RE: MD "Is there anything out there?"

From: Platt Holden (
Date: Tue Jan 04 2005 - 15:47:39 GMT

  • Next message: Paul Turner: "RE: MD Pirsig 1993 Lecture"

    Hi Paul, MSH,

    > Paul:
    > The mathematical formulae that have been selected for explanation of
    > inorganic phenomena are selected and developed for that very purpose
    > aren't they? Don't physicists keep trying until they can predict the
    > results of an experiment with more and more precision i.e., with higher
    > quality? As I understand it, there are always many competing formulae and
    > theories for any given set of data. The best ones are kept. Is it really a
    > mystery?

    It's no mystery that mathematical formulas are able explain and predict
    inorganic phenomena. Obviously they do. The question is: Why the
    connection, other than "It works."

    > I'll be honest though, I haven't given this that much thought and I
    > would really need to read up on the history of science again to give you a
    > better answer. As things stand, I dislike any explanation that requires a
    > cosmic version of human intelligence because it must follow that e.g. rocks
    > and plants sit around thinking to some degree. I see no evidence of this.
    > However, saying that particles are a set of preferences is also
    > questionable although as Pirsig says in LILA:
    > "In classical science it was supposed that the world always works in
    > terms of absolute certainty and that "cause" is the more appropriate
    > word to describe it. But in modern quantum physics all that is changed.
    > Particles "prefer" to do what they do. An individual particle is not
    > absolutely committed to one predictable behavior. What appears to be an
    > absolute cause is just a very consistent pattern of preferences. Therefore
    > when you strike "cause" from the language arid substitute "value" you are
    > not only replacing an empirically meaningless term with a meaningful one;
    > you are using a term that is more appropriate to actual observation." [LILA
    > p.130]

    Well, atoms and plants may not sit around thinking, but Pirsig posits that
    they are "aware," not in the sense of being aware like we are, but in the
    sense that they respond to their environment. This can be described as
    "intelligence" of sorts, though not at the sophisticated level we like to
    think ourselves capable of.

    Seems to me Pirsig would not find objectionable the following quote from
    Donald Hoffman, cognitive scientist at the University of California and
    author of "Visual Intelligence:"

    "I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists. Space-
    time, matter and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the
    universe, but have always been, from the beginning, among the humbler
    contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being. The world
    of our daily experience -- the world of tables, chairs, stars and people,
    with their attendant shapes, smells, feels and sounds -- is a species-
    specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose
    essential character is conscious. . . . If this be right, if
    consciousness is fundamental, then we should not be surprised that,
    despite centuries of effort by the most brilliant minds, there is as yet
    no physical theory of consciousness, no theory that explains how mindless
    matter and energy or fields could be, or cause, conscious experience."

    If atoms "prefer" it's not much of stretch to say they are "aware" which
    isn't far removed from what we consider "conscious," although of a most
    primitive sort. That's why I think Pirsig wouldn't strenuously object to
    Hoffman's view.

    But, I digress. The question still on the table is why the happy
    explanatory relationship between intellectual level math and inorganic
    level phenomena. MSH has tackled the issue with aplomb, which I take as
    assurance that the question is not completely bogus.


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