Potentialism is a branch of cosmology that has been gaining traction in recent years as a new and dynamic theory of cosmology for the 21st century. Created and then fine-tuned by independent scholar David Birnbaum (see ExaminerPurpose.com) since 1988, Potentialism is laid out in his 3-part work Summa Metaphysica (1988, 2005, 2014). Previously held Randomness Theory, popularized in the last century, proposed a random universe, devoid of purpose/direction and naturally falling towards entropy and decay.
By comparison, Potentialism defines a universe of creation, growth and ever greater complexity. A core tenet of Potentialism is the Quest for Infinite Potential. The Quest for Infinite Potential, Q4P for short, is defined as the universe’s natural drive towards ever more complexity/sophistication and creation.
Here is a short Glossary of key Potentialism terms for this piece:
Quest for Potential (Q4P): The hypothesized core cosmic dynamic which seeks after its optimal/maximal potential infinitely nested and iterating towards ever-greater complexification/sophistication. (see Sequence1000.com)
A Quantum Jump (QJ) event: A significant/watershed./critical-mass cosmic complexification/sophistication event on-the-march towards Extraordinariation.
Extraordinariation (E+): The hypothesized cosmic teleology/purpose/goal. The never-quite-attainable ultimate realization of potential in all its myriad manifestations, certainly far from all of them known by us to even exist (see Extraordinariation.com)
Advance in Complexity/Sophistication
When Quantum Jump events occur, they are evidenced by a ‘quantum’ rise in the natural Complexity/Sophistication of systems (see Glossary1000.com).
Usually, this increase in Complexity/Sophistication is described in cosmic terms – not surprisingly, as Potentialism is, at its heart, a theory of cosmology. But it is applicable not only to physical phenomena, but such things as life, thought and ideas as well. This is due to the overarching nature of Potentialism Theory.
While the more archaic cosmology theories of the last century could at least crudely describe the universe and creation – they necessarily fell apart when trying to deal with the actual, real world actualization of complexities of thought, consciousness and emotion. This is not the case for Potentialism.
Potentialism is as at home explaining these phenomena as it is explaining the Big Bang or quantum theory. The key lies in the overarching nature of Q4P itself. Q4P is a universal drive of the universe in the purest sense. When physicists talk about the Theory of Everything, (ToE) they mean the Theory to unite Relativity and quantum physics. When Potentialists talk about the Theory of Everything, they wrap around the ToE of the physicist, and literally mean everything. If it exists, Q4P can define it (see PotentialismTheory.com). And to a Potentialist, thought is just as real as a rock.
On the surface, this might strike you as odd coming from a scientific theory. But like so many great ideas, it’s really quite easy to prove. Is an idea a thing? Does it have substance? That’s really the fundamental question here. At first glance, it certainly wouldn’t seem to. You can’t taste it, you can’t weigh it, you can’t touch it, you can’t measure it… So, it would seem logically consistent to say, no, it definitely is not a thing.
This is where old theories like Randomness fall apart. There is some partial defense for “brain as a computer” to try and dispel any mysticism to thought. But emotions are a wrecking ball to this theory. To understand why, you have to understand a bit about Randomness. Randomness is the go-to theory for atheist academics. It paints a picture of a universe devoid of purpose, devoid of spirituality, and devoid of any semblance of the teleological. What is teleology? Therein lies the weakness of Randomness.
Teleology is defined as, officially, “the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by postulated causes.” Why is this an issue for atheist, and moreover, for Randomness? Teleology, in layman terms, means that something is acting external to its own survival – for the greater good, following a specific predisposed purpose…. like saying the earth may be able to regulate itself as one living entity, controlling its climate, environment and the animals that live on it.
So, Randomness abhors teleology. Now here is where things get funny – assuming you’re not an atheist set on Randomness Theory, otherwise you’ll not likely find this amusing at all. Let’s say you gave to charity. You did not do it to benefit yourself. You didn’t do it for your family. You can’t even say you did it for your community – your tribe if you want to look at it sociologically. No, you did it for a bunch of strangers in India you will never meet, who will benefit you in no tangible way, and, to be brutally honest, the human race, as a whole, would probably not have missed. I’m not trying to be cold here, just stating the truth.
And here lies the conundrum for previous theories. You could say it was a teleological endeavor. You acted for the good of the race. But teleology is already off the table if you’re a Randomness proponent. It is anathema. The mortal enemy. What, exactly, does that leave as a motivation if you remove teleology? Specifically, you’re harming yourself financially when there is no gain to be had, even for your community at large. That only leaves a purely emotional response. One that flies in the face of logic and that vaunted “brain computer” between your ears. If emotion can cause a physical reaction, a quantifiable change in the world, then emotion is a thing – distinct from intelligence. Moreover, morality, not reason, can cause physical change in the world. So, by extension, we can observe morality as having a physical effect in the universe. Hence, we can call emotion a thing as well.
Thought & Emotion
Either way you look at it, Randomness is left rather foaming in indignation. Potentialists, by contrast, find nothing odd with this assertion. If the Quest for Infinite Potential is truly existent, it must – by definition – be all pervasive. Moreover, the rise of thought and then emotion as tangible parts of our universe are predicted and inclusive in Potentialism.
If you recall, we spoke earlier of Extraordinariation, or E+ – that expression of the universe as it increases infinitely with Potential. Potentialism predicts Extraordinariation happens periodically with Extraordinariation events – times when the Complexity of the universe increases in a tangible manner. That first threshold is when life evolved and began making decisions to increase its survivability. No longer bound by simple binary problem determination, life began to make insightful decisions about its future and the future of its pack, group, organization.
Another clear step in this evolution were primates who began to have higher reasoning – when our ancestors began to be able to weigh options with long-term, thoughtful, problem solving skills. Emotions are simply, to Potentialists, the next step in our evolution. We have begun to weigh things on a truly external (to ourselves) level with such concepts as good of the species and, more importantly, true morality where we weigh right and wrong. We see that consciousness has progressed from the mechanistic or machine like responses of the primitive animal mind to our current emotion and morality responsive systems.
What does this hold for the future? Potentialists are excited with the possibilities, but keep in mind that this is a future level of E+ yet to be attained. What the future holds can be difficult to tell. Transcendent emotions? Shared experiences? ESP? Some concepts can sound far-fetched. But imagine and remember that once nothing with reason walked the face of the earth. The idea of abstract thought was some nebulous level of Complexity no one could imagine – ironically, because nothing had the imagination to achieve it until it was realized. The future likely is very much like that to the Potentialist. But it is not the bleak, desolate, pointless future of the past century, but the future of Potentialism – a future of growth, wonder, unknowable complexity and infinite Potential.
Yeshiva-educated and Harvard-educated Manhattan-based conceptual theorist David Birnbaum (see DavidBio1000.com) elucidates his theory via his iconic 3-part treatise Summa Metaphysica (see SummaMetaphysica.com): Volume I: Religious Man (Ktav, 1988), Volume II: Spiritual Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2005) and Volume III: Secular Man (New Paradigm Matrix, 2014). Over a dozen colleges globally – including UCLA, Brandeis and Hebrew University (Jerusalem) – have assigned the landmark work as a Course Text (see SummaCourseText.com).
Bard College (Upstate NY) hosted a 4- day international academic conference in April 2012 on Summa Metpahysica: Unifying Science & Religion (see Conference1000.com). Over 30 feature articles globally have focused on Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica and its Theory of Potential in the 2013-2014 period alone (see SummaCoverage.com).