Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Jason Silva - The Omega Point

I'm not a huge fan of teleological systems in general, even though I really mostly agree with Thomas Nagel in his recent book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly Wrong. So this new piece at Metanexus from Jason Silva, one of their editors, brings up a lot of questions for me.

The French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin coined the term, omega point, to describe "a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving."
In this theory, developed by Teilhard in The Future of Man (1950), the universe is constantly developing towards higher levels of material complexity and consciousness, a theory of evolution that Teilhard called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. For Teilhard, the universe can only move in the direction of more complexity and consciousness if it is being drawn by a supreme point of complexity and consciousness.

Further, Teilhard's The Phenomenon of Man argues that the Omega Point must possess the following five attributes:
  • Already existing
  • Only thus can the rise of the universe towards higher stages of consciousness be explained
  • Personal – an intellectual being and not an abstract idea
  • The increasing complexity of matter has not only led to higher forms of consciousness, but accordingly to more personalization, of which human beings are the highest attained form in the known universe. They are completely individualized, free centers of operation. It is in this way that man is said [1] to be made in the image of God, who is the highest form of personality. Teilhard expressly stated that in the Omega Point, when the universe becomes One, human persons will not be suppressed, but super-personalized. Personality will be infinitely enriched. This is because the Omega Point unites creation, and the more it unites, the increasing complexity of the universe aids in higher levels of consciousness. Thus, as God creates, the universe evolves towards higher forms of complexity, consciousness, and finally with humans, personality, because God, who is drawing the universe towards Him, is a person.
  • Transcendent
  • The Omega Point cannot be the result of the universe's final complex stage of itself's own consciousness. Instead, the Omega Point must exist even before the universe's evolution, because the Omega Point is responsible for the rise of the universe towards more complexity, consciousness and personality. Which essentially means that the Omega Point is outside the framework in which the universe rises, because it is by the attraction of the Omega Point that the universe evolves towards Him.
  • Autonomous
  • Irreversible
  • That is attainable and imperative; it must happen and cannot be undone.

The omega point is an idea central to Ken Wilber's Integral Theory, which is one of my issues with his model - there is an inherent assumption that this is true, without any serious evidence in support. I would guess that there is also a considerable degree of devolution and simplification occurring in the universe right now.

In fact, at the current rate of expansion in the universe, there will be fewer and fewer stars, galaxies, and other cosmic structures visible in the night sky (granted, this is on a long-term scale of millions and billions of years). If the universe is conscious, as this theory assumes, then such diffusion of matter into the vast emptiness of space would seem to lead to less complexity, not more, and to reduced consciousness, not greater.

Even more troubling to me is the assumption that there is a god of some sort who serves as the model of human aspirations.

Yet I share these things here because beneath my rationalism, there is a romantic idealist who wishes these fantasies were true. This brief article and accompanying video come from Metanexus Blog: Big Ideas.

The Omega Point

Jason Silva
July 29, 2013

The Omega Point is a term coined by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It describes a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving.

The concept is closely linked to Ray Kurzweill's notion of the Singularity, as well as the theories of a number of other futurists, techno-utopics, and "psychonauts." All these theories represent a highly-optimistic stance on the exponential increase of complexity in life, technology, and the universe.

In Jason Silva's latest short video, he explores the common thread running through these theories and perhaps also the universe and you.

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