The Trickster

Paradoxically, no one can convince themselves that there is no such thing as free-will without taking a position that involves an act of will. Likewise, no experience can deliver a meaning or truth without an act of recognition.

So we cannot meaningfully say there is no meaning in the world without taking a position in meaning from which to make the observation.  Also, there is no denying the existence of truth without appealing to the manifest truth of the denial.

Yet what do we know except that we believe it to be so? Then belief becomes the paradoxical gatekeeper of our reasons – the tacit trickster that can divert our attention and confound all recognition by feeding upon itself – especially when we believe that the facts are speaking for themselves or when we allow ourselves to think that we are entitled to believe what we want.

Mike Laidler

Meaning’s meanderings

What a wonder of nature is the human kind

What a form of being

How broad in outlook

Though how abject in insight

Yet we deign to take the measure of it all

by the yardstick of our understanding

And explain it – within the limits we bestow

on knowledge set to language.

Mike Laidler

Angry science

Typically, there is more to a scientific fact than meets the eye and that extra something is the scientific theory.  Of course, all theories begin as speculative and sometimes emotive interpretations of observation.   But no fact becomes ‘a fact of science’ unless it is wrapped up in a theory.  And as it happens, there is nothing more theoretical than our attempts to explain the ‘beginning of the universe’.

Scientists are firstly human beings who relish peer support and it is only natural for them to defend the validity of their ‘pet’ theories by citing the extent of their confirmation.  But theories remain theoretical whilst the principle job of the scientist is, in fact, to seek disconfirmation – though it is not uncommon to see ‘dispassionate scientists’ becoming passionately attached to ‘their’ favoured theories.

For instance, a high-level dispute has recently broken out over the validity of the dominant theory of ‘The Big Bang and inflation’ as the explanation of the beginning of the universe.  Suffice it to say that scientific theories rise to dominance on the back of the amount of support they receive, especially when they are confirmed by observation.  But the observable facts are always open to revision and according to the late Karl Popper, who remains a respected authority on this topic, the weight of evidence is no guarantor of the truth.

In addition, this fracas has all the elements of a classic scientific dispute of the type predicted by the late Thomas Kuhn in his seminal book: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The proponents of the dominant theory of inflation are acting as though their take on the facts has the status of a ‘paradigm’ – in short, it overrules any facts to the contrary and in so doing stands for an accord that preserves its version of ‘normal science’ as the official view of reality.

But science depends on its revolutionaries – the problem being that it’s all theory at the end of the day; and the speculation remains fallible, especially when the theory is so broad-based in its ambitions as to claim the status of a ‘theory of everything’.

Mike Laidler

Further Reading: Hannah Osborne’s article on 13.5.17: ‘Hawking Pens Angry Letter about How the Universe Began’

Lost worlds

Here we are and here we stay.

But what is this vision of the here?

Our comings and goings are mere episodes in a life we feign to understand.

Our explanations are theories built on a foundation built for us.

We are ever other than everything we identify as the cause of our being.

We cannot look upon ourselves without creating a separation between seer and the seen.

We are ghosts amidst a world that knows nothing of our existence.

And we have lost the feel for that difference

– of the knowledge that remains more than any fact we can make of it

– of a place in being beyond any idea we can lend to ourselves.

Mike Laidler


Jumping into rivers

Myths exist to ‘explain the inexplicable’, and insofar as we believe that existence is potentially explicable we are supporting an epic myth – namely that we can define the greater fact of existence from a lesser perspective that subsists as a part of it.

Ultimately, there is a paradox at the heart of all explanation which leaves us with two strands of logic appertaining to things as they are and are not: observable and unobservable, definitive and indefinite, one thing and another – explicable and inexplicable.

The ancients knew of this as the paradox of change: that it is logically possible to explain why Achilles cannot beat a tortoise in a race, or how an arrow cannot move through the air, or that we cannot step into the same river twice.

As things currently stand, we explain the process of change as a transition from what was to what is, because this is the observable component of the reality.  But the flow of change is not something we can capture analytically.

So it is because we know we exist biologically that we say biology is the cause of our existence, but it doesn’t explain the ‘biological changes’ that place us in the elevated state of being able to observe biology – to wrestle with the fact that biology is and is not explaining itself.

Mike Laidler

The nature of everything

We are a part of a universe that is ‘everything’ and from which we ‘inherit’ all our characteristics, yet it doesn’t appear to be all that we are because, unlike us, its nature isn’t characterised by thinking sensibilities.

Undeniably, we are a part of something bigger than us, but neither the evidence nor our reasoning is sufficient to resolve the conundrum that ‘nature’ does and does not include those thinking sensibilities – that the resultant ‘everything’ turns out to be more than its beginnings.

Perhaps ‘the nature’ we take to be ‘the starting point’ of existence is, in fact, a plurality of natures, which is why our observations of causality don’t give us all the answers we so willingly ascribe to it – especially when there happens to be so much more to the nature of the effect than we can find in the cause.

Mike Laidler

The maker of causes

The idea that truth will free us from contradiction owes to our belief in logic as a basis for assessing the facts.  Logic has shown us a universe where up cannot be down, curved cannot be straight, one cannot be two, right cannot be wrong, facts cannot be fictions, after cannot come before etc.

However, more relativistic realisations lead us to understand that things are not necessarily either/ or – that a fact may be both one thing and another: uniform and diverse, clear and fuzzy, fixed and fluid, true and false, explicable and inexplicable – and that there are ways of understanding facts that defy the language by which we try to present our explanations as logically consistent.

Indeed our pride in being logical may actually be a source of ignorance.  For instance, if we are to understand the origins of the universe we may need to rethink the logic of causality, which errs towards the embroidery of our observations of change – as if the nature of the cause explains the nature of possibility, as if the cause equates to the ensuing difference, as if nature and possibility are explicable in terms of things as they were – as if it is the possibility of change that is ‘caused’ when that possibility is, in fact, the maker of causes.  Then, when the gaps in explanation gape and all else fails, we say the cause is chance, as if chance might be sufficient to explain the origin of everything, including the nature of possibility – including the possibility for chance to exist.

Likewise, no ‘cause of life’ has proved sufficient to explain the change that comes about, because whenever the change is attributed to pre-existing causes, it leaves unexplained a difference that cannot be found in things as they were – in the entirety of those unliving causes.

Mike Laidler