Friday, October 9, 2015

SURT notes I.1.1 p.5

The Singular Universe notes and quotes, Unger and Smolin 2015

The science of the one universe in time

In this book we argue that the evidence of science--the deliverances of the science of today, viewed in the light of its recent history--does not entitle us to circumscribe the reality or the reach of time. Our causal judgments cannot indeed be anchored in immutable laws and symmetries.
However predictable, life simply isn't certain.
. . . [laws] may derive from [causal connections] rather than the other way around.
Laws depend on relationships and not the other way around. Corollary: God's laws depend on relationships, not the other way around. Thus, grace and atonement are the features that define law, not repairs to fix broken laws.
It is one thing to respect the inability of science to show that the universe must be what it is. It is another thing to reduce science to a body of precise laws, symmetries, and constants that are unable to account either for themselves or for the initial conditions of the universe.
Real limits vs. self-imposed limitations.
An initial objection to this approach is at once methodological and moral. It invents imaginary entities--all the other unobserved and unobservable universes (in cosmology) or states of affairs (in particle physics)--to save itself from having to confront, in either particle physics or cosmology, the failure of its theoretical conceptions to account for nature as we encounter it. In this way, it wastes the treasure of science, its enigmas.
Enigmas aren't wasted by answering them, they are wasted by saying that they can never be answered. This is the same moral sin engaged in by those who would claim that God is ultimately unknowable, or that a doctrine is an inexplicable mystery. In pretending to embrace the mystery, they waste it, while those who seek to demystify the mysterious, who seek to know God, are the truest lovers of the mystery.
At the end of the day this approach evades the work of explanation. It subsumes the unexplained laws and initial conditions under a vast framework of possible variations of nature, all but a tiny number attributed to unobservable universes and unknown states of affairs.
All possibilities exist as unobserved actualities. Unger and Smolin reject this, and in doing so support an open, evolving, and undetermined cosmos.
Structure results from history more than history derives from structure.
Natural laws are consequences of regularities resulting from cosmic history, not the other way round.
[while there are limits to it, this inverted approach] vastly enlarges the field of causal inquiry. As a result, it suggests an agenda of empirical research that communicates with the major discoveries that cosmology has made over the last hundred years and continues to make now.
Putting the Gods into the cosmos, rather than as the transcendent causes of it, does the same for theology and religious experience. Questions defined as untestable and unanswerable by a transcendent view of God are made tangible, hopeful, and fruitful.
The relations between mathematical and logical propositions are, however, timeless: the conclusion of a syllogism is simultaneous with its premise. They are timeless, even though we reason them through in time, and use them in the analysis of events in time.
Logic and math hold true independent of evolving natural law. So when they are appropriately applied, they do describe nature even if we reject that they define nature.
. . . effacement of particularity goes together with denial of time.
One reason math fails to perfectly describe the world.
However, its selectivity--its disregard for time and particularity--is the source of its usefulness.
This power perennially tempts us to succumb to two connected illusions. The first illusion is that we have in mathematics a shortcut to indubitable and eternal truth, somehow superior to the rest of our fallible knowledge. The second illusion is that, as the relations among mathematical propositions are timeless, the world itself must somehow participate in the timelessness of mathematics.
Mathematics, however, is smaller, not greater, than nature. It achieves its force through a simplification that we can easily persuade ourselves to mistake for a revelation and a liberation.
I know no greater feeling of revelation than what comes with math. The only problem is when we mistake the import of the revelation. This is the same problem of revelation that those who seek to follow the Holy Spirit face every time the seek revelation--the reality of revelation is not in question, but the interpretation is hard.

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