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Author Topic: E=mc2 and the End of Old Testament Theology  (Read 13600 times)
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« on: November 13, 2005, 01:24:22 AM »

Einstein's Reductive Revolution
by Dr. Gary Lower
reprinted from

If there is anything in the cultural world that can be seen as being clearly evolutionary, it is the stepwise maturation of science, from asking and answering ‘What’ questions (Socrates) to ‘How’ questions (Newton) to ‘Why’ questions (Einstein).
The journey has been conceptual, from descriptive knowledge (in answer to What questions) to mechanistic knowledge (in answer to How questions) to systematic knowledge (in answer to Why questions ). The journey has been axiomatic, from Inductive logic (reasoning upward) to Deductive logic (reasoning downward) to Reductive logic (reasoning within the whole). The journey has been exponential in time - from nearly 2,000 years of What questions to 200 years of How questions to 100 years of Why questions (1).
In moving from Newton to Einstein, we move from asking and answering ‘How’ questions to asking and answering ‘Why’ questions. The failure of American science to recognize this Socratic leap is a source of significant and continuing western confusion about the answers to these related questions (2). Do the answers to ‘How’ questions, for example, adequately answer ‘Why’ questions? Does Old Testament religion retain dominion over science in the realm of "Why?"
‘How’ something happens (or comes to be) speaks primarily to mechanism, i.e., the temporal sequence of events comprising a process. The answers to How questions speak primarily to horizontal processes that comprise causation over individual or family life spans. The answers to How questions do not fully speak to vertical processes that transcend individual and family life spans. The answers to How questions do not really deal with underlying origins and overarching purposes in life.
The politically-correct notion that ‘What’ and ‘How’ questions belong to science and ‘Why’ questions belong to religion has been intellectually defunct for over a century. As an indication of their interrelatedness, ‘What, How and Why’ questions are obviously overlapping in their scope. When something happens, we can ask questions like ‘What for?’ and ‘How come?’ - both of which are stretches of the question that allude to a definable aspect of ‘Why’.
Knowing the horizontal ‘How’ of a situation does not and cannot speak to the vertical ‘Why’ of our origins or of our purposes (as the two complementary sides of ‘Why’).  Our evolutionary origins are properly the subject of the biological and cultural sciences. Our evolutionary purposes happen to be on that side of ‘Why?’ that God leaves open to each of us and to all of us. As individuals, we are our own ‘Why’ and as citizens of the human community, we are collectively our own ‘Why’. That is why it is worth our time and attention, in the interest of getting our ‘Whys’ together.
It has oftentimes been less than obvious how to relate many of Einstein's concepts to ordinary worldly phenomena as we have come to understand them post-Newton(3). At the same time, it is experientially obvious that Einstein's world view is a more realistic fit to the world we actually live in than is Newton's world view.
Simply stand on one of the steps in a staircase and inch yourself to the edge until you drop off. Now, did you feel that Newtonian "force" pushing down on top of your head? No, of course not. You just felt yourself accelerating in a gravitational field. Then, you felt yourself instantly decelerating when you hit the next step down.
Newton's view of the physical world, in addressing the answers to How questions, was a good approximation of the real world. Einstein's view of the physical world is even better because it better fits reality and it does not require the involvement of external gods or external forces to make the world run properly. The world runs itself, naturally. It is our job to get with the natural program.
Creativity emerges in both analog and digital approaches to thought. The "derivation of E=mc2 was wholly mathematical(3)." In this instance, high school algebra exposed new relationships between energy and mass that could be confirmed in the world with more refined empirical observations.
But the birth of relativity theory was, overall, not mathematical but conceptual, and it was driven by an awareness of the limitations of Newtonian mechanics, an awareness (since Libniz) that the world was more unified and interconnected than Newton had been able to see it. It was also driven by Einstein himself in holding views that already made more sense to him than did existing views.
Aside from the humble mathematics required to arrive at E=mc2, a thorough understanding of relativity theory "requires a mental image - an analogy or a story - that may sacrifice some precision but captures the essence of the result (3)." This is simply to restate a core truth of all of science, that science is firstly conceptual.
Creative thought in science is largely conceptual. It involves seeing the same things others see but "seeing" them in a better light, not necessarily the light from text books, but the light that is found within larger viewpoints. Conceptual frameworks establish the mind's spatial and temporal embrace and larger frameworks provide for a broader and deeper comprehension.
Einstein's real genius, in this sense, began with an honest faith in thinking for himself and his ability to "see" (as a "mental image") with his "mind's eye". You hop on a light beam speeding away from a clock and, for you, time stops because the light from the changing clock will never reach you traveling at the speed of light.
Einstein and his generation of scientists actually did much more than establish the path to a systematic theory embracing the physical world. They established an entirely new approach to thought itself, an approach that is both analytic (taking things apart materially) and synthetic (putting things back together conceptually). That would define the complementary nature of reductive thought.
Physical phenomena were reduced down to a mathematical embrace of the physical information defining the phenomenon in question. Heat was reduced to a matter of statistical mechanics, sub-atomic matter was reduced to a matter of quantum mechanics and wave mechanics (with Bohr pointing out that these descriptions were two sides of the same thing). Mass and energy were likewise seen as two sides of the same thing, i.e., matter, the stuff of everything (which is why it matters).
Einstein even proposed a "Unified Field Theory" that might embrace the physical world as a whole. While physics continues to affirm and enhance its embrace of relativity theory, the notion of a field equation embracing all of the physical world has remained necessarily elusive. That would be because the physical world cannot be legitimately removed from the rest of the world.
In further entertaining this unifying notion, one must take into consideration that the physical world is not only dynamic but evolutionary, on its own recognizance and on behalf of the whole. The physical world not only provides our energy supply, it is intimately related to the living biological world. It is from whence the biological world emerged and that, in turn, is from whence the cultural world emerged.
It goes without saying that the subatomic, electromagnetic and gravitational "forces" which Einstein hoped to unify in field theory play as much role in the biological and cultural worlds as they do in maintaining the integrity of the physical world. We ought, as a people, be giving credit where credit is due, e.g., to the creative bonding capacities of carbon, to the marvelous good that can come from honest ideas, e.g., "human rights, freedom and fairness."
Astrophysical and geophysical evolution can be taken for granted, because they do not much threaten religion's non-treatment of these core subjects. We are able to comprehend the evolution of stars and galaxies. We are able to comprehend the evolution of the Grand Canyon and the Swiss Alps.
But, the physical sciences tend to deal with the physical world as if it were separate and apart from the biological and cultural worlds, as if one could define the one without reference to the others. That is where natural philosophy, which is as real as physics is real (and within which physics is a subset), comes properly back into the human program.
The physical world is intimately connected to the biological world. It provided the raw materials and energy for pre-biological evolution and the emergence of biological molecules. The biological world is, in turn, intimately connected to the cultural world. It provided the biological basis for mind which, in turn, provides language and music and literature and math ... and F=ma and E=mc2. Reductive thought looks at life as a whole.
The new ways of thought introduced by Newton did not, of course, remain stuck in physics. It took almost a century before Newton's deductive approaches worked their way into biology and medicine. Henle, Koch and Pasteur developed deductive criteria of causation that, if verified empirically, allowed deduction of the causes of infectious diseases. In postmodern terms, they actually reduced our comprehension of infectious disease causation to an understanding at the cellular level of organization.
The new ways of thought introduced by Einstein did not remain stuck in physics either. It took almost a century before Einstein's reductive approaches worked their way into biology and medicine. Molecular biology, molecular epidemiology and molecular genetics have since reduced our comprehension of neoplastic disease causation to an understanding at the molecular level of organization, specifically mutational perturbations of genomic information encoded in DNA (4).
We have, since Jefferson's natural philosophy, reduced our understanding of cultural conflict to the informational level of organization, in terms of perturbations encoded in cultural belief systems, the ancient cultural "isms," all of which, east and west, take an absolutist, authoritarian position apart from the values of science and democracy.
When our understandings embrace cultural causation, e.g., the self-righteousness and belligerence inherent in Roman religion when empowered by the state, we are finally in a position to take remedial action. That would be why Jefferson separated church and state in the first place, i.e., to keep religion free and out of knowledgeable government by the people.
In other words, if we reduce all of Life down to anything, it will not be down to math and physics that we reduce it. A working knowledge of quantum and wave mechanics is not required for a knowledgeable and meaningful life. A conceptual grasp of quantum and wave mechanics, however, is most helpful in order to better appreciate the oneness and interconnectedness of Life.
If Life is reduced down to anything, one might think it better reduced down to biology, as "the study of life." Again, this formulation leaves out the conceptual and cultural evolution that predominates in the human world. It leaves out Socrates, Newton and Einstein, and that would be to imply that we are all body and no mind.
Because all branches of science are conceptual at their creative core, they all contribute to the same conceptual one-world. It is, therefore, more accurate to say that Life ought be reduced down to natural philosophy, defined by conceptual frameworks that embrace Life as a unified, hierarchical, evolutionary whole ... with "the people" and human knowledge at the top.
That is how literally staggering are the proportions of Einstein's reductive revolution in thought, that we can take Life apart (at all levels of organization) and put it all back together again (conceptually) to embrace Life's oneness and interconnectedness. In doing so, we learn that Life runs itself without external assistance, supernatural or otherwise. We learn that we ought get with the human program by taking responsibility for our actions on earth as opposed to blaming the results of our actions on supernatural fabrications.
It has long been obvious that science knows no race and no nation, that its knowledge is purely human, that it creatively embraces those who embrace it conceptually. It provides a world view that is necessarily true for all people, independent of western and eastern cultural "isms" which, at their extremes, discourage comprehension by the many in the name of overt and covert control by the few (5). Post-Einstein natural philosophy provides the scientific basis for a human physical, biological and cultural one-world.
For nearly two millennia, Old Testament Roman religion has justified westward expansionism in the form of imperialism, colonialism and capitalism. For nearly two millennia, this overtly inconsistent world view, embracing both Old Testament (vengeful) and New Testament (compassionate) moralities, was seldom translated into Christian ethics. Rather, it applauded the Christian ethics that it did not exemplify in action, and it relied on Old Testament vengeance and self-righteousness to promote its own expansionary agenda, in the name of Christian ethics (6).
The resulting socioeconomic unification (tribal to national to global organization) is one of the underlying evolutionary purposes of fundamentalist Roman religion in justifying the greed-driven state (7). That would be why Jefferson hoped to separate church and state, i.e., so that the people would not be compromised by religious fundamentalism.
Today, even the Vatican recognizes that "religion risks turning into fundamentalism if it ignores scientific reason" (Cool. American fundamentalists supporting the Bush administration do not even know that much, simply because they are fundamentalists who already presume to possess adequate knowledge (while they are possessed by inadequate knowledge). 
Natural philosophy provides a world view that does not separate the people from nature, but makes them an integral part of nature. It provides a world view that does not separate us from each other but makes us citizens of the global community. It provides a world view that does not separate us from God, but puts God on the inside of all things in setting them free. It sees God as the core creative principle driving physical and biological evolution (genomic information). It puts God on the inside of the people, as the core creative principle driving conceptual and cultural evolution (ideologic information).
Natural philosophy relates God to the creative potential built right into physical, biological and cultural information. At the cultural level of organization, God has no influence on earth except through human thought and word and action. In that regard, one cannot think and speak on the whole without entering the realm of theology, as did Einstein and his generation of physicists.
If one were to point to a few western thinkers who simply excelled at knowing themselves and knowing their relationships to God, among them would be Jesus (for honesty and compassion in thought), Spinoza (for making God thoughtful and human), Jefferson (for providing a human rights-based path to God) and Einstein (for bringing natural theology into science and the human knowledge base).
Jacob Bronowski has perhaps described Einstein's relationships with God better than anyone. "Sometimes Einstein treated God as if God were his uncle, and sometimes Einstein treated God as if he were God's uncle." That is precisely the nature of the relationship God needs to have with with all people in order to know that they are alive and well. Call it "Getting to know oneself," "keeping in touch."
Get thee to know thyselves, good people, individually and collectively. You are an integral and purposeful part of the information-driven, evolutionary whole. You are an integral and purposeful part of Life's cognitive and decision-making apparatus. Without you, the world goes nowhere. Without the world, you go nowhere ... simple as that. Make your relationships with life honest and intimate, meaningful and life-long.
The capabilities of a knowledgeable and caring humankind living in a human one world are almost beyond current imagination. Consider a highly-networked human population in real-time audio-visual communication, a global democracy, a direct democracy, a world of friends, an earth garden and world peace.
There are no limitations on who we need be in order to make the earth our heaven and our home. We need only be honest with each other and caring for each other and the earth. Nothing transcends the knowledge from that human source ... nothing.
1) Systematic Evolution and Life on the Whole, Axis of Logic, January 5, 2005.
2) Leonard Rosen, Science vs. design: no debate, The Globe, September 23, 2005.
3) Brian Greene, That Famous Equation and You - E=mc2, NYTimes, September 30, 2005.
4) Capitalism, Cancer and Intellectual Corruption, Axis of Logic, October, 2004.
5) Science and the Fundamentalist "Isms," Jefferson's Eyes,, 2003.
6) "Conspiracy Theories" and Cultural Imperatives, Axis of Logic, July 27, 2005.
7) The Evolutionary ‘Why’ of Religious Capitalism, AxisofLogic, July, 2005.
Cool Nicole Winfield, Vatican: Faithful should listen to science, AP, November 3, 2005.
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