Re: tools and collisions

Paul Arveson (
Mon, 10 Aug 1998 10:12:57 -0400

At 8:49 AM -0400 8/10/1998, George Murphy wrote:

>The best example I can recall
>is a survey by a particle theorist in a survey talk at an APS meeting,
>>discussing possible discoveries in high energy physics. A couple of
>he used the phrase "If nature decides to ...". Maybe he was being
>>intentionally pantheistic, & maybe he was just being sloppy.

Yeah, I've seen a lot of those. That's what got me thinking about this --
are these mere sloppiness, or is there some deeper implication? Like
'Freudian slips'. They reveal something we would perhaps rather not
admit explicitly. Maybe I need to be more explicit, myself.

My hypothesis is that we persist in personifying nature, whether
it is philosophically consistent or not, because our own fundamental
essence is personal, not impersonal. This implies that personhood should
not to be considered derivative from a long natural process, but rather
something like the reverse. Personhood is the 'fundamental particle'
or Leibnizian monad or something like that. It is not possible for us
to escape personal descriptions without descending into nonsense.
(You can see my influence from Polanyi and Neidhardt here.)

If so, this is why it is common, easy, and not even philosophically
bothersome to scientists who persist in attributing personal
traits like purpose and choice to nature.

(This could perhaps be turned into an apologetic argument, like
Francis Schaeffer did).

Paul Arveson, Code 724, Research Physicist, Signatures Directorate
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
9500 MacArthur Blvd., West Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831