Levels of Being: Putting the Mystery Back Into Life

One hardly hears discussion of the kingdoms of the natural world anymore. It is introduced in the early grades of our public schools and hardly ever mentioned again unless one goes on to study one or more of the Kingdoms in college. Our secular culture is dominated by the ideas of science and yet so few of us spend any time engaged in the study or practice of science.

Our minds crave certainty and Science seems to fulfill this need. But while Science seems to function as a Culture (See Culture: Where Do We Go From Here?), in reality it falls short. To understand why this is so, let us look at the scientific categories of existence.

Since ancient times the natural world was grouped into four major categories or kingdoms: Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human. Each level has some element the lower level lacks. Each element is a necessary quality of that kingdom without which it would not exist.

The Elements: m, x, y, and z

The elements that separate the four kingdoms are: Matter (m), Life (x), Consciousness (y), and Self-Awareness (z). The letters in parenthesis in the previous sentences are a shorthand so that we can see more easily how each of the Kingdoms are composed This convention is proposed in a little book called A Guide for the Perplexed written by E. F. Schumacher.   

Writing each kingdom with its elements, we have a table that looks like this:

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Looking Into the Abyss: Is The Universe Doomed to End In Heat Death Or Is That A Scientific Myth?

Spoiler Alert: It’s a myth.

The Heat Death of the Universe was first proposed by Lord Kelvin in the late 19th century. It is a conjecture that the universe is expanding and will continue to expand until all the thermal energy of the universe is expended causing all physical processes to cease.

This faulty and uninspiring mental image of the universe has been a part of the cultural milieu of the scientific community for so long that it has become a part of the popular culture’s understanding of Reality and is rarely challenged.

This apocalyptic vision originated from the observation of physical and chemical processes under specific, local conditions and then extrapolated to include the fate of the entire universe.

Just the Abyss - Ellis Rosen - The New Yorker

“It’s just the abyss, dear. Try not to gaze into it”

We call this kind of analysis empiricism, which is a bottom-up approach to knowledge. While empiricism is a powerful scientific tool, it has its limitations.

empiricism

the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Google definition

Physics gives us knowledge when observing concrete (physical), local systems. We can control and submit these local systems to scientific experimentation. We fail sometimes to realize how little we can observe about the universe. From our tiny perch on this small planet whirling about in the vastness of space what can we really know for certain about the fate of the universe?

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Precious Time and The Einstein Revolution

What is time?  

We talk about mechanical (scientific) time, psychological time (time as our minds perceive it), and physiological time (the time of bodily processes). But are any of these things really Time with a capital T?

Psychological Time and Physiological Time

Time seems to fly by when we are enjoying something and it seems to slow down when we are standing in line or at work. We are often startled to see that our mind’s estimate of the current time does not match the clock. We don’t trust out minds to tell us the correct time or even the correct passing of time. We tend to dismiss psychological time as not real.

But, whether time seems to go fast or not, we cannot escape our biological clock. It keeps on ticking to its own time, whether we like it or not. And since physiological time appears to have some one to one connection with mechanical time – we think that is more real than psychological time.

Mechanical (Scientific) Time

As communication and transportation technology grew over the past two centuries, reliable mechanical time became increasingly important to our everyday lives. We rely on our clocks and by extension, our computers and phones to tell us the correct time. We plan our days and our nights by the dictatorship of clock time. It is so much a part of our mental framework that we often confuse clock time with Time itself.

Mechanical or scientific time is clock time. We measure space in yards or meters, but we don’t confuse the measuring stick or other device such as our car’s odometer with the road we are measuring or the houses we pass by. Space is something we think is separate from its measurements. So, why is it that don’t we think more expansively about Time?

What happened to philosophical time?

Philosophical time belongs to a branch of philosophy called metaphysics. Many scientists and secularists believe metaphysics is an illusion or a construct of the brain. Science replaced metaphysics and anyone who challenges that fact is considered anti-scientific. To them, if metaphysics belongs anywhere it should be studied as a psychological disorder.

But is this true? Has science truly and finally replaced metaphysics? Is philosophy dead?

Continue reading “Precious Time and The Einstein Revolution”