Imagination Cut Loose from Experience

"Once imagination leaves the orbit of reality experienced, the imagery of a second reality can become grotesque. Nevertheless, in fairness to the ancients one must say that they were not more indulgent in this respect in the modern are in their comparably structured state of existential disorientation... Western society has descended to the vulgarian grotesque of flying saucers, an invasion from Mars, investment of public funds in listening to signals from other worlds… and in the industry of science fiction that is based on this conceit." -- Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, pp. 131-132

One such current grotesquery is the idea that "the universe is a simulation." This bit of nonsense simply assumes, without any reason or evidence, that the "things" in a simulation experience anything at all, and that for them the simulation "appears" real. This would mean that, for instance, if there are elements in a computer program which is simulating a hurricane that are supposed to represent humans, somehow, "inside the computer," these "humans" feel great winds sweeping across their "bodies," and feel they are getting wet from all of the rain "falling."

"Multiple universes" is another of these grotesque fantasies, a "scientific hypothesis" that even its proponents admit is intrinsically immune to testing. And yet the people who put forward such fantasies claim the mantle of "rational," scientific thought!

5 comments:

  1. "Western society has descended to the vulgarian grotesque of flying saucers, an invasion from Mars, investment of public funds in listening to signals from other worlds…and in the industry of science fiction that is based on this conceit."

    The what the ****?

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  2. I see you that and raise you the Boltzmann brain paradox. The Wikipedia article on it is gibberish to me (the thought experiment is not actually as strange as I once thought).

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  3. Why does Eric Voegelin use such dense language?

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  4. One thing we agree on Gene is that the modern mockery of "crazy beliefs" in the past is unjustified. Not that there weren't crazy ideas, but that many of them were *less* or not crazy considering what was known then, and the proliferation of crazy ideas now puts the past to shame.

    Stupid or ridiculous are time-dependent notions. What is stupid now might not have been stupid earlier. My favorite example is "preformationism". I always see it mocked as crazy. But it's only silly now, based on what we know. When first proposed it was actually brilliant. The most celebrated recent mathematical idea is fractals: infinitely self-similar forms, nested to an infinite degree, like the Mandelbrot set. What else though was preformationism? It's wrong; it was soon *seen* to be wrong. But if you have no notion of atoms, and limited resolution microscopes to check, why is the idea obviously a priori ridiculous? No reason. So it wasn't stupid at all.

    And so it is with many medieval ideas routinely sneered at, by Green Party voters who believe in homeopathy.

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  5. This just seems apposite: another trendy "detox".
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allure-magazine/i-didnt-wear-deodorant-fo_b_7988618.html?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000071

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