Having read the article about Max Tegmark’s new book Our Mathematical Universe, my dire predictions for the unavoidable future of the current dominant tendency in Science have been sadly confirmed.
For, he discounts the whole of explanatory Physics as “mere baggage”, and endows what Forms are currently dealt with by the vast majority of current sub atomic physicists as the only True Essences of Reality.
What is more, it is these admittedly abstract Forms that are the drivers of Everything (he “subtly” puts it that they also constitute Everything, but that doesn’t help either). He has finally gone the whole hog to Idealism!
Materialism, as the usual basis for Science, is just another type of “baggage”: that is it is consequence rather than a cause. And the Universe acts solely in accordance with purely formal relations – as extracted and investigated by mathematical physicists.
Such an amazing standpoint has somehow to be established, so he stresses the various alternative explanatory physical theories as non-essential baggage, merely mistakenly added to the revealed, formal essentials. He doesn’t say it as such, but what he infers is that all such “baggage” consists of man-made inventions, while what mathematical relations deliver are aspects of Absolute Truth.
I have to admit that I want to take every word that this man utters, and force it back down his throat with some real Reality-based Philosophy, but to go to such lengths gives altogether too much credence to what he has to say. But, he has finally admitted what the majority of present-day Sub Atomic physicists believe, which will, inevitably, deliver its demise.
Interestingly, he puts it very differently. He says that anything less than a complete subscription to Form alone, will certainly cause the end of Physics.
But, of course, he is confusing what he, and his mathematical colleagues do, with the Science of Physics – the scientific effort to understand Reality. What the consensus (including Tegmark) do is Mathematics – the detailed study, NOT of Reality, but of its universal shapes and patterns that can be both extracted and then idealised from Reality, and into a World of Pure Forms alone, which we term Ideality.
Now, of course, this Sub World of Form alone is not an invention. It does exist, but nowhere as such in Reality.
For each and every relation is idealised into a Pure Form as it would exist, if and only if, it could stand entirely alone – without any other relations or even any concrete Reality: it is the World of Purely Formal Abstractions!
Now, of course, such a sub World of Form, and nothing else, is not some totally arbitrary invention.
It does, indeed, exist, but as a very limited reflection of Reality, like the shapes of the shadows it casts. Mathematicians study these in preference to Reality itself, because it is much easier, and seems to directly deliver Absolute Truth - which is impossible when studying an actively changing, indeed an evolving, concrete Reality.
The simplest analogy that I can give is that it is like a study of the shadows cast by real objects: for they are determined by the real objects, but do not in any way contain the substance and active relations of that Reality, but only derived and content-less Forms of it. Hence, they will reveal relations, but only as disembodied and idealised Forms!
Clearly, as such, they cannot be either arbitrary or invented, but they have stripped out completely what actually casts that shadow leaving only a very limited set of formal features of the severely limited views and their rules.
Now, though by no means exact, this analogy can also address the surfaces on which the shadows fall, from purely flat planes to all sorts of other topologies – delivering very distorted, yet expressible, shapes that occur upon them. So, in that sense, Mathematics is incomparably less than Reality, while also extendable beyond its concrete source in all its possible distortions.
To the man in the street, unaware of modern Sub Atomic Physics, what Tegmark expresses is either totally unintelligible, or alternatively “beyond his ken” - magical truths revealed by the only true experts in studying Reality at that level.
Yet, the first conception was the right one. Such people as Max Tegmark are what are termed mathematical-theorists of Physics. They deal wholly and only in mathematical forms, believing they are true essences of Reality. And, in that they are totally wrong!
The question is, “How do they get away with it?” And, “Why are they not trounced by other physicists occupying themselves with concrete Reality itself?”
Well, the reason is that the opposing group (what is now left of them) were, and still are, also incredibly compromised in their own basic standpoint and approach.
For centuries they have all based their studies and experiments on the fundamental Principle of Plurality, and this has led them into a complete dead end in attempting to continue ever deeper into revealing the true Nature of Reality. For, Plurality enables their banker technique, which they call Analysis. It is assumed that numbers of eternal Natural Laws act together upon each and every situation in Reality, but only sum in various ways, with different dominances that deliver very different resultant scenarios.
Their only approach is to tease out what they assume to be these “entirely separable” laws, in order to explain what they have observed.
Experiments are purposely constructed with the objective of clearly revealing a particular “law”, so that it can then be extracted. Multiple reapplications of such methods can be arranged to reveal each and every acting law in a given situation, and once they are all known (or, at least, the most important ones in the given context), they can be summed with different weightings to explain the overall unfettered Reality that has been directly observed.
BUT, Plurality is the Principle that insists that these laws are wholly separable, and that such methods are therefore entirely valid. But, it just isn’t true!
The World is certainly NOT pluralistic, but, on the contrary, it is Holistic! The laws extracted by these methods are NOT eternal, but actually caused in each situation by many different factors, which mutually modify each other and deliver what we actually see. The assumption of entirely separable laws is a man-made construct!
ONLY, in appropriately constrained conditions can such ideas and methods be made to work, but absolutely NEVER in totally unfettered Reality!
Plurality is a man-devised strategy to make of Reality what enables investigations to deliver such “laws”, and thereafter to use them to both predict and produce as long as the conducive, restrictive and filtering conditions are maintained throughout! Such “laws” are limited to the conditions in which they were extracted. Outside of that context, they are different, and will fail!
Now, this development, historically, was entirely unavoidable! For, in spite of Holism being much closer to the real nature of Reality, it could NOT suggest any means of investigating what was going on.
The pragmatic purposes in manipulating parts of Reality to both analysis and useful tasks, was much better served by control and maintenance of Parts of Reality assumed by Plurality, and implemented by extensive “farming” of contexts. Indeed the whole of Science is generally pluralistic!
In addition to this important flaw in conceptions and consequent methods, this meant that all Theories were also unavoidably flawed too. The pluralistic methods did indeed reveal very clearly entirely extractable and also useable formal relations, BUT ONLY in the simplified set-ups that had always to be both constructed for extraction, and also maintained for effective use.
And unsurprisingly such intended idealisations meant that the very same Pure Forms were found in many different situations.
Such idealised Forms were indeed universal, in such carefully perfected and producing contexts.
Yet, this was damagingly turned into a belief that the Forms were the motive forces of Reality: they all over the place, made phenomena act as they did. The preoccupation with Ideal Forms, automatically endowed them with causality, and hence turned believers into Idealists rather than Materialists.
As Hegel had clearly demonstrated, incorrect assumptions would always lead to the establishment of a Dichotomous Pair of mutually contradictory conceptions, which had to be switched between as and when each delivered what was needed.
Science had long been afflicted with such an impasse, but pragmatically soldiered on; unphased by their contradictory based Sciences, and even Physics became an amalgam of separate specialisms with different philosophies – Experimenters, Theorists and Technologists!
Now, Mankind, being what it is, these approaches were speculatively extended with a view to explaining the World. And together they gave both an explicable view, as well as a pragmatic useable Form. But, while one, the explanatory View, could never deliver the “Absolute Truth” of Reality, the other, the mathematical one, could indeed deliver the Absolute Truths of Pure Form!
You can see the unavoidable problem!
Now, re-reading the whole of the article on Tegmark again, you cannot but be struck by how static is the World he describes. And such a stationary World is also not true!
You would think he is saying that he is attempting to reveal the eternal laws, which supposedly add together to make Reality what it as (as strictly pluralistic as that of his opponents), so, nowhere do you get any kind of inkling of the actual Development of Reality, and, most importantly, its undoubted creations of the wholly new.
He might disagree, but frankly such things are so important that to not even mention them means indisputably that he doesn’t consider them as significant. I can only assume that he is a supporter of the “ever more complex mixes” attitude, wherein all the acting laws are totally constant, but come together occasionally in new quantitative mixes, and thus deliver what seems to be wholly new, but is actually just a re-arrangement. This would make Life – merely a re-arrangement, and Consciousness – yet another! NO!
Emphatically, Tegmark is not only a mathematician, but also a pluralist, and a rejecter of what are usually termed Emergences - or short episodes involving creations of the really wholly New! To miss out this absolutely crucial aspect of a Developing Reality, also condemns his standpoint completely, and makes his philosophy a study of Stability only!
Nowhere does he include interludes of crisis, collapse and emergence. To him, presumably, his elementary particles have just come together in a particular way, in, say, the human brain, and when he and his fellow physicists have all the fundamental laws within their hands, they will have no real difficulty, not only in explaining Consciousness, but also in being able to construct it on the very latest computers.
May I say it?
It is a very stupid philosophical or scientific standpoint!
This paper has been published as part of Issue 34 of the Shape Journal entitled Myths of Tegmark