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Audience: Since we raised the issue of consciousness, of course, science attempted to answer this question. I would refer to work of Jean Piaget. We live in a spatiotemporal world and we frequently talk about reality in terms of space and time, forgetting that our categories from space and time are not always applicable. For example, you know, we separate subject and object and we think that they are ontologically totally different. Modern science is based on it. But can we really do it? Psychologist Jean Piaget analyzed how children construct reality and how at the same time as they construct the world in the first year of their life they construct their own mind. Where is the difference between subject and object? They are part, they are poles of the same continuum, this process. Consciousness emerges as a result of this process. This process, if we take evolution seriously, and we should as we believe in science, where did it come from if not from cosmos? There must be something in cosmos that creates potential and possibility for us to develop consciousness, and it does.
Garry Hagberg: I mean I follow that. I had a question for David just along those lines. And as many people here know the German Philosopher Schopenhauer had a theory kind of underlying metaphysical force called the Will, and the Will he saw manifesting itself in everything, and it was sort of a theory of everything and it was theory of all emotional and Schopenhauer said that it manifested itself most directly in music. When I read David’s works I thought well this is reminiscent in an interesting way of Schopenhauer because Schopenhauer’s Will is the sort of force behind us all that manifests itself in all human creativity, all human change, all everything, and that force is discernible in sort of all things.
Now that version of kind of philosophical romanticism was criticized on a number of points, but what I wanted to ask here for today is what Schopenhauer did was really displace autonomy and responsibility and choice from the individual. In this case, let’s say the composer, the musical composer, music manifesting the will sort of beneath the metaphysical power and force beneath everything working its way out almost hydraulically, that force is the real source of all expressive content in the world. In fact, it’s from the source of everything. So that force is actually what is manifesting through myriad of human beings who happen to be the instrument of that force who think they are composing Beethoven Fifth, but actually it’s the force doing it; it’s actually the will beneath that. And I wonder in David’s work, I wonder, David, is there — where is the potential? Is it out there manifesting itself somewhat like Schopenhauer through us or is it in fact in us individually or have I got a bad question that’s too bifurcated?
David Birnbaum: Well, whenever I watch or listen to philosophical discussions like this, when someone pegs a question to a particular philosopher and asks for an answer, that philosopher assumes that everyone in the room knows everything about that philosopher. So — no seriously wait, so therefore [cross talk] all right so I am going to — so I would like to limit the question to the dynamics, which was an important question. So I think I have been pretty clear that I perceive that the force that Quest for Potential is within all of us but we also swim in that river so to speak, swim in that cosmic river of potential, and that would be the very to the point answer to your question. I believe it’s in us. I believe we all swim in the cosmic river of potential.
Garry Hagberg: Does that make me a volitional agent or does that make me a sort of puppet of some other thing?
David Birnbaum: No, it means that if you sort of get into the water and swim you will sort of get traction, but you can choose not to engage for sure. That’s the hypothesis.
Garry Hagberg: By the way I just want to say one sort of footnote to our conversation. I just want to remind everyone that we all — a lot of us have philosophical academic friends, the greatest kindness and cooperation we can show is to hammer each other with extremely difficult questions to sharpen the position at hand and to better understand it, and so I hope that no one misunderstands the nature of that project. It’s quite cooperative and we all see ourselves as working together. Anything else from the–?
Tammy Nyden: No, I guess I misunderstood the panel. So I didn’t hear comments about Summa, I was told we were just going to take questions about the topic of theology or religion science and metaphysics. So that was what I understood we were doing here. I didn’t know we were going to talk about Summa.
Garry Hagberg: Yeah you are right, we are about to open up to that and now sort of turn to larger — we are going to focus on David’s work for the second part and open up to the entire conference, the entire theme of everything you have done here.
Tammy Nyden: Okay because I just–
Gary Hagberg: No, no, you were right, sorry, sorry. There were two parts, I didn’t make that clear at the beginning.
Audience: Maybe I want to say something that I would invite the panel to respond. We make these differentiations philosophy, metaphysics, science, religion, but isn’t that all part of human reason? There was time when religion and science were getting along very well together. Religion promoted science; it created the basis for scientific thought. I am more sympathetic to David’s probably vague description where he tries to bring it all together, and I think the reason, what attracted me to this conference, is precisely this sort of openness and willingness of people who come from very different directions to cross over to each other and interact. Let me give you one simple example. A child is born. A child has physiological functions. A child sees and child hears, and these functions know nothing about each other, they are totally separate, no connection between them. In the course of the first year of his life or her life, the child learns to hear when he sees and to see when he hears. When the child is 10 months he hears mommy’s voice he looks around; he is looking for an image. By the end of the first year, the child can combine hearing and seeing and construct symbolic thought that is incredibly powerful. It is neither hearing nor seeing but something totally different, something irreducible. If this is not a creation I don’t know what is, and it comes from nowhere. It doesn’t seem — you cannot causally explain it by reducing it to either hearing or seeing. So I would like to invite your comment on this why are we talking science and religion, it’s all human reason, and I think the more we realize it and the more we interact with each other, maybe we will be able to really integrate as a humanity a little bit more.
David Birnbaum: Well, I think that many, many fields are interrelated in essentially one field. Like say physics, chemistry, anthropology, all the sciences, from my perspective it’s really one big field. But on the other hand, respectfully, religion is sort of a different category, it operates by different premises so you can’t cavalierly say religion is reason, can’t so cavalierly say that. The religionist would say it is and people not within religion would say it’s not. But I think your basic intent is that everything is related, which it is but obviously it’s not necessarily classic human reason, with all the respect to you. I mean you made a beautiful presentation, it was very complementary to me, but by the same token the proposition that everything is human reason would not be accepted by many people including myself. Religion takes many leaps of faith and leaps of faith to the extent that they are not — you cannot say that it’s within – that all religion is leaps of faith, leaps of faith are all religion. [Inaudible 09:56] accepted reason, with all due respect to your philosophy as a person. That would be my response to you.
Tammy Nyden: I just feel the need to say few things. One is part of this conference has been very strange to me. I have never quite understood this whole how science versus religion thing, and when I come across it or when I have heard it bubble up at this conference or at other places what I am usually hearing is fundamentalist religion against scientism and they both sound silly to me. So I just have to say that they are both very dogmatic. Now — and I think Marcella [ph] and others have made this point very well in this conference and I really appreciate that what I see as my reasoned approach, which is religion is important for humans to deal with – to give them consolation in life and so forth and it has a kind of role it play in people’s lives and that’s one thing, and science is about something completely different which is an understanding of the universe. Now if we — I am not going to defend or to deride either but I feel like I keep being put in a position during this conference that I need to take sides. I am not religious. I don’t support the kind of dogmas or beliefs as truth that we have been hearing, but saying that I don’t think the fact that one is an atheist or non-supernaturalist means they have to deride all aspects that go under the term religion whatever that means. So I find that problematic, I am not comfortable with.
The other thing is when I received the invitation to this conference and so forth the word academic was all over it. This is an academic conference and we are going to discuss how metaphysics might be an interesting way to bring discussions of science and religion together, and that’s fascinating to me. I come at it from historical point of view so I am interested in historically how those three have come together so I am excited to sort of see how that has resonance with current discussions, and I would love or would have loved to have that conversation because the work that I presented today, I see many similarities to the kind of conversation we had in this conference. And so I am very interested in how really we are asking lot of the same questions in a different way and so I would love to sort of talk about that.
But yes, when I am asked the question I am going to respond in an academic way because I am here as an academic and so I just want to say that I am not going to apologize for that. That’s why I am here. So I find these concepts very interesting and I have been really enjoying the conversations and I really want to push these ideas. As you say, I think that’s what we do. That’s actually how we honor the discussion, we push it, we criticize, if we see a problem we try to understand, we make comparisons so we can try to understand. It’s not to deride. So I would like to have those conversations but also not be shut down by well that’s too academic or too complicated, well then I don’t know why I am being asked to talk about it I guess. I just have to say that because I feel like I have been put in a position that sort of misled me about what I am supposed to do here and I just need to say that.
Garry Hagberg: A moment, a very rare moment of silence in this entire conference. The question of the relation between science and religion is I think one that takes many, many faces and one can be — one form of that can be what‘s the difference, what’s the line of demarcation. I think I imagine that there are many — there is a question of ways in which they are compatible, ways in which they can be sympathetic to each other but different in ways in which they are in fact different and incompatible. Those are all interesting I think ways of approaching the question of the relation between science and religion. But if I may, I just want to go back to one more version of that question, and it’s this, if someone says subjectively I feel that – and I know it’s claiming philosophy, I know that my redeemer liveth, I know blank, in that case you have a claim of knowledge. Now do we want to bring the best philosophy we can find in to help clarify and better understand that question or do we want to say on the other hand that that’s a subjective utterance, that’s the kind of thing that is one’s own business, that’s the kind of thing that you can say, I can say, anybody can say, and in fact the saying of it is itself its own confirmation, in which case any appeal to sort of what philosophy can offer becomes sort of irrelevant. It seems to me that these are two very different kinds of projects and if one does endorse the subjectivist view, I don’t criticize that, I just want to understand as fully as I can exactly the way in which it is a subjectivist view and I will respect it as that. If on the other hand it’s a claim, it’s a knowledge claim invoking the history of what we human beings know about cosmology, then I for one want to do my best to ask the people who have thought the hardest and longest about those questions and bring them in to help out because God knows we need it.
David Birnbaum: Yeah. I think that on the one hand we want to bring in the best that we have to start with obviously and whether it’s amplifying or assisting or if it’s challenging. Before I was just saying that in trying to frame an answer, I find it easier to address like the specific sort of clinical issuance as opposed to the entire works of a particular philosopher, meaning for the sake of sort of clarity of the audience and the audience watching the program later. So obviously this is an academic conference. We want to bring to bear Schopenhauer, etc. but I think it’s more in your domain to articulate it more than in my domain to peg off of it for the audience. That’s what I was trying to say before. It’s more — I get more clarity if I am pegging off specific points, whereas it’s your prerogative to explicate the Schopenhauer or whoever to make your point. That was how I was trying to handle. Obviously it’s only my subjective thoughts it’s not particularly worthwhile, it’s only if it’s dovetailing with the collective thinking of many players along the way, even though at same time I believe or we believe that this is an original presentation.
Garry Hagberg: Yeah.
David Birnbaum: At the same time we want to incorporate or integrate as many as possible.
Garry Hagberg: Yeah. And for me anyway it’s just where — and this goes back to what Tammy was just saying a moment ago, it’s just where you say David that if it were just your own private subjective claim, it wouldn’t be published, you wouldn’t put it out there. But the minute it crosses that line between your sort of articulation of your subjective experience into an experience or into an articulation that makes a claim on somebody else’s assent, at that point I want to say this is all we have got, let’s–
David Birnbaum: For sure, for sure. I mean obviously Gennady did it and you are doing it heavily and it’s what makes this whole thing vibrant.
Garry Hagberg: Yeah exactly, and over the course of last few days we have seen this great intellectual feast of all kinds of things, all kinds of pieces of mosaic that as Gennady said, do in fact fit together in complex ways.
David Birnbaum: Yeah. I was sort of caught by surprise by Bruce Chilton’s line of approach that this is something new in narcissism. I must admit I sort of missed that whole play in my x number of years of research. I thought look, just stepping back a second, we have had many aggressive conversations with Peter Atkins and the other people over the course of this conference and he’s very dynamic. So I have talked to Peter about matters of style vis-à-vis other speakers in private. Anyway, we love Peter and we love him forever and we are honored that he is at the conference and obviously we welcome aggressive probing and challenge. So that’s never been an issue, ever an issue. And in fact I had actually suggested to Bruce Chilton that Peter Atkins be on the panel but they were limited with microphones frankly, and I know Tammy Nyden, she wanted to be in the conference and talk about so much, she was demanding it.