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 Quantum Spirituality : a book review

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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:46 pm

I have just begun reading a book that directly challenges my Deist worldview. Victor Stenger’s previous book, GOD : The Failed Hypothesis, addressed the specific claims of those who believe in the pre-scientific bible-god of Christians, Jews, and Intelligent Design advocates. Since I don’t have a dog in that race, I can say, “amen” to almost every point taken. But his latest effort specifically takes-on the doG in my personal race : “deists believe in a creator that is more difficult to rule-out scientifically”. Nevertheless, He volunteers for that thankless task with gusto. He is a retired Physicist, who has dedicated his latter years to the role of skeptical god-buster.

Since I am familiar with his work, and I respect his sincerity and wisdom and sense of fair-play*, I look forward to the moral and intellectual challenge of trying to justify my personal beliefs---which are grounded to some extent in my understanding of “quantum reality”---in the face of a rigorous scientific and logical critique. That’s why I can’t wait to get started. Here are a few questions & quotes from the book with my answers & analysis following.




Quantum Spirituality or Quantum Science?



QUANTUM GODS : Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness; Victor Stenger (2009)



Foreword by Michael Shermer :

Q. Do we "create our own reality through will, thought, and consciousness"?
A. No, we experience reality through consciousness, but we have little influence over physical reality, except by converting our metaphysical will into physical energy and matter. Faith alone won't move mountains; but faith enacted into physical actions will arrange for dynamite and bulldozers to move the mountain.

Q. Is there any "micro-macro connection" between quantum scale and human scale and cosmic scale?
A. Micro-Macro-Cosmic scales are on a continuum. But different manifestations of matter, energy, and information emerge at the various scales.

Q. Could the entire universe be "one giant mind that brings itself into existence by thought alone"?
A. If Information is more fundamental than Matter and Energy, then some sort of universal mind might be necessary to generate and process the metaphysical forms into physical entities.

Q. Is it almost certain that there is "no God because of the contradictions inherent in the nature of God" (Judeo-Christian worldview)?
A. Almost certainly the traditional anthro-morphic God of Abrahamic religions cannot exist due to the cognitive conflicts inherent in the various definitions of the bible-god.

Q. Stenger explains that "quantum physics---along with chaos theory, complexity theory, and other assorted branches of physics, biology, and neuroscience---does not get you to God".
A. True. All of those scientific theories and practices are founded on the axioms of Materialism and Reductionism. However, any useful "Science of God" would require axioms grounded in Enformationism and Holism.

Q. Are "so-called miracles and other alleged divine actions . . . better explained by probabilities and the operations of chance than by Someone Up There running the show"?
A. Yes. Any divine actions after the initial creation (Big Bang) would be unnecessary and redundant if the creative process of Evolution was properly designed to automatically carry-out the Will of an Eternal / Infinite Creator. Instead Chance and Probability would be the randomizing principle that constantly shuffles the deck in order to introduce novelty into an otherwise deterministic process.


Preface :

Q. In GOD : The Failed Hypothesis . . . "I was not talking about every conceivable god, just the God with a capital G".
A. And I agree almost completely with his astute assessment that the ancient paradigm of a sustaining deity is scientifically unsupportable.

Q. "Many people . . . believe there must be more to the universe than matter".
A. The Enlightenment era renaissance of pragmatic Science focused almost exclusively on the more accessible problems of Physics, as manifested in concrete Matter and Energy. But post-quantum Science has been forced to deal with the arcane philosophical issues of Metaphysics, as manifested in abstract Concepts and Consciousness.

Q. The primary theme of the quantum spirituality movement is that "we make our own reality".
A. That is a corruption of a fundamental philosophical concept : that all I know of reality is the content of my own mind. No one will dispute that Subjective Reality is actually a Virtual Reality created by the human brain. The Objective Reality that scientists pretend to study is actually a conventionalized paradigm (set of beliefs) derived from a statistical summary of many subjective observations and second-hand reports of personal experiences.

Q. "The second new imagined reality . . . is a God who created the universe but does not act in any way that is consistent with the laws of nature".
A. The God of Deism did indeed create (initiate the process of evolution) the universe. But along with the matter and energy, this metaphysical entity also created the "laws of nature" that limit, regulate and govern the interactions physics. Hence the laws are consistent with the will of God, not the other way around.

Q. "Such a God would make sure all his designs in nature showed no signs of that design".
A. Paley's watchmaker god was a top-down creator who manipulated pre-existing material just as humans do. By contrast, Deism's bottom-up creator designed the matter, energy, and laws, then turned them loose to create a world by a gradually emerging process of Evolution. You can't see the signs of that kind of holistic design from a particularistic, reductive viewpoint.

Q. "This new theory of god was called Deism . . . they have to find a way for God to have acted during the course of evolution to guarantee humans specifically evolved, not simply appeared as some random life-form".
A. Not so! A perfect creator would not have to tinker with his creation to make it turn out right. Instead, a Deist creator would design the material, the energy, and the laws from the very beginning in such a way as to reach the Designer's goals without further supervision. As noted above randomness is a necessary ingredient in any system that produces novelty. But the laws of nature limit the bounds of chance just enough to ensure that some kind of intelligent creature would eventually emerge from this experiment in open-ended creativity. The general design goal was set as a governing principle favoring the emergence of life and consciousness from a boiling stew of matter and energy and a touch of chaos for flavor. But like a guided missile, the specific path of Evolution was not predetermined, hence allowing some freedom within determinism.

Q. “We will find there is no escaping a large element of randomness . . .”
A. I suspect that the scientific discovery of a key role for blind chance in the operation of the world is one of the primary reasons for Stenger to reject the existence of a designing deity. Apparently, he doesn’t yet appreciate the role of randomness in providing the necessary wiggle-room for a bit of freewill (for those creatures who know how to take advantage of it) within an overwhelmingly deterministic universe. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective; where Stenger sees the world half-empty (all random), I see it half-full (partly ordered).

Q. “It may have been created by a god who plays dice, but that god produced a universe in which he plays no role and might as well not exist”.
A. If you judge by the typical definition of the Deist deity, that may be true. But I don’t believe that we have been abandoned by God. On the contrary, the impersonal, transcendent god-force may also be personal and immanent in the world, by virtue of in-dwelling every person. That’s a speculation, but if so, then God could play all roles in the universe, hence must exist necessarily.

Q. "No convincing observations demonstrate top-down causality.”
A. I agree that there are no signs of direct interference in the cause-effect continuum of the evolving universe. However, those who look at the world holistically, claim to see evidence of bottom-up design---from the inside-out. By that I mean the rules of causality were fixed at the creation, and they are implemented every day in every event and every phenomenon.

Q. “I do not like it when people refer to my own work without quoting me . . .”
A. Hence the “Q” quotes in blue above.


Comment: Scientists look at the world reductively thru micro-scopes and telescopes specifically to enable them to analyze the chaos and complexity of bulk reality into bite-size chunks. However, both Scientists and Laymen tend to view the world beyond their personal interests in a more general and holistic, but non-critical manner. The holistic perspective is often necessary for philosophers though, because many of the objects of their professional interest, such as god, are inherently resistant to reductive analysis.


* Unfortunately, he seems to lump Modern Deism into the same spiritual-but-not-necessarily-religious category with a variety of non-Christian, New Age faiths that some Deists find attractive, but I cannot buy-into for many of the same reasons discussed in the book. That low-blow was not fair at all. Cool
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Steve Esser



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PostSubject: Re: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Thu Sep 10, 2009 3:49 pm

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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:18 pm

Steve Esser wrote:
I'd be curious to hear any further thoughts you would have. I have a review up http://guidetoreality.blogspot.com/2009/09/stenger-vs-quantum-gods-part-one.html and http://guidetoreality.blogspot.com/2009/09/stenger-vs-quantum-gods-part-two.html.

This same post engendered a good response on the Positive Deism site. See link below. I will check out your blog to see how you evaluate the book.

Most critiques of the god-concept are focused on the obsolete Judeo-Christian-Muslim portrayal, so I tend to generally agree with them. But this one was intended to deal specifically with the core of my own personal worldview. I happen to like having my beliefs challenged in a detailed, rational manner. Is that masochistic? Smile


http://www.positivedeism.com/phpbb2/viewtopic.php?t=3955
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Steve Esser



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PostSubject: Re: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:19 pm

That's why I focused on this one, also. Thanks for the link. - Steve
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PostSubject: Re: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Fri Sep 11, 2009 5:47 pm

Quote :
I agree with most of Stenger’s criticisms of the various conceptions of God. However, the multiverse is the one conceptual place where I see the potential for a naturalistic worldview to make contact with a notion of God (albeit one which is non-traditional and impersonal): a transcendent and creative entity of which we are but a small part.

I have read parts 1 & 2 of your blog on Stenger's book, and your assessment seems to be similar to my own. I also have developed a hypothetical multiverse/god rationale that I call "Omniverse".

The section entitled, "Saying No to Holism", points to the key blind-spot in Stenger's worldview : If you don't grok the concept of holism, you will not be able to grasp the idea of a deistic god.

On the Positive Deism forum, I have also made frequent reference, in various threads, to THE EVOLUTION OF GOD, by Robert Wright. That book reinforced my notion that most of the world's religions based their god-concept on the general scientific understanding of the founder's era. So the philosophical core of those ancient beliefs is not necessarily wrong, but merely limited by the vocabulary of their obsolete scientific knowledge. I see Deism as an emerging worldview that, unlike dogmatic traditional religions, incorporates current data into its updated scientific paradigm.

Since your worldview, and your motivation--- "to identify and develop an improved philosophical worldview"--- seem to be similar to mine, you may find my website of some interest :

ENFORMATIONISM
http://www.enformationism.info/
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PostSubject: Re: Quantum Spirituality : a book review   Sat Sep 12, 2009 2:41 pm

I look forward to checking out your site. By the way, I like "Omniverse". I had used the word "megaverse" to try to convey some of my thinking - since multiverse seems to imply completely disconnected worlds, rather than manifestations of a larger whole. But I think I might like Omniverse better.
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