Exploring a metaphysics of mind

Carrying on the trajectory of previous posts we’ve reached the idea that although there is a “physical reality out there” (what Owen Barfield calls “the particles” or “the unrepresented”) there is no way we can encounter it directly. All our perception comes through sense and mind representations, which to the extent that we share what we perceive with others are public representations. That applies as much, we found, to the application of mathematical symbolism, as to more analogical symbols like “atoms are particles” or “genes are units of heredity”. Both can tell truth, but are inevitably incomplete and distorted representations of total reality. Continue reading

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Language, meaning and humanness

In the previous post I tried to show how closely related are the reality we perceive and the language with which we talk about it. As far as human beings go, no language -> no thought -> no true perception -> no “real world”. Language is also inextricably entwined with that difficult word “meaning”, so that separating the world from its meaning cuts across the very process by which we know there is a world. Continue reading

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The power of words

Here’s a quick summary of how we normally see the relationship of words and language to the physical world. The real world is “out there”, and words are arbitrary (and so ultimately meaningless) labels for what we perceive of it. Further, as several previous posts have discussed, what we perceive is far from the physical reality (what Owen Barfield calls “the unrepresented” or “the particles”). As he puts it, “There is no such thing as an unseen rainbow.” And so we live in a world of illusions, which we describe using arbitrary sounds. And if the reductive materialists have their way, we experience all that with minds that are also illusory epiphenomena of “the particles”. Continue reading

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Science inventing the past

According to materialism, the appearances of the world around us – its colours, sounds, forms and so on – are illusions produced only by our senses and our minds. All is really particles, waves or whatever inconceivable things those models actually are, to be represented best by mathematical equations. According to reductive materialism that illusion, in the end, extends even to our minds themselves. The scientific project, then, is to get behind these “illusions” to the “reality” behind it. Continue reading

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Living things and meaning

Carrying on my reading of an inherited set of Charles Dickens’ works over the weekend, I read an account in his travels of a walk up Mount Vesuvius. In itself, interesting enough. But there was a unique layer of meaning for me, since when I first ascended the volcano in 1968, an Italian guide got into conversation whilst I was waiting for the chair-lift (demolished now, sadly). He asked, “Do you like Charles Dickens? I have been reading Nicholas Nickleby. Is England really like that?” Continue reading

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Stegosaurus and gradualism

This is just a small update on the issue of gradualism and the palaeontological record that I started in 2013. There I suggested that in a number of iconic species (chosen more or less at my whim, in fact) the fossil pattern shows a significant number of specimens of a small number of species, suggesting a stasis-saltation pattern rather than the expectations from the classic gradualism pattern of evolution, which would give a large number of species with very few representatives of each.  Continue reading

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Gene takes a hit

The ENCODE project became controversial last year when it suggested that 80%+ of the human genome is “functional”, meaning “transcribed”, meaning “let’s all argue about what we mean”. The argument continues to rage vituperously though, of course, there is no disagreement whatsoever about the consensus science (fortunately for BioLogos which is theologically wedded to the consensus), because science seems to be helpfully defined nowadays by what isn‘t in dispute at any particular time. But in truth the stage was set for upset back in 2007, when an ENCODE paper suggested a new definition for the gene that said:

A gene is a union of genomic sequences encoding a coherent set of potentially overlapping functional products. Continue reading

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The Heptagrammaton

This story in The Independent caught my eye over the weekend. For our transatlantic readers, I should point out that fracking is as unpopular in the UK as GM crops, firstly because we’re so highly populated that it is perceived to be likely to affect back gardens rather than distant wildernesses, which we do not possess. But there was also an unfortunate incident in which a pilot project caused a small earthquake, which has shaken the public confidence more than the bedrock itself. Continue reading

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The Eye of the Beholder

Still on arty-farty stuff, particularly uncritical Hump devotees may be interested to hear that my new album (in somewhat folk idiom), which has been slowly evolving since early summer, is finished and posted as a free stream or download on my main website here. Continue reading

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The synergism of intellect and imagination

Pursuing the “imagination + intellect” theme, at a less controversial level than recently, here’s a recycling of some sources I used a few years ago to show the complementary value of the two faculties through paired poetry and prose. The original use was to teach my poetically challenged Bible study group to read the Psalms as poetry, rather than as “texts”, so it has nothing to do with science as such. However, there is some danger (I’m sure not shared by any of our contributors or lurkers) that for scientists, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” as a couple of examples will show: Continue reading

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