Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not Even Wrong - Part 3

At this point, you are probably asking "So, why the hell should I give a crap about this metamagical botulism, or whatever the heck you are talking about, Johnny?"

Mathematical platonism.

All-ri-ight. Let's just cut through all my bullshit and get to the point.

FACT: People's world views affect how they receive facts. Information is personal.  Information that does not sit well within your system of beliefs is likely to be rejected. Information that is in line is likely to be accepted. Seems fairly obvious. Are we in agreement so far? If so, then: 

CONSEQUENCE: How often is false information accepted? (And here, I designate false information as demonstrably false, i.e. empirically false, e.g. beyond opinion, beyond suspicion, beyond reasonable doubt, into the realm of science). Answer: as often as your system of beliefs can stand the strain. There are limits to credulity, you know. You may believe in an Almighty, but how far are you willing to go, with both the conceptual assumptions and narratives? Is your Almighty ineffable and immaterial? If so, does He or She or It occupy a spiritual realm separate from material existence? If so, how populous is this realm? Are you willing to believe in gnomes? Goblins? Fairies? How ridiculous does the creature have to get before you don't believe in them? And can you reliably draw a parting line? Etc.

(Lest you think I am picking on spiritual types as the more credulous and naive --and I am, because ultimately this is the frickin' point-- let's not forget that materialism is itself a metaphysic whose assumptions are subject to investigation. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggests that materialists deny the existence of God and the soul. But if you looked at yesterday's journal entry, you can see this ain't necessarily so. For better criticisms, see Immanuel Kant, or, to some extent David Hume, or George Berkeley. Although I should warn you. These guys are seriously boring motherfuckers, and philosophy is, ultimately a giant fucking waste of time).

ELSE ALTERNATELY: Congratulations. You have absolutely not a shred of bias or bigotry in that vacuum fresh little mind of yours. You are either a newborn (unlikely, as they have biases, like prefering pretty faces over ugly ones), or you are an idiot, like the Peter Seller's character Chance in "Being There". So, no, there is no Else Alternately. Back to... Consequences!

Here's something. I've run across people who get all excited about things like numerology, or sacred geometry, or even that things like the Golden Ratio, the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci sequence, and basically they swoon over the idea that the universe is founded upon mathematics. The underlying assumption here is that Number is real. Number has a separate, independent, and perhaps transcendental existence from our reality. Or as the mathematician G.H. Hardy once put it, mathematics - numbers - would exist even if our universe did not.


I could give you the standard philosophical objections to this, but it's boring and silly. The most fanatical of mathematical platonists, probably of all time, was Kurt Godel. Godel insisted that not only was the Realm of Number real, but an internal sense called Mathematical Intuition existed that allowed us to tap into this realm. 

Again, bullshit.  

And I'll tell you why I think it's all bullshit tomorrow. But I've run out of time, once again.

Suffice to say, the consequences of accepting this world view are pretty dire, and can in more cases  than not result in some dangerously stupid decisions about what to do in the world.

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