Steve Fuller: How to think like God #STU11

This presentation was given on Christmas Day, 25th of December 2011, 8 pm GMT, by Steve Fuller, @ProfSteveFuller, Auguste Comte Professor of Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK. Originally trained in history and philosophy of science, he is best known for his work in the field of ‘social epistemology’, which is concerned with the normative foundations of organized inquiry. It is also the name of a quarterly journal he founded in 1987 and the first of his eighteen books. His most recent books are The Sociology of Intellectual Life: The Career of the Mind in and around the Academy (Sage, 2009), Science: The Art of Living (Acumen and McGill-Queens University Press, 2010) and Humanity 2.0: What It Means to Be Human Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).  He is currently completing a history of epistemology to be published by Acumen in 2013.

Links to further reading below.

Tweeter

Steve Fuller

Room

#STU11

Merry Christmas and welcome to yet another event on The Swedish Twitter University! #STU11  
This is @ozonist, head and founder of STU, tweeting, but in just a minute I will hand the account over to @ProfSteveFuller. #STU11  
Steve will tweet for us on “How to think like God”… Exciting! But first, let me remind you to tag questions and comments with #STU11.  
That way everyone can follow the discussion. Okay? Great! #STU11  
  @pahndeepah
MT @SvTwuni This is @ozonist, head & founder of STU tweeting but in just a minute I will hand the account over to @ProfSteveFuller. #STU11
Now I’ll leave the rest of the night to Steve Fuller. Take it away, Steve! #STU11  
Thanks, Marcus, for allowing me to talk about God on Xmas Day. This is the best day of the year to think hard about this topic! #STU11  
I will lay out the first 12 tweets and then stop to respond to comments but of course comment whenever you wish. #STU11  
I will then lay out the final 13 tweets and continue discussing until it looks like everyone has gone home. #STU11  
OK, let’s go. #STU11  
1. The lecture is in two halves: (1) Why we need to think like God. (2) Some tips on how to do it. #STU11  
2. My conception of God is that of Abraham, filtered through Augustine: i.e. we are created in God’s ‘image and likeness’. #STU11  
3.New Atheists free-ride on this conception of God: w/o it there would be no grounds for asserting any human privilege or confidence. #STU11  
4.Darwin the anti-humanist realized this, since for him all species are equal under natural selection, which always has last laugh. #STU11  
5 TH Huxley addressed the problem: Science, law and medicine aim to defer or counter natural selection: http://t.co/m0ijDuBP #STU11  
  @LillyLyle
@SvTwuni Would be happier if you guys would make that “think like a god” instead of the monotheism which seems biased and unscholarly #STU11
6.For reality to be ‘intelligible’, as science presupposes, it must exist so our minds can fathom it. We must think like its creator. #STU11  
7. It’s much more than saying a creative deity moves in mysterious ways to make things as they are, to which we then adapt as we can. #STU11  
8.W/o universal intelligibility, science is risky nonsense. Our animal existence would be more secure if we were more down to earth. #STU11  
10.Yet we grant those universe-spanning ideas enormous cultural significance: physics = gold standard of knowledge. #STU11  
11. And we’ve made most progress in understanding life by treating biology as if it were divine technology. #STU11  
@livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Treating biology as a ‘divine’ machine led to a set of dogmas underpinning a simplistic/reductionist view of what may be happening
12. Darwin wouldn’t buy the idea of genetic code, let alone genetic engineering. Too anthropomorphic. Yet these ideas work. #STU11  
@LillyLyle Indeed the God I am defending is the monotheistic one – because that’s the one that got us to science. Not any old god will do!  
@LillyLyle
@SvTwuni Thanks, but no thanks. Not interested.
  @pahndeepah
MT @SvTwuni Science presupposes intelligible reality so our minds can fathom it. If so, we must think like its creator. #STU11
@livingarchitect Yes, and now we think of life as more complicated machinery. The idea of life as artefact has only become sophisticated.  
@livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Divine technology is one way of thinking about ‘life’ – NBIC is changing the goal posts with more ‘SF-like’ fwd looking science
@livingarchitect To be honest, I don’t see a big difference here. If anything, NBIC is high-tech theology, which is not bad in my book.  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Complexity offers a ‘third way’ in science that is not ‘mere machine’ nor does it invoke the divine but can stay ‘strange’ #STU11
@livingarchitect I see complexity as opposing reductionism but not mechanism as such. Bioengineering&biotechnology still make perfect sense  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni NBIC is not bad. Machine thinking is limited. I like Prigogine’s notion of nature’s ‘creativity’ that doesn’t invoke god #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Because they are a subset of ‘complexity’ – which is closer to Spinosa than Descartes and prioritises systems not objects #STU11
@livingarchitect Well, I think it’s more like a limited conception of machine. After all you’re the one who wants to re-engineer Venice!  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Complexity offers an alternative to ‘mechanism’ as systems produce objects: in mechanism objects precede systems/connections #STU11
I’m afraid I need to re-post some of my responses. I forgot the bloody hashtags! #STU11  
@LillyLyle The God I am defending is the monotheistic one – because that’s the one that got us to science. Not any old god will do! #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Not using a ‘machine’ – or mechanism – but through orchestrating systems. My matter is strange with ‘agency’ – not divine #STU11
@livingarchitect Yes, and now we think of life as more complex machinery. The idea of life as artefact has only become sophisticated. #STU11  
@livingarchitect To be honest, I don’t see a big difference here.If anything, NBIC is high-tech theology, which is not bad in my book.#STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Life is different to a machine. Fundamentally. Complexity offers a ‘third way’ – opposing the dualism of inert/vital #STU11
@livingarchitect I see complexity as opposing reductionism but not mechanism. Bioengineering&biotechnology still make perfect sense #STU11  
@living architect How can you oppose mechanism so much and still think you can re-engineer Venice with metabolic materials? #STU11  
One advantage that mechanism has that it implies agency–a mechanic who takes responsibility for the machine, be it God or us. #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni @living through engineering ‘systems’ – fundamental organising architectures that precedes the existence of ‘objects’ #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Complexity implies collaborative partnership – iterative dynamic relationships that are not ‘determined’ by any one agent #STU11
@livingarchitect OK, but that sounds like the sort of thing a creative deity would do in laying a blueprint for creation.  
@livingarchitect OK, but that sounds like the sort of thing a creative deity would do in laying a blueprint for creation. #STU11  
@livingarchitect I’m not clear why it’s such a virtue that no single agent takes responsibility in the end for creation. #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I don’t agree that a creative deity is needed. Prigogine and Kauffman both use ‘radical creativity’ as a universal quality #STU11
@livingarchitect Maybe they do. But you can’t get a ‘systems’ perspective in the engineering sense very easily from that. #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Because it recognises agency in non-humans and therefore seeks to find ‘communication’ rather than control #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni THAT’s exactly what the current challenge is and Prigogine set those wheels in motion. Science of 21 will be ‘complex’ #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Morphological computation strives to ‘design & engineer’ with systems. Thinking differently precedes engineering #STU11
@livingarchitect This strikes me as semantic repackaging until the non-humans are legally held responsible for something. #STU11  
@livingarchitect But don’t you see in all this, you’re adopting a divine point of view, albeit your God is a more sophisticated designer.  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I’m very interested in the Spinosan/Gnostic science that comes from the Russian East e.g. Vernadsky #STU11
@livingarchitect But don’t you see you’re adopting a divine point of view, albeit your God is a more sophisticated designer. #STU11  
@livingarchitect Maybe so but your own work is about re-engineering the world to make it more habitable for humans. #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I guess I don’t see the ‘god’ in complexity. I don’t see the need to invoke the divine in matter 🙂 #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Correct – because I am human – and ‘nature’ isn’t anthropocentric 🙂 #STU11
@livingarchitect If you were a mystic, I’d concede the point, but people who model complexity generally want to intervene in nature #STU11  
@livingarchitect Yes, but you take being human as more important than being natural! That’s a very Abrahamic move right there! #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Persuade, negotiate, orchestrate and connect with … are they interventions? #STU11
@livingarchitect Of course! This is why I think a lot of this just semantics but there are probably some deep value issues as well #STU11  
@livingarchitect I sometimes think that all this anti-machine stuff is just a way of dividing the nasty from the nice bits of science #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Yes – I am anthropocentric … otherwise there would be no reason to seek a ‘dialogue’ with the natural world … #STU11
But, hey, I haven’t done my other 13 tweets — about actually how to think like God! #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Nope … it’s a different way of problem solving 🙂 It has it challenges 🙂 #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Looking forward to them! 🙂 #STU11
@livingarchitect Thanks! Here they go… #STU11  
13. Here are some tips to think like God in my sense. It’s how we became modern. (Take that, Latour!) #STU11  
14. Take words and numbers extremely literally as expressions of the divine logos and hence the basis for reconstructing the world. #STU11  
16.God’s properties are indefinitely extended versions of our own. Were they not, the idea of ‘distance’ from God would be nonsense. #STU11  
17.What’s hard to imagine is that all the virtues should be concentrated in one divine being. In humans, they’re clearly distributed. #STU11  
18. What we see in temporal terms, God sees all at once. God’s apparent indifference is simply patience. #STU11  
19. God appears evil when we fail to see the higher good an event serves. We do evil when we act like God and fail. #STU11  
20. Unfortunately we only live up to our Abrahamic heritage when try to act like God, which makes our own evil inevitable. #STU11  
  @pahndeepah
@SvTwuni and lest we forget, the New Testament of Newton’s Unitarian physics. #STU11
21. Newton was right: God’s infinity = equidistance from all times and places. ‘The view from nowhere’. #STU11  
22. Modernity is about simulating Newton’s God in our own fallible but corrigible way: we treat past and future as equally knowable. #STU11  
23. Traditional societies treat the past as solid knowledge and fear the future if it doesn’t repeat the past — aka induction. #STU11  
24.Modern societies R less sure on the past but more confident about future as work in progress,ripe for experimentation&risk-taking. #STU11  
  @pahndeepah
@SvTwuni @ProfSteveFuller you are sounding more & more like Vico. Kudos! #STU11
25. If you want to follow up the above line of argument, I recommend my book: http://t.co/xo1SEj7p. Finis. #STU11  
  @pahndeepah
RT @SvTwuni 21. Newton was right: God’s infinity = equidistance from all times and places. ‘The view from nowhere’. #STU11 @ProfSteveFuller
@thormagnusson
@SvTwuni Nietzsche: “I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.” – It is bad taste trying to think like that God.
  @pahndeepah
MT @SvTwuni Traditional societies treat the past as solid knowledge & fear the future if it doesn’t repeat the past aka induction. #STU11
@thormagnusson
@SvTwuni Nice cover. Will check the book.
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I recommend your book too!! Awesome read! http://t.co/KfVnrIHY #STU11
Unless someone wants to ask a question now, I will be signing off from @svtwuni. Thanks for joining in — esp @livingarchitect! #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni This is exactly what Kauffman proposes to address – and which Ilya Prigogine articulates beautifully http://t.co/JSFqnaKO #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I just read your 13 points and agree with their relevance to Cartesian science. Which is MOST science as it’s funded 🙂 #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni I’d like to discuss with you in more depth complexity within science & how this relates to your proposals in Hu 2.0 #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni Also pretend that I”m a Cartesian scientist – what are the implications for Hu 2.0 on my practice? #STU11
I was just listening to that rather nice montage of Prigogine’s thoughts on Youtube you sent me. I’m not unsympathetic. #STU11  
@livingarchitect We obviously can’t do this here, but do you think we might prepare a dialogue–either in text or video–2 cover this #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni It’s always a pleasure @ProfSteveFuller – love your insight, perspective & provocations – everyone should buy your book 🙂 #STU11
@pahndeepah
@SvTwuni @livingarchitect @ProfSteveFuller a dialog on YouTube would be most excellent!
My parting words to all of you thinking about doing a twitter lecture — mind the bloody hashtags! Ugh! Merry Xmas! #STU11  
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni @ProfSteveFuller That is an awesome suggestion – would love to explore. Happy Christmas!! #STU11
  @livingarchitect
@SvTwuni @ProfSteveFuller That would be great. Your perspectives are invaluable 🙂 #STU11
  @dromograf
@SvTwuni thanx for tonite’s event, opposables up 🙂 #STU11

Further reading

Steve Fuller, The Sociology of Intellectual Life: The Career of the Mind in and around the Academy (Sage, 2009)

Steve Fuller, Science: The Art of Living (Acumen and McGill-Queens University Press, 2010)

Steve Fuller, Humanity 2.0: What It Means to Be Human Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/swfuller/entry/interview_on_my/

http://whoeverfightsmonsters-nhuthnance.blogspot.com/2010/10/science-art-of-living-interview-with.html

http://whoeverfightsmonsters-nhuthnance.blogspot.com/2011/10/acheron-interview-with-steve-fuller-on.html

Advertisements

9 responses to “Steve Fuller: How to think like God #STU11

  1. Fuller’s points seem to have been made by the patristic writers a long time ago. Not a single conceptual advancement here. Nothing new here and just as prone to the usual skepticism (a la Hitchens, Dawkins)

  2. Steve Fuller

    Putting the shoe on the other foot: Gilles Deleuze, Isabelle Stengers, blah, blah. points have been made by Lucretius and a host of Epicurean writers. Not a single conceptual advancement here. Nothing new here and just prone to the usual skepticism (a la suicide and euthanasia — preferably sooner rather than later) LOL!

  3. Hitchens once said, in a debate, he’d respect his opponents more if they’d wave their religious banners more openly and stop pretending to put forward some flawed “religious science” to oppose the physicists, geneticists, biologists, etc. Dionysius the Areopagite, for one, knew better, saying divine knowledge began and ended in a “divine gloom”: I like that, refreshingly honest and just mystical enough to hold my attention.

    Keep the science and religion (and the politics and religion, and the education and religion) divide far enough apart for real dialogue to take place.

  4. Steve Fuller

    I believe in taking responsibility for creation — warts and all (including my own) — because I believe I was created in the image and likeness of God. I’m not sure what planet you’re from, but yours would not have produced the science we have today. Our science provides us with enormous power and responsibilities — and a great likelihood that evil will be done in exercising them. That’s what it means to be human. But maybe you’re another species….

  5. I’m from the same planet as you and pretty much restricted to viewing it the same way you do, viz. via the usual sensory/cognitive avenues. I live in a ‘positivist’ world where the fictions of religious dogma are superseded ultimately by principles of empirical verifiability (Sound familar?) But that’s not to say I discount the possibility of the ‘divine’ altogether, choosing rather to relegate it to a mystical ‘somewhere’ (like Baudelaire’s “ailleur”) intuited through things like poetry, human interractions, quiet contemplative moments, etc.

    What you offer is “preamble” or “preunderstandings” in typical apologetics fa fashion by making everything (even a specious understanding of science) contribute to God’s existence.

  6. Steve Fuller

    I’m sorry. You really don’t get where I’m coming from. I provided a link in my final tweet, if you’re truly interested. I find it amazing that guys like you who otherwise are deconstructing binaries right and left find it hard to deal with science and religion unless they are kept radically apart. Unfortunately, they are not. And your reference to apologetics is simply an irrelevance.

  7. “guys like you”…(sigh) Always with the ad hominems. When nothing else works, resort to name-calling.

    I get where you’re coming from all too well. But perhaps in your haste to character-assassinate, you overlooked my little concession to a more mystical sense of religion: give me the god of St. John of the Cross than the god of your Abraham, Moses. And, again, keep science out of it; or rather try for god’s existence on purely empirical or purely religious grounds. To conflate them as you do is to make an egregious ‘category error’. Even Galileo, echoing Augustine, said, “The Scriptures teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go”–a view even accepted by the church in Galileo’s day!

  8. Steve Fuller

    No, you still don’t get it. But thanks for trying. But next time, I suggest you read what I’ve written. I still don’t recognize what you’re criticising in what I’ve written. It’s nice that you have a harmlessly mystical take on religion, but that again has nothing to do with what I’m claiming.

  9. That you don’t get what I’m saying, or any dissenting opinion, comes as no surprise. People who claim to be able to know what God thinks are a stone’s throw to fanaticism. If you want readers I’d suggest being more generously open to the ‘give-and-take’ of rational enquiry. You strike me as very doctrinaire: I’m surprised you don’t teach in some Vatican theological university.

    The irony is delicious, though: August Comte professor speaking God’s mind. Adieu.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s