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**AN EASTER PHILOSOPHY**

*The Secret(s) of Life, the
Universe and Everything*

By

**Jay B. Gaskill**

**A**fter all this time, Plato still makes much more sense than the
opposing view of the arch-materialists. These minds still cling to the view
that the behavior of matter and energy can provide the total explanation of
life, the universe everything. Not only do I believe that the arch-materialists
are fundamentally wrong in this, I suggest that their notion that *everything* is reducible to some branch
of the physical sciences is actually toxic.
Yes, the arch-materialists still hold center stage in the academy. Yes,
reductionism and deconstructionist thinking are still the vogue. Yes, many
nominally intelligent people still seem to believe that even a Bach fugue is
just a series of fluctuations in air pressure that interact with our hormones
to produce the illusion of beauty. But, *really*, can everything else of *value* - hope, morality, beauty and
goodness - be fully explained as bio-electric fluctuations in the brain? If you
still believe this – and most intelligent people do not – be warned: ** Arch-materialism peaked in the 20^{th}
century**.

We can grant that ultimate
ontological questions will always elude absolute proof. And that this situation
will always provide a convenient refuge for those cynical souls who fear to
live in hope because they live in fear of all hope being proved wrong. But life’s truly large questions *can* be settled for each of us as
individuals when we grasp one simple principle: *Our whole lives are conducted on foundations on which we act in
reasonable confidence.* Real life rarely offers more. Arch-materialism, when taken seriously, omits
far too much that is necessary for the pursuit of authentic life. A commitment
to arch-materialism as comprehensive doctrine is a pathology because so much
more is worthy of our reasonable confidence.

From the perspective of the early
21^{st} century, how real and relevant is Plato’s Realm of Forms? [In
this discussion, we’ll use two special terms, Event Space and Form Space, the
latter for the Plato’s realm of “pure”, a-temporal, non-material entities. Of
course this uses the term *space* in a
special sense (discussed below * ↓).] A single question exposes the
hollowness of the arch-materialist world view: *How is it that human cognition so powerfully mirrors the underlying
architecture of reality?* The remarkable predictive and explanatory power of
this mirror effect is both hard to ignore and deeply significant. Cognition
became increasingly powerful via the use of systematic, self consistent
relational structures (the most formal of which are logic and mathematics). Our
cognitive power was greatly enhanced in the mid 20^{th} century though
the development of increasingly rapid computation technologies. Our species’ growing suite of conceptual
tools generated very fertile and useful metaphors (think of *software* and *hardware* from information processing technologies and *space* as mathematical metaphor↓).
After 2,200 years, Plato’s core vision remains remarkably robust.

At the beginning of this
millennium, three views of the ontological status of Plato’s *Form Space* are still in competition:

1. All form/order/pattern is merely derived from the material/physical domain, and not otherwise existent. In other words, form/order is abstracted from the physical universe by the mind, enjoying (at best) a wholly dependant ontological status, a secondary reality.

2. All physical/material existent “things” are merely imperfect, corrupted and transient versions of the “perfect” and “eternal archetypes in form Space where they enjoy a fleeting, utterly impermanent existence in “Event Space” The merely material is “descended” from the Platonic realm, a fleeting and dependent ontological status, a secondary reality.

3. Form Space and Event Space have co-equal ontological status in the context of an overarching Reality. [The exposition and development of the various explanatory scenarios is an ongoing human project as are the various attempts to resolve the tensions between 1 and 2.]

*** ↓**

My usage
of the term “*space*” (in *Form Space* and *Event Space*) is not a reference to the venue of distance, direction
or size in the space-time continuum. This usage of *space* belongs to a family of terms like “phase space”, “design
space” and “gene space” in which *space* is a relational field or grid that
can be described or represented in visual form in a way that dramatically
reveals sub-relationships and adjacencies.
[Think of a 2 dimensional graphic representation of all the possible the
paths of a given pendulum or class of pendulums.]

This usage
probably started with the term “phase space”, a conceptual metaphor that
originated in the mathematics of chaos mapping and fractals. The shapes of
Euclidean, geometry –
square, circle, cube, and sphere – are regular. Fractals are
irregular geometric shapes that contain recursively tinier versions of
themselves exhibiting self-similarity such that a small portion of the whole is
reduced scale replica of original. The “father of fractals”, Benoit Mandelbrot
(1924), demonstrated how fractals are generated from deceptively simple
mathematical equations, and that they occur both in mathematics and nature
(think of zebra stripes and snowflakes). One special class of fractals, the
“Mandelbrot set” generates self-similar shapes at first glance, but on smaller
and smaller scales, the shapes are only approximately similar. Every Mandelbrot set generates infinite
ordered variety, all based on simple equations of the general form: `Z` = `Z`^{2} + `C`.
These amazing and beautiful fractal shapes can be generated and
displayed graphically on a home computer.

When mathematics is used to describe a dynamic system (think of the swings of a pendulum), “phase space” represents the mathematical depiction of all possibilities of motion in the particular system. Locations in phase space appear as paths, trajectories, or orbits, typically represented on a 2 D surface. An “attractor” is the end state of a system. For a pendulum (a non-chaotic dynamic system), the attractor is the rest point, the locus of perfect equilibrium.

Chaotic
systems are characterized by such exquisite sensitivity to their initial
conditions that the eventual trajectories in phase space can’t be predicted
(remember this is mathematical modeling, not “actual’ turbulence in nature
we’re discussing) except over a very short time span. When *chaotic* systems are graphed in phase space, an interesting result
emerges from the “randomness”. A
different sort of “attractor” emerges from the infinitely variable number
strings -- much like a mountain emerges in the fog. This is the “strange
attractor”, a cluster of infinitely variable solutions, graphed in phase space,
that are all contained within a definite range. While no one solution is ever
the same and nothing exactly repeats, there is a convergence that produces a
Form in phase space. In this mathematics, chaos yields emergent order.

After the notion of “space” caught on as a relational field
that can be graphically depicted on virtual plane, other usages quickly
followed. Evolutionary biology has generated a sub-field of mathematical
molecular genetics, a discipline that incorporates aspects of statistics,
information science, including some of the language (“genetic coding theory”)
and geometry (molecular genetics as differential geometry), and finally the
language of physical cosmology (genetics as a “space-time manifold”). The
organization of genetically coded information is understood as occurring in
“gene space”. Other theorists have begun
to use the term “design space.” All of
these usages – whether intentionally or unintentionally – pay homage to
Plato. In this spirit I adopted the
terms *Form Space* and *Event Space*.

Before going further, I will outline the gradual evolution of ideas about the nature and contents of Plato’s realm. I see five major developments:

(1) *Ancient Plato*. Pythagoras
of Samos (569-475 BCE ) and Plato (427-347 BCE, student of Socates), shared
the mindset. Form Space was seen as
including ideal archetypes, perfect forms and - as Pythagoras had discovered -
harmonic relationships. The realm was
geometrical and relational, both eternal and static.

(2) *Clockwork Plato*. This is “Plato/Pythagoras Form Space” as
augmented by Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Isaac Newton (1643-1727). Form Space now
includes the realm of natural law and the mathematics of the calculus. In effect, the classical mechanics of motion,
the laws of celestial behavior, the mathematical architecture of the gravity
effect, acceleration and momentum were presumed to be fully and perfectly
described by eternal equations. Almost
without exception, 18^{th} century mathematicians were Platonists in
this expanded sense.

(3) *Transitional
Plato*. This is the Plato of
pre-quantum physics, of the bent clock painted by Salvador Dali, of Vernor Heisenberg’s “Uncertainty Principle”, and of Albert
Einstein who rejected the random indeterminate quantum implications on
(Newtonian) principle (“God does not play dice”). A few Platonists jumped ship
here. But others hung on. After all, the original shockwave posited only
quantum uncertainty, the idea that quantum sized entities might be
un-measurable to any perfect degree of precision, but were nevertheless
operating according to some cognizable variation of Newtonian law that was just
“hidden” from us. Newtonian rules were
not valid under certain conditions, but Einstein’s were. Predictability survived. Dynamic processes
took place according to laws that were fully describable in mathematics and
fully predictive, even if – as Einstein correctly postulated - space and time
were no longer absolute axes of measurement, but formed a somewhat elastic
mutually correlated set, space-time.

(4) *Quantum
Disturbance*. Then two aftershocks arrived: (a) *true quantum weirdness*: the realization that the uncertainty
particle physics was finding in “Q-World” was not a *measurement* problem at all, but represented a sort of “both-and” //
“either-or” ontological zone that completely eluded Newtonian description; (b) *chaotic processes*: the discovery that
some aspects of nature are too “turbulent/chaotic” to generate predictable
outcomes. At this point, several
boatloads of Platonists jumped ship. Those Platonists who stayed on board were
mostly mathematicians who took solace in the fact that the mathematics of
quantum mechanics are predictive to an impressive
degree of accuracy, as long as the exercise is understood as a series of
probability calculations.

5. *Hard Drive Plato*. Two things happened (both in the late 20^{th} and
early 21^{st} centuries) that seemed to weaken Platonism as a useful
description of reality but actually strengthened it. The good news: We discovered *algorithmic processing* (essentially
step-instruction, “brute force” mathematics). Using huge computer arrays and
immense memory storage, algorithms have been able to model complex dynamic
processes in nature so successfully that we can reasonably imagine that
anything in nature is capable (at least in principle) of mathematical
description. Since all the steps of an
algorithm can be stored in a hard drive, Plato’s realm could be re-imagined as
an immense non-material information storage medium. The “bad” news: As the
mathematician-physicist Roger Penrose has persuasively pointed out, some
deceptively simple mathematical problems are inherently non-computable in the
sense that any conceivable supercomputer would take all the time in the
universe to arrive at a solution. This
notion inspired the late Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker of the Galaxy” series in
which Earth is a supercomputer designed to solve the meta-problem: “What is the
meaning of life, the universe and everything?” [

Has the
Platonic model finally really outlived its time? The problem flows from our discovery that the
universe is not absolutely predictable. Either we are to conclude that Plato’s
realm can never *perfectly* mirror
physical reality (Plato never said that it did, since mere physical reality
fell shot of the perfection of the real of “pure” forms), or we must find a way
to integrate the realms of Form Space and Event Space. I propose to do that by
accounting for the traces of “randomness” that stubbornly appear in both
realms.

This
sort of discussion is complicated by that fact that *randomness* is a difficult term to define with precision. For
purposes of our discussion, I opt for a functional definition: *Randomness is the property of any sequence
(whether of events or of calculation steps), however putatively ordered, such
that the next step(s) cannot be accurately predicted -- other than within the
actual, unfolding time frame of the event sequence in question, or in the case
of purely computational sequences, within the time span of the universe.*
Thus the notion of randomness imports a contextual framework in which the
attempt to obtain perfect *advance*
knowledge is perfectly frustrated. I’ve intentionally finessed the notion of *infinity* here, taking heart that we 21^{st}
century humans have pushed the limits of “functional” infinity far beyond the
aboriginal counting system that inspired the title of the physicist George Gamow’s popular book
first published in 1947 and reprinted for four decades. [The life of this
brilliant Ukrainian-American (1934-57) was proof that not every genius wins the
Nobel Prize. Dr. Gamow first predicted DNA coding and
did the seminal work on the origin of physical elements following the Big Bang.
*One Two Three, Infinity*, his most
popular book, was an overview of modern science.]

Followers
of

Enter Ilya Progigine (1917-2003, 1977
Nobel Prize for chemistry). Dr. Progigine
persuasively demonstrated that chaotic variation can be so powerful and initial
conditions so exquisitely sensitive to minute variation, that *detailed* prediction is impossible for
such systems. His was not a trivial
finding, because the most unpredictable systems in this sense are the weather
and human behavior. Progigine
dethroned Newtonian determinism.

Quantum
and chaotic uncertainty have conspired to keep Newtonian determinism from ever
regaining the throne. At the same time,
Dr. Prigogine is credited with establishing the
balancing proposition that large scale order emerges from otherwise chaotic
systems. We are left with the
understanding that random and chaotic processes exist in nature, and that mathematical
chaos seems to mirror this. But, at the
end of the day, the processes of nature are mostly predictable. So we have
traveled from the deterministic innocence of Newton-Kepler
to the stochastic sophistication of Prigogine-Penrose.

Therefore
Plato’s realm of form, taken as a powerful model of reality, must either be
stretched to accommodate these new understandings, or simply accepted (as

Before
embarking on that discussion, we need to return briefly to acknowledge the
growing power of mathematics (in all its strange forms) as an amazingly
powerful conceptual tool for generating predictive and explanatory models of
nature and natural processes, especially in cosmology, quantum physics and
probability theory. Over and over again,
mathematical theory has leapt beyond experiment and experience only later to be
validated. *This has happened because the universe is not organized along arbitrary
or incomprehensible lines; its architecture has steadily been revealed (often
many years before experiment of observation could have done) by
mathematics. *To the extent that
Plato’s realm holds all of mathematics (including its as yet undiscovered
branches) all the modern, post-Newton developments represent a window into two
aspects of Form Space:

(a) Form Space is the container of a staggering depth and
complexity of interrelated non-material form/order/design, perhaps to the
extent that we might consider expanding the term “form” itself.

(b) The entire contents of Form Space is a repository of
information whose contents are discoverable via cognition, yet remain deeply
entangled with observable features of Event Space. We humans can do science because Form Space
is strikingly predictive of yet-to-be observed features in Event Space.

Now we
are ready to entertain whether we can find an overarching reality model that
can persuasively integrate or subsume Event Space and Form Space. Prior to the
20^{th} century there were just two general models that purported to
resolve the conflict:

- The “final” triumph of arch materialism;

- The notion of a common creator of both realms,
whether seen an extrinsic creation agency (as in classic theism and deism)
or an intrinsic one (Spinoza’s Natural God).

Neither
view was fully satisfying in that we sensed that a very significant part of the
picture remained unexplained. The detection of incompleteness haunts the human
mind, I suspect, because our innate grasp of *explanation* (that when lacking we often experience as a thirst) *resists discontinuities*, especially
those that strike us as arbitrary.

Ultimately,
those of us who believe in the essential unity and integration of all reality
share an *a priori* faith stance in
common with the scientific enterprise itself. As a result, we tend to we arrive
at the end of incomplete explanations still convinced in the essential unity of
things. We therefore accept the remainder as unity-in-mystery; this is a natural leap of faith, one
that I understand as the reasonable faith of the reasonable mind.

We need
to drive a stake in the heart of arch-materialism by moving well past several
surmountable discontinuities to the point where our intuition of ultimate
integration leads to a *provisional*
mystery, the kind that is fully defensible as a *reasonable* act of faith.

Here
are the five fundamental elements of the arch-reality model that folds into
itself the sub-domains of Form Space and Event Space in each of the universes:

1.
** Reality
(with the capital “R”, hereafter “Reality Prime”) is relational in its
essential and ultimate nature.** Put
differently, there is no aspect of Event Space and Form Space that cannot be
fully accounted for, described and located in relational terms; the
physical/material disappears into its relational description and all the
form/order/design that presents to conscious cognition exists as a relational
sub-set of Reality Prime, itself whole and wholly integrated differentiation of
relationship. Therefore:

(a) Space and time are sets of separation and extension
relationships that permit the replication, proliferation, interaction and
mutation of otherwise identical form/design modules. Think spheroid here as an
exemplar within topology of an archetype that can (provide we have space and
time) be resized, relocated and morphed because of the separation and extension
venues created by the spatial and temporal relational sets.

(b) Universes are relational “buddings”
from Reality Prime in which Event Space and Form Space exist as correlated
phase states of the same arch-relational set.

*2.
**Creative
emergence takes place in the universes because Reality Prime holds the “BPR”,
the Bohm-Plato Reservoir* of all possible form/design
and system architecture that can ever be realized/localized in any universe.*

*The “BPR” is my proposal, an idea derived from the insights of the late physicist David Bohm, in his seminal work, “Wholeness and the Implicate Order”. (Routledge,1980, ISBN 0-7448-0000-5) See page 21. For example, in his discussion of the “non-local” relationships between entangled quantum particles in the EPR experiment (Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen), Bohm wrote: “...we may regard the particles constituting projection of a ‘higher dimension reality, rather than a common three dimensional space.” See page 188. And he added, “basically the implicate order has to be considered as a process of enfoldment and unfoldment in a higher dimensional space.” See page 189. Later, in describing biological evolution, he wrote: “....various successive living forms unfold creatively...The law of this unfoldment cannot be properly understood without considering the immense multidimensional reality of which it is a projection...” ID, Page 212.

Bohm juxtaposed his view against the strictly mechanistic model of traditional science. Without venturing into the technically arcane, the following quotation seems to sum up the essence his world view:

**“Quite generally, then, the implicate order
has to be extended into a multidimensional reality. In principle, this reality
is one unbroken whole, enclosing the entire universe with all its ‘fields’ and
‘particles.’”** ID, page 189.

I believe that these early insights of Bohm’s foreshadowed the notion that form/relationship/design was somehow encoded in (or tied to) physical reality. I sense that Bohn was very close to a fully integrated view that encompasses the material and non-material, but was held back, perhaps, by the lingering pull of the older materialist mind set. I now see Bohm’s enfoldment and unfoldment as early attempts to describe an expanded Platonic realm as it mediates phases changes between the material domain (Event Space) and non-material domain (Form Space).

*3.
**Random/chaotic
tendencies in the universes form portholes (a metaphor) that permit (given
sufficient time and space) the emergence of novel design(s).*

*4.
**Reality
Prime is perfectly integrated and unified, while perfectly variegated and
diversified.*

*5.
**Conscious
being is a three phase emergent in that its ontology subtends non-local form
Space, local Event Space and the BPR within Reality Prime.*

These
five points are the seed ideas of life, the universe and everything. As a
famous Rabbi once said, “All else is commentary”. Of course, that commentary
will occupy the first half of the 21^{st} century.

JBG

**The author** is an
attorney who served 1989-1999 as the Alameda County Public Defender in

His related essays (below) and personal profile (http://www.jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf
) can be found on **The Policy Think Site**:
www.jaygaskill.com .

**The Matter of
Reality, A Critique of Comprehensive Materialism** http://www.jaygaskill.com/Critique.htm

**Escaping the Dead
Universe Paradigm **

http://www.jaygaskill.com/dup.htm

**The Ghosts Outside Plato’s Cave, Implications of The Relational
Universe**

This book-length work is in pre-publication preparation. Contact the author for more information.