The rational skeptic world view

Humans have always tried to make sense of the world we live in. We have always tried to come up with simple explanations that covers what we see. From the four elements and a flat earth inside a dome to a spherical earth and a heliocentric world view, our view of the world has evolved. But the quest has always been to come up with a complete and consistent model that will explain all of existence. Just like Newton’s classical physics. He viewed the world as clockwork obeying a complete and consistent set of physical laws. And when those laws didn’t quite fit the bill, Einstein extended this quest with his theories of relativity. His goal was to come up with a grand unifying theory that could be encompassed in an equation no longer than two inches.

Einstein’s famous discussion with Niels Bohr where the former exclaimed “God does not play dice” was his rejection of the spookiness of quantum mechanics. This branch of physics seemed to destroy the quest to unearth a model for an ultimately orderly and rational, complete and consistent world.

And despite the hints like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Double Slit Experiment and Bell’s theorem, some physicists still believe in a deterministic world where everything is neatly explained and codified.

Graphics by Geir Isene

Had they only looked to mathematical philosophy and seen the same quest fail there. At the start of the 20th century, there was this adventure in mathematics where the major thinkers of that field tried to codify all of mathematics into neat axioms and rules to rule’em all. But alas, Kurt Gödel shot it all down with his Incompleteness Theorems. And decidedly so. There cannot be any complex axiomatic system that is both complete and consistent. And to those who would like to believe that the universe we can observe is all that can be, mathematics is a subset of our universe. And as the universe is then a superset of mathematics, then the universe itself cannot be both consistent and complete. And that has some profound implications that I will cover in a OnePageBook sometime in the future.

Now, what prompted me to again delve into this? I was inteviewed by Aaron Smith-Levin the other day, and one of the comments on the resulting Youtube video read:

“Geir, so much of your world view hinges on the “law” a system cannot be both complete and stable, including the large conclusion that humans are spiritual beings, have you ever questioned the conclusion on systems, and if the conclusion about systems were the opposite, would you conclude you are not a spiritual being? If you were not a spiritual being, would you feel you should adapt the rational skeptic world view?”

To which I answered:

“The proof that complex axiomatic systems cannot be both consistent and complete is among the most solid mathematical achievements in human history. It’s irrefutable. So is the double slit experiment, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Bell’s theorem. There is nothing rational about refuting any of these. They all point in the direction of consciousness being non-physical. Read my OnePageBook in free will for details: https://isene.me/2017/07/17/free-will-do-you-really-have-a-choice/”

Just like the old, classical Newtonian world view was naive, I believe the modern “rational skeptic world view” to be equally naive.

As for the rest of the interview, here it is:

56 thoughts on “The rational skeptic world view

  1. Alanzo here, posting from Donald Trump’s ‘Murica

    The most shocking part of your recent interview with Aaron Smith Levin, for me, was finally hearing how you foreigners pronounce that name of yours. My god – you completely butchered it! When are you people going to learn English! I should call immigration on your right now!

    Anyway, I listened to a great BBC4 episode of “In Our Time” on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. The best, most simple explanation of the phenomena is the thought experiment they discuss called “The Barber”.

    Here’s the link:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dshx3

    Glad to see you speaking up again, Geeey-aadh (Did I pronounce that right?). A lot of Exes are being given no alternative to “I was brainwashed in a cult and I wasted 30 years of my life!” which is the standard Anti-cult movement bullshit ideology. It’s driving me crazy.

    Alanzo

  2. As to your point on rational skepticism, I’ve settled in to a worldview that cobbles together the main ideas from a few sources:

    Kant, and his concepts of phenomena & noumena
    Popper, and his concept of science being limited to what can be falsified
    Pyrrho, and his idea that skepticism eventually leads to serenity
    Nagarjuna, and his four-valued logic annihilation of every religious and philosophical position ever held by anyone
    A thorough and continuing study of the main points of Epistemology

    This leads me to a solid philosophical grounding that no human knows (in the epistemic sense) the truth of his own existence. Therefore, you must construct your own beliefs & worldview based on what inspires, stabilizes, delights and motivates you, staying positive, constructive and sustainable over time.

    In other words, I don’t know shit, and neither does anyone else. And anyone who pretends they do, including L Ron Hubbard & Tony Ortega, is a freaking huckster.

    The “search for truth” is an unending desire only. There is no destination to that desire.

    We are in bodies to be receipt points of experience. The ‘truth’ is as profound, and as shallow, as that.

    Humbly tendered as a gift to Man.

    Alanzo

      1. Question for you, G:

        Have you ever examined the influence of the Anti-cult movement’s ideas that we were offered after getting out of Scientology?

        Once I spotted the source of all these ideas on “brainwashing”, ‘cults” & “cult recovery” I began to see that this is pretty much the only narrative available for an Ex to try to understand what happened to him after he experienced a loss of faith from Scientology.

        In fact, this same set of toxic and unscientific ideas are being offered, with almost no competition, to all Exes who lose their faith in their former minority religions, such as Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, etc.

        I think the ideas of the anti-cult movement can create as much or more damage for an Ex than any ‘cult’ ever did.

        I did a video on it. I’d be interested in getting your reaction:

        1. Alanzo, this is a great video production – artistic even. It could be part of any resume you ever send out. Some of your best traits are demonstrated – including both humor and intellect. I really like it!

  3. Geir: “…quantum mechanics. This branch of physics seemed to destroy the quest to unearth a model for an ultimately orderly and rational, complete and consistent world.:

    I wonder if the quote below – giving evidence for a “multiverse” – would affect your viewpoint:

    “There are findings that suggest that there was a universe prior to the Big Bang. For example, we see galaxies near the edge of the observable universe as they were 13 billion years ago (it took as long for light from that distance to reach us), but many of these galaxies appear to be fully evolved, with stars ranging in age from one to ten billion years. That, however places their origins up to 23 billion years [the ten billion plus 13 billion] before our time. Moreover, there are supermassive black holes [SMHs] at the center of this and other galaxies, and some of them have an estimated solar mass of 109, yet the known rates at which stars are captured in black holes would have taken far longer than fourteen billion years to produce structures of this dimension. It appears that the Big Bang marked the birth of our universe in the context of a ‘multiverse’ that included other universes. If all universes were in-formed by the same cosmic intelligence as ours, they are likely to follow a basically similar evolutionary trajectory as our own universe. (*The Intelligence of the Cosmos* by Ervin Laszlo)

    Regarding the word “in-formed” in the last sentence, David Bohm originated the term. In the book I quoted, Laszlo doesn’t define it as well as the definition I found in a review of another one of his books: “In-formation” is defined as “the active, physically effective variety [of information] that ‘forms’ the recipient, whether it is a quantum, a galaxy or a human being.”

    1. The superscript didn’t come out. Where it says “estimated solar mass of 109” the figure should be 10^9 (10 to the power of 9).

    2. Marildi quoted:

      “There are findings that suggest that there was a universe prior to the Big Bang. For example, we see galaxies near the edge of the observable universe as they were 13 billion years ago (it took as long for light from that distance to reach us), but many of these galaxies appear to be fully evolved, with stars ranging in age from one to ten billion years. That, however places their origins up to 23 billion years [the ten billion plus 13 billion] before our time.”

      Wow. Of course!

      Never thought of this!

      1. I know! It’s amazing how that kind of fundamental data can somehow change one’s whole attitude.

        In the same book review that gave the definition of “in-formation” I quoted, is this other fascinating statement:

        “On a cosmic scale, where we are not limited to one universe, but have myriads of universes contained within the Meta-verse; where universes like ours come and go, Laszlo proposes that each universe is in-formed during its emergence by the preceding one as in turn it will in-form its successor.”

        Laszlo says there is a definite direction – and thus a purpose – to the evolution of both the physical world and consciousness. All rational skeptics and materialists need to take note!

        1. Btw, according to George White, who is somewhat of a Buddhist scholar, the Buddha himself stated that he had observed a number of Big Bangs (six, if I remember right) in his past lives.

          1. Using round numbers, modern telescopes can look in any direction to the “far side” of the universe 13 billion years ago. A person on our far side of the universe would do likewise using the same telescopes, as would a person on the far side of his or her galaxy. I guess we’re back to attempting to define infinity. A simplistic explanation might be “everywhere” there was “nothing” and then everywhere there was “something”. So in that theory the “center” of the universe could be where any conscious entity exists and observes it.

            BTW I think astronomers have concluded the the universe is essentially “flat” rather than spherical or “horse saddle” shaped. I forget the name for that geometric shape.

            A simplistic explanation of existence is that existence has always existed. Another thought to ponder is whether “I” as consciously aware have always existed or did “I” have a birthplace along the way.

    3. No, the multiverse theories does not solve or circumvent the issue of the impossibility of the universe(s) being both consistent and complete. And it doesn’t solve Bell’s, etc. It similar to mathematics trying to circumvent Gödel’s by adding more axioms or rules. But that wiik only extend the set, not solve the underlying issue (of causation).

      1. Ok, got it. I asked because I’ve been reading about Ervin Laszlo’s Theory of Everything, in which he posits a field of information as the substance of the universe. He calls it the “Akashic field” or “A-field” (after the Vedic term Akasha meaning “space”). This is the fundamental energy and information-carrying field that “in-forms” not just the current universe, but all universes past and present. Laszlo is an internationally renowned scientist (nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize), so I would feel confident that his theory takes into consideration the theorems about consistency and completeness. He also has much to say about the need for change from the current materialistic paradigm of science to what he calls the new paradigm of science, the view of scientists who are open to the existence of spirit/consciousness.

        1. So in other words, if the physical universe isn’t a closed system, as Laszlo indicates, why would Godel’s theorem even apply?

            1. If there is continuous change because of continuous evolution, in both the physical realm and in consciousness, would that be a closed system?

            2. It would still not have a complete and consistent set of rules. This is not about the system being closed or not. Remember, mathematics is not a closed system… never will be.

            3. Okay. Then let me ask this: Do you believe Gobel’s theorem necessarily applies to spirit/consciousness and determines how it must be?

            4. I ask because Laszlo theory is basically that the physical universe is a manifestion of consciousness and that they are not actually separate. This is the same idea as many ancient traditions – nonduality.

            5. That was a nice reply.

              Ditto – including learning about such things as Godel’s theorems. 😀

        2. Any theory that seeks to “explain everything” is doomed to fail – precisely because what Alanzo wrote. I believe he comes the closesed to the truth right here.

          1. I would agree that a theory of everything is “doomed to fail” unless it explains causation. And Laszlo’s theory does just that. He backs it up in part with peer-reviewed research data that can’t be explained in materialistic terms.

            Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 of his book *The Intelligence of the Cosmos*. This is part of the chapter section titled “Mind beyond Brain: Evidence for a New Concept of Consciousness”:

            ——————————————————-

            “If mind is a real element in the real world [and is] only manifested rather than produced by the brain, it can also exist without the brain. There is evidence that mind does exist on occasion beyond the brain: surprisingly, conscious experience seems possible in the absence of a functioning brain. There are cases—the near-death experience (NDE) is the paradigm case—where consciousness persists when brain function is impaired, or even halted.

            “Thousands of observations and experiments show that people whose brain stopped working but then regained normal functioning can experience consciousness during the time they are without a functioning brain. This cannot be accounted for on the premises of the production theory: [namely] if there is no working brain, there cannot be consciousness. Yet there are cases of consciousness appearing beyond the living and working brain, and some of these cases are not easy to dismiss as mere imagination.

            “A striking NDE was recounted by a young woman named Pamela. Hers has been just one among scores of NDEs;* it is cited here to illustrate that such experiences exist, and can be documented.

            “*For a more extensive sampling see Ervin Laszlo with Anthony Peake from The Immortal Mind (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2014).

            =========================
            Pamela died on May 29, 2010, at the age of fifty-three. But for hours she was effectively dead on the operating table nineteen years earlier. Her near-demise was induced by a surgical team attempting to remove an aneurism in her brain stem.

            After the operation, when her brain and body returned to normal functioning, Pamela described in detail what had taken place in the operating theater. She recalled among other things the music that was playing (“Hotel California” by the Eagles). She described a whole series of conversations among the medical team. She reported having watched the opening of her skull by the surgeon from a position above him and described in detail the “Midas Rex” ¬bone-cutting device and the distinct sound it made.

            About ninety minutes into the operation, she saw her body from the outside and felt herself being pulled out of it and into a tunnel of light. And she heard the bone saw activate, even though there were specially designed speakers in each of her ears that shut out all external sounds. The speakers themselves were broadcasting audible clicks in order to confirm that there was no activity in her brain stem. Moreover, she had been given a general anesthetic that should have assured that she was fully unconscious. Pamela should not have been able either to see or to hear anything.
            =======================

            “It appears that consciousness is not, or not entirely, tied to the living brain. In addition to NDEs, there are cases in which consciousness is detached from the brain in regard to its location. In these cases consciousness originates above the eyes and the head, or near the ceiling, or above the roof. These are the out-of-body experiences: OBEs.

            “There are OBEs where congenitally blind people have visual awareness. They describe their surroundings in considerable detail and with remarkable accuracy. What the blind experience is not restored eyesight, because they are aware of things that are shielded from their eyes or are beyond the range of normal eyesight. Consciousness researcher Kenneth Ring called these experiences “transcendental awareness.”

            “Visual awareness in the blind joins a growing repertory of experiences collected and researched by Stanislav Grof: “transcendental ¬experiences.” As Grof found, these beyond-the-brain and -beyond-here-and-now experiences are widespread—more widespread than anyone would have suspected even a few years ago.

            “There are also reports of ADEs, after-death experiences. Thousands of psychic mediums claim to have channeled the conscious experience of deceased people, and some of these reports are not easy to dismiss as mere imagination….”
            ———————————————————–

            The above and more of that same section of the book can be found here: http://www.laszloinstitute.com/a-new-concept-of-consciousness/

      2. Yes, Godel comes from set theory, as I understand it.

        A set is any group of like things. Even numbers, all hydrogen atoms, all ginger Vikings, etc. Sets are both infinite and finite.

        Godel found that no set is both consistent and complete.

        If a set is complete, then it is not consistent.

        If a set is consistent, then it is not complete.

        So you are saying in the video, Geir, that the inconsistency that we will inevitably have in the complete physical universe is some kind of spiritual element – an element that is not physical. Right?

        But isn’t naming the character of that inconsistency as spiritual, is that not a leap of faith? Could it be some other type of non-physical element rather than spiritual?

        I’m beginning to see that, since we are not capable of knowing the truth of our own existence as human beings, then, for human beings, there is no choice but to have faith. It’s almost as if the purpose of the physical universe is to test our faith.

        1. It does not imply “spiritualism” per se. But it does seem to imply causation – the one missing unknown from the materialistic world views.

          1. I get it.

            A non-physical prime mover unmoved could be the inconsistency in the complete set of the physical universe.

            Good one.

      1. At least a couple.

        Chris assumes that if you had done the RPF, for instance, you would be “saying some very different things about Scientology”. This assumes:

        1. You’re ignorant of the RPF and other abusive/harsh fanatical bullshit in Scientology
        2. You have not taken all that data into account
        3. That your stance in the interview regarding Scientology is based on more than the question you were asked about what you yourself got out of it.

        It’s a kind of tyranny demanding agreement with his negative views of Scientology as a “destructive cult!!!” – the very thing they said they were totally against.

        Aaron is less tribal than Chris, and less hysterical. But they are both stuck in having to uphold tribal narratives in their group of friends that do not let them think individually, and originally about their experiences. Their views have to check out with everyone else’s views.

        Again, the very thing they said they wanted to avoid among Exes.

        It’s the groupthink on the problems of groupthink.

        Alanzo

        1. Chris argues that any change in viewpoint regarding Scientology after leaving it constitutes recovery – precisely and solely because of change in one’s views. Then it follows that any change in viewpoint on any prior subject constitutes recovery from that subject. I must be recovering a great deal then from my encounters with art, domino, western movies, motorcycles and mathematical category theory.

          No, “recovery” must also imply some sort of trauma to recover from. But Chris seem to think that is inevitable in Scientology and cannot possibly fathom that someone could have been in Scientology and not having contracted a trauma. That is an inability to understand other’s experiences and viewpoints. A lack of empathy.

          1. Or he’s just pushing an hysterical agenda.

            As you know, that happens to some people (not me!) after they get out of Scientology, too. They go through a kind of spoiled rebellious teenager phase where they’re railing against their former religion. It isn’t just Scientology either. A certain percentage of people who leave any religion go through this phase.

            I found a great psych concept about this – with another LRH twist on it: Individuation.

            Did you know this was a psych concept that LRH usurped and redefined for Scientologists?

            It holds the key to “recovery” LOL from Scientology.

            I wrote this about it: (sorry for pasting a link to my blog, but hey – it’s important!) 🙂

            https://alanzosblog.com/l-ron-hubbard-tricked-re-defining-individuation-like-thats-bad-thing/

            Individuation is exactly what you displayed in your interview with Aaron when you re-examined and re-calculated the OT levels and what YOU felt was really going on there – with your own explanations and not LRH’s or anyone else’s.

            Individuation – Splurge on it!

            Alanzo

            1. No problem linking to relevant posts on your blog. And that was a really good blog post. And I agree to every part of it.

    1. Although I like both Aaron and Nathan, I found this one tedious. They spent almost, what?, 45 minutes on whether they should be offended by your “Get over it” answer to a specific question. Talk about arguing over the number of angels on the head of a pin! In the end, I think they finally got the correct context for your answer, which they said they agreed with all along.

      Shew. That was hard!

      What’s good about Aaron’s effort to analyze your interview is that he understands that your individualist viewpoint defies a known category in the Scientology/Anti-Scientology tribal mindset. And, from talking to him, he says he is trying to inject different ideas and different viewpoints into that pinheaded tribalism to maybe shake some shit up.

      If the goal really is to help Exes along the path of their “recovery” from Scientology, that’s a very noble and worthwhile pursuit, in my opinion.

      Alanzo

        1. I’ll bet! Nathan and Chris and Aaron are all smart Exes. And your ideas are making them think.

          That’s a very valuable service you are providing.

  4. I still tend to consider that, in the Physical Universe, anybody who is absolutely certain about anything, is either a nut Job or an asshole.
    That’s my skeptic worldview

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