Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not Really a Retraction.

I waded into an area where I am not as prepared as I should be yesterday.  And, perhaps, it's not a matter of "should" be in as much as the purpose of my writing is to explore these areas where my knowledge is incomplete, or my thoughts not fully formed.  Ha!  Freudian slip typo there for a moment,  Instead of typing "formed", I wrote "normed".  Peer pressure is insidious.

The first place where I tripped myself up was by showing species ego.  In the thought experiment of expanding the Christian creation myth out into practical applications, I indicated that we Humans are the only ones who could know God.  Well, in the Christian faith, of course that's not true.  One friend reminded me of the verse that reads "Consider the lilies of the field... " and so on.  The Bible makes it clear that God and Jesus are aware of and concerned for all of creation.  I agree.

I also fell into a more difficult tautology by saying, in effect, Humans have Intelligence because Intelligence makes us Human.  Well, that's a niece piece of circular logic.  The point I was making is that Intelligence makes us the superior and dominant species on this planet.  Biological and evolutionary pressures require that if it were not Humans who developed Intelligence, then some other species would and we Humans would move a notch or two down the food chain.

I have to back off from that some.  A more critical and less forgiving analysis of evolutionary pressure and biological imperatives does not come to the conclusion that Intelligence is a requirement for the planet's ecosystem.  Again, I blame my species ego in thinking so.  Just because we Humans have developed Intelligence, that does not make it any sort of requirement.  Of course, without a decent example of exobiology, we can't really tell.  For the moment, I will cite Earth's history and the several million years where high-order animals existed and Humans with Intelligence did not.  In fact, there's a case to be made that we are a destructive infestation (Agent Smith).

The last piece that I need to explore was the idea of accidental vs. inevitable.  One friend challenged me directly on the idea that some event cannot be both accidental and inevitable.  Perhaps I am unclear in my language, and perhaps I am unclear in the idea I'm trying to express.

Consider an anvil placed atop a (thick) sheet of ice.  Further, consider that the sheet of ice is suspended in some way so that there is space beneath it.  Lastly, consider an egg placed beneath the suspended ice and anvil. 

Now, place the whole setup in a room at room temperature.  It is inevitable, based on what we know about Science (physics, chemistry, et alia), that the anvil will fall through the ice and crush the egg.  The variables of the environment make the precise time of destruction (mostly) unknown.  That is what I mean by accidental. 

I'm looking up "accident" and see that it comes from a root that does seem to encapsulate the way I'm trying to use it.  It implies "chance" which I think is what I'm trying to say.  Inevitability does not remove the element of chance at some level. 

This is the philosophy of fractals, if I may phrase it that way.  I can zoom out or zoom in and regardless of the level of detail at which I'm examining the world, there will always be a pattern, and some element of chance. 

I do have a strong tendency to believe in soft-determinism.  I've often said that what seems to be Free Will is not much more than our consciousness not being able to process all of the precedent variables that contribute to the current moment.  If we were able to see the whole of history laid out behind us, any decision made in the moment would seen "inevitable".  We do not have that capacity.  We make decisions and interpret our world as best we can with limited processing capacity, and imprecise tools of observation.

I don't know if we as Humans are limited in any way.  Certain physical limitations are mostly agreed upon.  We stand, generally, between 5 and 7 feet tall because of the force of gravity versus our biological need to stand above our predators (and prey), and our need to be more nimble than they.  But, when we get into the ideas of what are we capable of observing, interpreting, and intellectually analyzing, then we have a problem.  We know there are things we don't understand and can't explain.  But, we don't know why, in some cases, we can't reach that understanding.

No comments: