Santi asked:

In my view, the most fundamental question is whether there is Mystery or not, by which I mean whether one believes that the closing of the circle of ‘perfect’ knowledge (Laplacian-style) is achievable, which is no less ‘perfect’ for including probabilistic or non-deterministic laws, and of course I mean achievable not just to us (humans) but to any conceivable intelligence with any conceivable technology.

I don’t think the closing of the circle of perfect knowledge is achievable. Thus, I believe in Mystery. I know this belief is an article of faith, based only on intuition, however ‘obvious’ this intuition may be to me. I am aware that it is just a personal preference. How could people holding the contrary view say their view is not based on ‘faith’ and believe in a theory of everything? What are the premises or axioms a theory of everything should be based on? Are they not articles of faith ultimately? Shouldn’t one have to ‘step outside’ of everything to be able to confirm it is everything?

Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

If you are looking for something that can never be known, all you need to do is shake a pair of dice in a closed cup. Then shake them again. What was the number of that first shake? We know that it was between 2 (a pair of 1s) and 12 (two 6s). Beyond that, we enter the realm of the Unknowable.

Should we care? Yes, if the question is about the nature of Truth because what that simple experiment shows is that we are committed to a notion of truth that transcends all possible verification. ‘The dice fell on 7,’ I say, knowing that what I said might be true — or it might not. No-one will never know.

(If you want to imagine some improbable scenario about invisible aliens or miraculous angels, or a tiny video camera inside the cup go ahead but then you’ve changed the initial conditions of the experiment.)

A Laplacian Supermind is impossible if current physical theory is correct because of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. So you can put that aside. But what about a Theory of Everything?

I’m on your side with this.

The theory Einstein searched for in vain, the theory that the thousands of CERN researchers still hope for, may be achievable — who knows? I wish them the best of luck. But suppose we had that theory. What could possibly explain YOUR existence? I don’t mean the person whose parents named them ‘Santi’, the person who wrote the interesting question about Mystery. I mean YOU.

YOU might not have existed, everything else in the universe remaining the same. Nothing could conceivably explain (and I include all ‘God’ stories and the like) why there is YOU rather than no-YOU.

I don’t hold this view as a matter of faith. It’s a matter of simple proof (as I remarked in a previous answer, a proof relying an Ancient Greek principle, ‘Ou Mallon’ or ‘Insufficient Reason’). Given two identical universes, there is no more reason why YOU should exist in one universe rather than the other universe.

Regardless of what we might one day know or not know about the universe, YOU exist without reason.

That’s what I call Mystery.

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