Is CTMU an introduction to metaphysics

Christopher Langan (Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe)

I don't remember exactly how I got up an ample week agoChristopher Langan and his Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe, CTMU for short. The German Wikipedia does not know his name, but you will find it in the English version. His biography is very unusual. He worked as a bouncer for a long time, can bench press in the fitness center 250 kilograms and now lives on his own horse ranch. That wouldn't be anything special if it weren't for his IQ of around 200. The psychologist who examined him at the time and who specializes in cases of extreme intelligence said afterwards that he had never met such an intelligent person in his more than 25-year career. Langan worked as a construction worker, cowboy, firefighter, farm worker and doorman for almost twenty years, is now married to a professor of clinical neuropsychology and works on his own theory of the universe in his spare time. I read in an interview with him that when he was a bouncer he got black eyes and a bloody nose and that didn't get better until he became famous - after participating in a TV show that won him $ 250,000.

One of the reasons why he is hardly known here is likely to be that it is assigned to the intelligent design movement, which is generally regarded as a disguised form of creationism. Langan is of the opinion that evolution is teleological, that is, it steers towards a goal. Langan in short: "God created the universe, now we have to work with him to improve it." Read some of Langan's statements and compare them with the allegations made by the ID supporters, for example in the German Wikipedia article are made, then you can see that they do not apply to him. Can one blame a person like Langan for having people sailing in his wake who pursue their own political, scientific and theological goals (and who will probably never be able to understand his theories)? In any case, Langan has always asserted in interviews that he considers evolution to be given and that he has respect for every form of religion.

To get a first impression of your ideas, you have to read the original of your work. The Theory of theories page offers a first introduction. Although the English is not particularly difficult to read, I preferred a German translation - which I unfortunately had to create myself ;-( theory of theories(pdf, 172 KB)). It is not completely complete, linguistically poor, and I cannot guarantee its accuracy, especially not on the last two half pages, which I could no longer follow myself.

Most of it is devoted to analyzing the limits of mathematics and the natural sciences. I was already aware of the consequences for mathematics of Gödel's incompleteness theorem and some restrictions that natural sciences are subject to when examining reality. There are areas of reality that science is actually unable to achieve because the methods of investigation that it has chosen prevent it.

New aspects were the theses of Duhem-Quine and Löwenheim-Skolem and some considerations on reductionism. And in fact, I have always been suspicious of the appearance and the claim to explain the world by some scientists, but I could not have formulated my discomfort as clearly as Langan. What I cannot judge is the scientific value of the two extensively discussed theses (Duhem-Quine and Löwenheim-Skolem). The Wikipedia articles are extremely incomprehensible and unproductive. The basic article on his theory is about eight times as long as the PDF presented here, 56 pages. I haven't read this yet. I'm also not sure if I should be doing it anytime soon. Because the introductory article presented here ends with:

Such a theory and model do indeed exist. But for now, let's be content with the glimpse of the rainbow beneath this theoretical pot of gold.

Langan has probably left logic in favor of pathetics. The pot of gold that stands under the rainbow can never be reached. His theory would have that in common with science and mathematics - the eternal incompleteness.

Three and a half weeks ago, after studying Christopher Langan's Theory of Theories, I wasn't sure if I was going to read his major work, The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU), but I've now. I don't want to say that I got it all, but I think I got some of the main ideas right.

I am not sure whether the name of his theory is optimal, I would not have spoken of a model of the universe, but of a theory of reality, as he himself writes in a few places. A member of the Prometheus Society commented on Langan's theory in a discussion forum: "It is a little tautological, but we all admire the depth of his thoughts." In fact, Langan himself uses the word "tautological" and in some places even "supertautological". You have to know that this word is ambiguous. In everyday use it has a rather negative connotation in the sense of "superfluous repetition, truism". In logic, however, it marks the truth value of a statement.

Requirements for a theory of reality were formulated by John Wheeler in the late 1970s, from whom the picture on the left comes. The "U" stands for the universe, the narrow branch for the informational aspect, the eye for the conscious observer within the universe, ie for the cognitive aspect. "The universe observes itself and thinks about itself, it has to be conscious," one could interpret the picture. As a short summary of Wheeler's demands on a theory of reality, one can look at the 5 questions found in the Wikipedia article on John Wheeler.

Wheeler has thought quite intensively about such questions, an interesting detail is, for example, his extension of the anthropic principle, which one could call the “participatory anthropic principle”: “A universe that contains no observers (= does not observe itself) does not exist. “This is on the one hand a consequence of quantum physics and on the other hand an extension of the anthropic principle“ The universe that we observe must be suitable for the development of intelligent life, otherwise we would not be here to observe it and describe it physically ”, throws but at least one completely new question: How is it createda World atmany Observation participants, if every observer has their own goals?

Langan breaks away from physics here (Wheelers), he had already stated in “Theory of Theories” that natural science (and physics among them) cannot research everything because the scientific method itself sets limits. Everything that cannot be tested experimentally or observed repeatedly is outside the domain of natural science. The limits of physics are also easy to identify: The observation of the properties of matter ends on the one hand at the big bang, on the other hand in a distant future, when the elementary particles known to us disintegrate. On the other hand, at the place of the Big Bang, reality had to create not only the material objects, but also the rules with which they interact, a mystery for physics, which can only accept the existence of the laws.

Reality (everything that is, everything we know) encompasses more. The conscious observer may ask what is outside? This question can be formulated (= it is real), but it cannot be answered within a science about matter (= physics). The spatiotemporal boundaries of matter do not exist for reality, reality has always been and always will be, and with them the basic forms of logic to describe everything that is.

The approach of taking the concept of reality wider than that of matter also explains, for example, the relationship between mathematics and natural science: Both are components of reality, but both cannot be derived from one another because they are different aspects of reality.

For me it is important that the Bieri trilemma can be overcome with this approach. The trilemma:

1. Mental phenomena are non-physical phenomena.

2. Mental phenomena are causally effective in the area of ​​physical phenomena.

3. The realm of physical phenomena is causally closed.

The solution should clarify the figure on the left (my own interpretation). The reality is represented here by a three-dimensional space, the conscious beings are real. Properties of conscious beings can be described by physics and other natural sciences. At the same time, these conscious beings can explore themselves through introspection or, for example, do mathematics. Both approaches to reality use a basic common set of logical rules.

What is noticeable over and over again with many statements by physicists is that many of them assume that the objects they are investigating actually exist (their language usage reveals that). Part of the cognitive process in physics is followed in physics lessons or studies. First, students are taught that matter is made up of atoms. Later you learn that atoms themselves are only models and consist of protons, neutrons and electrons. A little later these are again explained as model summaries of quarks, then there are strings, etc. Apparently all are just models that simplify the actual things of reality to the measurements possible in the current physics or the level of understanding of the learners accordingly.

That physics cannot fully explain reality is indicated, for example, by the necessity of random and the non-locality of quantum physical processes. Langan compares it to the rabbit that the magician does magic out of his hat. In other words, if we accept the causal closure of physics and accept it as the ultimate explanation of nature, we believe in magic. Langan uses his tautological statements against this: "Reality creates the random processes (= the random processes are real)."

There is not a single statement left from the Bieri trilemma, because the reformulation reads (according to my interpretation):

1. Mental phenomena are real phenomena.

2. Real phenomena can be observed as mental phenomena and / or physical phenomena.

3. The realm of real phenomena is causally closed.

The last statement means that reality itself produces reality and there ultimately everything has a cause. However, it is not certain that they can be found in physics or any other science. It is interesting what answers consciousness researchers give to the relationship between consciousness and matter: “Consciousness / free will does not exist / is an illusion / is an epiphenomenon / is a riddle.” The efforts to reduce mental processes to physical explanations can be seen in Regarding the above picture as the demand: “The round has to go into the square!” - Or as an attempt to square the circle.

Langan, on the other hand, tautologically short: “Consciousness is real.” Or a little longer: “The possibility of developing consciousness must be contained as a property in reality, otherwise it would not exist.” Incidentally, this approach cancels emergentism, i.e. that mysterious emergence of new properties in the development of sufficiently complex systems. This mysterious emergence only applies to physics, within the laws of which the newly added properties cannot be explained.

A similar way of looking at things can be applied to evolution. Teleological considerations are frowned upon within the theory of evolution. Mutations are random. However, it seems a bit strange that these random processes have led to the development of intelligent and conscious forms of life. Here he jumps out of his hat again, the magician's white rabbit. And to deny ourselves teleology is absurd. Who would deny that, as individuals and as a community, we have very precise ideas about our future, plan it, and work towards it?

This leads directly to Langan's ideas about intelligent design. Langan is a member of the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design (ISCID), which is considered a neo-creationist organization. At the end he devoted a longer chapter to the relationship between his CTMU and ID. The best thing to do here is to let Langan speak for himself:

The CTMU has a meta-Darwinian message: the universe evolves by hological self-replication and self-selection. Furthermore, because the universe is natural, its self-selection amounts to a cosmic form of natural selection. But by the nature of this selection process, it also bears description as intelligent self-design (the universe is “intelligent” because this is precisely what it must be in order to solve the problem of self-selection, the master problem in terms of which all lesser problems are necessarily formulated). This is unsurprising, for intelligence itself is a natural phenomenon that could never have emerged in humans and animals were it not already a latent property of the medium of emergence. An object does not displace its medium, but embodies it and thus serves as an expression of its underlying syntactic properties. What is far more surprising, and far more disappointing, is the ideological conflict to which this has led. It seems that one group likes the term “intelligent” but is indifferent or hostile to the term “natural”, while the other likes “natural ”But abhors“ intelligent ”. In some strange way, the whole controversy seems to hinge on terminology.

I cannot find any logical flaw in these statements, nor anything that would contradict my own views.

Guest contribution by: Dr. Ralf Poschmann

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