Christian Engström, Pirat

2 maj 2013

Kopimism: The Laws of Nature Just Set the Stage

Filed under: English,kopimism — Christian Engström @ 11:37
Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

Click to read the earlier parts of Kopimism: The Creation

(This is a continuation of the Kopimist Creation Myth, which is also available in Swedish)

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the laws of nature are just depressing when you read them. We do, after all, call them ”laws”, and laws tend to be rather depressing and miss out on all of the fun.

If you had never been to a pub but had read all the laws that regulate it, you would probably not feel very keen to visit one. You would have read pages and pages of legal laws to deal with drunkenness, disorderly behavior, fistfights, food poisoning, and watered-down beer. If this was the whole truth about an evening over drinks together with friends, you would do well to avoid it.

But of course, the laws that regulate a night at the pub don’t tell the whole truth. They set out the restrictions that the involved parties have to follow, but they make no or little mention of the magic of spending a pleasant evening together with friends.

The laws that regulate a theater are the same. There are lots of rules on how theater building should be constructed and how the emergency exits should be located, but (at least in a free society) there are very few laws that regulate what goes on on stage, and no mention at all of the magic you can experience in the audience when you see a great play.

The laws for the theater set the stage, but leave it open what happens on that stage.

The laws of nature, in the same way, provide a foundation and set the stage for interesting things to happen on the next level. It is true that the laws themselves are just a bunch of restrictions on what can happen in the world, but the fact that they are a depressing read doesn’t mean that we need to feel depressed about the meaning of the universe.

No matter how restricted we might feel by the laws of nature, we can take comfort in the fact that everything that is not expressly forbidden, can and will be seen as a possibility.

According to Newton’s (or Einstein’s) theory of gravity, and apple and a rock will fall to the ground in exactly the same way, at exactly the same speed. Does this mean that science says that apples and rocks are the same? Are you the victim of unscientific superstitions if you enjoy eating an apple, but refuse to eat a rock?

No, of course not. To claim that would be a complete misunderstanding of how scientific laws work, and what they do and don’t say. It is true that the theory of gravity makes no distinction between apples and rocks, as it does not recognize ”taste” as a factor. But this does not mean that the theory of gravity refutes or denies the concept of taste. It is just silent on the subject. This means that it doesn’t rule it out, so it can very well be.

When a snowboarder is doing a jump, the theory of gravity will very accurately predict how her center of gravity will move through the air. But it will say noting at all about the flips and spins that she and the audience are interested in. Those are described by other physical laws of motion, that don’t contradict the law of gravity, but supplement it. No matter what kind of movements a snowboarder does, she will not be able to suddenly remain suspended in mid-air in defiance of the law of gravity. But there are a lot of other pretty amazing things that she can do without breaking any laws of nature.

The law of gravity places no restrictions whatsoever on anything that it does not explicitly claim to predict. As far as it is concerned, anything is possible on any subject that is outside the scope of the law, from the flips and spins the snowboarder is doing, to the mental attitude that she had when she won the gold medal.

The snowboarder’s rotations around her center of gravity can be described by other basic physical laws, and the mental attitude of a winner cannot, but as far as the law of gravity is concerned, both these situations are okay. As long as there are no claims that with the right mental attitude you could defy gravity and start levitating, the basic physical laws have no opinion at all on the importance or existence of mental attitudes. They don’t confirm it, but they certainly don’t deny it.

Another example would be the laws of chemistry that we learned in school. Those laws say that some atoms feel they are missing some electrons, and others feel that they have too many. This attracts them to each other if they get a chance to even things out.

An oxygen atom feels it is two electrons short, and hydrogen atoms feel that they each have one too many. This makes them very keen (as in hydrogen gas explosion) to join forces whenever they get the chance, and the resulting compound (water) is very stable. This is all according to the basic laws of chemistry.

The same basic laws say that carbon atoms equally feel that they have four electrons too many or too few, which makes them happy to build molecules together with other atoms of their kind. The basic laws of chemistry don’t place any restrictions on how complex those carbon based molecules can be, but they also don’t say whether there will actually be a lot of very complex carbon based molecules, or how those molecules would look if they did exist. The basic laws of chemistry don’t predict the existence of self-replicating double helices of breathtaking complexity, they just don’t deny the possibility.

This is how all scientific theories and formulas work.

Scientific theories claims to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But no scientific theory ever claims to tell the whole truth.

The underlying laws of nature place certain restrictions on what can happen on the next level of complexity. Atoms can’t break the basic laws of chemistry. A snowboarder can’t levitate. You can’t walk on water.

But apart from these and similar restrictions, anything else goes.

The whole idea with the metaphor of the Giant’s shoulders is that you’re allowed to stand on them, and add whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t contradict the foundation you are standing on.

We can add more science, in the way that biochemistry was added to basic chemistry. Since the biochemical laws that describe DNA molecules don’t contradict the basic chemical laws for carbon atoms, they are free to put whatever they want on those shoulders, and everybody is perfectly happy with the relationship between basic chemistry and advanced biochemistry.

The laws of advanced biochemistry adds magic and miracles in a space where the basic laws of chemistry just said ”that’s random”. We know now that the shapes of complex proteins are not at all random, even if this is what science said when basic chemistry was all the chemistry that had been invented.

When a scientific theory says ”random”, this does not mean ”Move on folks, there is nothing to see here!”. In fact, it very often means the opposite: ”This is unregulated space, so here magic may appear!”. To add things to the body of known science is the very essence of the scientific philosophy.

Alternatively, we can add metaphysics or religion to the foundation provided by the giants of science. The result will be metaphysics or religion rather than science, since the additions won’t fulfill the criteria of science (like being supported by a lot of scientific evidence). But as long as the additions don’t contradict the laws of science, we don’t have to make a choice between science and religion.

This is what Kopimism sets out to do. We accept that the laws of nature are by and large a good description of those aspects of the universe that they actually describe. But on those shoulders, we add the Four Kopimist K’s — Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality — to give meaning and direction to the evolving universe. Even if what we are adding is not science, but metaphysics or religion, we play within the rules for adding things to science.

We take note of the fact that although the laws of nature known are great at explaining a whole lot of things, they make no claim whatsoever to describe everything knowable, not even taken together.

According to science, there can be no God that can make apples fall upwards just because he feels like it. That would violate the laws of nature. But there can very well be a God out there that touches the minds of humans and (at least sometimes) inspires them to do great things. A God of that kind wouldn’t have to violate any laws of nature to be effective.

Richard Dawkins and other critics of religion are right when they point out that there is a conflict between the Abrahamic God described in the Bible and the laws of science as we know them. Virgins giving birth, and prophets walking on water and resurrecting people from the dead, are phenomena that contradict science. A religion that insists on those miracles being real, cannot be reasonably be reconciled with what science teaches. If you want to believe in the God of Abraham in a literal way, you either have to renounce science as false, or live with the fact that you have an inconsistent worldview.

But this does not mean that every potential religion has to be in conflict with science.

Science does not disprove the existence of magic, miracles, or metaphysical structures that add purpose or direction to the creation. After all, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, so if science was fundamentally incompatible with every form of magic, it would mean that no major scientific advancements would ever be possible. This is clearly not the case.

The Kopimist religion adds four fundamental principles to the description of the world that science provides us with. These are the Four Kopimist K’s: Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality.

These principles do not contradict science in any way. The are extra-scientific, meaning that they go beyond what (today’s) science teaches. But they are not anti-scientific, since they do not cause any conflicts with the existing body of science, or the philosophical principles that form the basis for science.

As Kopimists we believe in science, since it quite obviously works and is incredibly useful. But we also believe in a world full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

We Kopimists believe that the Four K’s of Creativity, Copying, Cooperation, and Quality provide a perspective that will let us see magical things and get a deeper understanding of the world we live in. Time will tell if we are right in this. But right or wrong, we have at least shown that there is nothing anti-scientific about our beliefs.

The chasm between science and religion, that opened up with Isaac Newton and has continued to present day, can in fact be bridged quite easily. All it takes is for Science to show a bit of humility, and not claim to be explaining more than it actually does, and for Religion to show bit of common sense, and not insist on miracles that are quite clearly in breach of underlying laws of nature. There is ample room in the universe for all the magic you could ever wish for anyway.

”Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it,” author Roald Dahl reminds us in a top rated quote.

The religion of Kopimism aims to do this.

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CC-BY-NC Christian Engström

3 kommentarer

  1. why are you using an outdated non-free license?

    Kommentar av passstab — 2 maj 2013 @ 16:19

  2. Reblogged this on Urbansundstrom’s Weblog.

    Kommentar av urbansundstrom — 2 maj 2013 @ 19:29

  3. A few minor points in an otherwise excellent text:

    1. The laws of chemistry doesn’t say that higher-order chemistry like DNA is ”random”, because ”random” actually has meaning. They simply say nothing at all about higher-order chemistry, which can be interpreted as ”don’t know”.

    2. Science doesn’t say a god that can make apples fall upward cannot exist. It doesn’t even say that apples cannot fall upwards. It merely says that IF apples start falling upwards, there’s something at work that we don’t understand. It could be a god, or it could be another phenomenon that is unknown. Science NEVER claims to be the final word on anything; that’s why everything in science is a ”theory”. The only thing science says is that ”Thus far, this theory fits with ALL the collected evidence; throughout human history, nobody has presented evidence that contradicts it.”

    The problem with gods that can make miracles is on a much more basic level: if there exists a god that can make apples fall upwards, you’d expect to SEE apples falling upwards every now and then, wouldn’t you? So, since nobody has never ever seen an apple fall upwards, why on earth would you believe there’s a god with that particular superpower? In short, it’s not about science saying anything at all, it’s about making predictions that just don’t fit the evidence.

    Kommentar av Patrik — 3 maj 2013 @ 9:20

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