Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Occam's Razor

I hear on NPR that there's this new book about being wrong.

It's about how we're all somehow programmed to find long explanations to bolster our certainties; about how we will go to almost any length to protect the reality of something we've made an identity investment with. During the NPR interview and call-in there was some talk about how the wondrous techniques of modern science are the only thing that's proof against these long rationalizations of our certainties. Scientists are taught to doubt.

But there is also a time and place beyond which the doubting is itself that thing which leads to the unnecessarily long and convoluted explanations. Just like trying to compute the orbits of the planets while positing Earth at their center, scientists now continue to contruct complicated-beyond-belief tests for their convoluted permutations of particulate reality.

As with the math for Ptolomeic orbits, it can be followed only by adepts in the art of abstraction. These folks are hailed as our heros of thought, capable to do things with their mind analogous to what Hercules could do with his body.

That shift from Geocentric to Heliocentric cosmology has long been touted as the emblematic error of stubborn chauvinism; the chauvinism of common sense. It seems as though we must be at the center. We build  all sorts of rationalizations for what it means to be us on the assumption that we are at the center, and then we must consider as subversive anyone who would come along to disrupt that interlocking set of understandings.

Occam's Razor is the low-level test whereby, given competing explanations and all else being equal, the simplest one is probably the right one. This works for the Heliocentric description of the orbits of the planets. But only so far as the math is concerned. The mistake among the folks who were wrong was to invest too much in their metaphoric extensions from the basics. They thought decentering Earth was the same as decentering man.

The notion that God explains everything would almost always fit the bill for Occam's Razor, except that it fails to explain anything at all. It's all metaphor all the time, which pretty much explains the literality of the Bible for true believers.

At the point where we find ourselves now, it may be that explanations and wishful thinking have to merge in some slight way. At the fringes, where quantum reality takes hold, and particles are themselves conjectures; sometimes you see 'em and sometimes you don't. Provably.

We are dancing around now, trusting our champions in the field of abstraction. Trusting them with our money and our hopes and our dreams. Trusting that they will find a way for humans to control things, and then fix them and set the world right. We are all fans of the human endeavor, played on a field of dreams.

Well, I'm not. I've long since understood that at the fringes there is no real distinction between mind and matter. That mind apart from matter has become a dangerous fiction, because it projects reality as onto a stage, a screen, a field. Mind has always been implicated with matter, whether we as humans already existed or not. Our tears our hopes our dreams are simply not that important, except to ourselves, except that for so long as we project into our future some Savior descended from abstraction (which makes utterly no sense to say, but you'll think it does) or abstracted from the reality of our lives and education. Some genius to propose yet another mathematical and machine construable construct into which reality must be fitted.

When the Occam's Razor elegant solution is simply to change around our language. Regard as real those connections we now regard as merely emotional, and somehow centered on humanity. Emotional connections, which inhere in conceptual relations among perceptual phenomena, are always present in principle. As is the mind to know them. But no math can touch those relations before the phenomena have "touched" by exchange of particles, by impingement of forces, by interaction, mindlesslly, apart. As parts.

I am descending now - I am some way along the descent toward my dotage. I never did have the career rhetorical professional focus which would keep my words in play. I never did have a clear pitched voice, nor talent to project it. I am tired, my center does not hold. I seek company in the wilderness of whatever it is mine eyes are window unto.  They grow dim, trifocular, abstracted from whatever it is I once could grasp.

But I will like continue to rehearse the obvious, just in case somebody starts to pay attention. Somebody other than those bots and scammers, dregs beneath humanity, who now own our world of discourse. People writing whole books on obvious matters, as though it might matter to all those who will remain so certain that there is a conspiracy. The dunces!

We all conspire together. I watched that dreadful film, The Road, over the course of a couple of days (the wages of older age). Then I read a bit of that dreadful rhetoric. A spare writer who hangs with physicist-types. They deserve each other, and their serial women, chosen for beauty, deserve them too.

The world is now crowded with projections of its end. Even Margaret Attwood, who has the sense to clip my commentary from her blog, admired by feminists, indulges grim rehearsals of our current voids. Didn't John Updike write one before his ending? Chomsky. They're all misogynists, so far as I can tell. Haters of the very possibility that men don't mean that much. Man doesn't. Which means that they are haters of our matrix. Not realizing that Earth is that much bigger than our little dreams.

I'm with the global warming deniers, the Small Change believers that Bush took down the Trade Center Towers, the believers that the war in Afghanistan was always all about the mineral rights, and staking claims before China could. As if any of this is news. As if the failure of the CERN collider is surprise. As if there was always a Hollywood ending in store. There is no secret code for trust. There is no there there unless and until you make it so.

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