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Rob Sheldon: Why process philosophy won’t rescue naturalism


Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon offers some thoughts on a new book offering process approaches to naturalism, Theses on Critical Theory and Contemporary Naturalism by Wayne Hudson and Arran Gare (eds.)., and picks up on claims about “non-linear thermodynamics” made in the publisher’s blurb:

To begin with, there is no field called “non-linear thermodynamics”. I think they meant to say “non-equilibrium thermodynamics”. But more to the point, they are looking at feedback, at how a system can be affecting its environment as well as responding to it.

This is not a mysterious procedure, and as every amateur radio geek can tell you, is essential in building electronic circuits, such as oscillators. It is true that an oscillator doesn’t ever come to a stationary state, but if we regard these as “poles in frequency space” then we can build circuits that have deterministic outcomes, even non-linear outcomes that we desire—such as 5th order notch filters that eliminate static from our favorite radio station.

Let me repeat. Physics doesn’t change. And even when discussing the changes (like an oscillation), the physics of change doesn’t change. Somebody is making a serious category error when the physics of change becomes the change of physics.

But “the physics of change” isn’t what this fellow is advocating. He’s advocating some sort of Whiteheadian “progress” where the end state is improved over the initial state. He wants laws of physics to be malleable, just like post-modern truth. In this new world, there are not to be “reductionist” rules of physics, nor “positivist” views of truth, rather a science of sociology that determines where we should all end up.

Why do I have this feeling of deja vu all over again?

How about, where there are no new ideas, people dust off and recycle old ones?

The Long Ascent: Genesis 1â  11 in Science & Myth, Volume 1 by [Sheldon, Robert]

Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent, Volumes 1 and 2.

See also:

Can process philosophy rescue naturalism? As process theology empties churches, process philosophy will empty classrooms. Whatever the students do, absent learning, won’t be governed by philosophy. And they won’t care.


How naturalism rots science from the head down

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