True Fundamentalism (with an explanation of evolution as God-given)

Dec 19, 2011 by

Colin Hannaford –

“I think the mystics, like the poets, are amongst the greatest imaginative geniuses who have helped human moral and intellectual progress … As I see it, mysticism is a way of leaping over the boundaries of the language one speaks.”

American philosopher, Richard Rorty, 2005.

What Ludwig Wittgenstein meant by his famous aphorism: What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence, is that if we wish to convince others to look differently at reality we must first find words to describe the differences, then use them to show that these differences are real.

I only became interested in philosophy after I qualified as an engineer. I soon discovered that whilst I could follow others’ ideas, I was far less able to think originally.

My attempts soon brought a further realization. I could not be sure that what I thought I understood from others was what they intended. It was if the earth had become empty space.

This was terrifying. It also helped me into the army’s psychiatric hospital. I had already annoyed the government by protesting against its using the army to suppress civil unrest, but when the senior medical officer sent to interview me he asked me, in the friendliest manner, how I used my spare time, he next inquired: “And what do you find especially interesting in philosophy?’ I told him that I was trying to understand how meaning is communicated; that, in all but the simplest circumstances, it appears highly problematic.

From Ludwig, this would have been routine. The brigadier frowned. “Isn’t this a rather unusual interest,” he paused, “for an engineer?”

I almost replied that Jesus was carpenter. Out of deference to his rank, I only shrugged. Three days later I was a mental patient. Communication failed!

Wittgenstein, as you may know, was helped to become a member of Trinity College, Cambridge by Bertrand Russell. Some years later I was helped there by the government’s need for mathematics teachers. Almost immediately I came under the protection of a group of distinguished thinkers: the New Testament scholar John Robinson, the philosopher Dorothy Emmet, the theologian Donald MacKinnon. It was he who one day explained why they felt I needed protection: “There are killers in this university.”

Later I realized that he meant that the sincerity of theologians’ belief in events of thousands of years ago would not necessarily allow them all to believe in similar events in modernity.

That he and his group did was invaluable. But to be treated, if only so briefly, as a member of this great college, was equally important: simply in crossing Trinity’s great inner court one seems to breathe in the very molecules of genius: lively, mischievous, inspiring.

Wittgenstein realized, years before me, that even when the greatest effort is being made to communicate meaning, even when there is the most sincere wish to understand, the result may be imperfect. The pen of the scholar is certainly powerful. But many words have different meanings. Because of this alone, the scholars’ bane can very easily become the warriors’ cause.

I have borrowed entropy from physics, mathematics and information theory. It is variously understood to mean a measure of the certainty of information; the direction in which order becomes disordered; a measure of information lost. There may at first be perfect order. Over time it will be lost. Information at first may be certain. In time it will become less certain. Over short intervals, information may transmit without loss. Over longer intervals loss occurs.

None of this is entirely new. Over two millennia ago Heraclitus pointed out: ‘You cannot step into the same river twice’.

It is for this reason that no society can ever be without antecedents. Even so, societies may be caused to believe that the information by which they are defined is perfect and complete. In time, however, opinions will inevitably begin to differ: causing heresies and division. Some may eventually decide that nothing is certain; that only doubt freely unites; that everything has been invented to divide societies from each other; that they should therefore not believe anything.

There is, however, another aspect of reality that we must notice.

It is that some systems, originally poorly defined, disordered, and incomplete, become increasingly definite, ordered, and complete. This process is true of all organic evolution. The acorn becomes an oak. But it is also true of thought. If thinking is only a random process – as is supposed to be true of biological evolution – we would have to wait for sentences to form themselves. Since, clearly, meaning can be constructed, and since, at least approximately, it can be conveyed, it is legitimate to look for the impulse of this process, its direction, even its aim.

I have given this impulse the rather obvious name of anentropy. The very great physicist Edwin Schrödinger once suggested negentropy. I think anentropy is more elegant, and Schrödinger never suggested that his negentropy is the origin of life; or that it produces the desire to be honest; or that its direction is towards refining the meaning of: ‘I am’; or that its aim … .

Well, I may have some information about the aim: but its representamen is still something of a mystery to me, and by now I am conscious that I must near to exhausting your patience. I therefore intend to write only one more of these essays. It will be on the attempt to ignore Heraclitus with regard to life: on the danger of usurping God’s determination of your identity. If the collection is turned into a book, a last final chapter can describe my final mystery: and my work will be done! Please tell me if you think this worth doing!

Despite the seriousness with which was treated in Cambridge, and later, with even more loyalty, by others, it has always been possible that my experience was simply a delusion.

If so, this would be true of all other experiences of similar nature. Against this hypothesis is that they have all appeared to create a powerful sense of responsibility to turn the experience, not only into useful information, but into a new statement of what is more universally useful.

This is very hard work. It has ruled my life for forty years. I have repeatedly hoped that this responsibility might be taken by another. But this has never happened. So here we are.

These two words now allow us to understand the aim and direction of most societies. A society ruled by the entropic impulse will emphasize stability, conformity, moral and rational certainty. It will insist on total acceptance of these principles. Social mobility will be limited by heredity, class, or political allegiance. The education of children will be given much attention, as will the obedience of women, especially as mothers.

Paradoxically, however, as in the case of the ultimate warrior state of Sparta, in entropic societies women may exert the most control. A warrior or priestly caste may believe that they are in control, but this is only to provide the stability that women require to rear their children, being assisted by their mothers and the mothers of their husbands.

I have long admired the poetry of Genesis. Although modern feminists may be outraged, my admiration becomes boundless if the apple given to Adam by Eve is intended to represents the loss of men’s freedom by the limitations produced by total moral and rational certainty. To communicate such deep meaning for all time to all cultures is genius indeed! Only the anentropic impulse saved humankind from an endless Stone Age. Eden is behind us. Can it be recovered?

Historically, the anentropic impulse had first had the representamen of a fierce warrior god, urging the destruction of old idols, the abandoning of ancient worship: demanding new ideas, new adventures, a vision of a new future, even demanding war. As I once explained to my royal host in Qatar, war, to many men, is a necessary spiritual adventure.

Sacred to the anentropic mind is this need and ability to adventure spiritually, rationally, artistically; to refine the old and create new information. But this is why the anentropic impulse can also be dangerous. Remember Enrico Fermi’s explanation of why he helped create the first atom bomb: “It was such interesting physics!” Or Richard Feynman’s more troubled response: “We just didn’t think, okay? We just didn’t think!” Such rarefied thinkers may be indifferent to the poverty, the misery, and the want of the mass of people in the world, even in their own society. Many scientists are wholly engaged like this in their own spiritual adventure. It is their kind of war.

Social stability is at least as important as personal glory. What is required is balance.

I may have surprised many of you by revealing that I have great respect for inspired religion. I can see in them repeated attempts to encourage a new level of honesty, and simplicity, also always of valour.

If the cultures they inspire become entropic, this is understandable. Originally, however, they were always anentropic. “Hey, wake up at the back there! This concerns you” If now the wish of young people is to be more fundamental, they need to recognize that being fundamentalist means becoming anentropic again, and not – a very big mistake – more entropic!

Some years ago I heard Prince El Hassan of Jordan declare that the divisions of Islam are disastrous for the entire human race. Subsequently I wrote to him to say that all divisions are disastrous for the human race. Now you now know why they occur.

In my previous essay I introduced the new idea that theologies invariably evolve from anentropic to entropic. No-one seems to have realized this before.

To return to fundamentals would certainly be of benefit to the entire human race. But this cannot be achieved by young people who allow themselves to be called revolutionaries. Revolutions invariably end in chaos. Everyone knows this. Everyone of sense fears this. Do not even think of yourselves as revolutionaries. Do not allow others to call you revolutionaries.

If, however, young people, with your young priests, imams, rabbis will recover the fundamental anentropic impulse of all theologies: they can begin to converge.

Then Prince El Hassan may see his wish fulfilled.

So, incidentally, will Christ. So will Mohammed. Peace, peace, peace.

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