Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Meta- Assumptions

If I don’t understand something, I think maybe Shakespeare did: or Einstein. Or von Neumann. If they didn’t understand it either, maybe Newton could have. And if Newton couldn’t, then surely God must!

Archimedes famously said:Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
Did Archimedes have any idea of the size of the world? Actually, his world wasn’t all that big. It had no China, no Americas, no Australia, no Antarctica, no Tibet ... Even so, by what physics (or metaphysics) could we find or make a lever long enough for him? And if he made one, what would hold the fulcrum?

Archimedes was imagining the "world" on a self-similar plane. He wasn’t thinking of it as wrapping back on itself, the wrap spinning among other wraps. He was thinking of the universe in terms of continuous compression; he made no allowance for
tension. He assumed meta-extensions inappropriately: out of ignorance: out of an inappropriate cosmology.

And so do we. Our physics, our cosmology, our metaphysics ... may be far more sophisticated than that of Archimedes. If we don’t have half his brains, we have some compensating advantages. Which doesn’t mean that we can’t be just as balls-over-ass wrong, absurd, as he was.

Review that sequence: If we don’t know something we tend to assume that Congress does, or the Pope ... or some terrorist spy. We tend to assume that perfect knowledge exists somewhere. I extended my appeal to "God": that ever-handy meta-meta.

Scientists, without any possibility of confirmation, assume that the universe is of a piece. (Even if it is, what about other universes? (Is the universe a synonym for the cosmos?) (And if it is, is the synonym appropriate? Is it true?)

The more ignorant we are, the more facilely we dismiss science. The illiterate nextdoor knows from a mile what’s wrong with Darwin. (Does the even stupider neighbor beyond him therefore know better than the illiterate nextdoor?) It’s the character of religion to be 99.9% incapable of doubting the appropriateness of its meta-extensions. (And at some point sciences too share much with religion.)

Archimedes asked for a lever long enough to move the world. Surely he was joking. Do we get the joke? Well, this module attempts to.

2009 04 04
This post had links to,, ... all destroyed by the fed in 2007. Sorry, I'm trying to put some of it back up.

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