Star Larvae Hypothesis
Courtship Dances of The Spiral Galaxy.
In his New Republic excerpt, Easterbrook reviews scientific advances, such as the Big Bang, the discovery of DNA, and the concept of the Higgs Field. Based on his review, he concludes, "Regardless of whether our mettle is natural or supernatural, purpose is something people can make by leading moral lives and helping carry one another’s burdens." Whether or not humankind has a purpose, it is incumbent upon humans to, in Easterbrook’s words, "treat one another lovingly and with justice." What such ethical bromides have to do with the achievements of science is anybody's guess. Nonetheless, New Republic hyped the story as "Science Sees the Light—The Rediscovery of Higher Meaning." The editors are guilty of conflating virtue with meaning.
— Richard McDonough
in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
doesn't connect science with "Higher Meaning."
Only involvement with a teleological program will do that. Any hoped-for
integration of science and religion will have to deal squarely with the
need for an overarching plan, inherent in nature, that gives human existence
a necessary role—and not gloss over the issue with ethics talk.
The star larvae hypothesis presents itself as a candidate for an integration that meets that requirement. It assigns a specific purpose to humankind within cosmic nature. It draws from science and religion, but not always from their orthodoxies. It leans equally on science’s fringes and religion’s roots. The fringes include self-organization, quantum theories of mind, panspermia and other technical and theoretical conjectures. The roots include belief in a machinery of cosmic fate—fueled by the stars—within which humans operate. These seemingly unrelated branches of understanding, innovative science and archaic religion, inform essential aspects of the hypothesis.
— Charles Hartshorne
The Logic of Perfection
Among scientific advancements, the theory of complex systems provides
an obvious access point through which religious ideas can flow
into the scientific worldview. The theory invites notions
of an animate universe to re-enter the marketplace of ideas. Central
to this about-face in scientific thinking is the concept of spontaneous
self-organization. This is science’s
new term for the tendency of matter and energy, under the right circumstances,
to arrange themselves into complex, dynamic processes. These processes,
kept stable metabolically, persist in states that are far from equilibrium.
By legitimizing the concept of nature’s spontaneous self-ordering,
science acknowledges the occurrence of miracles, even if it
tries to conceal the discovery under a shroud of technical argot. But spontaneous
self organization by any other name still smells like a miracle. This is
because complexity theorists cannot articulate the necessary and sufficient
conditions under which a box of stuff will self organize into a dynamic
system that persists stably in a state of disequilibrium. What components
are necessary? In what configurations? How much energy is necessary? Input
by what means?
The most ancient understanding of nature, so far as anyone can determine, was in a commonsensical way a deeper understanding than is today’s scientific view. Science since Descartes has regarded nature as dead and living organisms as guests in that dead world. But conceiving of nature on the whole as being an integrated living system is more true to humankind’s experience than is science’s conception of nature as inanimate particles and fields sinking into equilibrium from which unlikely context biological life emerged. Complex systems theory revives the ancient conception, in which biology is only one expression of life in an animate cosmos.
The processes that operate inside a living cell might tempt us to credit for their organized complexity some kind of executive intelligence. And any such intelligence as might be involved in the metabolic churnings of a cell must reside either beyond this world (i.e., in deity) or within this world (e.g., in DNA). Admittedly, the former conjecture asserts intelligence literally, while the latter attributes it more or less figuratively.
Nonetheless, such speculations invite philosophizing:
Point is (aside from the prospect that intelligence is no natural kind at all but a construct of human definitions and usages) recommending either approach toward understanding nature’s organized processes is to anthropomorphize: Both approaches, metaphysical and merely material, project human capacities onto things that are not human. To project intelligence onto supernatural entities or onto master molecules is to anthropomorphize, a conceit that inquiries into nature ought to avoid.
To suppose that a deliberating mind is needed to design or operate the biochemical levers that trigger or impede processes inside a cell is to anthropomorphize. To suppose that somewhere physically inside the cell is a something that makes such decisions as are made is to anthropomorphize. This latter observation is particularly the case now that research into gene regulatory networks demonstrates that the biochemistry inside a cell operates as an organic whole. There are dependencies and interdependencies, but no executive intelligence sits atop a hierarchy of control.
We have “intelligent” and “design,” “master genes,” “control switches,” “codes” and “programs” from which to construct an understanding of the cell as a representative organism. Such concepts are fine work-a-day metaphors, but literalizing and projecting them with their connotations intact onto nature is a detour into anthropomorphism. Nature is not designed or programmed by an intelligence or anything else. Nature is not a whew! of chance. Nature is not of gods or fortunate happenstance. Nature is neither a miracle nor a machine.
Peel back the curtain, and there’s nothing to see. Nature, in all its messiness, in all its nurturing and desolation, in all its unlikely satisfactions is all there is: Organism. Nature earns its living by weaving novelty, habit, objects and subjects into ever more intense, elaborate and sublime aesthetic processes and experiences. It suffers the setbacks inherent in being alive. Its animate soul inspires each new universe it bears. Nature is ontologically animate, exuberant, irreducible, and non-contingent. This is the broad sense of organicism, the last philosophy left standing once dumb dead matter and disembodied consciousness have slapped each other silly.
Given science’s unfulfilled promise of a grand unified theory and the unlikelihood of ever fulfilling that promise (given obstacles such as Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem, the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics, and the conundrum of conscious experience), religion can only feel increasingly emboldened to challenge the suppositions and authority of science. But religion performs no better than science when it comes to presenting a grand unified theory. Religious doctrines provide moral instruction, but they are weak technical guides.
Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Address, Harvard Law Association, February 1913
Science, for all its technical successes, has failed to find a necessary place for human beings in nature. Science describes a pragmatic worldview but one within which humankind has no particular purpose or historical destiny. That should not bother scientists, because it is not the mission of science to find any particular purpose for people (other than employment). But insofar as science provides an account of the workings of nature, and insofar as human beings are products of and participants in the workings of nature, it might seem by now that science would have something to say about human purpose and destiny within the context of nature’s doings.
The inability of science to find a necessary role for humankind has at least something to do with the ideology of science itself. That ideology regards questions of meaning and purpose as psychological questions, which have to do with the workings of the mind, which are epiphenomenal to, or contingent upon, or derivative of the workings of the brain, and which therefore cannot be fundamental to—cannot a priori be built into, or be necessary to—the workings of nature. Mind is epiphenomenal.
Therefore, science fails to, and possibly never can, locate for humankind any natural meaning, purpose, or destiny. Science in this sense continues the project of Gnosticism. It throws the prospect of any kind of redemption for humankind back onto human beings themselves. (The Gnostic scheme regarded nature as the creation of a deliberative, purposeful mind. But human redemption was something to be engineered by humans, because the mind behind nature was insane.)
Any apparently purposeful design in nature, any seemingly necessary patterning, say the scientists, is merely a coincidence of contingent patterns drawn by the universe’s various physical laws, undirected, intersecting this way and that. The religious sensibility takes issue, perceiving the coincidence of patterns as evidence of a creative mind at work behind the scenes. Religion, in contradiction to science, places human meaning at the center of a purposeful creation. It grants humankind a special place in nature—but provides only a folkloric understanding of the technical details.
T. S. Eliot
unlike religion and at least since Darwin, perceives nature as designless.
A bird’s beak, for example, being shaped
necessarily in a particular way, has no purpose as such, no matter
how well it serves the bird as a tool for acquiring food, attracting
a mate, or any other use to which the bird might put it. Purpose can
be assigned only by a conscious
mind making choices in pursuit of an outcome. The beak serves the bird,
but it was not designed intentionally to do so, according to science.
The religious sensibility, in contrast, assigns to the beak a purpose
that embodies the intent of a conscious mind, that of the creator
of nature. The presumptions of science and religion can be distinguished
in greater detail, but these broad characterizations cover them well
enough to establish their fundamental incompatibility—at least
within their normal exegeses and insofar as they campaign for the
The star larvae hypothesis proposes to subordinate and supersede scientific and religious orthodoxies. It repositions scientific and religious descriptions into a common context. This repositioning involves pulling the scientific, religious, and historical data from their neat files, spreading the facts messily around and linking and configuring them in new ways. The need for a novel interpretation of the facts is demonstrated, for example, by the uncanny number of coincidences in physics that science declares necessary to keep our particular universe’s house in order. Religious sensibilities point to these coincidences as evidence of a grand design. And so the debate wraps itself around itself over and again.
If nature is divine artifice, as religious faith supposes, then nature is of a kind with technology.
Nature is somebody's science project . . . or?
to the Star Larvae Hypothesis
The Star Larvae Hypothesis:
Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which††
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