David Birnbaum’s Philosphy of Eternal Origins:
The X-Factor of Summa Metaphysica
By Mark Davis
David Birnbaum's ground-breaking work on Potentialism lays out the foundation for a new cosmological theory. Birnbaum discerns the missing ingredient – the X-Factor – in cosmological theory to-date. In deploying it, Birnbaum proposes a paradigm-change of the first order.
What are the eternal origins of the cosmos? Where did the universe come from? Variations on this fundamental question have mystified scientists, philosophers and cosmologists since antiquity.
It is true that science has come very far. It can show us, with some degree of certainty, what our universe was like in that first split second of the Big Bang. But that doesn't really answer the cluster of eternal origins questions. Where did the Big Bang come from? What caused it? What are the eternal origins of the cosmic order itself? What birthed the Big Bang?
From time immemorial (a) Religion (b) Science and (c) Philosophy have endeavored to answer the eternal origins question; all have reached essentially the same impasse, the same ~invisible barrier. No answer. Whether the (a) eternal origins of an asserted God, or (b) the catalyst of the Big Bang or (c) any heretofore philosophical theory, they all essentially hit the same invisible barrier and are left with no answer.
(a) Religion: The scientific/academic community rejects classic Religion on multiple grounds: 1) Religion typically requires a sentient, interactive God; 2) Therefore, Religion requires something that works outside of all the known rules of the universe, meaning it requires the supernatural – and the supernatural is taboo to science; and 3) Religion front-and-center requires elements of blind faith, with no offered proof.
(b) Science: Notwithstanding bluster regarding multiverses and/or String Theory as purported Theories of Everything – and as purported elegant solutions to cosmic origins - the scientific community remains “stuck’ regarding the origins of the cosmic order, and the more ‘recent’ Big Bang. Meaning there might indeed be multivere; String Theory may indeed advance science; but neither concept/proposal gets us where-we-need-to-get: Eternal Origins of the cosmic order.
(c) Philosophy: Over the past 5,000+ years, the philosophical community has not proposed an integrated and overarching conceptual framework which has demonstrated ongoing traction. The great Aristotle had his day, but emerging scientific facts over the centuries delegitimized the great bulk of his framework.
Is there an alternative? In 1988, Manhattan-based yeshiva-educated and Harvard-educated conceptual theorist David Birnbaum published the first of his to-be three part Summa Metaphysica series (see www.SummaMetaphysica .com). In the landmark series, independent scholar David Birnbaum sets out to boldly do what no one has done before – bridge the worlds of science, philosophy and spirituality – and simultaneously crack the cosmic code. In essence, his goal was to provide an elegant theory of cosmology that could explain the universe from all perspectives under one overarching theory. He set a very, very high bar. Birnbaum’s groundbreaking theory is Potentialism.
Quick-reference glossary: (see Glossary1000.com)
Summa = 3-volume Summa Metaphysica philosophy treatise by David Birnbaum
Theory of Potential = Potentialism explicated in Summa (see Sequence1000.com)
Q4P∞ = Quest for Potential∞ [shorthand: Q4P] = the core dynamic in Potentialism
C+ = Complexification = the drive towards greater
complexity, sophistication, variety and wondrousness
E+ = Extraordinariation = end-goal of Q4P = hyper-Complexification
X-Factor = The equation Q4P∞ > E+ = the dynamic/formula /superlaw
which drives the cosmic order
Birnbaum audaciously discerns that one fundamental, elegant dynamic/ formula/superlaw rules the entirety of the universe and, indeed, is responsible for its very existence: Q4P∞ → E+. This equation, Birnbaum’s X-Factor, expresses the proposition that the Quest for Infinite Potential drives the universe ever onwards towards Extraordinariation. And this very concise and simple formula would indeed appear to be the conceptual plug-in which cracks-the-cosmic code.
What is the Quest for Infinite Potential? In simplest terms, Q4P represents the universal, inherent and eternal drive for everything in the universe to seek higher levels of Complexification. What is Complexification (C+)? It is the Birnbaum-hypothesized cosmic intermediate drive – “Q4P’s handmaiden” – maneuvering the cosmos towards ever-greater complexity/sophistication/variety/wondrousness.
In its ongoing march of Complexification, the universe moves ever-and-ever closer to what Birnbaum then calls Extraordinariation (E+) – the universal end-goal – a horizon to be approached, but never quite realized – and a state otherwise defined as hyper-Complexification. In short, the cosmic order seek-after its own infinite potential – and this ‘journey’ drives the cosmic order.
No one ever said that cracking the cosmic code was easy. Note that Birnbaum deploys an array of ‘new tools’ to construct his game-changer metaphysics.
Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential now ‘stands alone’ at the very pinnacle of metaphysics. It is elegant and it is ‘accessible’. There is no metaphysics – from 5,000 years ago to the present – seriously challenging its aesthetic elegance, intellectual power, and fully-integrated construct; it ‘captures’ the max amount of information and data in its comprehensive conceptual net; there is no fact or Physics Law known to mankind which contradicts any component of the theory (see ParadigmChallenge.com).
20th Century Science
20th Century academic science – the Randomness/Atheism construct – is a construct de facto disingenuously imposed on global academic by a clique of atheists at a group of British colleges which control many of the academic journals. It is science devoid of the non-physical – consciousness; the aesthetic; the spiritual; the philosophical; as well as the possibility of the religious. 20th Century academic science recognizes only what it can measure in the laboratory as fact; it wades only very uncomfortably into the realm of theory or logic-driven solutions, preferring empirical laboratory evidence. 20th Century academic science draws conclusions based upon its self-admitted limited powers of analytic laboratory observation; it plans to father a construct of the entirety of the universe –in due course over the next 500 years or so – extrapolating from this relatively small set of data.
In the 20th century, academic science became increasingly hostile to spiritual and philosophical theory; its cosmological theories began to reflect a just-beneath-the-surface hostility to them. To the “modern” 20th century scientist, only an empirically driven, resolved atheistic perspective of cosmology would be tolerated any longer.
The result of this has been science trying to make informed theory using only the Randomness/Atheistic pinhole they have left themselves – through which to observe the entirety of cosmic history. Not surprisingly, their results regarding cosmic origins have not only been a dismal failure; the entrenched academic group’s overt hostility to any creative challenge to the prevailing Randomness/Atheistic model has quite seriously stifled debate and creative theorizing.
The issue at hand is the self-imposed limitation to only work with empirical laboratory/observation evidence. Laboratories are in the here-and-now. Cosmic origins may not have looked-like a 20th century science lab. Furthermore, as you move back in time towards the Big Bang, laboratory evidence begins to become meaningless – as time and space itself disappear, there is nothing to measure or observe; the origins of the cosmos is more profound than test tubes or Particle Accelerators. In the realms of cosmology, ultimately, conceptual – backed by empirical observation/evidence – will trump laboratory-testable.
20th Century cosmological academic science failed ‘at launch’ and just did not know it. By their own determined limitations, the Randomness/Atheist group will never be able to explain pre-Big Bang existence. Ironically, as much as they point to religion as having no scientific validity, the intellectual corner which the Randomness/Atheist crew has backed itself into assures they will never be able to show anything more definitive or conclusive than the religious community does. At least the religious community declares upfront that it is ultimately hinged on faith.
Philosophy and Religion
Classic Religion, on the other hand, suffers the alternate limitation of science. Classic Religion’s casual attitude towards evidence and critical thinking leaves it stunningly unable to answer fundamental questions about the universe at all. Do understand, this is not to say religion is incorrect – simply that it cannot prove it is correct. That, coupled with a core requirement for a typically interactive universal creating/consciousness deity, ultimately leaves classic religion on tenuous intellectual ground – as has been well-known.
Classic philosophy fares only slightly better. Without the demands of religious specificity, philosophy is able to focus on a theory based in pure reason. The problem with asserted pure reason is that it often pretty quickly “leaves earth orbit” – it often quickly detaches from any semblance of reality. Classic philosophy frees a disciplined mind from the rigors of empirical testing. And that is wonderful for free thought and radical thinking. But, at the end of the day, if you need a grounded-theory it must have solid empirical evidence to back it – as well as a theory ‘accessible’ to more than 3 people on the planet.
The Summa option
But Birnbaum brings an extraordinary and totally unique new option to the table – his fully-integrated Potentialism construct. The most striking part of Potentialism is that it utilizes the best of philosophy, science and spiritualism. It doesn't take from just one field, but recognizes that each approach has its strengths and, when utilized together, those strengths overlap and cover the weaknesses each approach has when used on its own. Of course, conceptual theorist Birnbaum does throw-in some of his own quite-powerful and quite-unique ingredients into his cosmic blender.
# From science, Birnbaum uses its vast amounts of knowledge and powerful grasp of the arts of biology, physics, astronomy and mathematics – tapping into its vast stores of empirical data and power to process it.
# From philosophy, Birnbaum unleashes the power of inductive reasoning and unhindered analytical thought – giving Potentialism the flexibility to discover and describe a wondrous universe beyond the current capacity of man to fully comprehend.
# From classic Greek philosophy, Birnbaum runs-with Aristotle’s general concept of a teleologically- driven (purpose-driven) universe. That general teleology concept will indeed be integrated into the arsenal of several cutting-edge 21st century Thought Leaders.
And as to spirituality/religion: Birnbaum crafts a unifying cosmological theory of a universal force and overarching power that guides the universe – purposefully, creatively and towards a defined goal, while deftly managing to avoid the pitfalls of deistic specificity so inherent in classic religion. Uniquely, Birnbaum provides a powerful metaphysical platform for any who wish to follow the path of Religion. In-the-mix, Birnbaum ‘solves’ the two classic (philosophically lethal) bugaboos of Religion - (1) Theogony: the origins of the Divine; and (2) Theodicy: the problem of Evil: reconciling an all-powerful God with gratuitous gross evil. In the long multi-millennium history of thought, Religion has had no truer ally than conceptual theorist Birnbaum.
Let's look at the cosmic origin question directly from Potentialism now.
Eternal Origins in Potentialism Theory
To Potentialists, the origin is Q4P itself. To put it simply – everything that can exist down-the-road affects Potential. Thus, anything that affects Potential, is in certain ways real already. For example, consider something as simple as a flower. The flower itself has its own Potential. It will grow, take in carbon dioxide, generate oxygen as it photosynthesizes – it will grow in form and have an impact on the world about it. But it also will potentially seed.
If it does, all those seeds can be flowers too and they will have the analogous inherent Potential which the fathering plant did. Here is the important part though – As the parent flower was the fount of all its children (and children of its children, ad infinitum), then all the Potential of all the generations of flowers that might come from the one flower are also inherent in the one single flower itself. That is, its Potential is the sum of the Potential of all the infinite potentials it might sire as well as its own immediate Potential.
It's this infinitely iterative power of things which exist in the universe which give their Potential such distinct and extraordinary power. Indeed, their Life Force itself. And that power is formed and focused towards a specific goal – Extraordinariation. As mentioned before, Extraordinariation is more a journey than goal. While not even necessarily truly attainable, as it is an abstract concept, a horizon to be sought, the journey itself fuels the universe as it grows.
A Leveraged Buyout
As discussed above, Potential is based both on what the Potential of a current thing in existence can become and what every generation after it can become. Influenced by the draw of E+, everything's attempted continuation-drive towards greater Complexification is a foregone conclusion.
This leads to what Birnbaum calls a cosmic leveraged buyout. Due to the iterative nature of Q4P∞ and its handmaiden C+, all complexity (and thus potential) of future generations is assured – resulting in a situation a modern-day financial investor would partake-in called a leveraged buyout. A company is purchased by borrowing-from-the0-bank against its future potential earnings. On a Potentialist level, the origin of the cosmos is able to draw strength through itself and what it will be, to power what it must start as – making the end-goal of the cosmos fuel for its actual beginning. Breathtaking for sure, but the internal logic of a potential-based and potential-fueled cosmos holds. And only a potential-based cosmos could pull-off these neo-circular metaphysical acrobatics. That is the ultimate genius of Birnbaum’s entire metaphysical construct.
Only 20 years-years ago this theory may have seen utterly farfetched and hard to explain, but quantum physics is starting to catch up to Birnbaum in recent years. Now, what appeared in Birnbaum’s 1988 Summa I as radical theory, is starting to be shown to have valid roots in cosmological academic science. Quantum theorists have recently been admitting that matter and energy are perfectly capable of spontaneously coming into their own existence according to pure, simple quantum physical laws. That is, the pure potential weight of what something can be, can be enough energy to cause its own existence (see 2006 book Programing the Universe by MIT’s Seth Lloyd…see XQuantumUniverse.com).
But again, we find Birnbaum already well-ahead of the curve and moving to the next formidable issue. As science closes-in, they'll find science and philosophy continue to converge. As to the religious? An astute religious observer might be keen to note that, while religion was not given any formal place at the argument – it needs none. The exact, precise nature of infinite Q4P isn't actually known. Specifically, the precise nature – or genre – of its consciousness is unknown. Is it the consciousness of a super-computer or the consciousness of the God of Israel, for instance. To Birnbaum, it could very start as quantum-universe-super-computer, and evolve to the consciousness of the God at Sinai. The author very carefully leaves ‘space’ for this option – as well as for the option that Q4P itself is God. Of course he also leaves open the possibility of a totally secular Q4P as well.
Birnbaum does not attempt to lock-in here; indeed, the author deliberately seems to want this particular terrain – the precise Divine/Spiritual/Secular nature of Q4P left open – and as flexible as possible to embrace perhaps 99% of the belief-systems of our planet.
In another quadrant of his life Birnbaum is editor-in-chief of a landmark in-the-works 10-volume series on Jewish spirituality (with essays by 180+ leading global thought leaders). But in Summa Theory, Birnbaum is meticulously – and indeed almost fanatically – religion-neutral, spirituality-neutral and indeed God-neutral. And, of course, to do his job right – as a universalist metaphysicist – he needs to be vigilant on these scores. Any bias might undermine the endeavor to craft an enduring (“the” enduring) universal metaphysics.
Birnbaum’s concept that Q4P∞ is infinite divine potential powerfully metaphysically anchors the possibility of the classic Divine; the construct allows place for the divine; the construct grants metaphysical authenticity to the possibility of the classic Divine. And that is all faith requires.
From Birnbaum's perspective, living in a universe ruled by Potential is a divine world to be in. Note that no pre-Birnbaum metaphysics as-elegantly anchored the metaphysical authenticity/possibility of Spirituality and Religion. As well, note that no pre-Birnbaum metaphysics as-elegantly provided a fully-integrated secular metaphysical construct for the cosmic order.
The historic quest for the holy grail metaphysics – of the unification of Science, Spirituality and Philosophy – may be at-hand. Birnbaum discerns the X-Factor, the missing concept/equation. Plugging-it-in peels away the cosmic veil. The theory is bold, elegant and original. Birnbaum has done his homework well.
Yeshiva-educated and Harvard-educated Manhattan-based conceptual theorist David Birnbaum elucidates his theory via his iconic 3-part treatise Summa Metaphysica: Volume I: Religious Man (Ktav, 1988), Volume II: Spiritual Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005) and Volume III: Secular Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014). Over a dozen colleges globally – from UCLA on the West Coast, to Brandeis on the East Coast, thru Hebrew University (Jerusalem) – have assigned the landmark work as a Course Text.
Bard College (Upstate NY) hosted a 3 ½ day international academic conference in April 2012 on Summa Metpahysica: Unifying Science & Religion. Over three dozen feature articles globally have focused on Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica and its Theory of Potential -in over 20 journals - in the 2013-2014 period alone (see www.SummaCoverage.com)