North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

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During this quiet time there has been no blog that I have enjoyed more than Gagdad Bob’s One Cosmos. He has simply been on fire for the past month. Here is my collection of hits from his post today (with the addition of a cartoon link from the comments thread):

Science, of course, proceeds on the basis that the cosmos is ultimately a closed system. While there may be local entities that temporarily escape that fact and become open systems–such as biological organisms–in the end, it is all nothing more than a brief and futile reprieve from the iron hand of entropy. From death you arose and to death you shall return.

It’s funny how science starts out with such admirably modest aims and methods, but soon makes such grandiose pronouncements. I yield to no one in my respect for science as science, but at the same time, when philosophically unschooled scientists start leaping to unwarranted metaphysical pronouncements, we should all be concerned. Through a sleight of language, science doesn’t just replace religion, but becomes a religion. And a bad one at that.

Likewise, from the standpoint of science, Life Itself–the vertical doorway out of the material cosmos–can really be nothing more than a very rare pattern of matter. Similarly, consciousness–the vertical pathway out the lifedoor–can only be an ephemeral and meaningless side effect of cellular activity.

If this is true, then scientists–not to mention scientific “truth”–is a merely a meaningless side effect of matter. The scientist wants to give you the truth, as if he is speaking from a privileged vantage point of verticality, above the material fray. But how can he be? If he wishes to be consistent, he must concede in all modesty that matter can’t really know anything, much less the truth about itself. Let’s not kid our nonselves: this is your brain on science.

Among other things, religions are vertical escape hatches from the grinding ineluctability of mere animal existence. For example, Moses’ horizontal dash out of Egypt was in fact a vertical one, leading the Israelites from servitude in the horizontal wasteland of Egypt into the possibility of a higher life in the unknown vertical desert.

Science deals only with repetition. Without the vertical element, time, no matter how long, can produce nothing truly novel. It can just combine and recombine in a linear or cyclical way. But it certainly cannot account for the startling ontological discontinuities represented by the leap from matter to life or from life to mind. It can rearrange the furniture, but cannot explain how we go from one ontological floor to the next.

The only way you can really believe this horizontal nonsense is if your own life has become utterly linear, circular, and closed off to the vertical. Then it is a philosophy that makes a great deal of sense. Plus it is an excellent metaphysical defense mechanism, because you have an airtight explanation for your own vertical Failure to Launch. If it’s impossible, why bother? Indeed Horizontal Man is superior to Vertical Man, because at least he does not live in the comfort of fanciful delusions about nonexistent vertical realms!

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Written by Curt

April 8, 2006 at 11:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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