Archives for posts with tag: The chicken and egg paradox

“We arise as human beings in the experience of observing ourselves observing.”
Humberto Maturana, The Origin and Conservation of Self-Consciousness, 2005

Thinkers are divided when it comes to ‘reality’.

Some of them, the self styled ‘scientists’, study reality as if it was an ‘exterior’ fact.
At the other end of the spectrum, other people are convinced reality is nothing but a projection/illusion.

To me, this whole thing is yet another example of ‘which came first’, only simpler. Way simpler…

You need a chicken to lay an egg to hatch a chicken. This is indeed complicated…

‘Reality’, on the other hand, is, first and foremost, a human concept!

There was no such ‘thing’ as ‘reality’ until one of our forepersons had come up with the word/concept!

‘And where did that foreperson came ‘in’ from, huh?!?’

Have you noticed the scare marks?

The ‘thing’ we identify as being ‘reality’ had existed since… the Big Bang… I don’t know….
But I do know that nobody called it that – or thought of it in that manner, until somebody did!
And until the peers of that person agreed to use the term and to think about ‘it’ – the ‘thing’, not the word – in that manner.

‘Does this mean that we made ‘reality’?

No, not exactly made it… more about this later…
Only ‘found’ it and ‘measured’ it.
Named it, to put it in a simpler form.

As for who made it… this is another good question.

God?
I argued, in my last post, that ‘God’ – the concept, is yet another human artifact.
The only bridge we could trust to take to the future.

I don’t know, with absolute certainty, whether the whole thing we call ‘reality’ has been made (is constantly being made, as according to the Ash-Arite tradition) by an ‘outside’ agent or it had evolved naturally. But I do know that if our ‘reality’ had been made by somebody then a ‘small’ question begs to be asked.

Who made that somebody’s reality?

I can accept the notion that we are lab rats. Playing in a pen made by some experimenter. Just as we do with/to our lab rats. But exactly as I’m trying to find an answer to ‘how did we come about’, the moment I’ll accept that we’ve been made by some agent will be the moment I’ll start wondering about ‘who pulled this creative agent out of the proverbial hat!’.

Let’s stick with the naturally evolving reality! The alternative is far too complicated…

‘But if had evolved naturally, then nobody made it… right???!’

…No…, not exactly, anyway!
It may have evolved naturally but that doesn’t preclude any factors – and even agents, from chipping away at it!

‘What?!?
Are you gonna make up your mind?
As in once and for all???’

No, I can’t promise you anything like that!
My mind will never be ‘made up’.
My understanding is a work in progress.
I’m constantly adjusting my opinions according to the evidence ‘presented’ to me by ‘reality’.

‘And what about this constantly evolving reality? What/who drives this ‘evolution’?’

What do you see here?
A ‘Nature Made’, volcano whose flanks had been eroded by naturally occurring factors.
The debris had been transported to lower altitudes, by other naturally occurring factors and then transformed into fertile soil by a different class of equally naturally occurring factors.
The factors belonging to the first class had been rain, freeze, wind and gravity while in the second class we point out algae, microbes, plants and animals.
On top, literally, of these natural occurrences we find the consequences of our own actions. Of our own agency.
Of our own choices!

The buildings you see, the farms you know are there, the roads people take when going from their houses to their farms… and so on, up to the top of the mountain. Where we find snow full of other ‘evidence’ of our own existence. Soot, various industrial dust, etc., etc.,…

So. We live at the intersection between the natural evolution of things and the consequences of our previous existence/choices.

We live in a reality increasingly influenced by our own existence.
Are we truly aware of this?

Are we conscient enough?
Enough to realize how much of our reality is of our own doing?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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Attempting to value individualism over collectivism is similar to trying to establish which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Having experienced both – collectivism and individualism put in practice as political principles, I have noticed that neither extreme is capable of working in a sustainable manner.

Communist regimes had fallen one after another.
Fascist regimes did the very same thing.
Pirate republics could never resist for long.

Coming back to what is happening in the US, I’m afraid very few people are aware of how much collective thinking had been embedded in the American Psyche. The good kind of collective thinking…
Americans go to church. A place where you go to to be together, not alone.
Americans used to help each-other. Charity used to be a big thing. Slowly, it had become a dirty word.
And so on.

Individuals can not exist on their own. They need each other to survive. And to thrive.
Collectives can not last for long unless the individuals who constitute them do respect each-other. Help each-other maintain and develop their individuality.

As simple as that.

20090421-ceci-nest-pas-une-pipe-rene-magritte

As a child I was introduced to the chicken and egg paradox by my grandmother – a very wise woman, despite (because?!?) the fact that she had very little formal education.

As I grew up I found out that even the adults are passionate about it. Just Google it if you don’t believe me. Last time I checked the search engine had come up with 26 million (26 000 000 000) entries….

Then I was introduced to a slightly more interesting version of it.
Who is responsible for what is going on around us.
“Who created the World”, that is.

Apparently we have three three camps.

The theists, of various denominations – some of whom would cut each-other’s throats attempting to convince the ‘others’ that their God is the true one, believe that an outside agent is wholly responsible for the ‘Big-Bang’ and all its consequences. Or, at least, for ‘jump-starting’ the process.
The atheists, some of whom are ‘rabid’ enough to be as obnoxious as some of the theists, who blame it all on Lady Luck.
And the agnostics, like myself, who cannot make their minds one way or another.

Now, and I hope you won’t mind, I’m going to enumerate some facts.

  • We, the humans, are the ones who came up with the Big-Bang theory.
    Which is nice. It offers a generous canvas on which we might eventually thread a lot of ‘science’, but doesn’t, in any way, shape or form, offer even the slightest opportunity for the most imaginative amongst us to propose the flimsiest hypothesis about what started the whole process.
    Hence those of us who follow a far longer tradition feel free to consider that a Divine interference is the sole rational explanation. For everything that hasn’t yet a ‘scientifically proven’  one. As if science ever offered us a definitive answer to anything…
  • The Big Bang Theory was initially devised by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, as yet another attempt to understand God’s ways.
  • No matter what the various prophets and religious teachers have told us, all books – including the ‘holy’ ones – have been written by people. They might have been inspired by (a ?!?) God, there is no way of telling what happened in the minds of the writers, but all those books have been written by human hands.
  • We, the humans, are the ones who consider this problem to be a very important one.

So important, in fact, that even a newspaper otherwise busy with economic and political issues occasionally looks (up ?!?) at it.

In its Christmas Day edition the Wall Street Journal published “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God” by Eric Metaxas.
Basically he author tells us the story of how Sagan started the hunt for ‘Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ and how the seemingly simple task ended up in a cul-de-sac.
While Good Old Carl thought “that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star” in time “our knowledge of the universe increased” and “it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed”.
So many in fact that some of us, Eric Metaxas included, now believe that “Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here”.

In this context I’d like to bring to your attention the words uttered by Lord Kelvin in 1895 – by that time already elected president of the Royal Society: “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

“Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about us existing here.”

Do you see the pattern?

The usual claptrap, because something can’t be explained, it must be God.” (Mark Baxter’s comment on my FB wall) Or outright impossible, I might add, following Lord Kelvin’s example.

In other words ‘if WE cannot figure it out then it either doesn’t exist or has been made by God’.

But who made ‘God’ in the first place? And why?

Are we even aware that what we call ‘God’ is nothing but an image?
I’m not going to delve far into such intricacies like reminding you that no Orthodox Jew would ever pronounce the ‘true’ name of God but this is a powerful indication that our Elders were aware of the difference between reality and our ability to figure it out.

So why do we keep making this mistake? Why do we still try to ‘invent’ an ‘outside agent’ whenever we don’t have enough information about how something came to be?

That outside agent might very well exist, of course. Someplace, ‘out there’…. Or not. For all we know some things might happen just by pure chance. However improbable that might seem. To us!

We cannot determine, as of now at least, either way.

Then why insist? Any way?

Some of you will tell me, quite appropriately,  that ‘believing’ has brought us where we are now.
That ‘faith’ has guided us through the dark nights when we would have otherwise lost our hope. That following the ‘ten commandments’ has kept us from killing each-other much more ‘passionately’  than we’ve done it.

But now that we’ve understood what religion has done good for us, what’s keeping us from behaving ‘as if’?
Without ‘God’, or whatever name you want to use for the reality that harbors us at its bosom, having to ‘strike’ us down from time to time?