Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Why Is There Anything?

Originally posted on May 24, 2012

Book Review and Comments: Krauss, Lawrence M. (2012). A universe from nothing: why there is something rather than nothing. New York: Free Press.
    Professor Krauss, at Arizona State University, writes a book that I would have agreed with pretty much 45 years ago. But I’ve changed my mind. This book surprises me with my own reaction. The author explores the edges of mystery in cosmology, and debunks traditional theology. My philosophical critique is that the author seems to think that all theology is close to  traditional theology—i.e, relating to a personified god who “creates” a universe that is other than God. Prof. Krauss is knowledgeable enough to recognize that some theologians are more abstract and write about a “ground of being,” but he dismisses that as being a variation of classical theology. It most certainly is not, and I wonder if he gets that. There is another way to approach the problem of the illusion of nothing-ness.

The author seems to propose that this universe and it’s odd edges of dimensionality, dark energy, dark matter, a seeming beginning in time, however remote, etc.—is material and increasingly known (in terms of precision). What he leaves out is the elusive idea that mind might also be considered a meta-physical but entirely real dimension of existence, as real as time, space, matter or energy. The 20th century materialist paradigm tends to consider mind rather as a property of brain tissue, mind-sweat. But many have argued that consciousness is not so easily dismissed.

Certainly, though, it is dismissed, but this is by assertion: I know of no closely argued argument that rules it out, and several closely argued arguments by Process Philosophers and others who argue otherwise. Christian de Quincey’s book, Radical Nature: Rediscovering the Soul of Matter (2010, Park Street Press) offers one example. Another way to approach this is to note that for meditators and contemplatives, consciousness  is clearly as real as the measurements (indirectly) of the tools of cosmologists.

Now mind and spirit and transdimensionality and the Ground of Being are not separate categories, but along with the material universe, are all parts of “It.” And it becomes, evolves and be imagined to theoretically account for the mysteries, because this neo-Spinozan view of the cosmos-as-god has very little if anything to do with the patriarchal rule-issuing god of revealed religion. The little that may be shared is that much of religion is the social organization (by small minds) of what a few mystics tried to translate, not entirely successfully, about their experiences. A young child will not be able to report accurately why, for example, the family moves from one part of the country to another. The realities of adult economics goes beyond his capacity, and similarly, we should hesitate before we presume to think that we can today understand fully matters that are still unfolding—if ever.

Chaos theory in mathematics, the nature of fractals, and other paradigm shifts may in turn shift our perceptions of reality. The opening of sub-microscopic and trans-galactic frontiers due to the growing sensitivity of our ‘scope tools, plus computer-aided calculations, reveals worlds we hadn’t ben able to conceive or relate to.

It isn’t a reliance on past authority here—I’m a recovering atheist—but rather a contemplation of the complexity of the cosmos that includes a contemplation of the nature of mind. The idea that the seeming mysteries are part of a hyper-intelligence far beyond our own, and that consciousness is operating, is not only assuring, but also more inclusive.  Hm?

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