Monday, December 10, 2018

Science will never explain consciousness. Ever.

Science has explained everything else, surely it will explain consciousness right ?
Why ? Because of what the philosopher Ed Feser calls the “lump under the rug” fallacy :
"Suppose the wood floors of your house are filthy and that the dirt is pretty evenly spread throughout the house.  Suppose also that there is a rug in one of the hallways.  You thoroughly sweep out one of the bedrooms and form a nice little pile of dirt at the doorway.  It occurs to you that you could effectively “get rid” of this pile by sweeping it under the nearby rug in the hallway, so you do so.  The lump under the rug thereby formed is barely noticeable, so you are pleased.
You proceed to sweep the rest of the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen, etc., and in each case you sweep the resulting piles under the same rug.  When you’re done, however, the lump under the rug has become quite large and something of an eyesore.  Someone asks you how you are going to get rid of it.  “Easy!” you answer.  “The same way I got rid of the dirt everywhere else!  After all, the ‘sweep it under the rug’ method has worked everywhere else in the house.  How could this little rug in the hallway be the one place where it wouldn’t work?  What are the odds of that?”

Naturally, the same method will not work in this case, and it is precisely because it worked everywhere else that it cannot work in this case.  You can get rid of dirt outside the rug by sweeping it under the rug.  You cannot get of the dirt under the rug by sweeping it under the rug.  You will only make a fool of yourself if you try, especially if you confidently insist that the method must work here because it has worked so well elsewhere.

Now, the “Science has explained everything else, so how could the human mind be the one exception?” move is, of course, standard scientistic and materialist shtick.  But it is no less fallacious than our imagined “lump under the rug” argument.
Here’s why.  Keep in mind that Descartes, Newton, and the other founders of modern science essentially stipulated that nothing that would not fit their exclusively quantitative or “mathematicized” conception of matter would be allowed to count as part of a “scientific” explanation.  Now to common sense, the world is filled with irreducibly qualitative features — colors, sounds, odors, tastes, heat and cold — and with purposes and meanings.  None of this can be analyzed in quantitative terms.
To be sure, you can re-define color in terms of a surface’s reflection of light of certain wavelengths, sound in terms of compression waves, heat and cold in terms of molecular motion, etc.  But that doesn’t capture what common sense means by color, sound, heat, cold, etc. — the way red looks, the way an explosion sounds, the way heat feels, etc.  So, Descartes and Co. decided to treat these irreducibly qualitative features as projections of the mind.
The redness we see in a “Stop” sign, as common sense understands redness, does not actually exist in the sign itself but only as the quale of our conscious visual experience of the sign; the heat we attribute to the bathwater, as common sense understands heat, does not exist in the water itself but only in the “raw feel” that the high mean molecular kinetic energy of the water causes us to experience; meanings and purposes do not exist in external material objects but only in our minds, and we project these onto the world; and so forth.  Objectivelythere are only colorless, odorless, soundless, tasteless, meaningless particles in fields of force.

In short, the scientific method “explains everything else” in the world in something like the way the “sweep it under the rug” method gets rid of dirt — by taking the irreducibly qualitative and teleological features of the world, which don’t fit the quantitative methods of science, and sweeping them under the rug of the mind.  And just as the literal “sweep it under the rug” method generates under the rug a bigger and bigger pile of dirt which cannot in principle be gotten rid of using the “sweep it under the rug” method, so too does modern science’s method of treating irreducibly qualitative, semantic, and teleological features as mere projections of the mind generate in the mind a bigger and bigger “pile” of features which cannot be explained using the same method."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The five cosmic fractures and their healing

The Cosmos is fractured in five distinct ways.

We now live with the dualities of created and uncreated, intelligible and sensible, heaven and earth, paradise and universe, male and female.

Man, being microcosm and mediator of the spiritual and material, is called to heal these divisions within himself.

To unite heaven and earth by virtue, to unify the tangible and intelligible worlds by acquiring angelic gnosis, and to reunite by love the created and the uncreated.

We heal the Cosmos, Being itself, by letting God's grace overcome these divisions within our own being.

So says St Maximus at least....

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Why is the world falling apart ? A sacramental answer

WHAT IF something like religion is true? What if Plato and the Greeks were onto something, that there is an ideal world out there, perfect and incorruptible and that the more we imitate it, the more we morphically resonate with this realm the more we incarnate the source of all life ? 

If so, then the moment we cease performing religious rituals the less life resonates in our material Realm, we have nothing to stem the natural entropy of disintegration and death inherent in the universe, the very form of existence loses its borders, all becomes formlessness, all becomes normlessness, all becomes Kali bringer of death.

So, we now have a place unconsecrated, enchanted by machine-gods, in the center is no God but money, and it cannot hold.

Christians believe we co-create with God, we sanctify the Earth by ritually offering it to God where it is blessed with life giving grace before being returned to us, otherwise it can only be dead matter, death-giving.

As Rowan Williams explains, sacramentality entails the belief that “material things carry their fullest meaning … when they are the medium of gift, not instruments of control or objects for accumulation.”

We TOOK the apple and it gave us death, in the mythical Garden. When something is given it is ontologically changed as a vehicle for Grace, by giving it to God it is charged with life.

During the Eucharist we give God the most valuable gift of all, Himself. We offer God to God, God surrenders, becomes a weak human that lay in our arms that we can then give back to Him. The Eucharist is then blessed with God the source of all values and given back to us which we consume. 
In the same way when we offer our life to God it is given back to us in a blessed life giving form.

That less we bless the world the more death gains the upper hand, Plato noted that material has a natural entropy to it tending towards chaos, it is through religious ritual that we give it form to maintain its integrity, this is true of social formations as well.

By giving creation to God, it is given back to us enchanted, filled with value and meaning.
The modern Enlightenment View has the idea that everything is just a bunch of atoms and matter, but that's not our real experience, that's just an idea.

Steal a ring. It’s just a bunch of atoms. It’s value is exclusively monetary. But, if given a ring, someone intending it as a gift to us, all of a sudden it presents itself as having “sentimental values” as well.

Both are symbolic, gold is just a rock, but phenomenologically, appears as something flushed with meaning when received as gift.

This is how we make the world meaningful - we gift things, and receive them as gifts.

Now maybe, just maybe, when something is given, it’s ontological structure changes as well, after all, it presents itself not as a bunch of atoms to our rational intellect, but an entire world of meanings now present themselves to our intuition as well.

If what I wrote has any truth, then Life can only be received if it is received as gift, otherwise it will be experienced as a burden forced upon one - as a living death.

And I think it can only be received as gift if it is then given as gift - to God, others, the world.

The solution is a sacramental imagination, shaped in religious ritual, a radical religious re-imagination that transfigures the entire cosmos.

Are there good reasons to believe that Angels actually exist ?

J.P. Moreland, a Christian philosopher, defends angels and demons without hesitation or embarrassment. “I don’t believe they exist,” he tells me. “I know they exist—and there are two reasons. First, I’m convinced Christianity is true, so angels and demons being real is a system-dependent belief. Second, there are just too many credible, intelligent people who’ve had encounters with angels and demons to dismiss it. … I myself had an encounter with three angels.”

Well….do they ?

As the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke wrote: "That there should be ... intelligent creatures above us ... is probable to me from hence: that in all the visible corporeal world, we see no chasms or gaps."[82] 

Hence F.C. Copleston argues:

We can discern the ascending order or ranks of forms from the forms of inorganic substances, through vegetative forms, the irrational sensitive forms of animals; the rational soul of man, to the infinite ... God: but there is a gap in the hierarchy. The rational soul of man is created, finite and embodied, while God is uncreated, infinite and pure spirit; it is only reasonable, then, to suppose that between the human soul and God there are finite and created spiritual forms which are without body.[83]

There is a Scholastic maxim that “The perfection of the cause is reflected in the perfection of the effect.” 

“Perfection,” in scholastic terminology, refers to actuality, to the extent to which a thing manifests itself fully. One of the logical reasons for believing in separated intelligences is that because God is perfect (fully actual), His creation will manifest perfection as well, in the sense of a full actual range of creatures. He would not leave gaps in His Chain of Being. This is the logical Scholastic argument for the existence of separated intelligences: They complete the Great Chain of Being, and their non-existence would be inconsistent with God’s perfection. 

Before you dismiss this line of reasoning, keep in mind that it is used regularly in natural science. The most dramatic example is Paul Dirac’s prediction of the existence of anti-matter (positrons) based on solutions to equations in quantum mechanics. He saw that the equations worked for electrons with positive as well as negative charge, and he predicted their existence based on his inference to completeness of nature inherent to his equations. Shortly thereafter, positrons were empirically discovered. Such predictions based on the “perfection” of nature are routine in science. Black holes, the Big Bang, and gravity waves were all predicted (before there was empirical evidence of their existence) by extrapolating from equations and presuming the “perfection” — the full actuality — of nature. This is the same reasoning Scholastic philosophers used to infer the existence of separated intelligences.

Michael Egnor points out “Millions of materialists believe that our universe came from nothing for no reason, that essentially infinite numbers of universes are actualized continuously by quantum processes, that upwards of twenty or so invisible spatial dimensions are rolled up in infinitesimal vibrating strings that form the fabric of the cosmos, that cats can be simultaneously dead and alive, and that any moment now we will be saved or damned by benevolent or malicious space aliens (benevolent and malicious aliens are, of course, merely the angels and demons of materialism — except that, unlike separated intelligences, there’s no evidence for aliens whatsoever).

Even more bizarre is the belief by materialists that life itself — the genetic code, the intricate nanotechnology in cells, and the elegant physiology of complex organisms — evolved by natural selection, without any intelligent agency. I point out that there is immeasurably more evidence for separated intelligences than there is for the origin of species by random mutation and natural selection, which has never been videotaped, or seen, by anyone.

What is the evidence for these materialist fables — multiverses and aliens and live-dead cats? There is not a single witness, nothing but presuppositions and highly circumstantial evidence at best.

 These materialist fables are a lot crazier than witnesses’ reports of experiences with separated intelligences.”

Agnostic Robert Lawrence Kuhn muses: "As I see it, a starting fact is that, yes indeed, most human beings believe in angels and demons. Across diverse cultures, nonphysical beings, in great numbers and variety, fly freely in collective myth and individual imaginations. How to explain such robust, broad-based belief?"[54]

As psychiatrist Richard Gallagher observes:

anthropologists agree that nearly all cultures have believed in spirits, and the vast majority of societies (including our own) have recorded dramatic stories of spirit possession. Despite varying interpretations, multiple depictions of the same phenomena in astonishingly consistent ways offer cumulative evidence of their credibility.[55]

As Joshua Hoffman and Gary S. Rosenkrantz affirm:
if entities of a certain kind belong to folk ontology [the ontological presumptions of our common-sense worldview], then there is prima facie presumption in favour of their reality ... Those who deny their existence assume the burden of proof.[56]

Despite their religious differences, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Taoist, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Pagan and New Age believers all recognize the existence of finite supernatural agents. 

Professor Stafford Betty reports that:

In the West, several prominent psychologists have opened their minds to the possibility of 'demonic' oppression, gone public with their evidence, and participated in exorcisms.
we must allow the data to challenge our worldview

Moreover, Betty states: "there is mounting evidence today that evil spirits do oppress and occasionally even possess" people. 

William P. Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Centre, "regards as purely psychological many problems popularly attributed to demons today, but insists that there are real cases, including some that he has encountered, of actual spirits."[5] 

Anthropologist Alan R. Tippett writes that: "When one has eliminated the spurious and psychopathological cases one is still left with a considerable residue of material which appears to be genuine possession."[6] 

Anthropologist Raymond Firth acknowledges that, despite approaching the subject of spirit possession from a very different standpoint than Christian missionaries, social anthropologists from the Western world:

Have been faced in the field by dramatic changes of personality in men or women they were studying ... speaking with strange voices, assumption of a different identity, purporting to be a spirit not a human being, giving commands or foretelling the future in a new authoritative way. Sometimes it has been hard for the anthropologist to persuade himself that it is really the same person as before whom he is watching or confronting, so marked is the personality change.[7]

Contemporary experience of the angelic

Hope Price reports that "hundreds, possibly thousands, of men and women living today in Britain are quite certain they have seen angels."[99] 

In 1993 Time magazine reported that 13% of Americans claimed to have actually seen or otherwise sensed the presence of an angel.[100] Is it likely that all of these people are either lying or deluded? If not, then it is likely that angels exist. 

Having written her PhD thesis on angel experiences, agnostic Emma Heathcote-James reports that 

"people from all cultures, backgrounds and faiths report fundamentally the same types of experience [with angels]... agnostics and atheists have the same kinds of experiences as believers in orthodox religions."[106] 

Self-described atheists and agnostics comprised some 10% of the reported angelic experiences in Heathcote-James' study. 

She admits: "psychological and medical theories have not provided answers that could explain away every experience I have investigated."[107] 

As Peter Kreeft argues, there are only two groups of people who would disagree with the conclusion that some reported experiences of angels are true: "(1) the materialists, who claim to know that there are no spirits and thus believe no angel stories, and (2) people who even believe the National Enquirer and thus believe all angel stories."[108]

"I know three African priests who are immensely educated and sophisticated scholars (linguists, philosophers, and historians all) and who are also unshakably convinced that miracles, magic, and spiritual warfare are manifestly real aspects of daily life, of which they themselves have had direct and incontrovertible experience on a number of occasions.

All three are, of course, creatures of their cultures, but I am not disposed to believe that their cultures are somehow more primitive or unreasoning than ours. It is true they come from nations that enjoy nothing like our economic and technological advantages; but, since these advantages are as likely to distract us from reality as to grant us any special insight into it, that fact scarcely rises to the level of irrelevance.

Truth be told, there is no remotely plausible reason why the convictions and experiences of an African polyglot and philosopher, whose pastoral and social labors oblige him to be engaged immediately in the concrete realities of hundreds of lives, should command less rational assent from us than the small, unproven, doctrinaire certitudes of persons who spend their lives in supermarkets and before television screens and immured in the sterile, hallucinatory seclusion of their private studies."

-David Bentley Hart

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How are Angels Real ?

I do believe in angels, multi-dimensional beings, as has been recorded throughout history and testified to by billions, and often wonder at there make up, the possibilty of Plasma life forms, that Quantum Physicist David Bohm wondered at, fascinates me, especially since the physicist Rupert Sheldrake asked why the sun, a self-organising system with a body full of complex electromagnetic patterns, more complex than those in our brains, shouldn’t be conscious, and the association of angels with the stars made of the same material...

of Cuza University, Romania, described in their research paper Minimal Cell System created in Laboratory by Self-Organization how they created plasma spheres in the laboratory that can grow, replicate and communicate - fulfilling most of the traditional requirements for biological cells. 

V N Tsytovich and his colleagues of the Russian Academy of Science showed that particles in plasma can undergo self-organization published in the New Journal of Physics in August 2007 :

" the plasma particles will bead together to form string-like filaments which will then twist into helical strands resembling DNA that are electrically charged and are attracted to each other.

The helical structures undergo changes that are normally associated with biological molecules, such as DNA and proteins...They can, for instance, divide to form copies of the original structure; which then interact to induce changes in their neighbors that evolve into other new structures. 

"These complex, self-organized plasma structures exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter", says Tsytovich, "they are autonomous, they reproduce and they evolve".

David Griffins speculates,
"The bodies of the angels are always discarnate, in this like inanimate bodies such as quarks and electrons. Discarnate animate bodies, though fleshless and with capacities for apparently (and perhaps really) discontinuous motion in time and space, are nonetheless bodies precisely because they have spatio-temporal location—which in terms of contemporary physics, is just what it means to have mass.
Angelic bodies, according to this definition, have mass, but not, or not necessarily, matter. “Matter” is a word that has no generally agreed definition in contemporary physics, and no consistent pattern of use in ordinary English. 
“Mass,” by contrast, names, in the discourse of physics, a body’s resistance to acceleration by a force acting upon it (inertial mass), and its gravitational attraction to other bodies (gravitational mass). These may be properties of bodies without matter, which is to say of bodies consisting only of energy; I had this in mind when writing above of availability and responsiveness as proper to bodies, indeed definition of them—availability and responsiveness name, at the level of theoretical physics, these two specifications of the concept of mass; to speak of a body’s mass, then, is another way of speaking about its availability and responsiveness to other bodies, without necessarily attributing to them the weight and aggregated extension in space characteristic of animate fleshly bodies. 
Angelic bodies, I should think (in this like the bodies of the separated souls), are bodies whose mass is immaterial, where this means certainly discarnate, and with small gravitational and inertial mass—but not with no mass, because then they would be incapable of spatio-temporal location, which, so far as I can see, the entire Christian tradition, speculative and magisterial, takes them to be, exactly because they are creatures. (Decreation, p. 122)

I recall the philosopher Irish Murdoch making this observation :

“…Captain Cook’s ship (we are told) did not frighten the natives because they could not conceptualise it, that is see it. Possibly we are surrounded by extra-galactic visitors (or angels) to whom we are similarly blind.

But the limits of my language which are the limits of my world fade away on every side into areas of fighting for concepts, for understanding, for expression, for control…

Everyone, every moral being, that is every human being, is involved in this fight, it is not reserved for philosophers, artists and scientists…”

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Does Christianity make EXISTENTIAL sense ?

Many religions recognize man's greatness, but fail to see man's wretchedness, or vice versa, some even claim we have two souls, evil and good, such odd things we are, both animal and rational, some call us gods, some devils, but only Christianity sees man for what he really is; man is both wretched and great, a ruined exiled king - The Christian doctrines of creation and the fall alone seem adequately to explain the paradox - man's greatness could be explained in the fact that man was created in God's image. 

“What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, the glory and refuse of the universe!”

Commenting on Pascal’s above anthropological argument, Peter Kreeft writes, “Man is a living oxymoron: wretched greatness, great wretchedness, rational animal, mortal spirit, thinking reed.”

 “We are a puzzle to ourselves,” Thomas Morris notes. “One of the greatest mysteries is in us....How can one species produce both unspeakable wickedness and nearly inexplicable goodness? How can we be responsible both for the most disgusting squalor and for the most breathtaking beauty? How can grand aspirations and self-destructive impulses, kindness and cruelty, be interwoven in one life? The human enigma cries out for explanation.” 

The dilemma of man, that he is both great and wretched, is easy to document. The gap between animals and man is too great for evolution to adequately explain. No animal species will ever produce a Plato or Aristotle. Yet, the cruelty of man waged against man is unheard of in the animal kingdom. No animal species will ever produce a Hitler or Stalin.

Only Christianity with its doctrine of creation and the fall can adequately explain both aspects of man.

D. G. Preston comments on Pascal’s overall apologetic approach: 

"Pascal the empiricist starts with the data, notably the inexplicable phenomenon of mankind: unquestionably corrupt, subject to inconstancy, boredom, anxiety and selfishness, doing anything in the waking hours to divert the mind from human wretchedness, yet showing the vestiges of inherent greatness in the mind’s realization of this condition. Mankind is also finite, suspended between twin infinities revealed by telescope and microscope, and aware of an inner emptiness which the finite world fails to satisfy. No philosophy makes sense of this. No moral system makes us better or happier. One hypothesis alone, creation in the divine image followed by the fall, explains our predicament and, through a redeemer and mediator with God, offers to restore our rightful state."

Douglas Groothuis explains, “Pascal claims that merely human philosophies are unable to tell us who we are because they fall into two equal and opposite errors concerning humanity. They either exalt greatness at the expense of wretchedness or they exalt wretchedness at the expense of greatness.”

Kallistos Ware writer the following :

"We find a second “pointer” within ourselves. Why, distinct from my desire for pleasure and dislike of pain, do I have within myself a feeling of duty and moral obligation, a sense of right and wrong, a conscience? And this conscience does not simply tell me to obey standards taught to me by others; it is personal. Why, furthermore, placed as I am within time and space, do I find within myself what St Nicolas Cabasilas calls an “infinite thirst” or thirst for what is infinite? Who am I? What am I?

The answer to these questions is far from obvious. The boundaries of the human person are extremely wide; each of us knows very little about his true and deep self. Through our faculties of perception, outward and inward, through our memory and through the power of the unconscious, we range widely over space, we stretch backward and forward in time, and we reach out beyond space and time into eternity. 

“Within the heart are unfathomable depths”, affirm The Homilies of St Macarius. “It is but a small vessel: and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angels, there life and the Kingdom, there light and the Apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace: all things are there.”

In this manner we have, each within our own heart, a second “pointer.” What is the meaning of my conscience? What is the explanation for my sense of the infinite? Within myself there is something which continually makes me look beyond myself. Within myself I bear a source of wonder, a source of constant self-transcendence."

What is this mysterious creature man who feels these unexplainable needs ?

1 the need for cosmic security
2 the need for meaning
3 the need to feel loved
4 the need to love
5 the need for awe
6 the need to delight in goodness
7 the need to live beyond the grave without the anxieties that currently affect us
8 the need to be forgiven
9 the need for justice and fairness
10 the need to be present with our loved ones

Humans have certain “existential” needs. N. T. Wright lists four such needs: “the longing for justice, the quest for spirituality, the hunger for relationships, and the delight in beauty.”

 Clifford Williams lists thirteen: 

“We need cosmic security. We need to know that we will live beyond the grave in a state that is free from the defects of this life, a state that is full of goodness and justice. We need a more expansive life, one in which we love and are loved. We need meaning, and we need to know that we are forgiven for going astray. We also need to experience awe, to delight in goodness and to be present with those we love.”
Faith in God satisfies these needs.
Therefore, faith in God is justified.

Williams states that this argument is not the same as an evidential argument: 

"A person who is convinced of an existential argument says, 'I believe because I am satisfied when I do.' A person who is convinced of an evidential argument says, 'I believe because there is a good reason to do so.'"

He also states that the argument is different from C. S. Lewis’s argument from desire, which argues that there is an explanation of the source of the existential needs: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Christianity also makes sense of the following profound human experiences :

1) "Experience of cosmic wonder"
2) "Experience of purposive order"
3) "Sense of being morally accountable"
4) "Sense of human dignity and worth"
5) "The Longing for transcendent joy"

Finally, the very life of Christ is the archetype of the human experience - betrayed by friends and religious elders, abandoned at his very lowest, constantly misunderstood, alienated, homeless, seeking only to love and nailed to a bloody cross without mercy as a reward....isn't this how life is ?