Friday, May 11, 2007
The Coin of Tyche and Chaos
The concept of the lucky coin, as Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh dub the coin-flip in their book, The Mathematical Experience [Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1981, Pages 163-8, and online] bumps up against order and chaos, and Chaos [ibid, Pages 172-9].
The mathematics of probability, and the mathematics of Chaos Theory, are contrivances, as all mathematical constructs are. The mathematical edifice helps some thinkers create a manageable universe, an ordered reality that they can cope with, psychologically more than anything.
The randomness of the Universe is palpable. Luck, whatever it is, seems bidden to hit haphazardly, affecting all kinds of persons, with no rhyme or reason, and without a nod to virtue, vice, or any other human characteristic.
But scientists – cosmologists, physicists, and others (as we continue to note here) – seek to provide order, by using mathematical theorems and symbols. Or at least they wish to heap the mantle of order on the mess that is reality.
The Greeks thought they had reality down pat, but it was only Plato who understood that a real reality existed that we humans could not actually see (looking a glass darkly as St. Paul had it) or experience.
St. Thomas Aquinas got a peek, and gave up writing his theological treatises (Cosmic Consciousness as Richard Maurice Bucke elucidates in his famous book by that title, without citing Aquinas’ incident however).
Mathematics won’t and can’t accommodate that other, real reality. Math, as we keep writing, is its own reality, but has nothing to do with the Platonic reality, nor the Jungian reality (which we’ll address later on here).
But back to the Coin of Tyche, the lucky coin.
If one tries to impose order on coin tosses, even hoping that chaos will eventually produce that order, they will have an eternal wait on their hands.
The universe doesn’t work (and hasn’t worked) that way, ever.
The Copernican/Newton system(s), even the great Einstein’s theory of how things are, cannot broach the luck, good or bad, that the Goddess Tyche represented.
Gravity, for instance, works at local and galactic levels. But gravity may not (and probably does not) work in the recesses of black holes or the universes they (may) lead to.
Quantum mechanics provide an environment to Plato’s cave in The Republic, where hints at the ultimate reality are quirked by uncertainty and local and non-local quantum repercussions.
But it’s the luck of the draw, not mathematics, that will open the door to that ultimate reality, just as the apple falling led Newton to formulate the quasi-reality of gravity.
And that luck is not predictable or calculable.
As for the long-range order out of chaos, who has the time or patience to wait it out?
It’s not a matter of wanting instant gratification. It’s a matter of “life is short.”
Math is a plaything of scientists, no matter how couched the processes and formulae are in the usual pedantic overlay.
Math can’t help us, scientists and everyone else, understand the reality that Plato envisioned or that Aquinas actually experienced.
Scientists can pretend that math is the doorway to the truth of existence but that is a monumental canard, ballyhooed by persons who can’t face the prospect of a meta-incongruity – in the universe, in physical laws, in life itself.
(Maybe that’s why they take it out on a deity who has been no help either.)