Input and Feedback from Stuart Kauffman

Stuart Kauffman, theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher. Former faculty in residence Santa Fe Institute, and author of Reinventing the Sacred. (September 15, 2012)

David, I just read your fine article. I deeply agree with its central themes, with doubts about cosmic intelligence - yet have written a speculative paper on that possibility, now in press, growing from the testable hypothesis that conscious experience is associated with quantum measurement. If that is true and measurement is only "necessary", which I think we can test, good. But if quantum measurement is both necessary and sufficient for conscious experience, qualia, then each measurement event is associated with what Whitehead called "prehension". Then, given non-locality in quantum mechanics via entanglement, one can at least conceive of distant parts of the universe jointly conscious. This is not yet intelligence or agency. And I see no way to test a "sufficiency" claim.

On the broader front, much of my work aims in the same direction of your third world view. This is the focus of Investigations, my third book on Agency, and Reinventing the Sacred, which I hope you find useful. In turn, one of its central claims is that the evolution of the biosphere is naturally creative, i.e. beyond entailing (Newton or Schrodiger like laws). With Giuseppe Longo and Mael Montevil, two French mathematicians at the Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, I co-posted and now we have the paper in press: "No entailing laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere" posted Physics ArXhiv Jan 12, 2012, downloadable, tough read.

If we are right it goes a long way towards parts of your third cosmology. More, we show that "without natural selection 'acting' to achieve it', the biosphere literally creates its own future possibilities of becoming. So does the evolving econosphere, and culture. Here not only do we not know what WILL happen, we often do not even know what CAN happen. If so, then we cannot REASON about what we cannot know, so reason is an insufficient guide to living our lives, we need reason, emotion, INTUITION, and sensation, conscious and unconscious mind. But in turn, we cannot know ahead of time what we co-create, thus we live in "discovery" in face of Mystery, as theologian Gordon Kaufman, Harvard, taught. This IS part of the becoming journey of which you write.

More, on a finite planet, forever GDP growth is at this late date, stupid. I would VERY much like to join your efforts in these directions. Max Weber said, "With Newton we became disenchanted and entered Modernity". Yes, we lost the Magi of the 15th and 16th century to Newton, then came to the Enlightenment, its Age of Reason, down with the clerics up with science for the ever betterment of humanity (God's promise to Adam in Genesis on one interpretation, as you rightly say.). Then the Industrial Revolution then Modernity. I think, for reasons you say, and also because of disenchantment, we are quite lost in Modernity with its overwhelming power structure, the evil of the Enlightenment alongside the good of some form of democracy, although corrupted, and the greed of credit default swaps ringing the globe, bets backed by no assets on which the big banks make billions betting trillions, endangering us all and fighting against any recurrence of regulation.

If we see reality in a new way, something like your third cosmology David, and my quest too, we will inevitably BE in the world in a different way as we tell ourselves a new story. I do not know how to break the power structure by head on attack. But a new STORY from a different view of reality MAY render that power structure irrelevant as we transition somehow beyond Modernity into an adjacent possible we cannot, typically, prestate, but do co-create.

I've written a number of overlapping recent papers growing from Longo et. al. More I HOPE that re-enchantment can come from the natural magic that the evolving biosphere creates, without selection doing so, its own future possibilities of becoming, and so does cultural and economic life. We need magic. Finally, in Answering Descartes, I propose, VERY tentatively, what seems to be both a new dualism and new interpretation of quantum mechanics built upon Richard Feynman's "sum over all possible histories" formulation of QM, which violates Aristotle's law of the excluded middle and fits only C.S. Pierce's Possibles, not Actuals or Probables, the dualism, tentative, is: Res potentia (ontologically real possibles) and Res extensa (ontologically real Actuals, eg classical world or specific quantum state outcomes of quantum measurement), linked, hence united, by quantum measurement. On this view, tentative, measurement is the Possible becoming Actual, a kind of Natural Incarnation I wrote about to my surprise.


No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.