Once again, a couple weeks have passed since my last musing, and once again my thoughts and plans have changed substantially.
To cut to the chase, I have abandoned my plans to publish a book about my ideas. I gave it a serious try, though. Over most of the past two weeks I have been excited about the project to the point of losing considerable sleep while I tossed and turned composing various contents of the imagined book. Three days ago, on the round-trip bus rides to and from a doctor's appointment, I composed an Introduction to the book in my head. When I got home, I immediately keyed it into the computer to capture it. It is pasted in this musing below.
But first, I'll explain the ambivalence I alluded to in other recent musings. The question, of who my intended audience for a book would, or should, or could be, was never satisfactorily answered in my mind. Dave and I have discussed the possibilities recently, and Greylorn and I discussed them off and on during our discussions. But now the question arose again specifically in the context of my newly written Introduction.
In thinking about how the Introduction might be received by various candidate audiences, it was clear to me that it would be unacceptable to most of them for different reasons. In light of this, I began composing—only in my head—alternative Introductions that might be acceptable to some, or at least different audiences.
In the midst of this quandary, yesterday I listened to a podcast by Sam Harris in which, among several other topics, he answered the question of why he preferred to spend his energy on podcasts instead of writing books. His answer was that the podcasts reached many more people than a book would. That got my attention.
After some sober thought about the reception of my Introductions, and indeed of the book itself, I realized that Greylorn had nailed it: aside from a few close friends and family members, the only possible audience for the book would be the New Age Religion group. And writing for that audience is abhorrent to me.
The last thing I wanted to do was to start or found a religion or to be seen as a prophet or guru for any religion. So I have abandoned my plans to write a book. But, as I back out, I'll leave you with an outline of the theory, which you already have in the earlier musing titled "A Summary of How I think Consciousness Works" and I'll leave you with the Introduction I promised you. Here is the Introduction:
This book is neither fish nor fowl. Instead, it is intended to deliver the beef. In my opinion, science, lately, seems to have become rather fishy, and religion has definitely become foul. I will try to correct both problems by introducing the beef.
With this outrageous beginning, I am sure that there are many of you who are going to close the book and read no further. But hold on, before you close the book, let me thank you for reading this far anyway. The rest of you deserve an explanation, in fact quite a few explanations. Since the meat of the book will be the beef, I'll save that for last. As a result of a coin flip, I will start by explaining the foulness of religion and then go on to explain the fishiness of science.
Having a little more fun with the metaphor, religion can be compared with chickens. Chickens have been an important source of food for thousands of years, and they still are. Yet, you would not keep chickens in your living room; that would be foul. Similarly, religion has been very important in people's lives for thousands of years, but recently people have been turning away from it for some very good reasons. Some religions, I won't name the most egregious, have become very foul indeed.
The good that religion has done over the years includes providing hope, comfort, fellowship, and other psychological benefits to ordinary people. Those have been important. Among them is the explanation of mysteries.
People in general are uncomfortable in the presence of mysteries and they want explanations. If the explainer is someone they trust, they will take the explanation from that authority as fact and that calms them down. Whether the explanation is true or not does not alter the picture. There is a psychological benefit from being calmed in this way anyway.
The story of the explanation of mysteries by religious authorities down through the ages is extremely complex with many important side effects, all of which could be discussed at length in elaborate controversial and contentious conversations and even contests. We will skip most of that. Instead, we will focus on just one particular aspect of the religious explanations which seems to be common among almost all fairly recent religions, say, since Thomas Aquinas. That aspect is the notion of perfection and infinity.
In the West, the notion of perfection started at least with Plato. He introduced the idea of an Ideal, Platonic, world of perfect forms. He set that world of perfection in contrast to the corruptible, imperfect earthly world that we inhabit. The idea caught on. While his student, Aristotle, agreed with the distinction between the two worlds, he differed with his teacher in where to look for guidance in improving our lives. Plato's idea was to look to the perfect world of forms for guidance, while Aristotle said to look directly at the corruptible real world to try to figure out what to do.
Later, Christian theologians adapted Plato's views and taught the people that they are all corruptible and corrupted sinners, and that a perfect world exists beyond our world which awaits them after they die. This was an idea that made tolerating the suffering of this world a little easier to take. At least there was a way out at the end.
It is with the notion of perfection, along with its companions, infinity, immutability, eternality, omnipotence, omniscience, completeness, and totality, that I take issue. In my opinion, these notions have fouled the explanations that religion has provided to explain the mysteries of our universe that have not been explained by science.
On the flip side of the coin, science has recently seemed a little fishy. Science has proven to be successful in systematically explaining one mystery after another with plausible explanations which deliberately have nothing to do with any "higher" perfect Platonic world.
Science broke away from religious authority and followed Aristotle's lead in examining the tangible real world and coming up with purely physical explanations. They have done extremely well and the resulting technology has improved our lives much more than the psychological approach taken by religion. That fact no doubt explains the recent decline in religious belief.
But in spite of that success, there are still many mysteries which are not explained by science. The true believers in various religions explain those mysteries in the traditional way: that there is a God at the root of the mystery. And, of course, the scientists are quick to label such a God as the "God of the Gaps". The expectation is that once the mysteries are all explained by science, say, by some Theory of Everything, then the Gap will close and leave no more room for any God.
There is something fishy about that. It was explained by Thomas Kuhn. Every once in a while, science seems to have almost closed the gap, only to discover (during a Kuhnian Paradigm Shift) that some small, unexplained mystery blows up and causes a whole new world of mystery to open up and a whole new way of seeing and explaining the world to replace the old, smug, world view. Kuhn explained that this only takes place after the older scientists have died and the younger ones, who accept the new paradigm, take over.
Just such a paradigm shift occurred with the acceptance of Galileo's and Kepler's view of the position of the Earth in the universe. It happened again at the turn of the 20th century when the Newtonian world-view was replaced by the Einsteinian world-view. It seems to be happening again.
Not many years ago, there was a lot of talk about a Theory of Everything which was thought to be right around the corner. The Standard Model of particle physics seemed to explain every mystery we observed in our world.
Instead, we have discovered that our thought-to-be-nearly-complete theories only explain about 5% of what we now see in the universe. 95% of our universe seems to be embodied in Dark Matter and Dark Energy, about which we know virtually nothing. And that's still in the material universe thought to have developed with the Big Bang, never mind a Platonic or Heavenly, or even a Mental world outside of that.
In the meat of this book I will propose a set of ideas that will upset the applecarts of both science and religion. But don't be alarmed. The ideas will be mostly extensions, or enhancements, to the world of science, leaving most of their theories intact. And they will only discard some of the most damaging ideas from religion, leaving plenty of room in the Gaps for reasonable religious beliefs. Moreover, the ideas are not new with me but have all been around for a while. They should be easy to accept once they have been explained. And that's just what I'll try to do.
In spite of their relative familiarity, the ideas I will propose have been difficult for people to accept, both for scientists and religious believers. So I will tackle the problem methodically and systematically in the hopes that my readers will come away inclined to accept them and change their attitudes toward the world accordingly.
Here's what I am going to push:
First, nothing in nature is perfect or infinite. This mostly affects religious believers because it means that God, Himself/Herself is not perfect or omniscient, or anything of the almighty sort. Yet, God, or whatever you would like to call the imperfect, finite remainder, can still exist performing most of the same functions a religious believer would expect.
Second, reality consists of more than the 4-D space-time continuum of modern physics; there are extra dimensions of both space and time. This mostly affects the scientists. Even though this idea has been considered by science, at least since Kaluza proposed it to Einstein, it has nonetheless fallen into disfavor and is largely dismissed.
There are some scientists who have reluctantly accepted a bastardized version of extra dimensions proposed by Klein, and some have sort of accepted the preposterous notion of the Many Worlds of Hugh Everett which falls on the rocks of the nonsense of the notion of infinity. But in my humble opinion, most all scientists have overlooked the mathematical implications of manifolds which, also in my opinion, makes the idea of hyper-dimensional space and time sensible. And that idea is not new; it was nicely explained by Edwin Abbott who seems to have been systematically ignored by scientists. We'll try to fix that in the remainder of this book.
Getting you to understand and accept those two notions, the abolition of infinity and the hyper-dimensionality of space-time, will be the objective of our time together as you read this book. I sincerely hope you will come away with a better understanding of the possibilities for reality.
As I reflect on my decision, I still hold out the hope that these ideas will find their way to the authorities, both academic and religious, who engender the paradigm accepted by ordinary people. I think that the lot of mankind could be improved by such acceptance.
So if there is anyone who is interested in my opinions about how these ideas could be fleshed out, or if there are stumbling blocks to understanding that I might be able to clear away, I would be delighted to spend as much time as I have with you one-on-one. Dave has already signed up and I look forward to many more discussions with him. It may even turn out that to help convey my ideas, it will be expeditious to write an essay now and then. Another possibility is to make videos if the ideas can be explained best that way.
In any case, I will not stop pondering the mysteries of reality so I can't really predict what the contents of future musings might be. Time will tell. And, with this new attitude, I feel a great sense of new freedom, simply to pursue the offerings of life with the objective of experiencing pure pleasure rather than being pressured by the inevitable demands of writing and publishing a book. The prospect of spending more time with jigsaw puzzles, easels and paint, and just sitting in an Adirondack chair, is extremely inviting. I'll keep you posted as to how the rest of my life unfolds, at least for a while more. Thanks for reading this.
©2016 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.