Seven years ago, the Swedenborg Center of Concord opened its online portal with a post entitled Integrating Science and Spirituality – Why is This Important? At that time, my assessment of the situation was that:
“Pre-eminent scientists… have felt compelled to attack all religion as irrational superstition. Many religious adherents have raised strident voices supporting biblical literalism and demeaning scientists’ claim to truth.” Gantz (2011)
In the years since, the public acrimony has, in my opinion, softened. I do not claim that this website and its 147 subscribers can take any credit for that, but we can take heart that progress has been made in healing the divisiveness and in recognizing the possibilities for integrating our scientific and spiritual understanding of the world and life. This post outlines some of the signs of progress.
The 2017 FQXi Essay Contest, “Wandering Toward a Goal: How Do Mindless Mathematical Laws Give Rise To Aims and Intention” has completed the initial round of competition. The essay, The How and The Why of Emergence and Intention, authored by George Gantz, has done remarkably well among the more than 200 entries, achieving a 5th place in the community scoring. Evaluation now moves to an outside panel of experts, with the award announcements following sometime this summer.
His essay focuses on the process by which increasingly complex and novel behaviors emerge in complex systems. This process, and the remarkable and beautiful phenomena we see in physics, chemistry and biology, cannot be explained from the bottom up, under a model of causal determinism. There is an intentionality, a goal-seeking behavior, inherent in the process. Rather than being merely random, the universe exhibits a purpose. This view is contrasted with the multiverse hypothesis, which denies the possibility that the trajectory of our universe exhibits any form of selection. Instead, adherents speculate that at every point where a divergent possibility exists, e.g. every choice, and every quantum event with multiple possibilities, the universe splits. The fact that we are here in this one is simply a contingency – this particular universe, among the many, is the one that led us here.
The cosmic intentionality we experience is a flowing process that attracts systems to desired outcomes and that affirms cooperative behaviors among units with a system. In addition, the process is fundamentally reciprocal – each level influences the one below and the one above, in an endless chain of reciprocity. What force can be described as a force for attraction, cooperation and reciprocity? That force is love.
The 2017 FQXi essay contest is underway, with nearly 200 entries on the topic “Wandering Towards a Goal: How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?” George Gantz has submitted an essay, titled “The How and The Why of Intention,” that explores the questions of emergence, causation and intention. How one answers these questions depends on a metaphysical premise — is creation random or purposeful? Mr. Gantz argues that this question is logically undecidable and beyond empirical determination, but that there is strong evidence of a cosmic intentionality flowing through the universe. He concludes that this flow is love. The universe loves us, and we should love it back, with humility and gratitude for its many gifts, including the gift of our imperfect and necessarily limited empirical understanding. Mr. Gantz’s previous FQXi essays include The Tip of the Spear (which won 4th place) and The Hole at the Center of Creation.