focus: Potentialism Theory by David Birnbaum
A Tantalizing Question
Posted by Admin On May 30th, 2014 11:29 PM | Philosophy
Was the universe created by the equations of Physics and Math so they would, by extension – have the ability to give and receive love?
Metaphysicist David Birnbaum (see David1000.com), of Manhattan, believes that this scenario – as outlandish as it sounds – may have more than a grain of truth to it.
Birnbaum is an independent scholar operating from his base in Manhattan. His iconic work Summa Metaphysica has been the focus of over 30 feature articles in the last 12 months alone. Yeshiva-educated and Harvard-educated David Birnbaum published his iconic treatise over a 26-year period 1988-2014: Summa Metaphysica I: Religious Man (Ktav Publishing, 1988), Summa Metaphysica II: Spiritual Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005) and Summa Metaphysica III: Secular Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014). The theory is an elegant and powerful paradigm challenge (see paradigmchallenge.com)
The core theme of Birnbaum’s works is that one elegant dynamic and one elegant dynamic alone both instigates and drives the entire cosmic order. Birnbaum delineates that dynamic to be: Quest for Potential. According to Birnbaum “Potentialism proposes that there is, indeed, a protagonist to the cosmic order, but that the protagonist is a ‘quest,’ and not a ‘classic entity.’ The universe quests for its maximal potential. The core dynamic Quest for Potential∞ strives with purpose and direction towards ever-greater and higher potential. At the ‘beginning of time,’ eternal Quest for Potential harnessed the eternal equations of Physics-Mathematics to ignite our universe via the Big Bang. This same symbiotic dynamic – Quest for Potential in league with Physics-Math – then acted as a catalyst for life, evolution, language, emotion, consciousness, and, indeed, for all the key dynamics which have evolved in the universe.”
Over a dozen institutions of higher learning have assigned Summa Metaphysica as a Course Text ranging from UCLA to Brandeis to Hebrew University (Israel). Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential was the focus of a 4-day international academic conference at Bard College (Upstate, NY) April 2012 (see summacoverage.com)
Parts of Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential dovetail back to the work of physicist John Wheeler (1911-2008) of Princeton fame. Birnbaum collaborated with Wheeler and, indeed a Wheeler testimonial graces the back of Summa Metaphysica II.
Wheeler dovetails with Birnbaum on at least two key points:
(a) It from Bit
(b) Observation impacts reality
It from Bit:
Per Wheeler, the entire cosmos at its early stages was binary bits: 1s or 0s. Birnbaum seizes on that possibility. He asks a simple question: Hypothetically what might a super-extraordinary super-neo-computer want which it could not easily get? One answer, of course, might be the ability to give and receive love. Birnbaum hypothesizes that precisely that goal may have been one of a cluster of motivations for the eternal force of Quest for Potential to harness the equations of Physics-Math to ignite the cosmic order.
Observation impacts reality
It was respected physicist John Wheeler, colleague of Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr, who first championed the idea that the universe itself is dependent on observation. That is, the universe proceeds according to how it is perceived by humanity and, by extension, Wheeler has concluded that observation actually affects not only the present and future of the universe, but its past.
Coming from anyone else, this could sound like far-flung, fringe science mysticism. But let us remember who John Wheeler is. In fact, his observations on quantum reality and its effect on the present were done in collaboration with no less than Richard Feynman, the first name in quantum physics.
It was Wheeler, in collaboration with others, who noted the phenomenon of light passing through slits in a blind. When detectors were set up, the light would travel through the slits as particles, as expected, either passing through one of the other slits. But when the detectors were removed, light fundamentally changed. It began to behave as a wave instead of a particle – passing through both slits. Wheeler was left with the rather uncomfortable fact that the act of observing the light fundamentally changed how it behaved. In short, watching something changed how it behaved in reality.
But the science gets odder from that point. Wheeler decided to test, by extension, galactic phenomena. He chose to test a quasar. Now, gravity from massive objects, such as galaxies, cause light to bend. Therefore, he tested photons emitted from a distance quasar that would pass through the gravitational effects of nearby galaxies in its path.
This is where the science gets really weird. Wheeler found that the same phenomenon was true for the quasar. Depending on how they measured the photon’s path, it would either take one direction around the galactic interference, behaving as a particle; or it would take both paths around the galactic interference, as a wave, if not witnessed directly. What does this mean? Well, as before, depending on how one observed the photons emitted from the quasar, changed how it arrived – whether it took both paths as a wave (following both potential paths), or one path as a particle.
This all sounds familiar so far – no different than the previous slit experiment. Here's the problem though. The photon being observed left its quasar several billion years ago. If the method of observation changes the path and reality of the photon it emitted, that means that the act of observing the photon, changed the photon's actual trajectory retroactively billions of years into the past. This might sound like mind-boggling hypothetical quantum math. But here's the fun part. This was actually proved to occur in 1984 at the University of Maryland. As odd as it sounds, this in now scientific fact.
Okay, so we have to concede that observation has a tangible effect on reality and it can actually change not only the present and future, but the past as well. So what about this love thing Birnbaum mentioned? You're still a long way from that. Don't worry, we're getting there.
Well, hopefully the bit on Wheeler's discovery will have braced you to deal with the inexplicable. This is where Birnbaum's own metaphysics (see summametaphysica.com) contribution comes into play. Birnbaum's core discovery is Potentialism. Potentialism is a cosmic drive. Potentialism states that the universe cannot exist in a state of rest. Rather, it continually evolves towards greater and greater degrees of Complexity. The end-goal of the universe is Extraordinariation (see extraordinariation.com). This is a, yet to be defined, state of Super-Complexity. Don't overburden yourself with Super-Complexity. It is a hypothetical state. An infinite. It might never even be achieved. Think of it more like a calculus equation, those ones from college that are infinitely striving toward the infinite yet never quite actually attaining it. That is Super-Complexity. What is important is the intermediate products of this drive towards Extraordinariation.
To Potentialists, these are called Quantum Jumps (see Glossary1000.com). They are defining moments when the universe reaches some critical mass of Potential and expresses itself in a fundamentally new level of Complexity. Think of it like this: The universe existed in an age of the atom. It kept increasing in complexity, filling up the periodic table until it had nowhere to go. But as the universe strives towards Complexity and Extraordinariation, it couldn't rest contentedly forever. With nowhere left to go atomically, the universe created molecules. This provided a whole new level on which to explore Complexity.
This is where it becomes important to understand that Potentialism is not just physics, it is metaphysics. It necessarily encompasses human thoughts and ideas. If you think we exited the road of rational science with the introduction of thought, you need to go back and reread what Wheeler said on the subject. Cognition, while separate from physical reality, plays a role in the physical, tangible universe, shaping it across both space and time.
Potentialism (see sequence1000.com) actually picks up where Wheeler left off. Human logical cognition is indeed a force of the cosmos to Potentialists, but it is not the end of cognitive evolution. Rather, cognition has experienced its own Quantum Jumps, increasing in its Complexity. One of the most significant jumps has been from pure logic (the binary Epoch, as Potentialists would refer to it) to the more esoteric and nuanced realm of morality – encompassing right and wrong, compassion, feelings... The things which demarcated humanity from the reflexive survival mentality of other species. Just as Wheeler posits that the universe must necessarily witness itself to complete its form, Potentialists take this cognition one logical step further – that the universe must express through itself (i.e. humanity) the identity and declaration of love.
This does trip into the realm of spirituality to some extent. But it follows the logical progression Wheeler has already laid out. Reasonably speaking – if altruism, love, compassion and morality are higher forms of cognition, the universe must bear witness to itself in these terms as well. As such, Potentialism is unshrinking in the importance of these concepts and the necessity of them in the cosmic order. One might point out that the universe seemed fine to get along without them before the birth of humankind and such concepts. Potentialism would simply point out what Wheeler has already proven – once such concepts are birthed into existence, they will extend retroactively throughout the cosmic cloth and will have always existed. Love, in the cosmic order, is not subject to temporal restraints any more than a photon. Upon examination within the conceptual umbrellas which Wheeler and then Birnbaum lay out, this concept is then hardly surprising.
focus: David Birnbaum's Potentialism Theory