Friday, September 29, 2006

A small digression on regression

And on that topic, it strikes me that whichever way we gaze at fundamental reality these days, the experience becomes rather like standing between a pair of mirrors.

For example, Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom would like us to consider the idea that members of any sufficiently advanced civilisation, capable of knocking together a computational device that can whizz through ten to the power of forty instructions per second, are likely to want to indulge in what he calls "ancestor simulations". Bostrom reckons that there is a 20% chance that we are already living inside one of these, devised by uber-nerds with too much time on their hands, who might well be simulations themselves, and so on.

Contemporary science provides several more ways for us to contemplate nested multiversal multiplicity. There are the physical multiple universes that derive from String Theory and then there are the metaphysical parallel worlds suggested by (one interpretation of) Quantum theory.

I suppose if monotheism made any sense to me at all I would have to be a monomaniacal Muslim. Tawhid, the oneness of the Divine; how could it be any other way? I can see how Christianity must in contrast appear to the Islamic fundamentalist as an utter bungle, a faith blended haphazardly across the centuries with pagan perverseness, gnostic dualism, world-rejecting ascetism and various other schizoid additives.

And yet Oneness is the noun that I would be least likely to use to characterise that aspect of the cosmos, the great mystery, lying outside the scope of empirical investigation. Which is why monotheism in fact makes very little sense to me at all.

It's a striking fact that it was the Islamic world that first came up with induction, a.k.a "the scientific method", yet surely it was Christian civilisation's very lack of oneness, its deeply split-personality take on the spiritual and the material, the Divine and the secular, that permitted westerners to advance their scientific understanding as a result of the dialectical friction between inductive reason and Church dogma.

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