Tuesday, December 31, 2019
INFINITY: From the Mundane to the Sublime
Note to friends and followers of Transcendental Physics and the Neppe-Close paradigm shift: I’ve discovered that there are, among those who find what I write to be of interest, both math-ophiles (lovers of mathematics) and math-ophobes (those who dislike and fear mathematics), and everything in between. But, regardless of where you fall on the math-tolerance spectrum, bear with me, for this post will connect the antipodes, i.e., it will show that infinity unites us all. Infinity encompasses all things because it has no beginning and no end. It even unites epistemology and ontology. [For those who might not be familiar with these two words, the E-word is the study of knowing, and the O-word is the study of being.]
Let me start by quoting two of my favorite thinkers: Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and philosopher of science, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian philosopher of logic and mathematics:
Bohr said: “Science is only about describing what we experience. …
Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.…
A deep truth is a truth so deep that not only is it true but it's exact opposite is also true.”
Wittgenstein said: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.…
If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”
What do these quotes have to do with Infinity? - Bear with me.
First, I want to address the question of whether or not I am qualified to say anything about infinity. As someone formerly trained as a scientist, I have to agree with Bohr. We can only describe that which we have experienced. So, also applying what Wittgenstein said, if I haven’t experienced infinity, then I cannot speak of it, and must remain silent.
In fact, I have experienced infinity. I will even argue that everyone who is a conscious being has. Here’s my most recent example: Grief. My wonderful, beautiful wife of more than forty years, Jacqui, passed from physical being one year and fifteen days ago, and over the past year, grieving ever more and more deeply, I have discovered that grief is infinite. It has no bounds. I miss her so much, that every time I think I have reached a new depth in grief, crying out to God and the universe, surly descending to the bottom of despair, I find I have not reached the end of grief. Grief is a bottomless pit.
But life is all about experiencing opposites. So, as Bohr said, every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. And, the deeper the difficulty, the greater and more important is its solution. Then, to paraphrase Bohr’s third quote, An infinite truth is a truth so deep that not only is it true but it's exact opposite is also true. Therefore, infinite grief implies the existence of its exact opposite: INFINITE JOY!
An interesting historical note:
Even though infinity was touched upon by mathematicians like Fermat, Newton and Leibniz in the 17th century, with the idea of infinitesimals, i.e., the infinitely small, it was the Russian-born German mathematician, Georg Cantor, in the late 1800s into the early 1900s, who brought infinity into mathematics as a legitimate subject. But he was ahead of his time. Most mathematicians rejected his work as belonging to theology and philosophy, not mathematics. Cantor said about this:
“The fear of infinity is a form of myopia that destroys the possibility of seeing the actual infinite, even though it in its highest form has created and sustains us, and in its secondary transfinite forms occurs all around us and even inhabits our minds.”
Even today, many mainstream scientists and mathematicians deny the existence of infinity as something existing as part of the reality we experience. Denial of the existence of infinity is the same as adopting the metaphysical belief in physicalism or materialism, which, as I’ve pointed out many times, does not rise to the status of a scientific hypothesis. I agree with Cantor, and my research partner, Dr. Vernon Neppe: No scientific theory of reality is complete without Infinity, if the goal of science is, as Bohr implied, to describe what we experience. And we do experience infinity. As Cantor said, denying the existence of infinity is myopic, born of fear of the unknown and the desire to limit reality to a comfortably finite box. Infinity and its secondary transfinite forms are all around us, and infinity certainly exists in conscious minds.
Look at the second Wittgenstein quote above. The only time that we ever experience is the present. There is no credible evidence that the present ever ceases to exist. Thus it is eternal and infinite. The physical universe is surrounded by, embedded in and inter-penetrated by the infinite. Sorrow and joy are infinite, as are the other pairs of opposites like love and hate, dark and light, life and death.
Jacqui and I had a tradition that we followed from the first new year’s eve we spent together: We made sure that for several minutes before and after midnight on December 31, we were meditating together on the Infinite. We agreed that if we could experience the Infinite in the present time existing between the old year and the new, we could experience the Infinite anytime during the year. So that’s what we are doing yet again tonight. I know we are meditating together tonight because the present we experience together is the same eternal, infinite present, and thanks to a very scientific double-blind experiment and several experiences since, we both exist, even though Jacqui is no longer inhabiting a physical body. This makes no difference, because Love is eternal and infinite.
ERC, New Year’s Eve, 2019