Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Can minds have effects in nature? How?

Some questions:

  • If you have God and/or our minds acting in nature, as every basic purpose and volition demands in reality, do you think this is directly, or both directly and via intermediates?
  • If there are intermediates, then there might be something specific and regular behaviors that science could connect with (at least from one side!).
  • For telos and purpose and volition (etc) must have observable effects.
  • Do you think that evidence and theories about the influence on the world of spiritual or mental things would help? Could they be intermediates here? 

By ‘intermediates’, I am thinking first of humans, and then all animals and plants as well as each living cell. These are all living creatures, and we presume that they all have at least some primitive kind of mental life: at least some will or motivation or telos, along with instinctual responses that reflect some implicit wisdom for good ways of responding to enhance and continue life.

There may well be spiritual beings of some sort as well, but they would be intermediates between all us living creatures and what is greater than us spiritually, so I should think: angels, saints and all who have lived who want to do what is good and useful (and maybe also those who want the opposite). Direct divine influence is possible as well, of course.

Because these things above are all intermediates, they are ‘riders’ or ‘modulators’ on the pathways of life from the Divine that the Lord uses to enliven and influence us in the world. All the good spiritual beings, for example, would be saying saying ‘not my will but thine’ when they do something.

For intermediates, I just refer to our abilities to feel, think and do things from feeling and thinking. That is, I assume we have minds that do these things, and hence have causal effects on body and world. This applies to all living creatures to varying degrees of fullness and detail. Any plausible account of the world has to take minds in some sense as essential part or being of mental lives. The substance of minds is love/desire, and their form is their thinking. This is just applying Aristotle’s common categories to some things very obvious. The substance gives the mode of its persistence through time, and the form gives its structure at present. Naturalism might want to call these esoteric and unbelievable, but they are really what we are all very close to, namely our minds.

Visible Effects!

I now insist that, in all our bodies, there must be influences from these intermediates that give results not as predicted by the laws of physics. They must be able to have some effect: able to make a difference to physics (otherwise, why bother?). The modulation from intermediates results in a kind of ‘final cause’ in physics, since it directs physical bodies towards some end or target or lure.

And now I think that these differences in physics ought be observable even to physicists. They are much larger than resolving quantum uncertainties or probabilities, since the effects of motivation and telos happen in every minute in our living bodies, and so cannot be just biasing some remote probability. I agree that it might be difficult, since this is to distinguish agency from chance. But it is only the chance of ignorance, not of quantum physics.

Some new ideas 

I even have a more specific idea for what these differences might be in physics, which I will explain more in the next few months when I work out a bit more detail. Sometimes, at least, the patterns should be repeated.

It maybe can be seen in protein folding, where there has been persistent ignorance of the causes of rapid in-vivo folding for the last 50 years?

I am beginning to see a way to change physics to allow final causes to have effects from causes originally in minds. I will explain (in more detail soon, somewhere) my idea for some of the ways ‘supporting efficient causes’ may assist final causes to operate in nature. The idea is some local modification of specific physical properties in order to reach some kind of target or lure or end from the final causes. If physical properties are changed, then something should be measurably different.

The physical variations needed to reach targets are much larger (by many orders of magnitude) than the range required by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum physics.  Given that, however, I want in reality to work on targeting with quantum fields. So the HUP will be still taken into account.  But in the meantime, Newtonian mechanics will be a very good approximation.

Is the physical world causally closed?

We are admittedly breaking the causal closure of the natural world, and breaking some conservation laws in some particular circumstances, so it’s a bit of a conjecture. Materialists may say that this makes it all impossible, since conservation laws are ‘known to be satisfied to high accuracy’. I reply: have you tested conservation laws where processes like this may well be occurring? That is, testing where we expect volition (etc) to be important?

If course, if you can already see the limits of naturalism, then the failure of the causal closure of the physical will not be a great surprise.

There might not be new energy or matter, but local fluctuations of (say) the unit of charge in specific regions. For the physicist: this amounts to local fluctuations of the permittivity of space in the region where molecular objects need to be guided.