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Mapping Reality

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by siti, Jan 29, 2018.

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  1. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    This is a blog post I wrote a few years back and I realized that it was kind of pertinent to some off-topic diversions in another thread - so I'm posting it as a new thread...feel free to comment on, criticize or tear to shreds any part of it you like - or don't like...


    Mapping Reality

    “Nature can never be completely described, for such a description of Nature would have to duplicate Nature.”
    ~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, (translated by Archie J. Bahm, 1958)

    As a youngster I loved maps. I would spend hours poring over the details of faraway places, intrepidly crossing rivers, hacking my way through remote rainforests and visiting vast metropolises in the distant corners of the globe and still be safely home in time for dinner. Of course the map is no substitute for actually being there, clambering up the slippery stones or feeling the dank humidity of the jungle. Nevertheless, maps are wonderfully useful things. But they can also be frustratingly difficult to interpret. A square inch on the map might translate to a full square mile with a myriad confusing and complex features on the ground. Sometimes a larger scale, more detailed map might help. But there are limits. In Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, a character talks of a map that had been made at a scale of “a mile to the mile”. Being so large, the map had never been spread out and the people had reverted to using the country itself as its own map and found it did “nearly as well”.

    A similar tale is related by Jorge Luis Borges in Of Exactitude in Science. The cartographers of a certain empire had produced a map on the same scale as the empire, which coincided with it “point for point”. This extensive map was found too cumbersome and was abandoned to the “rigours of the sun and rain”.

    These fictional stories suggest a limit to how detailed a map could be before it ceases to be useful. Imagine, for instance, a perfect three-dimensional representation of a maze at a scale of one-to-one. Would it not be just as easy to get lost in the map as it would in the real maze?

    Then there is the problem of a map contained within the territory. Suppose a perfectly detailed small scale representation of a country were drawn on the ground somewhere within the country. Then the map would also have to include the map itself. And that map would have to include a representation of the map of the map, and so on ad infinitum.

    Our models of reality are like maps. The more detailed we make them, the more unwieldy and esoteric they become. The boundary between chart and terrain becomes blurred and we confuse the metaphysical model for physical reality. We have to remind ourselves, as Alfred Korzybski put it: “a map is not the territory”. [1] There is an underlying fundamental reality that cannot be fully assimilated into our models. But then again, as Gregory Bateson posed the question, “what is the territory?” Our understanding of the universe depends completely on our maps and models – our perceptions and interpretations. All we have is “maps of maps”. [2] Even what we see with our own eyes is a map, a mere representation of the reality – an image formed on our retina and interpreted mentally. Moreover, it seems that whenever we take even just a little peek, we also interfere. When I raise my eyes to view the scene outside my window, I immediately intercept a stream of photons that would otherwise have passed over my head and bounced off the white wall behind me to continue in an apparently random path to who knows where. It changes me and it changes the world. How could we possibly build all of this into a coherent, multi-dimensional map of reality that would bear any resemblance to the underlying, fundamental reality?

    But surely, we might protest, God must have such a map - an ideal representation of our reality that serves (or at least served) as the blueprint for creation? But does that idea stand up to the test of logic? French philosopher, Henri Bergson thought not. In his Creative Evolution, Bergson drew the following illustration:

    The finished portrait is explained by the features of the model, by the nature of the artist, by the colors spread out on the palette; but, even with the knowledge of what explains it, no one, not even the artist, could have foreseen exactly what the portrait would be, for to predict it would have been to produce it before it was produced - an absurd hypothesis which is its own refutation.” [3]​

    I agree with Bergson on this. I can see no logical reason to assume that God would have created two identical copies of the same reality. For God, it seems to me, the map must be the territory. And that conclusion has profound implications for understanding the nature of God.

    Duke University Professor Robert G. Brown has written a logical, mathematical essay regarding the plausibility of the existence of a pandeist God. I am not competent to judge the math, so I cannot comment on whether his “pandeist theorem” genuinely qualifies as a mathematical theorem, but his “statement of conditional pandeism” seems logical enough. Brown states his theorem in these words:

    If God exists, then God is identical to the Universe.”[4]

    It is important to note that “the Universe” intended here signifies everything that exists i.e. “the set of all things that have objective, existential reality”. It does not signify a subset of that reality such as “the known physical universe”. Brown’s conclusion follows from the idea that God, if there is one, must have the property of omniscience – a God without this property would not qualify for the title. To really know everything about everything in the entire Universe it would be necessary for God to exist AS the entire Universe. That seems to be the only way God’s knowledge could be both direct and complete.

    Any ultimate map of reality or Theory of Everything would have to account for the existence of God, if there is one. Any omniscient God would have to account for the existence of such a map. To escape this interminable loop and avoid an infinite regress of maps within maps, the only logical possibility is that God exists as the entire Universe – or not at all.

    REFERENCES

    [1] Alfred Korzybski coined this expression in "A Non-Aristotelian System and its Necessity for Rigour in Mathematics and Physics," a paper presented before the American Mathematical Society at the New Orleans, Louisiana, meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 28, 1931. Reprinted in Science and Sanity, 1933, p. 747–61.

    [2] Gregory Bateson, “Form, Substance and Difference” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1972 and 2000

    [3] Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution, 1907 (translated by Arthur Mitchell, 1911)

    [4] Robert G. Brown, A Theorem Concerning God, god_theorem , 2009, accessed on February 23, 2011
     
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  2. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    Ok.

    This threw me off, but I got back on track. Our models of reality are more like trees. Sometimes the more details there are the better things stick into our heads; but yeah ok you know that already.

    I first agree that any sort of anthropomorphic universe-straddling god coupled with a real universe is I think 100% disproved by your conversation. In the same vein it has been said that if the universe were a simulation, then the physical computer simulating it would need to be the size of the universe. That's the worst!

    First of all, lets step towards an actually useful concept of God, one that is not felled by your contraption. It is the panetheistic God, not an anthropomorphic concept. When I say God in this post I refer to this. God is the denial of all gods, fairly close to the concept of atheism; but belief in panentheistic God requires a commitment to other people. Atheism does not, requires no belief and asserts no moral imperative. (Atheism not preclude morality that is not the point.) Panentheism differs from atheism in that it insists God is here, there everywhere, in you, in me and is the highest authority, also beyond our imagination. Panentheism is also not deism, but I'm not going to describe deism. In Panentheism how I treat you is how I treat God. This is nothing new, not my invention; and I can give you examples of people who have taught it before I was born. Its primarily a rejection of the subjugation of man by warring gods and a determination to found another way of life that is peaceful. To the non-believer it appears to be man made religion but is in fact something else. Instead of recognizing a deity, panentheism denies them all recognizing only God, a super non-being entity coupled with a non-real universe. I say non-being, because beings are physical and subject to time. I say entity, because that is what I believe. By non-real universe, I mean that you and I and everything we see are not really there but are patterns. We appear to be solid but are empty, analogous to ghosts or ideas.

    God is entirely possible and unaffected by your conversation about maps, but your idea is very good. Its a very good idea and does discretely overturn omnipresent gods of physical universes and omniscient gods that are beings. It does not apply to the panentheistic God.

    God can be an entity that exists everywhere and completely comprehends everything in the universe, every atom, simultaneously; and this only requires that the physical universe not be real and also a subset of something greater. It does not require any simulating, planning or building. The fact that we cannot confirm that reality is real leaves this open. Also the Big Bang Theory together with Relativity is quite helpful, too; because it appears that both matter and time are subject to some kind of higher order. That's where we may presume our panentheistic God to be, not in the subset of reality that we call the physical realm, not a being as we think of beings but something timeless, and we consider the physical realm to be nonreal and subject to a higher order. I even have a decent idea of what that order might be like, perhaps a static numerical order, some kind of higher dimensional number system in which our physical universe is represented. Such a thing neither needs creation nor simulation, so it gets first place at my guessing table. Its close enough for me.
     
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  3. Dawnofhope

    Dawnofhope Veteran Member
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    Its very well written and thoughtful.

    I see God as an unknowable essence, so an entity that is in all likelihood off the map, as well as part of it.

    The sacred books such as the bible, Quran and Gita are the maps that give us a glimpse into the next world.

    That is just my belief, but I have no doubt that your belief that appears to lean towards atheism based on this essay and our conversations is just as sincerely held.

    How would you define your beliefs in regards to theism?
     
    #3 Dawnofhope, Jan 29, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  4. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    I like the photo, It's a fictional, but all photos are in fact fiction regardless. I think I will stop here.

    hoax.png
     
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  5. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that "pan-en-" versions of deity are not "deism" - we can leave definition of terms there for this discussion I think.

    And I think I understand what you mean by panentheism requiring "a commitment to other people" whilst atheism and, I would say, the kind of pandeism I am advocating in my OP do not explicitly - though neither precludes such a commitment and pandeism certainly facilitates it if it doesn't require it.

    But from the section of your comment I have quoted, I want to ask: what real advantage is there in making the manifest physical world 'unreal'? Why do we have to assume that God is "other" than the manifest physical world? This assumption seems to me to be unwarranted and problematic.

    First of all, my own experience tells me that the world is constantly "in process" - it is never, ever, even for one minute fraction of a nanosecond, "static" - certainly not in my experience or in the "experience" of any other part of the physical universe as far as I can tell. If God is equivalent to or includes the evolving cosmos that we observe then stasis seems to me to be completely out of the question - even for God. Such a deity could not really know what it is like to experience the "change and decay" that "in all around I see" - how then could I possibly ask the one "who changest not" to "abide with me"? Surely there can be no "abiding" in "timelessness". But perhaps the old hymn is just a forlorn plea...

    Second, although I fully acknowledge that we cannot confirm that "reality is real", if it is not, it is surely the most persistently convincing illusion. After single-handedly manually mixing the concrete for a new set of steps in our garden this weekend, my tennis elbow absolutely convinces me that this was a real, physical experience. I really have trouble imagining myself as a "ghost" - and I am not being flippant - I honestly struggle with that notion - not least because it also presumably means that I am not only a figment of my own imagination but also a figment of the imaginations of all the other figments who are aware of my illusory existence. Although I guess quite a few of them might be happy to learn that I am nothing more than a (rather rough and shoddy) pattern in their minds, I find it hard to believe that they - or God - would have dreamed me up. (Again please don't take me wrong, I am not being dismissive - I just find the notion hard to accept).

    All in all I am inclined to take the physical world as 'real' (though not exactly at 'face value' I must admit) and accept the fundamental reality of both time and change. And that, I am sorry to have tell her, means that God is neither eternally changeless nor genuinely infinite, (at least not in the generally understood meanings of those words) but eminently temporal and mutable, and s/he is, if s/he exists at all - her own continually morphing map of her own ever-changing reality (to go back to the imagery I used in the OP). To be honest, even I have difficulty distinguishing that notion of God from atheism, but I don't mind calling her "God" - I don't think she minds at all.
     
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  6. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps - but if I'm right they are really more about our world and "God's" evolving "role" in it - kind of like an old photo album. I wrote another essay a while ago around that idea - maybe I'll post that as well some time - but one at a time is probably quite enough of me don't you think?

    Probably A-...I mean it is as close to atheism as you could get without denying God altogether - I am definitely a-theistic but not necessarily athe-istic. There's another puzzle for the definition freaks!
     
    #6 siti, Jan 29, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2018
  7. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    Its a nice photo! But you're right and precisely because that is what photos do - i.e. "stop there" - whilst reality does not - ever - it neither stops nor is there really a "there" for it be when it did even if it did...nor is there really a "when" for it have to stopped at even if it did "stop there". If you see what I mean.
     
  8. David T

    David T Well-Known Member
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    You quoted the Tao so I already know you understood and I posted the picture in reference to the Tao.

    Siti, that book saved me. In my darkest hour it landed on my lap I read it and I understood it. Maybe better put, it affirmed how I see and be OK with that.
    A muse....
    The unconscious is unbounded..... Its fire, and we are small flickers of it. Daily consciousness state is frozen cold rock. Occasionally the unconscious bubbles to the surface an eruption, and the maps are destroyed for the land is no longer solid but fluid and flowing. Over time it cools, turns to rock, cold, and eventually we have strip malls and what ever wondering why is it so plastic!

    I need to qualify my muses better here. It tends to be more poetic than literal. Someone might come back and go "lava I have no idea what you are talking about word salad" apparently certain very "smart" neurological types can't understand poetic licence, they don't seem to have a good feel.. Which makes me always wonder "why are you here" smart" neurological type, you a big fan?" ha.. Can I say aspergers? Lol.
     
  9. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    The proposition here could be stated like this,

    All things in the world share unity of essence, for otherwise they cannot causally interact (this is the problem with mind body dualism and other forms of radical pluralism.) Combine with Panentheism or pandeism, and you get to metaphysical monism. :)
     
  10. Grandliseur

    Grandliseur Well-Known Member

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    That statement has some truth to it and is mirrored in scripture; though, there seems to be more to God than just this universe. What exactly God is cannot be known, but we are told that seeing God would kill us. If then the universe is part of God and even more than this, one could maybe begin to understand why seeing God's true nature would kill us since our mental abilities would be overcome, fried, by the experience.

    I am saying the above with the knowledge that you do not believe God exists, however, your post does speak of him.
     
  11. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    I suppose the "more to God" thing depends on what you mean by "just this universe". We really do not know the extent of "this universe" and we have merely dipped our toes into the shallow waters of the ocean of knowledge about even "just this universe" (assuming that we mean what we currently know about it). Even if we say that God and the Universe are exactly equal - i.e. that God IS the universe, even so, to say there is more to God than what we know about this universe remains a gross understatement.

    On the other hand, to say that because there is stuff we don't know (yet) and therefore there must be a God is to reduce God to the shrinking (though admittedly still considerably large) gaps in human understanding. God is no longer required to touch the mountains and make them smoke - volcanic eruptions happen all by themselves as a result of natural geological forces. The sea no longer stops where a Canute-style God has placed its bars but advances only as far as the combined natural influence of the sun and moon permit. Stars no longer stand motionless in the sky, dutifully occupying their divinely ordained places but whizz across the cosmos at frightening speeds as a result of natural cosmic forces...

    ...what will be left of God in another 2000 years at this rate?

    I am not denying God's existence - I'm trying to encourage her to come out from from behind the curtain, stop pretending to be some kind of Wizard of Oz character and join the rest of us in this confusing, continually morphing mess we call "reality". My invitation to God might be irreverent - but I have tremendous respect - the universe is an awesome place after all and anyone who knows it intimately enough is probably "God enough" for me.
     
  12. Grandliseur

    Grandliseur Well-Known Member

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    I an guided strictly by the Bible, and in this we are told God created the universe showing he is not the universe. However, we also are told that all things - in a sense 'might be inside of God.' This being because all things were created of his 'substance' so that even now he knows where all things are and what they are doing, what each is thinking.

    We are also told that God deigns to look down upon this universe, indicating a God whose limits are way beyond this one universe.
    ---------
    So, while it has been postulated by some scientific article now no longer remembered, it seems that our consciousness, and that of animals - is what God may see through to experience reality and perhaps in that way not influence the two split experiments with his own consciousness.

    It could then be pondered if all things are events in God's mind. As a supercomputer permits many users on high and low levels, the primary user may see what all others are doing on their workstations, perhaps this is akin to that in human way of explaining what is going on.

    Since the above is just my imaginings - other people may have better ideas than I.
     
  13. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    I think that the reasons people come to the conclusion that God is other than the manifest physical world depends upon who you are talking to and what time period. One reason is that gods are political vehicles. Their actions are excuses for evil. Another reason is that some people just believe that everything is connected and reject the idea of a world in chaos. For example some people don't believe in accidents. If you don't believe in accidents then you believe everything is somehow connected by an invisible force or order.

    I am not trying to convince you but am just saying that the panenthiest God slides right by the mapping challenge. I do not personally think that these objections are an issue, and from ancient times people have argued about the nature of time and whether it is discreet or continuous. I think it is continuous along its axis, however I think it is a dimension rather than actual change. I have no idea how it is possible, but it seems like a commonly held understanding among physicists that time is part of the big bang and is relative and acts as a dimension like distance. Perhaps all of the constant change and impermanence is true within a certain context but not outside of it.

    I like it, because I can say that an hour ago I am still reading your post. Its like being in two places at once. Another thing is that all of the people who have ever lived are still living in their time. We can know of them although we cannot see them doing anything or affect them. They affect us but cannot know of us.

    I think meaning starts with relationships and caring, and I appreciate you taking the time to consider my reply. I do not think our reality is changeable. In that respect it is solid to me, so I agree on that partly.
     
  14. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    I know! And you're right - a panentheist concept of deity resolves the mapping challenge...but leaves God veiled off like the Wizard of Oz - I suppose I'm that naughty little pup tugging at the curtain - I want her to come out and show herself plainly and I'm guessing that when she does, she'll be a bit more like us (i.e. real and messy and complicated) than we have been led to believe - but still pretty darn smart to have kept all this whizz bang spectacle of cosmological reality going for billions of years from behind a curtain that we ourselves have hung between us.

    I suppose I want to "unweave" God just as science has "unwoven" the rainbow (Keats, Lamia), but I'm trying to do it without preying "on the poet's heart" or flying on the "wings" of mere "dull realities" (Poe, Sonnet - To Science). I think it can be done. I hope it can.
     
  15. danieldemol

    danieldemol Well-Known Member
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    I don’t get why you feel an omniscient God would need a map
     
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  16. atanu

    atanu Member
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    But is the OP talking of an essence? Essence does not change and is distinct from the phenomena of names and forms.
     
  17. atanu

    atanu Member
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    A good blog.

    I cannot however reconcile the above two and I cannot understand the implications of both statements being true.
     
  18. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    Yep! Yes again!

    I won't be able to grasp any mathematical presentation, but the joy is that it is so simple that anybody can perceive its truth.

    I'm also interested in the concept of 'All that is, and all that is not' and I have noticed that many deep-thinkers talk/write about nothingness as well as somethingness.

    And one of the first things that mankind wanted to do was draw maps, astronomers have even produced a map of 'our' Universe'. Of course the full map will be somewhat larger than this, I expect.
     
  19. oldbadger

    oldbadger Skanky Old Mongrel!

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    Since Deists believe that 'all is God', that makes you a small part............... and I'll bet that you need maps! :)

    Mankind needs maps, and the 'drive' to produce the image of God does rather push the boundaries of mapping. So far we have a map of 'our' universe.

    But doesn't it crunch to pieces these ideas that mankind is something special? Shakes theism to its very foundations.
     
  20. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    Its an image - the map IS God's omniscience. Your question is the equivalent of asking why a winged creature would need wings.
     
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