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Questionably exclusive framing of multiverse by science


Being a Poem in the Making (Part #3)


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Multiple "parallel universes" have been hypothesized in cosmology, physics, astronomy, religion, philosophy, transpersonal psychology and fiction, particularly in science fiction and fantasy. Such parallel universes may also be variously termed "alternative universes", "quantum universes", "interpenetrating dimensions", "parallel dimensions", "parallel worlds", "alternative realities", "alternative timelines", and "dimensional planes," among others. The term "multiverse" was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James but has more recently been given greater currency and academic credibility by physics (cf. Bernard Carr, Universe or Multiverse? 2009; Multiversal Journeys: theoretical physics made easy for the public). A valuable summary is provided by Ruediger Vaas, who concludes:

Perhaps in a thousand years or already in ten years cosmologists will wonder about us, asking either how we could have been so blind as not to see or accept the signs of other universes, or how we could have been so crazy in our beliefs in (a science of) other universes. Right now however it is an open issue, and therefore not unreasonable to defend and advance a scientific analysis of M. At least in principle there are some possibilities both for a verification of other universes understood as hypothetical universal existential claims and for theoretical embeddings of those claims. This should remind us of what Steven Weinberg (1977) wrote long ago: "our mistake is not that we take our theories too seriously, but that we do not take them seriously enough." (Multiverse Scenarios in Cosmology: classification, cause, challenge, controversy, and criticism, Journal of Cosmology, 2010)

Science has created an alienating world of "explanations" about which people are encouraged to read, attend lectures, or view documentaries. It offers little that is enabling of the significance by which people are nourished in their personal experience. In that sense it is fundamentally sterile and may well pride itself on that. Worse perhaps, the pattern of explanations effectively imprisons people in a sterile cognitive space, of which they are relatively unconscious -- echoed by the institutional conditions within which people are consequently employed, as rationalized by science, in a lifelong quest for such nourishment.

This concern is complemented and further justified by the recent work of the biological anthropologist Terrence Deacon (Incomplete Nature: how mind emerged from matter, 2012; The Symbolic Species: the co-evolution of language and the brain, 1997). The fundamental value of focusing on what is "absent" from conventional explanation is introduced by Deacon by comparing it to the vital role of zero in the number system -- itself a great discovery (cf. Charles Seife, Zero: the biography of a dangerous idea, 2000; Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan, The Nothing that Is: a natural history of zero, 2000). Appropriate to this argument, as explored below, the integrative multiverse explanation offered by Bernard Carr is schematically presented through the form of the traditional Ouroboros -- readily perceived as a kind of zero.

For Deacon:

Basically, it means that our best science -- that collection of theories that presumably comes closest to explaining everything -- does not include this one most defining characteristic of being you and me. In effect, our current "Theory of Everything" implies that we don't exist, except as collections of atoms. So what's missing? Ironically and enigmatically, something missing is missing. (p. 1) [emphasis added]

He uses this analogue to zero to demonstrate how a form of causality dependent on specifically absent features and unrealized potentials can be compatible with the best of science. Deacon sees this approach as offering a glimpse of the qualitative outlines of a future science that is subtle enough to include us and our enigmatically incomplete nature, as legitimate forms of knotting in the fabric of the universe (p. 17)

In his concluding paragraph he notes:

In the title to one of his recent books, Stuart Kauffman [At Home in the Universe: the search for laws of self-organization and complexity, 1995] succinctly identifies what has been missing from out current blinkered metaphysical worldview. Despite the power and insights that we have gained from this powerful way of conceiving of the world, it has not helped us to feel "at home in the universe". Even as our scientific tools have given us mastery over so much of the physical world around and within us, they have at the same time alienated us from these same realms. It is time to find our way home. (p. 545) [emphasis added]

The concern here is the manner in which any multiverse is thereby framed as a hypothesis disassociated from personal experience and inaccessible to it -- in the here and now. This framing is consistent with the dominant mindset of the sciences. The dimensional complexity associated with the hypothesis implies the need for years of academic training, and proven demonstration of competence amongst peers, before any claims can be made to understanding of it or useful statements can be made regarding it. This is the consequence of the construction of a highly complex formalism which very few, if any, can claim to understand.


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