Friday, June 26, 2009

"God is Not Dead":
is this proved in Amit Goswami's book?

This again an ambitious book, trying to use quantum mechanics to prove that God is not dead. Does he succeed? Yes: if you accept his very limited definition of God. But No: if you acknowledge rather that God is transcendent & immmanent Person.

Goswami starts with quantum mechanics, but soon stretches it beyond recognition. He does take quantum non-locality seriously, but he wants 'quantum correlations' to enable communications between all sorts of things between which we have trouble seeing the connections. In this way, he postulates connections between our four bodies that are physical, vital, mental, and the supramental soul. (Having of course postulated that all four exist!). These 'quantum correlations' are instances of 'downward causation', and give rise to 'wave function collapses'.

There are many difficulties with his views, both from the physical and theistic points of view.

From physics, he realises (p217) that Eberhard's theorem says that no information transfer can occur by means of quantum correlations. This would appear to cripple his whole scheme, but he states that "I have repeatedly pointed out that for information transfers between brains and minds, in which consciousness collapses the synchronistic events that constitute the transfer of information, Eberhard's theorem does not apply". The apparent reason for it not applying is that Eberhard refers to physics correlations, whereas Goswami is referring to 'correlations through consciousness', and 'For such correlation, there is no reason why Eberhard's theorem should apply, and therefore, message transfer may be possible.' This is hardly a positive statement of what can actually happen!

From a theistic viewpoint, he makes some very strange claims. Some of these stem from his attempting to make a non-dualist theory (p46), but, despite his claims, his theory is never really monistic at all. That is because he has 4 kinds of bodies not reducible to each other, or to God.

Some of his strange claims are:
  1. 'God is the agent of downward causation'. One reading of this is true in theism, but Goswami turns it around. According to him, every instance of downward causation is God(!). So any experiment which demonstrates non-local correlations is therefore a proof of God. That is not God was we know him! We certainly do not believe his claim to have thereby 'rediscovered God within science'!
  2. He has a 'body of mental archetypes' (the soul), alongside the other 3 physical, vital and mental bodies. To avoid the 'dreaded dualism' like the plague, he refuses to order these four bodies in any sense of being more spiritual or more material. It is never clear why 'archetypes' in one of our bodies have control over all the others. Similarly, there is no sense of the mind eg 'encompassing' the physical body, so it is not clear whether his final monism is idealistic or materialistic.
  3. He does not want the 'superhuman' God of popular Christianity. Instead, he equates God with Brahman, with quantum vacuum, with 'quantum consciousness', and with the 'akashic field'. These last 3 are not transcendent in the religious sense.
  4. His idea of God is of consciousness but not of love; of an agent but not a will; not a person; and not someone to love or worship. Later though (pp233ff) he does talk about 'Love of God', but does not explain it, and in the end has no real sense of spirituality of love.
  5. He postulates consciousness only when we are deciding. So when we are processing information without deciding, we are not consciousness. This would imply erroneously that intellectual thought is not conscious!
  6. So God is not conscious (p109)! Nevertheless, God works by making plans 'in potentia'. God must do this unconsciously!
  7. The aim of evolution is 'play, purposive play, play of expression, the expression of all that is possible to express' (p129). There is no sense here of choosing (or even advocating) what is good to express, rather than the opposite.
  8. He says (p142) that 'dualism is untenable because of experimental data that establish the law of conservation of energy', and then goes on to talk about theories of 'vital energy' (pp149-152). In reply, we note that if vital energy exists, then physical energy cannot be all there is, so it is unlikely to be conserved by itself. And then we note that there have been no experiments to test conservation of energy within living/thinking systems, which is just where we need to know if it is true or not.
  9. He thinks that all altruism is just helping ourselves, because, by virtue of non-locality, we are all one within a monism. That is, he says we are all just selfish even when we help others! See my earlier post about monism/non-dualism.
  10. I pass over his comments on Jesus.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prospects for a Theistic Science:
Part II of a rebuttal of Robert Pennock

(Continuation of Part I, against Pennock's paper Supernaturalist Explanations and the Prospects for a Theistic Science)

Pennock claims that The appeal to supernatural forces, whether divine or occult, is always available because we can cite no necessary constraints upon the powers of supernatural agents.

This appeal is only available to those who claim that non-natural agents act only arbitrarily and capriciously. But Divine, spiritual and/or mental agents only appear as arbitrary and capricious to those who fail to understand their principles and logic. In themselves, for example us as human minds, there are regular principles which regulate our action. Of course, such agents can change their minds without telling others, but theistic science begins with the principles that God is a good Love, so the underlying Divine and spiritual agents only change their minds when there are good reasons to do so. Only if we do not understand the meaning of 'good love' and 'good reasons' will those actions appear to be arbitrary and capricious.

These 'constraints upon the powers of supernatural agents' are not necessary, in the sense of being logically necessary. But they are necessary in another sense, namely given the nature of the Divine God which, by theism, creates, sustains and (where possible) dwells in all of creation. Only someone who has denied the possibility of theistic science already would claim that nothing non-natural can follow such regulating principles.

Finally, Pennock says, if we were to allow science to appeal to supernatural powers even though they could not be tested, then the scientist's task would become just too easy. One would always be able to call upon the gods for quick theoretical assistance in any circumstance.

The method in theistic science will not be to 'appeal' to supernatural powers to explain problems in the theory, but to only allow those influences of non-natural agents that follow from the structure and powers of those agents. It is up to the proposer to show that the alleged influences do follow, and never to merely assert without evidence.

I admit that gathering evidence concerning non-natural agents, apart from those that are our own minds, is not an easy task. This is partly because, without having yet a clearly formulated theory of minds and souls, it is very difficult to collect evidence for what particular minds and souls might be doing on any particular situation. It is general feature of science that very often the evidence and the theories are linked, so that one only makes sense once we have some idea of the other.

Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview. Supernatural explanations undermine the discipline that allows science to make progress. It is not that supernatural agents and powers could not explain in principle, it is rather that they can explain all too easily.

Non-natural agents explain 'all too easily' only when we have no good theory about what those agents actually are, what they do, and what are the principles that guide their operations. The worrisome claim here of 'absolute chaos' betrays more an irrational fear of the unknown, and of losing one's sense of importance in existing professional expertise. It should be clear that existing sciences will not be immediately rendered redundant by the existence of theistic and mental sciences, though it will be revised in many places.

Pennock does consider the possibility of Super Natural Explanations, which is To say that science doesn't deal with "the supernatural" does not mean that everything that we currently think of as supernatural--ghosts and extra-sensory perception, for example--really is. Perhaps these are actually natural law-governed phenomena that are yet to be discovered. ... In Star Trek, for example, we may have that departed "souls" turn out to be "coherent energy patterns."

Here, Pennock is repeating the error we saw previously: of equating "natural" with "law-governed". He refuses to entertain the possibility of anything "non-natural" being law-governed: exactly the possibility which is the foundation of theistic science. He claims that If there are other sorts of "laws" that govern that world, then they can be nothing like those that we understand, but this is to excessively underestimate human powers of comprehension. If we do have non-natural minds and souls (as theistic science contends), then even from an evolutionary point of view we would survive better if we had the capacity to understand what these are! Maybe we only find the necessary comprehension after being instructed by God, and if we have been told many times, we have few excuses for not understanding.

He recognises that By discussing the confirmation of "ghosts" in this way (as "coherent energy patterns") we have tacitly taken them out of the supernatural realm and placed them squarely in the natural world. To conceive of ghosts as supernatural entities is to consider them to be outside of the natural realm, outside the law-governed world of cause and effect physics. But to say that science could test and confirm their existence, as in our hypothetical case, is to reconceive them as natural entities. Perhaps there really are "coherent energy patterns" as postulated in the story, but such "ghosts" are no longer supernatural--they have been naturalized. Surely the Christian will quite properly object that, whatever these things are, they are surely not departed souls in the religious sense of the term.

Here, Pennock admits that treating "ghosts" as "coherent energy patterns" means that they are not mental and/or spiritual, for he knows that is what the religious are talking about.

But consider the possibility that souls or minds are discovered, and are found that they do have an influence on the world, and that they are constituted from forms of love, and have the ability to produce perceptions and thoughts in law-like manners (as theistic science will postulate). What would he imagine happen in a Star Trek episode if this were to occur? What would Kirk and Spock think if such souls proved immune to any damage from physical weapons? Would they necessarily think 'energy, but not as we know it?', or would they admit to something non-physical? Would Pennock necessarily insist that even these minds, being law-like, automatically become 'reconceived as natural entities'? They would be nothing like the natural entities known to physics: not 'physical' in any normal sense of the term!

The conflict that arises here is the classic dilemma in defining physicalism / naturalism. Does it assert that nature consists of everything that science knows now, or of everything that science will postulate in the future? If the former, then it is almost certainly wrong, since science will evolve and will postulate new things. If the later, then the claim of physicalism now is without content, since we do not know where science will proceed in the future! For more discussion of this last dilemma, see for example Dan Synnestvedt's article on naturalism.

Prospects for a Theistic Science:
A rebuttal of Robert Pennock. Part I.

Robert Pennock has written a paper Supernaturalist Explanations and the Prospects for a Theistic Science or "How do you know it was the lettuce?" that attempts to show "why supernatural explanations should never enter into scientific theorizing".

Some other preliminary comments on his paper point out that all practical action in the physical world must assume some metaphysical principles, for example about constancy of laws. Those principles can only be based in supernatural principles, since they are about the natural as a whole. But let us look more specifically at Pennock's arguments against the possibility of a theistic science that contains principles about what is not natural.

To focus our thoughts, let us consider three kinds of putative non-natural things: (1) Minds as mental not merely physical, (2) Souls as spiritual not merely mental or physical, and (3) the Divine as not merely spiritual or mental or physical. We will see to what extent his arguments block a theistic science that studies the existence, structure and dynamics of these three things. Is he successful in one, some or all of these? We may agree that all three are denied by current scientific naturalism, at least as that appears in science journals.

In his section Supernatural explanations, Pennock puts forward some arguments why 'supernatural explanations' should have no place in science.

The first is that supernatural agents and powers, of course, is that they are above and beyond the natural world and its agents and powers. Indeed, this is the very definition of the term. They are not constrained by natural laws. ... If supernatural agents are constrained at all it may only be by logic.

Pennnock is arguing here that non-natural things {our (1, 2, 3) above}, are not constrained by natural laws. Yes, that is true, because they are not physical. But Pennock then suggests there are no other laws short of logic! Does he not know of any sciences of mind? If minds are not physical, is he saying that there can be no laws of mind? Are all the works and investigations of psychologists about mentality, cognitive processing, social psychology, etc seeking laws which cannot exist??

And for him to not recognise any laws about spirituality is to betray a complete ignorance of what religions have been trying to tell us for thousands of years. We must admit that there are certainly laws of mind, and very probably laws of spirituality. If we do not know what these are, we (as scientists) should investigate! And not give up at the beginning by saying it is impossible.

Pennock's second argument is that a characteristic of the supernatural, that we have mentioned before and that follows rather directly from the first, is that it is inherently mysterious to us. As natural beings our knowledge all comes via natural laws and processes. If we could apply natural knowledge to understand supernatural powers, then, by definition, they would not be supernatural. The lawful regularities of our experience do not apply to the supernatural world. If there are other sorts of "laws" that govern that world, then they can be nothing like those that we understand. Occult entities and powers are profoundly mysterious to us.

In reply, we admit that our knowledge comes 'via natural processes'. We learn about the minds of others by watching them and listening to what they say. Bodily movements and sounds are indeed natural processes. But that does not mean that those natural processes cannot be effects of mental and/or spiritual causes. The whole business of science is to seek a causes, and not be merely satisfied with descriptions of effects. Most of us know (or at least acknowledge) that our spiritual and mental life affects our behaviour. Science, therefore, should investigate these things as causes of our behaviour! And when we include the Divine as a cause of spiritual and mental things, we are talking about theistic science. That brings us to Pennock's next argument:

The same point holds about divine beings--we cannot know what it is that they would or would not do in any given case. God works, they say, in mysterious ways. We cannot have any privy knowledge of God's will and those who have tried to claim it are quickly brought back to earth

This claim again shows much ignorance about religious and spiritual matters. If we review the history of the past few thousand years, we find indeed that God's interactions with the universe are not 'mysterious', but are in fact rather predictable. Indeed, we find that God has (many times!) tried to give us the means to make these predictions: we see in many places some introductions to the principles which guide God's actions. Every warning about consequences of some specific behaviour is in fact just the explication of one of these principles. And it is very relevant the more we try to live according to spiritual and religious guidelines, the less arbitrary and mysterious they appear. Rather they appear more law-like, rational and wise, and similarly for the principles which lead to these guidelines.

Theistic science, therefore, should be concerned with the collection and elucidation of these principles, and how they have consequences of spiritual, mental and physical processes. Yes: physical processes too! If we want to know the causes of physical things, we have to include Divine influences as well. Pennock may reply that many different principles have been proposed over the centuries, and they cannot all be correct. Just so, but let us collect some of the core principles of theism, and see what their structure is and what their consequences are. I have begun this process with my manifesto of theistic principles. We can indeed find laws about things which are not natural (in the sense of 'not physical').

A final relevant element of the notion of the supernatural, closely linked to the previous ideas, (according to Pennock) is that supernatural beings and powers are not controllable by humans. Though our secret desire may be to gain esoteric power through contact with the supernatural, we seem to understand at a deep level that such control would be impossible. ... We need to recognize that this wishful belief in the possibility of human control of divine and occult powers actually contradicts the idea of the supernatural in a profound manner, for by definition the supernatural is beyond the reach of we mere creatures of the natural world. If the supernatural could be controlled by the natural then it would cease to be super.

This claim betrays an ignorance even of contemporary science. That science does not insist on being able to control everything that it studies! Just think of cosmology, and the study of neighbouring galaxies, neutron stars, or black holes. Scientists are unable to control these things, but can still study them! Pennock may reply that the limits here are 'practical' rather then 'theoretical'. But science can never control the Big Bang, because of even stronger principles, namely the fixity of history, and its unrepeatability. By comparison, controlling such non-natural things as our minds and souls is a piece of cake: we do it (with varying success!) every hour of every day of our lives. To decide that one of these actual acts of controlling is impossible, but controlling neutron stars as 'in principle possible', is to betray an extreme prejudice against mental and spiritual realities, in favour of exclusively physical realities.

So Pennock claims that These characteristics of the supernatural show why supernatural explanations should never enter into scientific theorizing. Science operates by empirical principles of observational testing; hypotheses must be confirmed or disconfirmed by reference to inter-subjectively accessible empirical data.

Science does indeed use 'inter-subjectively accessible empirical data'. Science, however, also uses rational thinking about causes that cannot be directly observed. We cannot directly observe individual quarks (in principle), but that does not stop us rationally inferring their existence from their (many) effects in (many) experiments. In exactly the same way, theistic science can rationally infer the existence of (many) mental and spiritual processes from their (many) effects in the world. At it can rationally postulate the Divine according to the principles that God has been trying to tell us for centuries, and examine the logical consequences of those principles for everything we see in the world.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Does Plotinus tell us about theistic science?
A review of Nature Loves to Hide by Shimon Malin

This is an ambitious book, that starts from quantum physics, incorporates Whitehead's process philosophy, and then suggests that some theistic ideas from Plotinus are relevant to an overall understanding of nature, mind and God. This is certainly a worthy aim, and if achieved would have important consequences for theistic science, but, while the details are initially extensive, the later chapters are more suggestive sketches.

Shimon Malin is a physicist who has been thinking long about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, and has excellent explanations of the problems in the way of achieving a ‘sensible’ interpretation. He starts by explaining the influence of Ernst Mach’s positivism on Einstein's formulation of relativity. Mach also influenced Heisenberg's construction of quantum mechanics in 1924, but by then Einstein’s position had changed. "Possibly I did use this kind of reasoning," Einstein told Heisenberg, "but it is nonsense all the same ... on principle it is quite wrong to try founding a theory on observable magnitudes alone. In reality the very opposite happens. It is the theory which decides what we can observe."
In this book Malin follows Heisenberg’s ‘potentiality’ view, to see quantum objects as ‘fields of potentiality’. This goes some way to describing how physicists think in practice, and gives, I agree, the best realistic account of the quantum world. Malin, however, still want to marry this view with Bohr's account of quantum states as ‘what we can know’ rather than ‘what is’. He reconciles this by claiming that the ‘quantum state of a quantum system is understood as representing the epistemic available or potential knowledge about the system’, and holds that this is necessary in view of the apparent faster-than-light correlations in non-local quantum systems. The long-standing measurement problem is solved by using some ideas worked out after talking to Dirac (a difficult process, as he amusingly explains), whereby ‘nature makes a choice’ when there is no longer any possibility of interference.
All these ideas are then linked to Whitehead’s process philosophy, where reality does not consist of continuous substances, but intermittent throbs of experiences that give actual occasions of selection events. The experiences themselves, he surmises, are the ‘acts of looking’ (as in Bohr’s interpretation of quantum physics) that ‘create their subject just as they create themselves’.

Malin furthermore tries to link his potentiality fields to Whitehead, but here, I believe, he is on shakier ground. He claims that ‘the transition from potentiality to actuality is a central element in Whitehead’, but in fact there is no ‘potentiality’ in Whitehead's mature philosophy (1927), only some suggestions, not adopted, in earlier work. Whitehead does not have any sense of ‘efficacious potentiality’ in his Process and Reality, only a ‘potency’ that is more like an abstract ‘possibility’. Malin’s view of potentialities, as partly epistemic, also plays down their causal role compared with Heisenberg or Popper, and furthermore leads to the curious position that potentialities are ‘eternal’ and ‘unchanging’. There is a persistent confusion in the book between the real potentialities in the physical (and biological and mental) worlds, and the abstract eternal objects which are the possible forms of such realities. The former have causal powers to actually do something, the latter do not. This difference is deliberately blurred in Malin’s book, because he tends to believe the mathematical physicists such as Schrödinger when they want to say that nature is really ‘form’ rather than ‘substance’: nothing but ‘pure shape’.

The next and most adventurous step in this book is to link all the above ideas with the ‘many levels of being’ ideas of Plotinus that stem from Plotinus' view of creation as an 'overflowing from God'. Malin is particularly struck by Plotinus’ view that each level of being is produced by the one above it through ‘contemplation, which is not different from mere presence’. No effort is required, apparently: merely looking is sufficient to create multiple levels, eventually leading to the physical world. The similarity of this view to the production of actual events in quantum mechanics by (mere) ‘acts of looking’ convinces Malin that there is a deeper connection between Plotinus and quantum physics, and we might think of a foundation for theistic science.

Again, I believe, both Malin and Plotinus suffer through only considering contemplation, as sight in the understanding, rather than whatever power, love or energy there may be in the will. Malin mentions the possibility of love being efficacious, but only as a throw-away remark in reference to Empedocles. The absence of this second aspect has produced a world view in which everything is thought / form / looking / awareness, and nothing is efficacious / substantial / love / energy. Any scientific theism must tell us about love, and about substance, but Malin's view does neither.

We might hope that Malin goes on to discover the ideas of thinkers after Plotinus, such as Swedenborg, who has certainly advanced from Plotinus’ position. Swedenborg's views do explain how love and being (substance) are related to power and energy, and thus develops a view of humanity that allows us hearts as well as heads, and hence life as well as looking.

Now doubt we will be discussing this further!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Natural Laws, Divine Immanance and Isaac Newton

We will be discussing a this topic a great deal within theistic science, so let us get started.

Isaac Newton is widely credited with developing the idea of natural law, according to which the universe proceeds in a uniform manner without the need for divine intervention.

First, we should note that this view is a myth as far as Newton himself is concerned. The website, by Stephen Snobelen, reveals a very religious side of Newton. This side was kept from the public even in his lifetime, so strong had the public myth become even then!

But whatever Newton thought, it is a great mistake in theism to use the phrase "without the need of divine intervention"! God did not create the universe to leave it alone, because in theism that would completely defeat the purpose of creation! Creation was made, according to theism, so God could come and dwell in us, and we in him. That is at least clear from the Christian book of John.

More specifically, if God is Life Itself, then we cannot live disconnected from God. All our love and wisdom, all our affections and thoughts, and all our actions and perceptions derive from God. If we are human, it is because He is the original Human. If we live at all, it is because He Lives. (We may be disconnected in parts of our being if we wish to disagree with God, but we can never be wholly disconnected.)

In that case, it is nonsense to even imagine that the universe could proceed by itself without contact with the Divine. Of course, we have to understand how this contact occurs, but as for where and when, it must be practically everywhere, and all the time.

This view is a simple consequence of theism, and of God's immanence in theism: that whereby God continuously sustains the universe. This is not merely by some philosophical and metaphysical principle, but, if indwelling is to be achieved, by something immediate and intimate. It is to be contrasted with deism, whereby God creates the universe as a clock, and then sets it to run on its own. Newton was not a deist, but the belief that the world, "though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages" did allow for others to increase those ages, and work against theism.

It is very important not to forget this truth of theism. It implies that there is really no such thing as 'natural law'. Rather, we have laws about the way that God dwells within the universe, and from those laws we can derive something like natural law, and that 'something law-like' will tell us now the world usually behaves when God is dwelling in it in his usual way. It are these 'usual laws' which physics has discovered up to now, but the real laws are much deeper.

Another formulation, which I describe here, says that Theism describes how the natural world reacts in the presence of God, but that this is always. It also describes how these reactions are modified when the Divine dwelling is moderated by intervening spiritual and mental choices. These, we will find out, are the souls and minds of people. And so we find out how our minds can act in our bodies, also partially depend on our bodies.

What theisic science will have to tell us, therefore, are the principles whereby Divine Immanence gets translated into the apparently-constant behaviour in the universe. That behaviour makes us think of natural laws, and think that these are constant. It makes us think that physical objects had a fixed life of their own that cannot be altered. This last statement cannot be right, if God is life itself. I start to explain this in my 1993 article "The Consistency Of Physical Law With Divine Immanence". Who said that physics was simple?

Friday, June 19, 2009

"The God Theory" by Bernard Haisch. Does this theory work?

The book "The God Theory" from a scientist appears to be a promising introduction to a new science where God has a role. Haisch has written about the Freeing the Scientific Imagination from Fundamentalist Scientism, and he also manages a thoughtful website about phenomena beyond current science. It is clear that he is trying to formulate some new ways of thinking about science, and also, though less clearly, about theology and spirituality. I am glad to see he avoids some of the reductive pitfalls that others suffer from who consider some of these topics.

Any science with a role for God, however, ought to say how God exercises that role. And if God is active, and not meant to be a passive bystander to the universe, a science should say how it is possible for God to have an influence on the universe. For, without such an influence, it makes no difference to us what God thinks of us and our actions. Note that even communicating with us is an influence of some kind. Analogous to this question, is the second issue whether our minds have some influence on atoms on the world without themselves being made of atoms. It seems as if we do, and every day (every time we act) we collect enormous quantities of empirical evidence in favour of that hypothesis.

What does Haisch have to say about the influence of God and/or our minds on the physical universe? More specifically for science, we can ask whether his God Theory has empirical consequences? He replies that there might be a basis for understanding certain paranormal phenomena.

But is this true? For it seems to contradict what he says in his book. On pages 42 and 67, for example, he says that consciousness is not able to shape matter now, but only at the beginning of the universe. He therefore implies that the universe then evolves according to fixed physical laws, and so he has a kind of Liebnizian preestablished correspondence. Thus it only appears that eg our minds now have causal influences, even though (in strict reality) they do not.

This seems to me to be a rather weak way for consciousness to have an effect, requiring as it does some kind of predestination. Furthermore, this view is difficult to sustain when he also believes that there is inherent novelty & indeterminism in the evolution of the universe (p43). If we are able to be 'tuning our personal consciousness to a universal consciousness not limited by space and time', then presumably the words we speak physically are influenced now by this perception now. This is indeed a 'novelty' in evolution, so how can he insist that the universal consciousness can only have effects by arranging in advance the laws of physics? Is that what happens in paranormal experiments?

There is thus a problem here!

This is the problem of the closure of the physical universe, which all physicists believe theoretically, but disbelieve in practice every time they decide to move their arms. We see that, despite advocating a "God Theory", Haisch is unwilling to deny the closure. This is in order to stay within physics, and not upsetting other physicists too much. He wants to explain only that closure appears to be false.

I'm a physicist, and I do not believe in the closure of the physical universe. There is a challenge: to understand how this is systematically possible! To understand how it could be that most physical processes are described by natural laws, but not all. What decides even that? Why are parapsychological events rare when we look most for them?

This lack of closure is the way I think we will have to go. For more ideas on this subject see my collection of online articles. And in denying closure, we must not be afraid: either of other physicists being alarmed, or of the intelligent designers being ecstatic. I don't think either group has anywhere near the whole story: we have therefore to understand and describe the truth as best we can.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Theism and Nondualism: on not loving onself

We know from theism that the Divine is the source of all being (indeed Being itself), is also that from which every thing else proceeds. However, this does not imply that He is All There Is, just then he continually sustains the being of all creatures derived from him. This is necessary for the Lord loving us, since he cannot love himself:

"It is the essential of love not to love self, but to love others, and to be conjoined with others by love. " and "Love consists in this, that its own should be another's; to feel the joy of another as joy in oneself, that is loving.But to feel one's own joy in another and not the other's joy in oneself is not loving; for this is loving self, while the former is loving the neighbour. These two kinds of love are diametrically opposed ..", as Swedenborg reminds us in DLW 47.

It would appear that if the Lord is all there is, then when He loves us, He is loving part of Himself. Don't you see that this is the love which He cannot have? There must be something in creation which is distinct from the Lord, although created and sustained by Him.

We read of the many (wonderful!) experiences of unity of the One Life that all mystics (and many others!) have had over the millenia. That is the way the world is!

I suspect that the desire to say that the Lord is 'all there is', comes from wanting to interpret the experiences of the One Life as 'non-dualism', following the advaita approach. You also want unity with that approach too.

However, a common meaning of 'dual' (which should be opposed) is one of a very fragmented world. We all know that this cannot be true! (i.e. should know!). Therefore often we need to replace everywhere 'non-dual' by 'non-fragmented', and 'dual' by 'fragmented'. This conveys the common meaning much more precisely, as often the explanation of 'duality' is fragmentation.

Then, we are able to find that in creation which is distinct from the Lord, which (whom) he can love without being selfish, and in whose joy he can delight. All of the wonderful mystical words describe these delights, and it would be a great shame for any presentation, if 'non-dual' were taken as the 'non-Distinct' nature of the Life from creation! The One Life is the life of creation, but is not equal to creation.

This is the reason for their being a creation, that all the delights of spiritual live and love become possible! This requires an idea of 'non-fragmentation' (sometimes confusingly called 'non-dualism'), along with an equally-important idea of 'Distinctness'.

One modern advocate of nondualism is Andrew Cohen. His nondualist philosophy can be examined from a theistic perspective, to see what is non-paradoxical and suitable for exoteric everyday application. He is found to have made significant developments in comparison with traditional Advaita Vedanta, and these developments clearly point toward a theistic viewpoint. For more details of this, see my article What is Enlightenment without Paradox? Nondualism from a theistic perspective.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The End of Faith (Book)

Commentary on Sam Harris 2004, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, New York: Norton.

This book claims that religion leads to intolerance and terror, while 'religious moderation' keeps alive ideas which create intolerance. No beliefs about our world, he exclaims, should float entirely free of reason and evidence. Many of the problems of faith and religion come via very literal readings of scriptures, but doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside. Rather, we should rely on rationality and evidence, and not just on authority or hearsay accepted uncritically. Later in the book, he does take moral, ethical and spiritual experiences all realistically, and sees virtue in views such as Buddhism which aim for love and compassion.

I reply that many of Harris' diagnoses of religious problems are justified, but his proposed remedies are not. I would certainly confirm that we do need reason and discourse, especially in comparison with unexamined faith. We do need to resist scriptural literalism, and especially do we need to do this from within religion. We do need to be open to new evidence, and we do need to explore and transform consciousness. All of these aims are part of theistic science.

But when we do all these things properly, we find that consciousness is not purely private. We find that there is rather a metaphysical structure that underlies consciousness, a structure which is also one of the sources of religion. I admit that religion has strayed far from its sources, falling into literalism, the ignorance of moderates, blindly following authorities, etc. But we cannot solve these problems of religion and blind faith by ignoring them and wishing that they would go away!

Instead, we do need to seek out a clear, nonparadoxical and rational understanding of theism. This way, we can return to our sources, and (even) Christianity can be renewed. One of these sources was conspicuously absent in Harris' book. He was clearly well educated about Eastern philosophies, but ignored Emanuel Swedenborg: just the kind of 'mature and stable mystic' that Harris was crying out for, to enable the rational understanding of consciousness and spirituality. Swedenborg has already begun formulating the 'Science of Good and Evil' that Harris seeks, in order to rigorously answer questions about the 'happiness and suffering of sentient creatures'.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Welcome to Beginning Theistic Science

Welcome to the first post of the Beginning Theistic Science blog, the goal of which is to introduce, examine and discuss topical ideas of Theistic Science.

For 8 years I have kept a general website in which various approaches to, and consequences, of Theistic Science are given.

This blog arises because I am starting to write a new book Beginning Theistic Science, and have just made a separate website at which its proposed form and content are shown. The book aims to give a more closely reasoned presentation of logic and ontology underlying Theistic Science, especially since many people these days doubt that this is possible.

So feel free to discuss anything on or I will blog about updates to the sites. I will also periodically discuss other articles, websites, blogs and books that appear relevant to Theistic Science.