The Meaning of Life
I just received an interesting comment on “The Soul of Regressive Physics” from joogabah, an indeterministic reader who shows signs of advancing to univironmental determinism:
If all that exists is matter in motion, what is "meaning"?
[GB: The universe has no meaning; just like water running downhill has no meaning. That question is most often asked by indeterminists who think they have the answer, and it always involves some religious notion their ancestors dreamed up. Meaning is purely subjective. It is whatever you want it to be. For instance, if I write m = mass, that is the same as saying that m means mass or that m means the resistance to acceleration. Matter would have resistance to acceleration even if I or anyone else never existed.
In this regard, I once arrived at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, meeting a hostess who had a sign: “Questions?”. So I asked her one you might be interested in: “What is the meaning of life?” Like many others, she had no answer, so I had to supply one of my own: “It is skiing at Squaw Valley.” That was pretty simple and apropos to the univironment. The truth is that, if the universe had a meaning, we all would have been born with the memo. Many folks think that the meaning of life is to get out of this miserable temporary one through much sacrifice to arrive at the next one, which will be perfectly beautiful and will last forever. Sorry, the universe can offer an infinite number of possibilities, but that is not one of them.]
Souls are linguistic.
[GB: I don’t know what that means. If you mean that “linguistic” = “imaginary,” I would agree.]
I am also persuaded by materialism, and yet it cannot explain subjectivity.
[GB: Sorry, but subjectivity is explained by determinism, which assumes that there are material causes for all effects. In science we try to fight subjectivity at every opportunity. That is why we are seen as “objective” and therefore trustworthy and less likely to favor our own personal point of view in making scientific decisions. Those who believe that there can be no natural explanation for any microcosm or the motion of any microcosm in the Infinite Universe are, by definition, indeterminists. They assume that some effects have no material causes, with their most often cited example being “free will.” In opposition, determinists assume that there is no free will. Perhaps what you mean by subjectivity is the “feeling of freedom” that we all have when we make decisions without knowing the infinite number of causes that led up to them. In univironmental analysis that is what we call a “microcosmic mistake”: overemphasis on the microcosm and neglect of the macrocosm. In other words, subjects mistakenly think that they can operate independently of the environment in which they exist. Sorry, but in the Infinite Universe, the environment is always there.]
Something absolutely fundamental is missing, and I don't mean to suggest that it is indeterministic. But this is what must be answered to counter religion.
[GB: There is nothing more fundamental than matter and the motion of matter. What is “beyond physics” is just more physics, as proclaimed in Infinite Universe Theory. Those who seek something more will never find it because it does not exist. Nonetheless, as you imply, there always will be some snake-oil salesman making a pitch for a traditional or “new age” religion that can make up some answers for you. Just don’t give him too much time or money.]
Perception itself cannot be objectified.
[GB: It can, and we have. All the senses have been studied in detail, and all require the collisions of microcosms with microcosms. That is why scientists do not believe in ESP.]
If consciousness is somehow an emergent property of matter in motion, then the natural material universe might also give rise to greater levels of consciousness on a scale that can influence matter to a much greater extent than we can.
[GB: No doubt there are more highly evolved beings on other planets. However, like you and I, they are surrounded by a macrocosm consisting of matter in motion as well. Like us, they don’t get to act “outside of matter,” but are part of a univironment. Their univironmental interactions no doubt are more advanced than ours, but as mentioned in my chapter on the “Myth of Exceptionalism” in "The Scientific Worldview," they cannot have free will and will behave similarly to us.]
So even materialism leaves open the possibility of humanity's instinctive sense of a higher mental realm, of a greater agency that might have had a hand in initiating life on Earth.
[GB: The origin of life is a well-known natural process. Like the infinity of chemical transformations all around us, it needs no help from anyone. As for a “higher mental realm,” those more highly evolved aliens are sure to be more intelligent than we are. They probably discovered univironmental determinism and Infinite Universe Theory long ago.]
I think it is the denial of this that makes evolution unpalatable to many.
[GB: You are correct. That is why creationists still oppose evolution. They imagine that the universe, as infinitely capable that it is, still would need some help from some outside actor, at least in certain areas. As always, the solution requires more education, particularly that which starts with “The Ten Assumptions of Science.”]
Consciousness is not an illusion, and we are not animals.
[GB: We are animals. Consciousness is not unique to humans—just ask any dog or cat owner. Other animals may not have 80 billion neurons, but consciousness apparently doesn’t need that many to show up as a special kind of motion in the brain.]
We are linguistic constructs riding on animal substrates, much older than the bodies we inhabit, by virtue of language. We are literally spoken into existence. That is the sense in which we are created, and it is to that that religion addresses itself. That is what allows us, unique among animals, to create. We extrapolate that to the entire universe and imagine a macrocosmic, parental consciousness.
[GB: Can’t quite understand that. It is good that we have language, with much of it written as well as spoken, although our cousin primates don’t seem to need it to exist. The “creative” process you write about is brought about by the universal mechanism of evolution, univironmental determinism (What happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the infinite matter within and without). The proper definition of “creation” is the making of something from other things. That is what we do and what other animals do when they build nests, etc. The putting together of things is not unique; it is half of what the Infinite Universe does all the time. That process is described by the Sixth Assumption of Science, complementarity (All things are subject to divergence and convergence from other things).You are correct that many have mistaken convergence for a kind of mothering consciousness, but there can be no such activity. The Infinite Universe has no such choice. Microcosms continually come together (e.g., birth) and continually come apart (e.g., death). Indeterminists like to imagine that this activity has meaning or purpose, but the universe does not care one wit about what anyone thinks about it.]