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Poetic naturalism: The stick is the business end

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  From Clara Moskowitz, reviewing Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture at Scientific American, and interviewing Carroll:

Naturalism is the viewpoint that everything arises from natural causes and that there is no supernatural realm. You coin the term “poetic naturalism” for your own particular brand of this guiding philosophy. Why the need for a new term?

Naturalism has been certainly been around for a very long time, but as more people become naturalists and talk to each other, their disagreements within naturalism are interesting. I thought there was a judicious middle ground, which I call poetic, between “the world is just a bunch of particles,” and “science can be used to discover meaning and morality.”
To me the connotations of “poetic” are that there’s some human choice that comes into how we talk about the world. In particular, when it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false.

This argument for naturalism feels particularly timely, when politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking. How receptive to the approach of naturalism do you think most people are?

I think that scientists have a sort of professional level of understanding of the universe, and scientists are overwhelmingly naturalists. Whereas people on the street, or in Washington, D.C., still don’t admit to this. There aren’t a lot of naturalists in Congress. The way we talk about these things in the public sphere has not caught up with the way we understand the universe as it really is. More.

So, Carroll: right and wrong does not correspond to true and false, and the political world has not caught up with that?

(doting reviewer) And “politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking”?

Carroll: There aren’t a lot of naturalists in Congress. The way we talk about these things in the public sphere has not caught up with the way we understand the universe as it really is.

Actually, we left it all behind with Lucretius, but like so many bad things, it is back.

See also: In search of a road to reality

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3 Replies to “Poetic naturalism: The stick is the business end

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Earlier today I noted that,,,

    “Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a framework of illusions and fantasy.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-606912

    Although I have not, and don’t intend, to read Carrol’s new book (I’m not a big fan of fiction), I do know that Carrol has conjured up his own little piece of ‘mathematical fantasy’ in order to avoid the Theistic implications of the Big Bang:

    The Universe Is Not Eternal – Johanan Raatz – March 1, 2014
    Excerpt: Carroll pointed out that the BVG theorem only works within relativity but does not take quantum effects into account. Given a lack of a complete theory of quantum gravity, he argued that Craig can not claim that the universe began to exist.
    Though this is partly true, it turns out we are not completely in the dark. One thing known for certain about quantum gravity is something called the holographic principle. Precisely put, the holographic principle tells us that the entropy of a region of space (measured in terms of information) is directly proportional to a quarter of its surface area. The volume of this region is then actually a hologram of this information on its surface.
    Except this tells us something interesting about the universe as well. Entropy, or the amount of disorder present, always increases with time. In fact not only is this law inviolate, it is also how the flow of time is defined. Without entropy, there is no way to discern forwards and backwards in time.
    But if the holographic principle links the universe’s entropy and its horizon area then going back in time, all of space-time eventually vanishes to nothing at zero entropy. Thus Carroll’s argument is unsound. We already have enough knowledge about what happens beyond the BVG theorem that Craig cites. The universe is not eternal but created.
    It is interesting to note that this also undermines claims made by atheists like Hawking and Krauss that the universe could have fluctuated into existence from nothing. Their argument rests on the assumption that there was a pre-existent zero-point field or ZPF. The only trouble is that the physics of a ZPF requires a space-time to exist in. No space-time means no zero-point field, and without a zero-point field, the universe can not spontaneously fluctuate into existence.
    http://blog.proof.directory/20.....t-eternal/

    also of note to quantum mechanics and general relativity

    Cosmology: A Religion For Atheists? | William Lane Craig critiques “The Theory Of Everything” movie (Standard Big Bang model and Hawking’s Quantum ‘no boundary’ Model both, contrary to popular thought, imply a definite beginning for the universe)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i08-gCue7Ds

    Evidences For The Big Bang – Michael Strauss – video (4:50 – mark – main evidences) (14:30 mark – unscientific speculations, such as Hawking’s, involving quantum Planck time persist)
    https://vimeo.com/9195703

    About that quantum equation that shows the universe has no beginning… – Feb. 21, 2015
    Except: “The “study” goes through 3 pages of messy algebra and then introduces a simplification in the last 4 paragraphs to find the age of the universe. In the last paragraph, it makes a bad mathematical approximation to that simplified age, shows that this bad math turns a finite number into infinity, and then trumpets this conclusion as removal of the Big Bang.
    In other words, there’s 3 pages of snow job before the sleight-of-hand in the last paragraph, just to throw the proletariat off the scent. This is as irresponsible as it gets, and if I were a reviewer, I would have rejected it outright for intentional obfuscation and misrepresentation. Very clearly the paper is a pretext for the title and abstract, which is the only part of the paper likely to be read by journos and the public.
    My only consolation was that it wasn’t published in Phys Rev, but in a “second-tier” journal. But if this is the future of peer-reviewed physics, we are in deep trouble.”
    Dr. Rob Sheldon – Physicist
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-549774

    As to Carrol not really having a clue what he is talking about in quantum mechanics,

    Quantum Physics And How We Affect Reality! – video – (17:21 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/REATuidImYw?t=1041

    of humorous note in the preceding video are quotes by Max Tegmark and Sean Carrol, who are both atheistic college professors who both, as far as I know, still believe in the epistemologically self-defeating many worlds scenario, who are both basically scratching their heads and saying, ‘We really don’t know why conscious observation would have such a dramatic impact in the double slit experiment’.

    ‘The short answer is we don’t know. This is the fundamental mystery of quantum mechanics. The reason why quantum mechanics is ‘difficult’. Mysteriously when we look at things we see particles, when we are not looking things are waves.’
    Sean Carrol

    “This is something we scientists have argued passionately about now for almost 100 years. And there is still no consensus”
    Max Tegmark

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    This argument for naturalism feels particularly timely, when politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking.

    LOL!

  3. 3
    JDH says:

    So according to Carroll, “the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false.”

    Funny, in both clauses of this sentence, Carroll spoke of a human being’s exercise of conscious free will. (deciding, discovering). But by any logical understanding of exercise of free will, this must lead to the logical conclusion that naturalism is wrong in any flavor.

    The problem is not that Carroll needs a new term to further clarify his position, he needs a new term to obfuscate the fact that his beliefs are subject to the same harsh reality as all other purely naturalistic explanations of consciousness. Without something that violates naturalism, consciousness can not happen. Those who believe consciousness can be produced in a purely natural framework, are only fooling themselves.

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