Thursday, March 8, 2012

On the Origin of Knowledge

              On the Origin of Knowledge

               Where does design come from? Design is encapsulated knowledge, so rephrase the question. Where does knowledge come from? Or in other words: what is learning?

              Suppose that you know something. How did you learn it? I know of two general methods:
               1. A wise and kind teacher taught me.
               2. I taught myself, by trial and error and thought and luck.

               With method 1 I can rightly ask who taught my teacher. And with method 2 I can rightly complain of having a fool for a teacher. Of course most people mix these methods. They trust, but from time to time they verify.

                Translated into cosmic terms, method 1 corresponds to intelligent design, and method 2 translates into evolution. There are other translations: to monarchy, religion and command economics, for method 1, and democracy, science, and free markets, for method 2.

               There are two problems with method 1, the wise teacher. First of all, are you sure that the teacher is wise? For who taught the teacher? The second problem is that it has no way to correct errors, it can only accumulate them. After the teacher stops teaching, it's all downhill, as the students and their students wander ever more astray from the original pure word. Therefore method 1 is inherently tragic.

                But method 2 - self-teaching - is inherently comic, for it is all about error-correction. The autodidact has a fool for a teacher, and knows it too; and that precisely is philosophy. The philosopher loves wisdom, but does not necessarily possess the beloved; so the tale is a farce.

               Loyal students are conformist; autodidacts are eccentric. Is the universe conformist or eccentric? I'm not sure; what am I to compare it to? Classical physics tended towards predictability, but quantum physics is eccentric. Biology rigidly conforms to chemical laws, but evolution is eccentric. Is the universe mixed?

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