Ask A Genius 424 – Scientific Nihilism: Nihil (1)
October 26, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are scientific nihilism and its future?
Rick Rosner: Scientific nihilism will not survive the era of big information. People get this idea that the universe is a big clockwork, even though it cannot be with quantum mechanics. It is indeterminate.
That doesn’t disqualify the view that the universe plays out as a series of random processes. Everything is destined to go to shit. The expanding Big Bang universe will continue to expand until it is cold, dark, and mostly empty trillions of years into the future.
Everything, eventually, goes to shit. A lot of or several of those ideas aren’t true now. In that, entropy does not rule the entire universe; it, certainly, doesn’t rule planets with life orbiting stars. It applies to closed systems.
Open systems can shed waste heat and actually increase in order. We are the current end product of 4.5 billion years of increasing order in our solar system. I believe that a future scientifically based view will be that increasing order is built into the universe and that there are values associated with this.
If you look at ethical values, most of them or most ethical goods involve not destroying shit or preserving shit, whether preserving life or the quality of human life. The Golden Rule is treating people as you would wish to be treated and if you wish to have a good life.
Goodness in life is based on freedom from chaos to a large extent. Chaos being war and cataclysm and disease. You want to hold onto the good things in life. The holding on is preserving order.
Order is built into ethical values and vice versa. So, I believe that future systems of belief that incorporate science will increasingly incorporate ideas of increasing order rather than the half-assed belief in nothing mattering associated with scientific nihilism or that many people have in the back of their minds lazily with an acceptance of a scientific point of view.
You can also look at Feynman. He wrote this article or gave a speech 50 years ago. Where he talked about the three directions that science could go in, science could run into a wall and everything that could be discovered scientifically would be discovered scientifically but that it wouldn’t explain everything, or it would explain everything, or there is an unlimited stuff to discover with science and science would continue to make gains without ever reaching completion.
That has pertinence to what we can anticipate. It can be set as an analogy to future forms of beliefs, what we believe in the near future, which I believe will increasingly be the universe having scientific explanations with a bias for increasing order.
Jacobsen: Do you mean localized order?
Rosner: It is localized negentropy. But I also believe the universe has increasing order on average as a whole. That the universe is built from order. That all the matter and structures of the universe can only exist in the proliferation of particles that we have and in the precision with which those particles are defined in their interactions and positions in space, etc., etc.
That only happens because there is enough order in the universe to permit that. If you believe that ordered systems generally have a beginning point, a point at which the system did not exist and so had zero information; you have to believe, at some point, that the system going from the point to now must have had increasing order, whether synthetically in an artificial world built or in an evolved natural universe.
You have a universe that went from zero order to a shitload of order. I believe that future belief systems would incorporate the science and this idea in the future.
Jacobsen: How would this work in the near future with beliefs that imply a continued belief – sorry – in things like the Quran, things like the Bible, things like the Torah, and things like the Kitáb-i-Aqdas?
Rosner: In numerous of our conversations or interactions, I have mentioned this a gazillion times. That Reformed Jews do not even know what they believe. In Sunday School, I was taught Jesus was a great man, a great leader, who had great things to teach us. He just wasn’t the Son of God.
He was not the Messiah. We were still waiting for him. Increasingly but not exclusively, there will be people who embrace traditional religions in a non-religious way. They will embrace the ritual without buying the divine aspects to it.
It would normally require belief in it. But it will be hollowed out. There will continue to be people who are adherents to the major religions. But that there has already been a large hollowing out of belief.
There will be increasing hollowing out of religion. As I said, Reformed Jews do not even know what they are supposed to believe.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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