Looked at another way, science likes proof; metaphysics likes grand conceptual elegance; metaphysics views the realm of what can be ‘proved’ by science to be limited; but metaphysics tries to understand the infinite; therefore, metaphysics is not bound simply by what can be proved (today); rather, metaphysics wants a grander, elegant conceptual schema of things.
Metaphysics so to speak wraps-around science; while metaphysics is not science, it cannot be unscientific. A metaphysics which captures the most data, and lances the greatest number of philosophical conundrums, with the most succinct and elegant concept, will tend to prevail. Insiders use the term ‘aesthetic elegance’ to denote the sine qua non of a great metaphysics.
Scientists have tackled the origins of the universe by ‘looking-backwards,’ that is by ‘working their way back’ in time from the present: Before Z came Y and before Y came X as far back as they can. By ‘working their way back’ as far as they can, they try to discern cosmic origins. Science indeed believes that it has ‘tracked-back’ to the first milliseconds of the Big Bang fifteen billion years ago and is focused on the nature of that ‘event.’
Naturally some brave soul scientists attempt to discern the ‘cause’ or trigger of the Big Bang. Nobel Prizes await them if they succeed. Many blackboards of chalk-written equations are filled-up with their conjectures. An increasingly major effort in contemporary times has been in discerning the sequence of the first milliseconds of the Big Bang.
But what is the primordial catalyst of the cosmic order? Why is there anything at all? What is the purpose of all? Is there indeed, direction or purpose to it all? These classic questions are the turf of metaphysics, a field which has almost ‘disappeared from the radar’ since the grand philosophical treatises of Spinoza (d. 1687 in The Hague, Dutch Republic.) As we know, well-preceding Spinoza, metaphysics was the classic field of those famous Greeks. However, the iconic Greeks, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, also ultimately failed; they did not come up with a known schema which has proven convincing-enough to stand the test of time. Ditto for the great Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Eastern philosophers. Ditto for the great secular philosophers. All have ultimately been stymied — since the dawn of man 7,000 years ago.
With the unfolding of the European Renaissance (14th — 17th century) it was felt that ‘science’ would solve these problems; however, to date science has not. As regards our focus in this essay, in contemporary time, understanding key scientific questions simply by ‘tracking-back in time’ has proved to be problematic and fundamentally impossible to do in its totality. It is true that with powerful telescopes aided by cutting-edge contemporary analysis theoretical physics, scientists can now look back very close to the time of the Big Bang, ferreting out many cosmic secrets. But that is ‘only’ 13.8 billion years ago. And we really wish to look back infinite billion years-ago to way prior to the Big Bang…to the very eternality of the cosmic order.
There are additional scientific shortcomings to exclusively ‘tracking-backwards’ in approaching questions of cosmic origins. As you go back far enough, the very things scientist measure begin to lose meaning. When approaching The Beginning there are unavoidable issues. The very word “Beginning” loses meaning. In The Beginning, time itself (probably) did not exist. Indeed, matter as we know it (probably) did not either.
David Birnbaum (see examinerpurpose.com) of NY looked at this entire conundrum at various levels of sophistication as a ten year old, a twenty-year old and as a thirty year old. He diligently kept up with the classic and contemporary literature and texts. He focused on three inter-related fields: religion, metaphysics and astrophysics. Birnbaum was acutely aware that all three fields had parallel shortcomings vis Ã vis explaining cosmic origins. He conceptualized a solution in 1982 and his now heavily featured theory was formally proposed by him in 1988 in the first volume of his treatise (see DavidBio1000.com).
Summa Metaphysica, Birnbaum’s iconic treatise, has been used as a course text, in whole or in-part, at over a dozen institutions of higher learning from UCLA on the west Coast to Brandeis on the East Coast to Hebrew University in Israel. Bard College (Upstate, NY) crafted a now famous 4-day international academic conference centered on the work in April 2012. Over 30 feature articles have focused on Birnbaum’s Theory of Potential in the last 12 months alone.
No flaw has been discerned in Birnbaum’s Potentialism in the 25+ years since it was introduced in late 1988. The work elegantly and adroitly finesses the key philosophical conundrums. By all accounts, the work unifies Science, Philosophy and Spirituality, the elusive goal of academia for many millennia. En toto, the work is a quite-formidable paradigm challenge.
As noted, contemporary Physics has to date worked-back 13.8 billion years ago to within milliseconds of the Big Bang point itself. The job of the metaphysician is to propose an aesthetically elegant theory which incorporates all known data — and which conceptually ‘solves’ as many philosophical and cosmological questions as possible. Ideally, the origins of the Big Bang would be enveloped in this conceptual net as well. Thus, in juxtaposition to science – which works backwards – the metaophysician will metaphorically stake a metaphysical concept into the ground, and then see if it works ‘rolling-forwards’ — from Eternal origins thru the Big Bang to the present.
Birnbaum proposes an original concept as the missing key to understanding the cosmic drama (see potentialismtheory.com). He proposes his signature concept that Potential is the eternal cosmic dynamic. More precisely, Birnbaum proposes that Quest for Potential (infinitely iterating) is the eternal cosmic dynamic. This dynamic works its way forward over the billions of eons towards first igniting our universe and eventually — down the road – catalyzing the emergence of higher-level consciousness human beings within it.
Thus the core theme of David Birnbaum’s works is that one elegant dynamic and one elegant dynamic, alone (Quest for Potential) both instigates and drives the entire cosmic order. According to the author “Potentialism proposes that there is, indeed, a protagonist to the cosmic order, but that the protagonist is a ‘quest,’ and not a ‘classic entity.’ The universe quests for its maximal potential. The core dynamic Quest for Potentialâˆž strives with purpose and direction towards ever-greater and higher potential. At the ‘beginning of time,’ eternal Quest for Potential harnessed the eternal equations of Physics-Mathematics to ignite our universe via the Big Bang (see paradigmchallenge.com).
This same symbiotic dynamic — Quest for Potential in league with Physics-Math — then acted as a catalyst for the route tracking-forwards to high level humans in the 21st Century — tracking forward from the Big Bang thru the emergence of the Elements, primordial star systems, myriad galaxies, supernovas, the sun, our solar system, life, photosynthesis, DNA, organisms, sexual reproduction, multi-cellular life, the Cambrian Explosion, amphibians, forests, reptiles, mammals, dinosaurs, birds, flowers, evolution, hominids, homo sapiens, and ever-increasing consciousness/emotion — and, indeed, for all the key dynamics which have evolved in the universe.”
Birnbaum develops his proposal over his 3-book treatise (see summametaphysica.com), but the guts of the theory is simple enough: Potential drives the cosmic order.
His metaphysics is flexible enough to embrace Religious Man, Spiritual Man and Secular Man.
To Religious Man, Infinite Divine Potential is the core of classic God (of Potential); to Spiritual Man, infinite divine potential is the overarching spirit and drive of the cosmic order; to Secular Man, Quest for Potential is the transcendent cosmic dynamic. Birnbaum develops the Religious Man schema in Summa Metaphysica I: God and Evil (Ktav Publishing, 1988); he develops Spiritual Man in Summa Metaphysica II: God and Good (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005); and he develops Secular Man in Summa Metaphysica III: Transcendent Dynamic (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014).
To Birnbaum, Infinite Potential is the ‘prime mover,’ the catalyst and sustainer for life. Infinite Potential defines and drives the universe. It lies at the nexus of where science, philosophy and spirituality co-exist.
On one level, Birnbaum’s theory can be expressed in one word, Potential. But, to get his arms around an infinite universe, Birnbaum has written the 3-volume treatise noted above and published it over a 26-year span.
Not exclusively a writer on Potential theory, Birnbaum also has an impressive list of other works he has published. He has authored a 7-volume chronology titled Jews, Church and Civilization. The unique work traces the 4,000 year journey of the Jews within the context of the ebbs and flows of important civilizations.
He is also editor-in-chief of in-progress 10-volume, ten theme Mesorah Matrix series (see mesorahmatrix.com) on Jewish Spirituality, which has signed-up over 180 leading Jewish thought leaders globally as contributors. Obviously here ‘universalist’ Birnbaum puts on a ‘different hat’ as editor of a series on spirituality, but does so upfront and clearly defined. Furthermore, he is not one of the actual essayists. The ten volumes are scheduled to be released two at a time between 2014 and 2019.