Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 02, 2007

String Theory and Eternal Questions

Jen of Et Tu is reading up on String Theory (via Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe) and has some interesting thoughts on the question of why the success of methodological materialism in areas such as physics encourages many to conclude that methodological materialism is the only way one can possibly achieve any knowledge (and thus that reality is strictly material.)

4 comments:

j. christian said...

String theory (and the debate about methodological materialism in general) bring to mind something from an installment of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" series on PBS from long ago. My childhood memory of it is hazy at best, but I think he was making a point about dimensionality (and not giving ammo to theists, obviously, although that's what it did for me).

He laid out a hypothetical world that exists only in two dimensions. The inhabitants of this world were flat pieces of paper moving about on a plane (a tabletop). One day an apple visits this world. Sagan dipped the bumpy bottom of the apple on an inkpad and set it down amid the flatworlders. To them, he said, the apple appears as four, distinct objects where the ink marks the tabletop. Their dimensionality prevents them from seeing the rest of the apple as it truly exists in three dimensions.

As I said, it was nothing more than a demonstration of the potential limitations of our three-dimensional world (or four-dimensional, if you "get" space-time). But in a way one could argue that it also shows the weak spot of science if it bows to methodological materialism and only adheres to observations made with the five senses. I'm sure Sagan would have a scathing retort to such a claim, but it's my idea and I'm sticking to it.

Darwin said...

It's interesting the ways in which metaphores chosen by atheist/materialist evangelists sometimes turn back against their worldview.

I've always felt like Hawking's "turtles all the way down" anecdote rather underlined the need for a Final Cause, which of course was not his own point.

j. christian said...

Infinite regression arguments on their own don't convince me one way or the other of God's existence. Sometimes, however, when they're mentally paired with another argument (like Lewis' argument from desire), they come together to make sense in a way that, standing alone, neither could accomplish.

Jennifer F. said...

the question of why the success of methodological materialism in areas such as physics encourages many to conclude that methodological materialism is the only way one can possibly achieve any knowledge (and thus that reality is strictly material.)

Wow, such big words! Is that what I wrote about? It sounds so fancy when you put it that way!