February 11, 2014
focus: Potentialism Theory by David Birnbaum
Op-Ed: A scientific view of the God question
Does Potentialism Theory unify Science & Religion?
By Scott Sawitz
A debate has raged for several thousand years pivoting over the following (real) issue and (false) assumption: If the universe and the human body are indeed ‘designed,’ does that not prove (supernatural) Creationism?
The atheistic/scientific community says NO DESIGN, ergo no (supernatural) Designer (God). The polar-opposite Creationist community says YES DESIGN, ergo (our supernatural) Creationism (and God).
Enter metaphysicist and conceptual theorist David Birnbaum: There is YES DESIGN, but the designer is (scientific) Infinite Quest for Potential in league with the equations of Physics-Math. Cannot get more pro-science than that. However, Birnbaum then takes matters to an interesting universality: This eternal overarching dynamic of Infinite Potential may or may not evolve into classic God. Matters can metaphysically be read either way.
Meaning, hitherto, notwithstanding compelling evidence, the ‘entrenched orthodox’ atheistic academic community has adamantly presented a ‘united front’ coming down squarely and aggressively against considering any design in nature, presumably to short-circuit any argument for Creationism. However, their zealousness in challenging DESIGN is predicated upon a false premise.
Birnbaum shows that, contrary to the popular-wisdom assumption, DESIGN is not only scientific, it is radically more scientific than the random chaos championed by the ‘entrenched orthodoxy’ of the British academic atheist hierarchy. To the Randomness/atheist advocates, all is random and meaningless. Birnbaum feels that history will not be overly kind to their unstructured and scientifically dubious Theory of No Theory.
Albert Einstein, in his book The World As I See It, stated that the harmony of natural law "reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
In a letter to a child who asked if scientists pray, Einstein wrote "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble” (January 24, 1936; Einstein Archive 42-601).
The Big Questions: Classic metaphysics questions have remain unanswered for millennia: Is there an eternal dynamic? What was the catalyst for the cosmos? Why does anything exist? How/why did Life emerge? What is our purpose? New scientific questions have been added to the list: What ignited the Big Bang? What is the essence and drive of Evolution? What was the catalyst for emotion, consciousness? Birnbaum daringly offers an elegant simultaneous solution (to all of the above) which has tantalized the world.
Metaphysics was the discipline of the classic Greeks: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. But they were not able to come up with convincing answers which would stand the test of time; nor were the great Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Eastern or secular philosophers able to do so. So since civilization began 7,000 years ago, these questions – both the old and the new – have hitherto remained unanswered.
The field of metaphysics almost disappeared from the radar as a formal discipline subsequent to the posthumous publication of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s treatise Ethics following his death in 1687. In the ensuing 300+ years, no one has put forward a comprehensive theory or tract which has gained sustained traction to gain international attention and a significant academic foothold – until Messr. Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica alighted ‘center stage’ in 2012-2013.
Potentialism Theory: David Birnbaum of New York began looking at this ultimate puzzle as a 10 year old in 1960. Poking-around and consulting whatever ‘sources of knowledge’ he could gently harass, Birnbaum focused on three key fields which he was directly exposed to: religion, metaphysics and astrophysics. He was acutely aware of the parallel shortcoming in all three for explaining cosmic origins. He first came up with his solution in 1982 and formalized his theory in the 1988 volume I of his to-be 3-volume treatise.
Birnbaum employed a somewhat unique approach to unraveling the inter-related Big Questions. He made several key assumptions, which were to prove crucial. He felt that the solution was (a) probably not only ‘hiding in plain sight,’ but that it was also (b) relatively simple, and (c) infinite.
Regarding (a) his reasoning was that that a dynamic powerful-enough to extricate reality from the cosmic void, was probably a pervasive theme – and hence, pretty much in full view. Regarding (b) his reasoning was that only a ’simple’ dynamic could be eternal, and as regards (c) his reasoning was that only an infinite concept could get us from infinity to the present.
Meaning, that the key to the cosmic code was not some obscure mathematical formula. And meaning that as a consequence he could deal with the code-breaking part-time, sort-of as a hobby. He conjectured that the correct solution to any one problem, should be the solution to at least several of the other key Big Questions. Thus, the proof that he had hit upon the correct ‘solution’ would not lie in abstruse physics, but rather in its apparent simultaneity.
Birnbaum’s main resource for information was initially two elementary school Yeshiva of Forest Hills classmates Sherwin and Alan, each of whom seemed to know everything there was to know about science. However, they consistently deflected his Big Questions with a shrug. That was to be his experience with the scientific community in general in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. Up until 2012 when Bard College hosted its now-famous conference fully-focused on his landmark work (see below).
According to Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential, eternal Quest for Potential harnesses the eternal equations of Physics-Math to ignite the cosmic order. See his 16 point outline for a step-by-step articulation. Birnbaum proposes that his theory can be viewed respectively by Religious Man, Spiritual Man and Secular Man. Hence, his three-volume treatise.
A brief wedge into Religious Man would show him potentially viewing the Creator as the God of Potential. See Book of Exodus at the Burning Bush saga, where the Creator identifies himself as Eheyeh asher Eheyeh. Birnbaum translates that as I Will Be That Which I Will Be – meaning, according to Birnbaum, I am the God of Potential.
Birnbaum promotes an original concept as the key to understanding the cosmos. His concept of Infinite Potential as the eternal cosmic force, suggests that this dynamic worked its way forward over the eons and ignited our universe, which ultimately led to the materialization of humans.
Developed in 3-volume Summa Metaphysica, Potentialism Theory can be explained quite succinctly as well: Potential drives the universe. Infinite Quest for Potential is the “prime mover” of life; it lies where science, philosophy and spirituality meet. Flexible enough to include all typologies of mankind - religious, spiritual and secular man – Infinite Potential can be defined differently by each:
For religious man, it is the core of classic God.
For spiritual man, it is the spirit and drive of the cosmic order.
For secular man, it is the cosmic mechanism.
Birnbaum develops his Potentialism Theory schema for the three typologies of mankind across his three volumes: Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man: God and Evil (Ktav Publishing 1988); Summa Metaphysica II: Spiritual Man:God and Good (New Paradigm Matrix 2005); and finally Summa Metaphysica III: Secular Man: The Transcendent Dynamic (New Paradigm Matrix 2014).
Although his theory can be simply stated in one word “Potential,” Birnnbaum crafted Summa Metaphysica to attempt “get his arms around” an infinite universe – and the key metaphysics problems therein. The treatise has been used as a course text at universities worldwide including UCLA, Brandeis and Hebrew University (Jerusalem). Birnbaum’s Potentialism Theory was the subject of a 4-day international academic conference in April 2012 at Bard College in Upstate NY, which ultimately ignited a global storm.
Scientist Andrei Alyokhin, Associate professor of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine wrote in November 2012 “Deeply rooted in Biblical tradition, yet providing a modern and original approach to answering millennia-old questions, Summa represents a bold attempt to formulate a unifying concept of the universe….It is reasonable to propose Summa’s Quest for Potential as a working hypothesis for explaining the impetus behind the cosmic dynamic.”
Yale philosopher of religion and noted metaphysics authority Louis Dupré (1988) wrote of Summa I “an original, and, in this reader’s opinion, a very promising point of view…the author gathers a philosophically coherent and, in the end, a highly modern insight…a unified metaphysics….” British journalist Oliver Burkeman (2013), directly echoing the iconic French scientist and thought leader Claude Levi-Straus (2006), has hailed Summa as “remarkable and profound.”
To hear Birnbaum himself speak about his theory, check out Summa “focus tapes”. No flaw – scientific or otherwise - has been found in Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential since Ktav Publishing released Volume I of Summa in 1988. And, after 7,000 years of both formal and informal discussion and debate on these issues, there is no competing integrated theory on the global chessboard.
focus: David Birnbaum's Potentialism Theory
Cosmology, Metaphysics & Philosophy: See sample testimonial on Summa Metaphysica, David Birnbaum's philosophy treatise:
“…is sure to be regarded as a major contribution to the Jewish study of theodicy…the first major theological study that systematically confronts this problem directly and in detail… All subsequent work on the presence of evil in this world will have to take seriously this book and the cogent and direct analysis it brings to the topic.”
- Peter J. Haas, Associate Professor of Jewish Literature and Thought, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN