A variety of newly emerging insights - a path to still-deeper understanding, raising the significance of Jaynes’ message.
One such insight comes from recent findings relating to some of our 26 constants of nature. It seems that certain constants must be so extremely precise in order to support life that their occurrence by chance is most improbable, - that they were ‘chosen’. To explain this problem in defense of materialism, science proposes the existence of the multiverse; virtually countless universes based on random constants, and that life exists simply because this universe just happened to have the right constants. But the existence of the multiverse is an assumption with neither objective proof nor explanation for why anything exists at all.
A second fact that seems relevant is that the prospect of an objective Theory Of Everything seems to be vanishing, as no single theory defining the entire creation event seems to emerge. As Hawking and Mlodinow put it in their book “The Grand Design” there are various theories that are in agreement where they overlap, but no single theory is complete, and they add that ‘there may be no sense in trying to define reality.’ A potential explanation for this may be that neither time nor space are fundamental; that, instead, they are emergent properties in the same way that chemical properties reduce to physical, etc. But emergent from what? How or in what sense might the reduction path extend deeper than physics?
We have a clue from the work Stuart Kauffman who explains so well in his book “Reinventing the Sacred” that the universe is self-organizing, from the supposed Big Bang all the way through to the existence of the reader of this page – all emergent, reflecting virtually boundless creative potential without need of supernatural intervention.
But creativity is generally considered a subjective quality, - that natural laws are merely emergent expressions of a deeper, perhaps even subjective, natural order. But if time and space are not fundamental, then the existence of cosmic process surely implies subjective direction, i.e. purpose that must reasonably become comprehensible to us through reduction beyond physics.
To search for a subjective quality underlying the creation event, we assume an interface between a deeper subjective imperative and its initial objective expression, (Big Bang, etc.) It is precisely here that we identify the essential subjective constraint. Before there can be any expression of energy whatsoever through any of the forces of creation, there exists the subjective constraint of symmetry (Noether's theorem) that objective science recognizes as the entire body of conservation law. By definition, the symmetry constraint pre-exists any – and constrains all -- objective expression of natural force.
But symmetry is a particular expression of a deeper, more general, more inclusive quality, in the same way that laws of chemistry are particulars of the deeper, more general and inclusive laws of physics. Specifically, symmetry reduces into the deeper, more inclusive subjective quality of aesthetics – with countless implications for subjective values and constructive direction of human choice.
But why do we know this? Why should any life-form be aware of aesthetics? We know about aesthetics because our neural faculties, naturally selected over the ages, include not only our analytic and synthetic faculties so useful to our science and objective means, but no less evolved, and naturally selected, are our aesthetic sensitivities and related emotions of joy and love that define ‘ends’; i.e. give direction to our more creative and sustaining choices.
In other words we are not simply the most highly evolved species on the planet, but we are quite literally the first life-forms on the planet capable of recognizing our own role as integral agents of the larger cosmic creative process. (Not biological accidents lost amid the cogs and levers of the cosmic machine.) Not only do our analytic faculties give us virtually boundless objective means, but our still-evolving sensitivities to aesthetic values have the potential to give our choices increasingly constructive and sustaining direction relevant to every conceivable system, including personal, social, civil, and even environmental (biosphere and climate as well).
Historic background to this most critical emergence in the whole history of life on our planet is exactly what Jaynes has given us. He describes the surprisingly recent emergence of modern subjective conscious mind in the West from out of a lower animal consciousness. The ‘bicameral mind’ had begun to use language in what history has called the Golden Age (apparently a very constructive period) guided essentially by the hallucinated voices of the leaders. Ending that age was the crisis of the Dorian invasions presumably altering the gene pool sufficiently for the emergence of modern subjective conscious mind.
But as Jaynes explains, the emergence of subjective conscious mind would manifest in a unique duality – on the one hand there emerged the objective studies of science (objective means), while on the other was the emergence of the several monotheistic religions, a nostalgia for the heard voices of the ‘gods,’ now fallen silent, identifying essential subjective ends. No less telling is the underlying constructive imperative shared by the several religions – the Golden Rule – a symmetry principle if ever there was one. This - the essential harmonies of aesthetics for the direction of constructive choice in all levels to effect creative and sustainable social organization. Presumably it was a value brought forward from the preceding guileless Golden Age before the emergence of modern subjective conscious mind with its objectivity, science, and capacity for doubt, deception, etc.
Was it a coincidence that this extended and very complex evolutionary transformation into modern subjective conscious mind should give awareness of both ends and means – the Theology and the Science – to the life form that would become the integral agent of the larger cosmic creative process? Rather than coincidence, it appears that what Jaynes has described is nothing less than an inevitable major event in the evolution of life anywhere in the universe – the prospect of sustainable social organization with boundless creative potential where civilization itself would be transformed into an integral agency of the boundless cosmic creative process.
In turn, this - a meaningful model of the implied ‘big picture.’ As a ‘first approximation,’ we might model the larger creative cosmic process as "The work of the eternal Subject on a journey from eternal sameness into eternal novelty, where novelty is not possible without the perceptions of the subject agent being constrained by the imposed limits of time and space amid the endless wonders and challenges of the boundless contrived theater of the physical."
It would seem to be time for deeper thought into essential aesthetics not only as applied to personal, social, and civil order but no less to guide us in the harmonies essential to a sustainable relationship to the biosphere and climate, etc. now suffering severe abuse. Apart from addressing immediate and meaningful issues of species survival, it would also encourage the science and technology relevant to the challenge of adapting life to other planetary environments, and vice-versa.
Survival of our species – and of most others on the planet – may well depend on such, if it is not already too late. If we can recognize and manage the challenges in harmony with the deeper natural order there is no limit to the potential of our species. Moreover, it is reasonable to suppose that evolution would ultimately carry any highly evolved species in this universe along the same direction to the same constructive conclusions.
But we still have far to go because most people do not realize the full implications of the emergence Jaynes describes, and we still have major interests working at cross purposes in most destructive ways.