Are We Wrong About The Universe?

December 7, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

wrongtoday

Are we today as wrong about any scientific fact that is widely accepted as the belief that the earth was the center of the universe and the like?

It’s not so much a particular scientific fact that we are currently wrong about, but rather the interpretation of those facts which is ultimately incomplete and inverted. In my view, the cosmological picture that we have inherited is as wrong as geocentric astronomy was, in that we presume a physical universe of forces, fields, particles, and mechanisms; forms and functions which act in the complete absence of any kind of experience or awareness. I expect that we will eventually come to understand that unconscious forms and functions cannot generate any such thing as a sensation or feeling, and that it is actually forms and functions which are presentations within a deeper context of universal perceivability.

Because we have made great use of the tools of science to objectify the universe by factoring out our own subjectivity, we have fallen under a kind of spell of amnesia in which we exclude the process of objectification itself from our picture of the universe. In the effort to dispel the ghost-in-the-machine legacy of Cartesian Dualism, we have succumbed to a more insidious dualism, which is that of “illusion” vs reality, or “emergent properties” vs physical systems. From this vantage point, we are susceptible to any kind of theory which satisfies our empirical measurements, regardless of how incompatible they are with our direct experience. As long as a legitimate scientific authority stands behind it, the educated public happily swallows up anti-realisms in the service of realism…multi world interpretations, superposition, vacuums filled with energy. There is nothing wrong with entertaining these very legitimate possibilities, but there is a deep irony which is being overlooked.

The problem is that we have taken ourselves out of the picture of the universe, but we haven’t gone far enough. We have over-estimated our objectivity in one sense and under-estimated it in another so that the universe we imagine as objectively present looks, sounds, tastes, and feels just as it would to a highly culturally conditioned Homo sapien of the early 21st century. We have failed to appreciate the profound truths revealed by Relativity, quantum uncertainty, incompleteness, the placebo effect, and the vast pool of insight provided by centuries of direct consciousness exploration. Had we been willing to connect the dots, I think that we would see the common denominator is that nature is subject to perceptual participation for its fundamental definitions. In other words, what both the empirical and rational methods of inquiry have shown is that nature is inseparable from perceivability. It is a multitude of changing types of awareness which produces and preserves all forms.

We are used to thinking that consciousness is a special ability of Homo sapiens, and perhaps a few other species, but this is as naive and egocentric as Ptolemaic astronomy now seems. Just as biology has found no hard line separating living cells from genetic machinery, the study of consciousness has revealed signs of sensation and awareness in everything from ants, single celled plants, even a ball of dough. There seems to be no good reason to automatically consider the activities performed by any natural structure strictly unconscious. Indeed, we may be projecting our own complex human experience of layers of consciousness, semi-consciousness, and seeming unconsciousness onto nature at large.

The reality may be that every frame of reference is actually a frame of afference… a trans-spatial, trans-temporal platform for developing temporalizing and spatializing aesthetic experiences. Afference is a neologism adapted from the function of afferent nerves. In this case I am generalizing that function of bringing signals in from the outside. Afference is conceived as a fundamental receptivity to experience which allows for the appearance of all phenomena including space (a sense of distance between tangible or visual presentations) and time (a sense of memory and evaluation of causality) within any given frame. Afference is a hypothetical sub-set or diffraction from the overall Perceivability Spectrum (pansensitivity, pan-afference, or even ‘ference’).

This doesn’t mean that every ‘thing’ is conscious. That sort of ‘promiscuous’ panpsychism is only the first step away from the pseudo-dualism of contemporary science. It can help us to begin to break through our anthropocentrism and consider other scales of time and body size, however it can also lead to misguided expectations about inanimate objects ‘having’ experiences rather than their objecthood ‘being’ an experience within our body’s perceptual scales and limits. The experience of a computer for example, may be limited to the hardware level where natural sensory acquaintance and motor engagement is felt on the microphysical scale and has no emergence to genuine high level humanlike intelligence.

By considering consciousness (not human consciousness, but universal perceivability) to be the source of all qualities and properties of nature, the Hard Problem of materialism solves itself. Physical forces and fields need not be sought out to explain the creation of bodies-with-awareness, which are impossible by definition in my view. In my view there is no room for any kind of sensation or participation as a mechanical product of geometry or computation. Instead, we should recognize that it is experiential phenomena alone which present themselves as bodies, images, thoughts, feelings, etc. Every appearance of mechanical or random force in our frame of perception is ultimately a feeling of participation and sense in a distant and alienated frame of perception.

Every appearance of a ‘field’ (gravitational, electromagnetic, or otherwise) is in the same way only a range of sensitivity projected into another range of sensitivity that uses spatial terms (rather than non-spatial or trans-spatial like olfactory or emotional sense). It is the sense modality of tangibility which deals in spaces and geometries: visible and/or touchable forms. With the ‘field’ model, we are presuming regions of space as domains within which effects simply found to be present by definition. By using the afference model instead, locality is understood to be a symptom of how extra-local phenomena are translated into locality-constrained sensory modes. Afference opens the door to understanding how not to take presence for granted and to see it as a relativistic, aesthetically driven universal phenomenon (or the absolute meta-phenomenon).

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  1. December 14, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Craig, Reading this I feel as though you must have read Karen Barad’s ‘Meeting the Universe Halfway’ … and … that’s a very good thing.

    • December 14, 2016 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks, no I haven’t read that, but it sounds like maybe I should!

  2. March 7, 2017 at 1:46 am

    I don’t know what “as wrong” means. It seems to suggest that there is a way to decide whether one thing is more or less wrong than another. Would it be more or less wrong to believe that 1+1=3, or that there is no God (assuming that 1+1=2 and there is a God)?

    • March 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Yes, I don’t know who wrote that particular Quora question, but the phrasing of it is pretty bad.

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