Penrose and Purpose


I heard Roger Penrose interviewed on Desert Island Discs. Certainly he is a proper grounded mathematician and scientist (look up his Wikipedia entry). He’s worth listening to (unlike soap-box orators like Richard Dawkins).

I was struck by his representation of Artificial Intelligence as fundamentally an algorithm – since it will forever lack mind and consciousness. So I’ve been looking into his views. Just a couple of quotes below. Science is certainly NOT consistent with materialist atheism as some would have us believe ..

There is a certain sense in which I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance. Some people take the view that the universe is simply there and it runs along-it’s a bit as though it just sort of computes, and we happen by accident to find ourselves in this thing. I don’t think that’s a very fruitful or helpful way of looking at the universe, I think that there is something much deeper about it, about its existence, which we have very little inkling of at the moment.

Intelligence cannot be present without understanding. No computer has any awareness of what it does.

I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.

our present picture of physical reality, particularly in relation to the nature of time, is due for a grand shake up

The honest atheist

I am interested in the philosophy and beliefs of the great scientists. Einstein, Bohr, Pauli, Schrodinger, Heisenberg. It strikes me that in almost every case they are led to a wonder at the harmony and structure underlying existence. What a refreshing contrast to the childish un-scientific preaching of Dawkins (all religion is “child abuse”).
Speaking at the “Beyond Belief” symposium in 2006 Steven Weinberg (Nobel Prize for his electroweak theory) was quoted as saying “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief”.

He is an avowed atheist, but since he’s a proper scientist he also said:
“I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as ar as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will … still be left with the unanswered question. Why?”

Truth in a motto?

As you walk into Paddington Station in London you see a Victorian shield with the mottos of the Great Western Railway. “Domine dirige nos” and “Virtute et industrial”. Now it’s a long time since my Latin lessons but Im told they’d mean something like “the Lord directs us” and “virtue and work”. These mottos may even have been true of Victorian Britain, indeed I have read that unlike the Dickensian depiction, poverty was substantially less common then.

In any event, what would be the modern equivalent?

In a world where fortunes are made by the likes of Donald Trump, what would be their motto? Perhaps, ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.’

We’ve come a long way from Brunel, that greatest of British inventors. The engineer who was the inspiration of the Great Western Railway.

Which way are we travelling though?

Atheism, Narcissim. Same thing.

Nothing can be proved. Neither any kind of God, nor any kind of absence of God. Don’t take my word for it. Read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Read Heisenberg and Godel.

Any honest discussion about no-God or God equally must always be prefaced by the statement – “I believe”. A-theism is a belief system, like any other.

Since there is no objective start point, personal creeds are founded internally, and then spun up with logic. Like candyfloss. Perhaps Abrahamic religions spring from a direct experience of (and desire for) family and security. Materialist atheism? It seems to me that this is rooted in narcissism. “There is nothing but me. Apres moi le deluge”.

Consider. When do you hear a Dawkins or his ilk start with “I believe”?. Science no more disproves than proves any notion of God. There is no objective and secure start point on which to base logic or experiment. We can’t step outside spacetime or he universe.

They know that, but they don’t say it. Rather, they wrap their evangelism in a tissue of certainty.

My belief is that The convictions of atheists can often be traced to rebellion against a father figure or a child cowering within their ego. Yes, science has brought knowledge. An understanding of “how”. What has that to do with “why” “whither” or “whence”?

Buddhism at least seeks at minimum to do no harm, and to meditate on meaning. And, whatever, you might think about Christianity, at least it’s creed, as repeated Sunday by Sunday, starts honestly with “I believe”.

What’s the matter?

Or put another way, what actually is it, and does it exist at all? John Bell, the physicist, settled the 40 year old argument between Einstein and Neil’s Bohr and the Quantum sciences. What Bells Theorum (since proved experimentally) means is just this..

The universe is singular, connected. All parts no matter how distant instantaneously influence all other parts. Bells Theorum underpins David Bohm’s breakthroughs, arising from his work with Einstein at Princeton. This appears to show that reality is a single unboundaried flux or stream, with thoughts and matter as evanescent eddies and whirlpools. The model of the universe built up over centuries as material, atomic – is simply wrong.

In fact everything is dual – both wave and particle. That from quantum mechanics. Also matter is really a form of energy (e=mc2).

So everything is one, and that one thing is a complexity of energy and waves. Our conscious thought and matter, eddies and ripples in the one thing. Sounds like something from Hindu writing? It’s also prefigured by the beliefs of the oldest European cultures, with the three sisters of Wyrd spinning fate in the roots of Yggdrasil- the Tree of Life.