Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dark energy again

Albert Einstein
In a previous article I mentioned that Einstein introduced a third term in the right side of his cosmological equation, to force this equation to have as solution a stationary cosmos, that would not expand or contract. The attempt was unsuccessful, for such a cosmos would have been in unstable equilibrium, and the smallest variation would have pushed it to either expanding or contracting. The term in question depends on a constant (L, the cosmological constant), which we don’t really know what it is.
Einstein's cosmological equation
For most of the twentieth century, it was assumed that the value of the cosmological constant must be zero. In other words, the third term of the Einstein equation would not exist, wouldn’t be necessary. However, in 1998 it was discovered that the universe seems to be expanding rapidly. At least, this seems to be indicated by the study of supernovas in very distant galaxies, about one billion light-years away from us. To explain this discovery, the cosmological constant term was resurrected, but giving it a sign opposite to that proposed by Einstein, so that rather than the expansion being counteracted, it would be accelerated. This proposal has become the standard cosmological model, in which the first term of the equation, which represents the effect of the mass, currently counts as 31%, while the third, that of the cosmological constant, counts as 69%. In this model, the second is assumed to be zero. I leave apart the question that the mass term does not match, so it has been necessary to assume that there is also a dark matter, that we don’t know what it is.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

One hundred years since The Decline of the West

Oswald Spengler
This year it will mark one century since the publication in 1918 of the first volume of the book The Decline of the West, by Oswald Spengler. The second volume was published five years later, in 1923. This book was the first to raise the idea that our famed Western civilization is in decline. What can we say about it, a hundred years later?
The great historian of the twentieth century, Arnold J. Toynbee, agreed with Spengler on his fundamental idea, although not in the details. For Toynbee, Western civilization collapsed in the twentieth century, when the two world wars proved its inability to face new challenges. Of course, for Toynbee, the collapse of a civilization does not mean its disappearance, it does not even prelude it. We still have ahead - according to him - a few centuries of what Toynbee calls the Universal Empire, linked, however, to a certain cultural stagnation.
The first thing we have to notice is: if Spengler actually managed to detect the decadence of our civilization, it means that the decline had begun much earlier. Evolutionary movements, both biological and cultural, are imperceptible at the beginning. When they become visible, they are quite advanced in their development.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The problem of human intentionality

A few weeks ago I had in another blog a debate that confronted me with three militant atheists who stood for materialist monism, which holds, among other things, that we are determined by our neurons, that consciousness is an irrelevant epiphenomenon and that free will is an illusion. In another post in this blog I have touched on that topic, mentioning the four philosophical theories that try to explain the conscience, one of which is materialist monism.
This is the argument I offered to defend dualism against materialistic monism:
Let’s tackle the problem of human intentionality. When I say: I'm going to lend money to the bank, so I’ll be paid interest, I’m saying that the reason why I’ll lend money to the bank is to get interest. This is the kind of cause that Aristotle called a final cause, because it is the goal toward which my action is directed, something that is located in the future. On the other hand, materialist monism says that the only cause of our actions is in the electric discharges of our neurons. This is what Aristotle called an efficient cause. Therefore, to explain the same phenomenon (my lending money to the bank), we are suggested two different causes: my intention and the sparks in my neurons, this second located in the present, the first in the future. Is this possible?