Vanity thought #1508. Word salad

Continuing with the debate I started looking into yesterday. I’m getting to the point where Chopra “dazzled” Dawkins with his “eloquence”, which prompted Dawkins classify Chopra’s speech as incomprehensible word salad of scientific jargon. That was harsh, but what is justified? TBH, Chopra does love to throw around words and ideas he thinks support his view but which could also easily be challenged. This time, however, Dawkins was unfair, I think, and he didn’t fully grasp Chopra’s main thrust even when explained in easy to understand language either.

To recap, at this point Chopra argued that while individual atoms and particles don’t seem to have any purpose behind changes in their states, when taken as a whole it looks as if the universe works towards creating conditions for emergence of biological organisms which are clearly purpose driven. This, in Chopra’s view, means the universe works towards a visible and purposeful goal.

Why Dawkins didn’t get it is a mystery. “Brains have purpose”, he said, “To push purpose back into the universe itself is to make a complete confusion.” It’s as if saying that when you are building a computer this activity has no purpose because purpose manifests only when computer is finished and is connected to the internet.

Dawkins would probably argue that computer has a designer but the universe doesn’t. To which we could reply that this is the whole point of the argument – it seems as if the universe is being assembled by a designer so that biological organisms, and particularly us, humans, can finally come online and express ourselves. The fact that this final purpose stays invisible while all the parts are being collected is irrelevant – we already agree that the designer is invisible, we are trying to judge his presence but what we can observe, and it looks like the universe works with a purpose in mind.

This is a matter of interpretation, if Dawkins interprets it differently he should say so, simply stating that designer doesn’t exist and there’s no visible purpose in the early stages is not enough. Unfortunately, there’s even bigger, more fundamental difference at play here and Chopra is starting to get into it.

As the argument for universe having a purpose he mentioned the idea of fine tuning. To get the universe just right so that life eventually emerges all the physical constants need to be exactly as they are, a little deviation here or there and the Earth wouldn’t even exist or at least wouldn’t be able to support carbon based life, the only one we know. Dawkins, however, have surely heard this argument many times before and gave a standard response – some physicists support fine tuning, some don’t, others say we don’t understand enough about these fundamental constants to speculate about their origin, or, indeed, “fine tuning”, and yet there are others who propose multiverse theory where we just happen to live in a universe where life is possible while there’s an untold number of completely dead universes in that “multiverse” place. I don’t think it’s a satisfactory answer in a sense that it doesn’t explain the perception of fine tuning and instead proposes existence of yet unknown and speculative theories that could answer this question in the future, all because he doesn’t like the theory that answers it right now.

Even if Dawkins had a prepared response to fine tuning question he still went all wrong about it. In Chopra’s thinking fine tuning leads to creation of life and therefore purpose, that’s what universe is tuned for. Dawkins again can’t see this connection, can’t see life as a consequence of this fine tuning. This inability to get this simple point is incomprehensible. And then he completely screws up Darwinism.

Normally, atheists wouldn’t accept us lecturing them on understanding natural selection but look at what Dawkins said: “Darwin explained how starting with no purpose at all … laws of physics working through this remarkable process called evolution by natural selection gave rise to cells, to nervous systems, to brains, to the illusion of purpose. Indeed very genuine purpose because for living things purpose is a very genuine phenomenon.”

First of all, Darwin didn’t explain how laws of physics created life. I’ve also already said that natural selection is driven by the need for survival. Atheists would reply that “natural” here means it’s not driven by anything, it just happens and better fit individuals last longer. This argument, however, goes against everything we experience and observe in the living world around us. No living being is indifferent to death. Survival is a purpose, we all feel it. See how Dawkins himself stumbled there between “illusion of purpose” and “genuine purpose”. Natural selection would give us only illusion of it, because it’s “natural”, not purpose driven, not an expression of each living being’s will, and yet even Dawkins himself accepts that for us the purpose is genuine, not illusory.

This sudden jump from illusion of purpose to a real one would later give an echo in a sudden jump from non-conscious living beings, in Dawkins’ classification, to conscious ones.

He also missed a simple Chopra’s point – we are part of the universe, we are not special, not separate, not fundamentally different. We are an “activity” of the universe. We can’t say that there’s universe and there’s us. How can Dawkins ignore this while harping on about universal laws giving birth to our consciousness is beyond me.

And then came the “word salad”. It was prefaced by establishing Chopra’s credentials in a scientific world, and here’s what followed, with minor omissions:

“There’s a school of scientists who believe that if you look across the universe it shows the following properties – sentience at all levels.., complimentarity at all levels, which means that the universe is empirical but most of it is actually non-empirical, non-observable. It is wavelike when you don’t know where these waves are, that have no units of mass and energy, and it is particlelike which have units of mass and energy, so it gets weird at this level. But it also seems to be self-organizing, it seems to be self-regulating, it seems to be self-evolving…

I think yes, evolution has a purpose, it’s evolution itself! Evolution is guided by awareness, by consciousness, and the purpose of evolution is maximum diversity.

What we experience as perceptual phenomena are not fundamental reality at all because every species has its own perceptual experience of the universe. These scientists that I work with say that awareness is a singularity, perceptual experiences are many, and evolution of species is actually the evolution of consciousness to express itself as multiple observers, multiple modes of observation and multiple objects of observation. We are the eyes of the universe looking at itself. This brain is the observation deck for the universe to experience itself.”

Granted it covers a lot of ground. “Units of mass and energy” should be replaced with “measurements of mass and energy” and “awareness is singularity” probably needs an explanation, but otherwise it’s a rather coherent presentation. “We are the eyes of the universe” might be a bold and far out statement but it does make a lot of sense if you think about it. I mean it is possible to see our human consciousness as a product of the universe, a product that is meant to understand the universe itself. In Chopra’s view, as I said, we are a part of the universe, and we are a part of the universe that is capable not only of self-awareness but of the awareness of the rest of the universe, too.

Ironically, it is Chopra who is being atheistic here, insisting that consciousness is a natural, mechanic phenomenon (save for treating awareness as singularity where all laws break down), while Dawkins can’t accept it and demands a special status for himself and for the science. Has Dawkins ever listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson going on about how we are made of space dust from billions of years ago? How can he not get that his dear “natural selection without purpose” must lead to us becoming the self-aware brains of the universe? I mean our noses are not self aware and neither are planets, so what? Without a nose and other organs devoid of awareness our brains wouldn’t work. Likewise we, the humans, need existence of stars and planets and all the lower species, too.

If it reminds of you puruṣa sūkta then great, I think Chopra loves this connection, too, even if he didn’t mention it here.

Did Dawkins really not get it? If he didn’t he shouldn’t have called it an incomprehensible word salad, and if he did he… Wait, let’s talk about his reaction tomorrow.

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