Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mind Over Matter

Just some notes from a video by Paul VanderKlay (PVK): Mind, Matter, Math and Secularism as Amnesiac Christianity.  He analyzes a video of a discussion between William Lane Craig and Roger Penrose.  Penrose is the agnostic, with a view that mathematics can explain everything and is the basis of everything; Craig offers an interesting – and a bit frustrating for Penrose – counter.  The video closes with some worthwhile snippets from Rene Girard.

Penrose describes three realms: the physical; the mental; and the abstract – being the mathematical.  From these, there are three mysteries: all physics is explained by math; how can consciousness come when these physical circumstances arise; how do we use our conscious experience to understand math – as math is discovered, not invented.

Craig offers some thoughts: first, he commends Penrose, as he is different from many of the materialists – understanding that there are non-material realms also at work.  But this raises questions: what is underlying these three realms?  Which realm is the source?

It can’t be math – it is both abstract and discovered; it can’t be physics, as this doesn’t explain consciousness.  This leaves the mental: I can will to get up.  But no human mind can be the source of the physical or math – it suggests an infinite consciousness.

Penrose, trying to absorb the implications of his own worldview as logically examined by Craig, replies: “you have the mental world as necessary; I have the mathematical world as necessary.”  But Craig reminds: math is abstract – abstract can’t create anything; it has no causal powers: man uses the mental to then use math to build bridges, etc.  Math doesn’t build bridges.

It is here where Penrose stumbles – he might be able to work with this if Craig considers it in the realm of philosophy, but not if Craig is implying some sort of religion.  “It’s not that I am unhappy about it; I just don’t know what to do with it.”

PVK moves to an interview of Rene Girard – I will probably have more from this interview in the coming weeks, but one comment is worth touching on now: atheists use Christianity in order to then beat Christianity.  It is easy to point to medieval atrocities, etc.  But these are only atrocities to us today because we are viewing these through a Christian lens. 

As Girard offers: if someone went to the Roman two-thousand years ago with some complaint of justice or past atrocity (e.g. the taking of native lands, demands for reparations, etc.), the response would be “Who are you?  You are not a citizen.”  After which, a death sentence would be proclaimed.

It reminds me of Gerard Casey’s examination of the history of slavery.  We look at slavery today with revulsion – like how could our ancestors have been so cruel?  But this is looking at history backwards – slavery was an improvement to being slaughtered after defeat in battle. 

It is also applying a Christian lens to history (all men created in God’s image and all that this implies).  Absent the Christian lens, what is the argument?


We want math to be on the top of the pyramid, because then we are on top: math can’t control us.  We don’t want mind (religion) on top of the pyramid, because then we aren’t in control.  Of course, when math is on top and “we” are in control, just keep in mind: the “we” that is in control will never be “you.”  There will always be a stronger “we” that you will never get to be a part of.

Until a few hundred years ago, no one would have considered anything other than the mind (religion) in control – not believing in God (or the gods) would be like not believing in gravity.  Kind of silly once you start walking down the stairs.

The Enlightenment is an easy marker in this change, but obviously the switch was a transition and not an event.  The conversation happening today – and the root of the social-cultural divide so prominently on display in the West – is all driven by this transition and the empty hole it has left in meaning.

1 comment:

  1. Great summary! But I'll tell you what's missing; and I happen to know this because of my experience as an English teacher. People say that math is the most accurate way to describe a situation. That is to say, they are claiming that the English language is imprecise. But that's not true. In fact, you can easily embed codes into the English lexicon, which directly translate to mathematical formulas. For example, you can teach children that "Plusser" means the sum of all the members of a group. So you don't have to say "All of the elephants." You can just say "Plusser." And you can also teach kids "minuser" "divider" and "multer." Once the kids get used to using those words, you can add additional vocabulary, which represents higher functions. The kids will internalize the higher functions, because they are not an alien language, but part of regular English. So you could easily teach Calculus to ten year olds; they would love it, because it would be seen as a human story. And they would see all of the formulas as expressions of the human experience.

    But the State doesn't want that. The State wants to monopolize mathematics; so that it can create political objectives based on its own formulas. If regular people understood math, then the State would lose its monopoly. So it perpetuates the myth that people are stupid; and that the English language, with its culture and heritage, is not as good as numbers.