Friday, October 19, 2012

Creatio ex Nihilo god and god particle: Part I: Twixt Abraham, Aquinas, and Ockham

What we all know or have experienced is the omnipresence of a god whom we accept (or, equivalently, not accept) in various ways without necessarily having a rationale for accepting it --- or rejecting it. In a thesis-antithesis space our love for god should have an accompanying dislike for god.

When we were being taught Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” in school, two lines stuck in my memory

The man had killed the thing he loved
And so he had to die

I was struck by the unreasonableness of the phrase “and so he had to die” because of the lines that followed:-

Yet each man kills the thing he loves/ By each let this be heard,/ Some do it with a bitter look,/ Some with a flattering word,/ The coward does it with a kiss,/ The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,/ And some when they are old;/Some strangle with the hands of Lust,/ Some with the hands of Gold:/The kindest use a knife, because/ The dead so soon grow cold

If the thing you love is the worship of god then do you kill this god by cold physics?

It is not necessary that we have a logical basis for registering/understanding this god experience. Our acceptance of a god will be unkind if it is primarily based on our fear of the unknown and the possibility that there is a god who manages our portfolios.

We may, instead, just succumb to the instinctive fear of the unknown/uncertain nothingness (nihilo) especially when it comes in the form of dark moving shadows or white floating smoke or claps of thunder.

This we probably did in the way we understood shamanism as Shyama or Shiva as dark gods residing in the smoke of the funeral pyres. All of us have seen (or ought to have seen) animals exhibiting this fear spontaneously.

I have not seen animals in spontaneous worship of the unknown. The closest I have come to images of animals worshipping god on the internet is shown in Fig 1.
It is obvious that we accept images of animals worshiping god when it corresponds to our image of worship. Whether the animals would agree with this image of worship is not clear. As Bertrand Russell famously said:-

“A process which led from the amoeba to man appeared to the philosophers to be obviously a progress though whether the amoeba would agree with this opinion is not known. “

Man (at least some of them) would like to think that they are more intelligent than animals, that they have an analytic mind. These men must always have a logical basis for their actions including their thought, since, they would say, for example, without much more enlightenment, that it is in their DNA (or ought to be). They are thus compelled to use this mind to understand the metaphysical god or its particle-physical counterpart --- now claimed to be in popular scientific parlance as the “god particle” or what more spiritual physicists would understand as the Higgs' Boson.

One of these most active minds must have been M. C. Escher whose mind must have been always occupied with the geometry of things and their symmetry. I don’t know how god or god-particle was represented (even if unconsciously) in Escher’s drawings. But he must have been very close to god-like (in some eyes) in his search for perfection. It is difficult to choose any of Escher’s drawings over others.
The drawing in Fig 2 left probably shows a morphing
of Escher's 1935 drawing of “Hand with reflecting sphere (self-portrait in spherical mirror)” and his 1948 drawing of “Stars” in which there are “All kinds of single, double and triple polyhedrons floating like tars through the air. In the center is a system of three regular octahedrons ... . In this cage live two chameleons whose ... legs and tails are particularly well adapted to grasp the framework of their cage as it whirls through space.” The original drawing of “Hands with reflecting sphere” shows a reflection of himself in the spherical mirror held in his hand“... your own hand or more exactly the point between your eyes is in the absolute center. No matter how you turn or twist yourself, you can’t get out of the central point. You are immovably, the focus, the unshakeable core of your world.”

In the morphed picture of Fig 2 (left) the centre of the octahedron would form the corresponding point. One could then interpret the drawing as the centre of you perception of the world wherein the chameleons who “... add an element of life gives the aspects of changing time in what could be perceived as life” in whatever form.

Escher add that the sphere is “ ... resting on a left hand. But as a print is the reverse of the original drawing on stone, it was my right hand that you see depicted (Being left handed, I needed my left hand to make the drawing). Perspectives change with changes in symmetry.

The figure on the right top are the steps from Escher’s “Ascending and Descending”. If the vertical axis of time then the figure would represent the endless-ness of time, no matter in which direction one travels. That is eternity. Between vacuum and eternity there are experiences appearing in myriad patterns. Escher (Fig 2 bottom right) expresses this many a time by spirals which can be viewed either way --- as spiralling outwards from zero to infinity or inwards from infinity to zero.

So where does the god of our creation come in?

Some long time back (early 1990s) I took a survey of people from the scientific community (at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste) on what was their impression of god. Scientists from a Christian background usually thought of God as a happy old man with a white beard. Scientists from the east (including Muslim background) thought of God as a blue light or some sort of energy. I have no expertise (this should not stop me) to go into the ethnological reasons for this difference, except the obvious --- westerners are more spontaneous.

On hindsight, these, two ways of looking at god, represents two different aspects of looking at our origin, somewhat irrelevantly distinguished as religious or scientific, and perhaps more tautologically as real and reciprocal, i.e., images in real space or images of tracks of energy-events. As Oscar Wilde said somewhere (I don’t know where)

People fashion their God after their own understanding. They make their God first and worship him afterwards

What I would like to pass-time on in this blog, on which I spent too much god-from-nothing time, is to discuss (in my present vision of the world) how the concept of, or logic behind, the revelation of god and/or god particle seemed to be necessary/justified in understanding te mass mentaity due to the mass religion of the powerful people.
My views on god is as uncertain as my views on how my brain will continue to function in the zwischenzeit after I am pronounced clinically dead and before I am dispersed to ashes. The first visual impression on the scientific evidence (Fig 3) for a god particle is equally inconclusive (mercifully) except that it looks like a blip.near the atomic number at the limit of stability of a hydrogen-atom-like species(fine structure constant ~ 137)

Abraham’s God and thereafter

The central thesis in all philosophies (as distinct from) religions is creatio ex nihilo (see Creation and the god of Abraham edited By Burrell, Cogliatti, Soskice and Steeger, Chapter 2) which means creation from nothing. This creation should also include vacuum (giving substance thereby, perhaps, to Julie Andrews’ song “nothing comes from nothing” in the Sound of Music) although not specifically stated in religious doctrines (seemingly). Probably influenced by it, the physicist would give a time (plus or minus a few million years) to when the world was created going by what they know --- at least, from their empirical observations at the present time.

Religions, interested in propagation of their philosophies, would resort to the language of faith in their religion, and would require an original god or prophet. There is no logic (or profit) for these religions to have god to be an uninterested eternal. A god has to be present with his people for all time, the pat, the present, and the future --- the father, the son and the holy ghost. As Judaism would say “The will of God is to dwell, as it were, among mankind, within this world. It is our duty to form ourselves into worthy vessels for the Divine Presence, the Shechinah, to dwell within.

In Hebrew scriptures, the sequence of events for the creation of the world as revealed in the genesis of god, the emission of light (or bosons when light is described as photons) started the world, with the subsequent formation of water and land and sun and moon and day and night, and then satisfied with his work, god created man in his own image. The importance of god started with the calling of Abraham, for guiding his people after the flood as Noah was thought to be too naive to deal with evil things e.g., Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham’s God is thought to be a product of the reasoning from the mind of man that has been given to him by god. Abraham’s observation on pagan rituals has been described in Kaplan’s “Handbook of Jewish thought” as
"It was into this pagan atmosphere that a most unique individual was born. From his earliest childhood,32 Abraham transcended his pagan environment ... and recognized that the world was governed by one Supreme Being. As one of the greatest geniuses of his time, Abraham was able to use his keen mind to see through the sham (Shyama, shiva, shaman?) and falsehood (postulates?) of the values of his generation,and understand the true purpose of creation.”(questions in parentheses are mine).
The logic of Abraham was simple,
... Avraham our father wondered, “Is it conceivable that the world be without a caretaker?” ...
For his times this must have been a most original thought because “,,, therefore, the Holy One, Blessed be He, appeared to him and said, “I am the Master of the universe and its Caretaker.”

It is not a matter of surprise that Abraham’s god should be the forebearer of religions from the people of Abraham (ephrahim, Ibrahim, Avraham, Avram). What is not surprising is that they gave rise to religions that claims to be the most pure (whatever purity may mean). What is of concern is that these religions continue to generate the most war-like talk in the world.

Logic of some Christians

Faith in God and the Christian church is something peculiar to Americans. What is the philosophy of the god that is important to the most powerful/influential/ country in the world --- US of A (at least at the present juncture of time).

The philosophy of the god of the Christian faith is perhaps in Abraham’s God.

Other countries take their Christianity for granted and it is a non issue for protecting their life or their style. The colonizing Americans were Christians who could not understand the hostile native population, unfortunately termed as Indians, and their worship. It is the Christian church, in their various forms, that provided an unifying God “… of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles." The advantage of being a Christian is that one is then not a Buddhist, or a muslim. In the Christian Church there are simple commandments by which one can be judged, without requiring an interpretation. Nevertheless, every advocate of Christianity would be happy with a logic or philosophy since it is, according to most religious philosophers, the human mind that is able to appreciate the Christian God. The conflict between doctrine and dialectics, reason and faith, has been one which has always troubled the preacher when he is asked the Aristotelean “why”.

Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham were two philosophers born in the 13th century without beards and with a distinct humourless curl of their lips (Fig 4) when sketched by an artist.

Thomas Aquinas (from Aquino in Italy) was canonized by the Catholic Church because he perfected the great *synthesis” of two seeming irreconciliables --- faith and reason.

I am not aware (as yet) of the details of this synthesis.

Aquinas provided answers to some “Disputed questions of created spirits” which requires (to sound authentic) a Latin translation as Questo disputata de spirityalibus creaturis. For example, a question asked would be
Is a spiritual substance able to be united to a body?
For which a Thomist (follower of Thomas Aquinas) would argue
… that the distinctive action of spiritual substance is to think – an action that can’t be a body’s action since thinking does not call for a bodily organ …

I suppose to a standard rationalist the statement “faith can move mountains” cannot be based on reason. A Thomist could, at best, have faith in reasoning out a way to move a mountain.

It would be important to gain insights into a person like Alfred Freddoso, John and Jean Oesterle Professor of Thomistic Studies Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame. Fredesso is part of the very solid conservative strain that is said to be the back-bone of honest-to god American politics, who are not expected to not vote for Obama. Alfred Freddoso may not be a prime example of Camelot’s ordinary folk, but he certainly could have enjoyed many happy months of May. Alfred Freddoso has five children which is sufficient in modern times to make him a saint, provided he is not (for different reasons) Osama Bin Laden (> 20 children) or Lalu Prasad Yadav (twelve).

Freddoso’s distinction is that he translated Thomas Aquinas’s works from Italian to English. He writes “Christian life consists not just in God’s forgiving our sins, but also in his effecting within us an interior transformation that needs to be spelled out in straightforward metaphysical terms.” Freddoso would ask questions such as
“And how does one imbued with that vision (Christian way of life) and that ideal, along with the wisdom they promise, look upon the main alternatives proposed by philosophers who have sought wisdom outside the framework of faith in Jesus Christ?”

This conservative logic is not different from the way a Marxist would like Marxists to behave or Islam would like muslims to behave. It is difficult for us Indians, who have grown up in the very liberal traditions of our soil, to find any salvation in being close to a God of an indefinite but singular kind when we have so much plurality in them and their teachings.

The efforts of Thomas Aquinas who used Aristotle’s philosophical methods to base his philosophy in defence of the doctrines of Christianity resulted in the belief of Christian philosophers about the complementary nature of reason and faith, and that they cannot be treated as opposites.

I personally do not think so. While Aristotle has a spirit of free inquiry, the method of Aquinas assumes that there is a correct answer to every question and his service to the church was to help in the search of the correct answer by his methods. Thus, while Aristotle had in ascending order of knowledge perception, memory experience, art, science and wisdom, Aquinas had in descending order, god, angels, humans and other animate or inanimate creatures. Aquinas’s philosophy led naturally to his favouring a hierarchical society which required men in society to be governed preferably by one ruler. (see Karl Marx And The Future Of The Human by Cyril Smith).

Alfred Freddoso has also studied William Ockham of the Ockham’s razor fame. Ockham is considered to be a staunch critic of Thomas Aquinas. According to Alfred Freddoso “... Ockham is ... less hopeful than Aquinas ... in his assessment of just how much philosophical truth natural reason is capable of acquiring without the aid of divine revelation ...”

Everyone knows about Ockham’s (Occam’s?) razor which is difficult to understand for some when stated as
Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate
In English it is
pluarilty should not be posited without necessity when explaining something...
In his History of Western Philosophy (1945, see Taylor) Bertrand Russell writes
... Although he did not say this, he said something which has much the same effect, namely: "It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer." That is to say, if everything in some science can be interpreted without assuming this or that hypothetical entity, there is no ground for assuming it.

Ockham’s principle of parsimony (being frugal) was probably stated by Aristotle as perfection makes easier function and by Isaac Newton as “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." The key word here means that it should be sufficient. For example, when the apple falls, the colour of the apple or the eyes of the beholder, or the mercy of god and the hunger of the people are not important ingredients to understand why the apple falls.

Occam's razor in ontology (philosophy of existence) is probably aimed at leaving questions of theology --- natural or revealed --- aside and accept the basic doctrine or faith when no matter what one posits one does not add more significance. By this logic one does not have to explain mass of matter or action at a distance by positing Higgs’ boson.

Probably in this sense I have to agree with “Menvall's Blog: Phylogenetics – change on different levels” (February 2012) where he concludes
*... Logic has no possibility to reach unambiguity ... I reckon this is the same message as William of Ockham, Cantor, Russell, TS Eliot, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gödel, Douglas Hofstadter (with Gödel, Escher and Bach), among many others, have tried to convey. It is the message of the impossibility of a single truth, ...
The corollary to this is that if Ockham's razor supports the idea that we accept that God created everything since it is much simpler than the complex ideas of evolution, we mmy acept Bertrand Russell's (1912; see Raylor’s Ockham’s Razor in Russell’s Philosophy) perfectly acceptable point:
… every principle of simplicity urges us to adopt the natural view, that there
really are objects other than ourselves and our sense-data which have an existence
not dependent upon our perceiving them. . . . Since this belief does not lead to any
difficulties but on the contrary tends to simplify and systematize our account of
our experiences, there seems no good reason for rejecting it.

This should be the view of both Aquinas and Ockham.

In the great debate of whether God exists or not we would simply have to say that there is no good reason for rejecting it. Just like the Bellman we simply have to treat the search for god as another Hunting of the Snark, and one only has to assert three times that that God exists and that will be true.

As a corollary, we may also argue that since the creation and destruction of the world --- the snark and the boojum? --- is in the hands of god (or of Shiva if you insist) one does not have to debate about how the world ends. It is at God’s (or goddess Gaya’s) mercy, no matter how much you may huff and puff about global warming, Monsanto seeds, environmental population or IVF babies.

Or even wondering about our origin the way only man does (supposedly) compared to other animals (at least those that we have not communicated with). This is expressed in the cartoon (from

The way the society is being run by the multimedia we may love to limit our thinking to that of the animals.