Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Demystifying Roger Penrose's Three Mysteries of Reality

In a recent discussion about Sir Roger Penrose’s '3 realms' view of reality, Penrose set the stage by listing his Three Mysteries:

1)   “Mysteries (of) the physical world, physical stuff.”
2)   Mystery of the “mental world that's our experiences, consciousness, feelings about things.”
3)   Mystery of “the world of mathematical abstraction”
(Below the fold I’ve transcribed the full quotes in context.)
Those points stopped me right there.  Before continuing I needed to be able to enunciate why I found the above so inadequate for such an exploration of reality.

Here I take a moment to suggest a more fruitful approach.  When Penrose mentioned “the mystery of physical stuff,”  there was no talk of Evolution.  Why?  

After all, all the physical stuff around us is the product of an evolutionary process that started billions of years before humanity and will continue billions of years after we are dust and forgotten - why ignore that this Earth created us and we will die back into it?  

Seems to me acquiring such an awareness is a prerequisite for any subsequence discussion.  While the omission relegates understanding Evolution to insignificance leaving our outlook on “reality” decidedly egocentric and myopic.

It is an indication of not having internalized the one sure thing about our existence above all else: we are the products of Earth’s long Evolution and will die back into her.

Penrose uses “the mystery” of physical stuff.  Mysteries are things that unfold and are studied from within our "mindscape" - there are no mysteries within the natural order of physical stuff.  

Nature unfolds without any fanfare, knowing exactly what to do next.  It is our minds doing all the struggling to make sense of it.

Second mystery, Penrose’s “mental world” 

That’s what I call our “mindscape” - all that our senses absorb and process into mental communications we learn from, ponder, and act upon.

His third mystery is “the world of mathematical abstraction.” 

To me that’s a fancy way of saying the “language of science.”  

Something I refer to as the “domain of science” - which resides only within the realm of our collective “mindscape” - though it is dedicated to soberly, truthfully studying and striving to understand the physical world as well as possible.

I believe framing these issues into such mysteries distances us from achieving a clearer appreciation for our place in the world and this time, because it overlooks the supremacy of the Earth and her ways and means.  

I believe we must first appreciate that physical reality is what it is, fundamental and beyond our human existence.  Then we’ll achieve a better vista for contemplating the mysteries of certain apes evolving into self-imagined masters of the Universe.

Stephen Gould inspired me with his Nonoverlapping Magisteria (NOMA) where he boils down our reality to the Magisteria of Science and the Magisteria of Religion while also leaving Earth out of his equation.

The real divide that Gould and others keep over looking is the divide between Earth/Physical Reality and the products of our human minds, which I refer to as our “mindscape” individually and collectively -  as I write about here.  

Now for my elevator pitch,

The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisteria of Physical Reality,” and recognizing both science and religion are products of the “Magisteria of Our Mindscape.

The domain of Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape. 

As for the domain of Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable. 

What’s the point? 
Science, religions, heaven, hell, political beliefs, even God, they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.

{That's not to say they are the same thing, they are not!  
Though I think they're both equally valid human endeavors, 
but fundamentally qualitatively different.
Religion deals with the inside of our minds, hearts and souls,
Science does its best to objectively understand the physical world beyond our mind.}

Here we are, 2018,19 sober assessment of physical facts is out of fashion and fantasy thinking in the service of ruthless avarice is in.

Now it literally threatening to topple USA’s government Of The People, By The People, and For The People, in favor of a Me First, profits are more important than people, oligarch run machine. 
Well, unless an awful lot of sideliners start getting engaged in our democratic process.
All the while the actual physical creation outside of our conceited little minds keeps on unfolding, following well understood geophysical rules regardless. 
Ignore at our own peril.

Considering the Missing Key to Stephen Gould’s “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” (NOMA)

Peter, Why are you an Earth Centrist?


Sir Roger Penrose’s complete quotes that I needed to truncate for my introduction.

Back to the beginning and why I wrote the above.  Over at CFI Forum a gent suggested a new video of a discussion between Sir Roger Penrose and William Lane Craig: “The Universe: How did it get here & why are we part of it?” and asked our opinions.  It started out an interesting discussion which quickly turned into an excellent vehicle for me to write about Earth Centrism and why it offers us a better perspective from which to ponder our place in the Universe.

Thus began this journey,

Interviewer summarized Penrose views: 
Three ways in which you can look at reality: 
the mental - the physical - the abstract


The Universe: 
How did it get here & why are we part of it?
Sir Roger Penrose & William Lane Craig  

Unbelievable? | The Big Conversation |  Premiered Oct 4, 2019

Celebrated mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose talks to renowned Christian philosopher William Lane Craig about God and the Universe.  They discuss Penrose's '3 realms' view of reality and his Conformal Cyclical Cosmology. Could the fundamental nature of reality, the Big Bang and the fine tuning of the Universe point towards a creator God?

Sir Roger Penrose:  
There’s a certain sense in which I would say the universe has a purpose it's not there just somehow by chance some people take the view that the universe is simply there and it runs along it's a bit as though it just sort of computes and we happen by accident to find ourselves in this thing I don’t think that's a very fruitful or helpful way {Why? For humanistic reasons or scientific reasons} of looking at the universe I think there's something much deeper about it about its existence which we have very little inkling of at the moment.” 

BC - you’ve obviously written as well at length and spoken of the fact that you see that there's there's a sort of

three ways in which you can look at reality: 
the mental - the physical the - abstract 

In some sense you actually believe there is more to this reality than simply the physical aspect that many people, many of your atheist colleagues, would say well that's that’s all that ultimately exists here Roger.  

Do you want to just begin by sort of spelling spelling that out what your worldview is in that sense?

Penrose - Well you mentioned what when you say my world you mentioned the three worlds which I often used to describe, … these things are also the three mysteries if you like.  

Well one of these mysteries you say there's the physical world  you know things like tables and so on and what we think of is it's the physical world all this not quite clear when we go deeply into it what's going on what that really means, but never mind about that  -  the physical world 

Then there's a mental world that's our experiences, consciousness, feelings about things so on,

Then there's what you call the abstract world, 
I would be more specific about that, it's a mathematical abstraction, 
so we're thinking about how it is.  

Well let me secondly explain the mysteries: 
mystery number one is the fact that, this world of physics seems to depend so extraordinary precisely and the more we explore it the more precise we see this is.  (That is) precisely guided by mathematical equations.  So we have these mathematical, let's not just say equations that's a bit too specific,

mathematical principles which govern in such a precise way, the way this physical world operates, and there is if you like a huge mystery.  I’m calling it a mystery these things we’re never quite sure . 

BC - Is this what Eugene Wigner found yes so because as the unreasonable effective of mathematics.  It just seems to be a an extraordinarily remarkable fact that mathematics is, that the universe seems to be written in that language and we can discover it.

Penrose - That’s exactly it, yes yes.  The more we we know about how things operate, I mean now there's extraordinary precision (in the) measurements 

Penrose - okay it just shows that the mathematical theories when we really understand them and when we get them right there's still not quite right.  (What are expecting absolute certitude?  What allows one such an expectation?) 
nevertheless the precision is extraordinary so that's mystery number one. 

Mystery number two is how is it that conscious experience can arise when the circumstances seem to be right,

 it doesn't seem to be probable, now I'm just guessing, but I don't think it's present in that glass or in the water in the glass but nevertheless it seems to come about with certainly with human beings and I think with our animals I don’t think it's unique to human brains at all.

BC - Brain structures somehow seem to give rise to to this.

Penrose - Yes, and there is a genuine mystery and I think and it's not just a matter of you know complicated computations, there’s something much more subtle going on.   So that's mystery number two.

Mystery number three is our ability to use our conscious understanding to comprehend mathematics and these very extraordinary self-consistent with deep ideas which are very far from my experiences so that's the how we how we comprehend mathematics.

BC - In that sense you believe that mathematics for instance is discovered rather than invented but really in that sense it exists independently 

Penrose - Yes, right.

BC - One of those great mysteries as you say is the fact that we can access it yes itself a remarkable feat of of reality 

Penrose - that’s right because it's so indirectly connected with our existence and what you know how we get along in the world and not how natural selection has helped us to to survive and so on it's really hard to see how these things come about from there

BC - Well, there’s three big mysteries there just to kick us off,   . . . 

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