News - 2011
Last Updated (Thursday, 14 April 2011 09:07)
A Successful 3d Annual Symposium - "Faith and Science"- November 2010
On November 14th, 2010, the Holy Epiphany Russian Orthodox Church (Boston, MA) organized the 3d Symposium on “Faith and Science” featuring the lecture by Anna Djintcharadze (Teaching Fellow at Boston College) entitled "Metaphysics as the Means of Survival: Theology and Quantum Theory".
The goal of the symposium was to make clear the need of metaphysics for the solution of the problems of physics, and the need of transcendence for the solution of the problems of logic.
For centuries, western thought has adopted a method of knowledge that draws a clear line between the thinking subject and the thought object, thus opposing them. For centuries as well, philosophy and science have perceived the observing mind as outside of the reality it observes. Starting with Aristotle and culminating in René Descartes, the mind is reduced to thought and matter to extension. Since in such a situation the relation of mind to matter remains a mystery, the relation of mind to God becomes an even greater mystery. If we wonder how even matter can properly be the studied object of the mind while alien to it, then the question of how God could be the studied object of the mind while being totally transcendent to it, becomes an even greater problem.
In the symposium presentation, it was shown that the positivistic mindset imprisoning the world and God within the boundaries of deterministic causality leads to the reduction of the physical realm to the strictly axiomatic systems of geometry and of God to a rational concept, subject to the implacable determinism of formal logic. Matter and God become objects measured and reasoned out by the human mind which itself remains an entity of mysterious nature, being outside of both matter and God.
However, the advent of quantum mechanics in the early XXth century contained an implicit end of positivism as it came by another way to the conclusion made by Immanuel Kant two centuries ago: the discovery that elementary particles are not objects on a micro-scale, but rather knots of energy whose “objective state” is influenced by the presence of the measuring consciousness (quantum wave collapse), was a shattering blow to determinism both in physics and in theology. In fact, if the presence of the knowing mind interferes with objective reality, then the mind cannot be “outside of the game” while it cognizes; the mind instead is congenial to and an active and inherent part of the very reality it wants to know.
It was further shown that the nature of certainty achieved in cognition within the previously described deterministic frame cannot from now on be satisfying. If the mind is part of its observed and perceived reality, that reality is both immanent and transcendent to the mind. This means that what reality truly constitutes cannot be reduced to geometrical (in physics) and axiomatic (in theology) “sub-rational” categories, but reality, while partly accessible to the mind always goes beyond it; it is always “supra-rational” and thus always transcends the principle of non-contradiction as the most fundamental component of logic. Similarly, while reality manifests itself through measurable matter, it always goes beyond it as well. Thus the essence of matter is not reducible to its manifestations, and genuine certainty is to be sought beyond the conceptual “either/or” duality and in the “both/and” realm of intuition and mystical experience. In fact, quantum measurements (wave/particle duality) yield nonsensical results when being expressed in formal logic which in that case simply becomes fuzzy, as it cannot hold a reality that pries it apart. God is more than a dead abstract concept and matter is more than lifeless “stuff” reduced to its measurable properties.
With the example of Russel’s paradox (Barber’s paradox) directed against Gottlob Frege’s attempt to mathematically prove that mathematics is consistent, it was shown that no consistent axiomatic system can rely on its own terms to prove its consistency. It was shown, in the example of Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, that truths which are most self-evident cannot be proven within the frame of the given system, in which case the system becomes self-contradictory. The aforementioned truths are instead the very foundation of that system, thus falling out of the system’s thematic grasp, since transcending it, and hence being the absolute principles having to be assumed by the system as assumptions, for the system to be able to function deductively at all.
A further parallel was drawn in this context between Pseudo-Dyonisius’ apophatic theology of the quantum duality, and Roger Penrose’s assertion about the non-algorithmic nature of consciousness: in the same manner in which God transcends all definition, the most appropriate way dogmatics can somehow talk about the divine is by overcoming the principle of non-contradiction, which is expressed in paradoxes (God as One and Three; Christ both God and Man; the Virgin Mary both Mother and Virgin), likewise the paradox of the wave/particle duality is the most appropriate way logical thought can capture the nature of physical reality.
Thus, the principle of consciousness is beyond the formal grasp of the brain while intuition is beyond the grasp of reason. Following Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, it was said that God is the assumed foundation of the world as an axiomatic system, as much as the metaphysical principles of matter constitute the assumed foundation of physical realm, and as much as the mind is the foundation of the brain as still another axiomatic system, and as pure vision is the foundation of reasoning. Conclusion: God, mind and matter are congenial and their dialog can be expressed neither by matter nor by formal thought.
The symposium was concluded with the summary that unless we acknowledge our cognitive and physical limitations, we will not be able to transcend them; and unless we acknowledge our dependence on transcendence that has to be assumed as the foundation of immanence, whether in cognition or in physics, we will not free ourselves from the bondage of objectivism and universal reification. And if we do not, we will not survive as philosophers, theologians and physicists. We need metaphysics – we need God!
Anna Djintcharadze has recently published a philosophical article concerning this issue. Please click here to read it.