy.

Baal Shem-Tov

Some days, I feel that I know very well why the ancient gnostics believed that the material world is evil. Packages won't open right. Clothes bind when you're trying to get out of them and there's no use trying to just drop them into a laundry bag. They seem to intentionally catch on the lip of the bag every way they can. Walking on a hot day, clouds seem to be everywhere except between me and the sun. On a cold day I can't get my pack on because my coat catches on the arm straps.

But then I consider how many different parameters have to be within such narrow limits for this planet to support life - how many parameters have  to be within such narrow limits to support existence. Perhaps I protest too much.

The world is a joy to me. There is just to much beauty and pleasure here for me to feel short changed.

I do have somewhat against modern scientists and their staunch adherence to the doctrine of evolution, though, and it's not religious in nature. As far as my religious beliefs are concerned, what is described in the first chapter of Genesis sound precisely like abiogenesis (the development of life from nonliving environments) and evolution. No, I have no problem with the ideas of evolution and abiogenesis on a religious basis. My problem is purely scientific.

Science is empirically based inquiry and no one was around to observe what happened in the development of the current environment. We can speculate but, as long as there are competing theories that fit, we cannot say that we have the answer.

As it is, I know of no good way to distinguish an environment developed by evolutionary forces and one created by a rational creator. Both would lead to beings that almost precisely fit their environments.

I could forgive the naivete of  scientists a few decades ago pointing to the appendix as evidence that mistakes were made. Now we know that the appendix and the tonsils and other "vestigial" organs do, indeed serve real purposes. But scientists still sing the same tired old songs. "But what about (fill in the blanks)?" They were wrong about tonsils. Just because an organ seems to be vestigial now, doesn't mean that it actually has no purpose. Really, the scientists are the last people we want to "never learn."

Science doesn't tell us what-is. In the final analysis, we can never know what-is. We hope and have good reason to believe that what we "know" is in agreement with what is actually out there, but what we know is our mental models of what is out there. The models work, so we can be content with that. But that's what science gives us - models that work, models that allow us to predict with reasonable accuracy what will happen, and models that allow us to be creative with the materials we have to work with. We may want to go further to plumb the depths of reality - to know the bedrock fundamental of our existence and, when we do find answers - yay!- more power to us - but reification is insidious and we should never lose sight of the fact that what we have really found are models of the bedrock fundamentals of our existence.

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