Creating a Renaissance
There is nothing more beautiful in the universe than the human species. By the creative powers of the mind, we are able to understand, less and less imperfectly, how the universe is composed, and our relation to it and to each other. This ability should serve as the foundation of our self-identity, for our education, and for our culture.
This is nowhere close to being the case, presently. Instead, we have a culture that celebrates violence and ugliness, that cultivates cynicism as a new form of sophistication, a culture that appeals to the basest aspects of the human individual, rather than the most noble.
A dramatic political shift in the United States as a nation is impossible without a concomitant revolution in culture, an active participation by an increasing portion of our society, in participating in, and creating, expressions of the most beautiful aspects of human life, with a particular emphasis on music and science.
While the vapid, tawdry mediocrity of prevailing musical culture is not unknown to most people (although they may not know what to do about it, and may even reject the notion that there exist standards of truthfulness in cultural works), the enormous errors in scientific thought that shape our notions of what is possible for the human species are less apparent, and, while truly being chains, are clung to as liberation.
Despite troubles in the economy and politics, in violence and culture, most Americans believe that science is on a great path upwards, and that we have witnessed, over the past generation, a tremendous success of scientific advancement. This is not true, for two reasons: science itself is not being practiced, and most of the technological innovations relate not to production or development, but rather to leisure time.
Slightly over one hundred years ago, the scientific understanding of the world was up-ended by the discoveries by Max Planck and Albert Einstein of the quantum and of relativity. Light was no longer only a wave, but partook of both wave-ness and particle-ness. Energy and matter, considered two different domains, were united in Einstein’s E=mc². The very concept of the existence of single “moments” in time, and the notion of simultaneity vanished, as space and time lost their status as absolutes in the theory of relativity—replaced by the physical processes of gravitation and electromagnetic/light-propagation.
Einstein’s militant anti-racism was informed by his affirmative conviction of what it is to be truly human, a conviction shaped by his experience in both science and music.
These represent true scientific discoveries: they were not minor additions to a store of knowledge, but forced reconceptualizations of the entire understanding of the physical world.
Consider what true scientific success would have looked like over the past half-century from this context. Although discoveries are inherently unknown before they are made, and cannot be predicted, the most obvious achievement that has not been reached, is that of developing nuclear fusion, the next step in the development of human power over nature. Our mastery of, first fire, then chemistry, then electromagnetics, leads us to the mastery of the atom and of the nucleus, a mastery that has not yet been accomplished. Instead, energy resources appear limited, and control over energy and resources remain as significant political factors. Humans have not set foot on the moon in over four decades. Nuclear rockets, on the path towards development half a century ago, were shelved.
Instead of science, instead of mastering tiny nuclei, we have seen an increasing facility (and fascination) with tiny bits, and a tremendous investment in technologies associated with information and computing, which, while introducing efficiencies and improvements (such as in machining and logistics), have not, by-and-large opened new sources of power or new physical abilities. Rather, much of this technology is applied to leisure.
The percentage of world GDP directed towards communications and entertainment has increased. While connectivity is of course important, the impacts of short bursts of dopamine from very short-form content that increasingly dominate the social sphere, particularly among the young, train the mind not to think, not to concentrate.
Instead, what has been done to improve our ability to produce? And what is science? Why do we today have 140 characters, rather than a moon base?
Lyndon LaRouche locates a dramatic downturn in scientific outlook in the circa-1900 shift of thinking introduced by the ghoulish Bertrand Russell. Russell attempted to create a name for himself as a successful academic, a logician and historian, and as an activist for peace, but his true personality is one of the most revolting imaginable. He has been called "the most evil man of the 20th Century,"1https://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_91-96/943a_russell_lhl.html "How Bertrand Russell Became an Evil Man" Lyndon LaRouche, 1994. for his support for hideous policies of empire and world-dictatorship, and for his direct assault on science and the human mind to instill what he saw as a suitable outlook into human beings: an outlook without optimism and without any role for the human mind.
During the same era that Max Planck and Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the world, upending physics and requiring all scientific notions to be re-assessed (through their work on the quantum and on relativity), Bertrand Russell worked on logic, working to show that nothing separated the human mind from the process of a machine.
The way he did this may sound totally irrelevant to your life, but it is not! Russell wrote a series of agonizingly, painfully dull books on the axiomatization of arithmetic in order to make a point about thinking more broadly, a point that has become nearly hegemonic. His concept was that logic alone is enough to solve all problems of arithmetic (and, by implication or hope, all scientific problems). It is not an overstatement to say that this is evil. Here’s why:
“Socialism, especially international socialism, is only possible as a stable system if the population is stationary or nearly so. A slow increase might be coped with by improvements in agricultural methods, but a rapid increase must in the end reduce the whole population to penury, … the white population of the world will soon cease to increase. The Asiatic races will be longer, and the negroes still longer, before their birth rate falls sufficiently to make their numbers stable without help of war and pestilence… Until that happens, the benefits aimed at by socialism can only be partially realized, and the less prolific races will have to defend themselves against the more prolific by methods which are disgusting even if they are necessary.”
– Bertrand Russell, Prospects of Industrial Civilization, 1923
The rules of logic are a means of starting from a series of assumptions and using specific, rigorous rules of inference to draw new conclusions from the initial set of assumptions. Those new conclusions can be combined with the original assumptions and be operated on by the rules of inference to develop still more conclusions. In this way, a surprising richness may be found to inhere in an initially small set of basic facts and givens.
But is this how discoveries are made? Does every new thought come, logically, from previous thoughts? What about new thoughts that contradict past ones (like those that Planck and Einstein were developing in physics as Russell toiled away on logic)?
Such revolutions in science show that it is the process of considering what we think we know, and finding how it is wrong, of developing a new concept, incompatible with our previous notions, that must serve as a new basis for understanding. This process is creativity. It is the creation of something that did not previously exist, something that is not logical, but which is real and right and powerful.
The test for our notions of the physical world is that by applying them, we are able to bring about new knowledge and apply new powers to our relationship with the physical world. We test our ideas of electromagnetism by creating motors, for example.
Are such discoveries necessary? That is, is there an unavoidable train of knowledge that humankind must reach? Not exactly. The fact that every discovery is susceptible of future refinement and overthrow means that our concepts of nature are never precisely how nature works. Absent a total understanding of nature, none of the component thoughts are entirely right.
Nonetheless, this improvement of understanding, guided by a sense of "rightness" in the mind and by the ability to perform new crucial experiments to test our understanding, is the basis of economics, by providing the groundwork of mental underpinnings used to create technologies and organize production and society.
This is a process unique to human creativity, not found in logic or machines. Russell’s attempt to turn science into a branch of logic would ban creativity outright.
Artificial Intelligence, or Human Intelligence?
As Kurt Gödel showed in 1931 (and has had been indicated half a millennium earlier by Nicolaus of Cusa, the creator of the European Renaissance), there is no increase in knowledge without human creativity. Gödel demonstrated that there exist truths attainable by, and knowable by the human mind, that no logical process is capable of deriving.
Consider the claims for artificial intelligence over the recent half-century. With the dramatic increase in computer power, have come numerous claims that computers will eventually be able to replicate (or even exceed) the powers of the human mind. This will never happen.
While machine learning may do a good job anticipating what you will ask a search engine, or how likely a set of customers will be to return items bought online, this is a far cry from what human creativity can accomplish.
Finding patterns in what has already happened, and finding relationships, sometimes quite complex, among data, may provide insights, but it does not address the underlying axiomatics.
LaRouche has demonstrated this in a remarkable way by the concept of "metaphor."2“The Strategic Situation Now” http://archive.larouchepac.com/node/20865 As we learn from music, poetry, and the other arts, there are concepts that cannot be conceived in terms of sense perception or in terms of any literal (logical) readings of words. The work of a great poet to develop a new idea, a concept that *requires a poem, rather than a prose essay, for its communication, states something that cannot be made explicit in prior use of language. Precisely the same is seen in science.
The calculus of G.W. Leibniz was a transformation of the language of science, allowing change itself to be addressed directly, through the use of an “infinitesimal,” which, when viewed from a static standpoint, appeared, paradoxically, to be both something and nothing, or to have a derivative existence as existing only as a difference between two “real” states, but, when viewed from the standpoint of change, has its own very real, primary existence. Leibniz’s infinitesimal was not a new, additional “word” added to science; it was an uprooting of what was considered to be primary existence and its replacement with a domain of dynamics.
In creating modern chemistry, Mendeleyev developed an entirely new language to comprehend the concepts he developed, going beyond the physical description of substances, to the specifically chemical principles he discovered. “Carbon” as a chemical element, has none of the properties characteristic of physical substances it forms, such as coal, diamond, or graphite. The development of nuclear science saw a similar transformation, a failure of the basis of chemical language itself, and the forced creation of new metaphors, discovered and known by how they could not be explained by the world of chemistry and physics that came before.
The child who re-experiences the discovery and truth of the Pythagorean theorem (a rare event in schools today) assigns to that phrase "Pythagorean theorem" not a relationship among squares on a triangle, but an experience of discovery, of coming to know something that was not known before, of the creation in their mind of knowledge that previously did not exist.
The limitations of a language currently incapable of expressing true concepts of the real world, are overcome by a development of the language itself. This is a human process, one that will not (because it cannot) be replicated by computers.
The number of real problems confronting mankind is enormous: how can we control nuclear fusion? How will we defend our planet from errant asteroids and comets? How can the great beauty of da Vinci, Rafael, Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms be met and excelled? What sort of cultural basis will make it possible to forge a society that outdoes the potential of the past in its beauty and goodness, while discovering the new principles that chart our course through the stars?
A common attempt to successfully implement an always-improving answer to this question, is the cultural basis for cooperation among people and among nations.