A world of signs and symbols

Over the last couple of months I think I’ve hammered the message that not only science, but even our very basic sensory experience of the world, is inseparable from the world of mind. This ties into the “personal knowledge” concept of Michael Polanyi, the information-based metaphysics of William Dembski and the mind-based one of Arthur Eddington. It relates to the holistic approach to science of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his followers. And I’ve even suggested that the world of reality we share with all other life-forms has the character of a common symbolic language giving meaning to an otherwise rather chaotic universe, and so raising the question of whether that symbolic system should be seen as the greater reality, for which the formless “material world” is a mere carrier-wave. Continue reading

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Colour me red

beetleAn unexpected, but very welcome, contributor to my recent post on spectral colour was David Briggs, whose excellent website on colour theory, primarily intended for artists, is an invaluable educational tool for us all (or me, at least). I particularly liked his section on colour vision, which shows just what an incredibly sophisticated visual system we enjoy, as well as how disappointingly little of its workings get into the educational curriculum of either arts or sciences. Check out, for example, the set of “illusions” David uses to show how much neurological processing is involved in maintaining our sense of the constancy of colours under different lighting conditions.  Continue reading

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The price of dualism

I’ll leave pngarrison to comment on the interesting paper to which he linked on the last post. Good stuff again – thanks. I’ll just kick off this line of thought with the final sentence of that paper:

We are thus left with a fascinating puzzle as to how an 8-mo-old prelinguistic human not only seems to think of animals as a coherent category but then makes inferences that they alone must have filled insides.

The paper is written from the mindset that this infant concept is somehow the origin of the “folk biology” that animals are integrated wholes, but I would suggest that perhaps the real “folk biology” is more the idea that they aren’t. Continue reading

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More faces in clouds

In our recent discussion on cryptic images and randomness, it was pngarrison who raised the issue of pareidolia – the human tendency to see images, especially of faces, in what are clearly (apart from God’s sense of humour) random patterns. Continue reading

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The organic and the atomistic

One of the accusations that modern Aristotelians (like Ed Feser) throw at Intelligent Design is that it has an engineering view of biology, and an engineering Deity, the issue being that organisms are actually whole entities that cannot be divided, like human artifacts, into disconnected parts assembled for a function. Interestingly, a good number of Evolutionary Creation voices at BioLogos have echoed that critique (to the point of getting Ed Feser to write some columns). Continue reading

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More on seeing what you believe

One of the astonishing examples of theory driving observation in the history of science is how Aristotle’s theory of trajectory was believed by over 2 millennia’s worth of observers – careful philosophers, archers, gunners and small boys playing catch included – until Galileo showed they were all parabolae. How could people be so blind to what every day phenomena were telling them? Continue reading

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The thick plottens

Pngarrison helpfully pointed us a day or two ago to a recent article in the context of the randomness of variation. It does raise some interesting issues from The Hump’s perspective. So I’ll very briefly summarise it in the knowledge that it’s open-access, and those with a better background can bypass my meanderings. Continue reading

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More on mind and randomness

Just as Dennis Venema failed to reply to my serious questions about randomness on his BioLogos post in October, so also Darrel Falk abandoned any reply to my questions on his concept of randomness on his. Ones respect is bound to flag in the face of such determined non-interaction. Both propose a vaguely fuzzy idea that God can achieve his purposes through randomness, without saying anything specific either about what that randomness might be, or about the nature of God’s purposes. I conclude it’s yet another theistic evolution idea that depends on rhetoric rather than intellectual rigour, which is disappointing. Continue reading

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Unswung heroes

I am gratified that what might have been seen as quite an opaque post  regarding the serious business of epistemology, and possibly a bit obscure regarding even its main subject music, should have hit the right buttons with some readers regarding humanness, holism and the limitations of analytic thinking. I’m especially gratified because, as usual with me, it takes the form of an analytic examination. To shake the foundations I should really have told you to listen to some piece of arcane jazz repeatedly until enlightenment came… something like the sound of one hand clapping in triple time, maybe.

This post is more of the same. No new insights, except to build on my exposition of the phenomenon of swing to show how – without any formal theory – the complexities can be applied in increasingly subtle ways to form the character of an entire piece of music. I hope your ears are tuned in. Continue reading

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It don’t mean a thing…

…if it ain’t got that swing

One of the recurrent themes on The Hump, which I’m trying to address from different directions, is the priority of mind within our reality, and hence the myth of objectivity apart from human ideas. That ranges from the mind-based metaphysics of Eddington or Dembski (coming from quantum and information science directions respectively), to the “personal knowledge” of Polanyi’s philosophy of science or the Goethian approach to knowledge. I’ve included the thought that contemporary science has an inevitable tendency to abstract reality into symbolic representations, most marked in the eliminative materialism that ends up rendering everything – even matter and the minds that conceive it – as an illusion.

But in truth it isn’t a fault of science that it’s theory-laden – it’s just a sign of the central importance of mind, which needs to be recognised more than it is. I’m reading some heavy stuff in philosophy of science at the moment about how not just science, but even ordinary perception, is theory-laden – we see nothing until we already have a concept of what we’re looking at. Maybe that’s to be written about at another time. At present, though, I want to illustrate the idea in a lighthearted way, together with some ear-candy, by taking a couple of posts to look at something that makes a difference to life’s daily reality, but is exceedingly hard to reduce to formal analysis, and that is the musical concept of swing. Continue reading

Posted in Music, Philosophy, Science | 14 Comments