Politics, the reality of time, and the singularity of cosmos

November 28, 2015

A review and discussion essay based on R.M. Unger & L. Smolin (2015) The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, Cambridge University Press, 543 p.

Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s False Necessity (the main part of Politics) [1] has inspired and shaped my thinking much more than most books. For a quarter of century I have been returning to False Necessity and other Unger’s texts ever so often, in spite of reservations about some aspects of his thinking. [2] One of Unger’s main arguments concerns deep-structural social theory such as Marxism. Deep-structural social theory is based on the idea of a closed list of alternative institutional and ideological systems, for example feudalism, capitalism and socialism, understood as indivisible wholes that stand or fall as one piece. [3]

In a historical materialism conference in London in early November 2015, I was frustrated to find out that also that particular form of deep-structuralism is still alive and kicking. The Left in the UK might have become stronger and more outspoken, as indicated by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour, but at least many in the academic Marxist camp seem content with reproducing old meaning structures and related rhetoric. Moreover, I also started to feel that my rather noticeable symptoms of a cold are not well-taken in the small lecture halls and seminar rooms of SOAS.

Thus I decided to take it easy, rest and also spend a bit of time in bookshops. [4] It took me by surprise to find a copy of Unger and Lee Smolin’s The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time in the ‘popular science’ shelves of the Foyles bookshop at Charing Cross. Soon I found out that this book had been reviewed in the Sunday Times already in January – and in other places since then – but for some reason it had escaped my attention.

When I found the book and started to read it, I was re-energized (never mind the irritating flu!). The result of Unger collaborating with a well-known theoretical physicist appeared to be a fascinating argument, with both theoretical and practical significance. The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time develops a new line of reasoning about the nature of reality, resonating strongly with what I have elsewhere called the temporal turn in philosophy and social theory. [5]

Unger, a Harvard professor of law, and an active left-politician in his home country Brazil, may sound like an unlikely candidate to co-author a book on time, causation, cosmology and natural philosophy. But we should not be astonished. There is a growing interest in integrating all available bits and pieces of knowledge across all levels of reality and their complexities. Two other relatively recent masterpieces that share a similar interest are (i) Roy Bhaskar’s brilliant but complicated philosophical treatise Dialectic. A Pulse of Freedom [6]; and (ii) David Christian’s magnificent history of everything in 642 pages entitled Maps of Time. An Introduction to Big History [7]. Both explore the historical developments of all there is and will be, from the past towards the future, albeit in very different ways.

Overcoming the limits of the hegemonic worldview

Given the complexities involved, each attempt to integrate the bits and pieces of our knowledge about the process of cosmic evolution is bound to be distinct. Unger and Smolin do not even mention Bhaskar or Christian or any related works in philosophy or history; their focus is on cosmology and science.

It seems, however, that all these integrative attempts share a critical intention of overcoming the limits of the currently hegemonic scientific worldview. What is our place in the cosmos according to science? This is a hotly debated issue, yet in the secularized part of the world a particular view dominates. In every worldview there is myth – a “sacred” narrative – explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form and what their future possibilities are.

The basic myth of modern secular liberal-capitalist society is constituted by stories of desperation and a sense of meaninglessness. This myth involves the Copernican principle, according to which we do not occupy a privileged position in the universe. Moreover, contemporary scientists proclaim that there is nothing special about this universe. It is a mere result of a cosmic lottery. There are countless (if not an infinite number of) disconnected universes; this one just happens to be life-friendly.

Nothing really matters, because most of things we see and experience are illusions. Even time and causation are not really real. Rather, the world is atemporal and mathematical. Merely claims that can be expressed in the language of mathematics are truly scientific. The language of mathematics is technical, neutral and value-free. These ideas tend to go closely together with the story of humanity inevitably ending up in death at some scale of time, perhaps sooner rather than later.

In contrast to this worldview, Unger and Smolin argue that our cosmos is singular and unique (there is only one universe at a time); that causation, emergence and change are real; that time is non-emergent and real and may in some sense be non-finite; and that while laws of physics may appear stable in the contemporary cooled-down universe, they are not immutable (when the relational structures change, so do laws). Everything is historical and evolving. Hence, physics and chemistry can learn a few critical things from geology, life sciences and human sciences.

A key argument in favour of this alternative worldview is that the standard interpretation combining Einstein’s special relativity with the Friedmann-Robertson-Walker-Lemaître solutions of the field equations of the general relativity “fails to exclude preferred cosmic time” (p.188). It is the metaphorical and suprascientific spatialisation of time (against which also Einstein protested) that leads to the “block-universe” view in cosmology that in effect annuls time. None of the classical or postclassical empirical tests of general relativity bears any direct relationship to the notion of spatialized time.

Going a step beyond Unger, one can argue that Time as Spatial Location is a metaphorical concept. Although we cannot simply eliminate that metaphor from our everyday practices or scientific theories, as a metaphor it can lead us into silliness. Even the most useful metaphors have their limits. [8]

The selective realism of mathematics

The criticism of spatialized time is closely connected to the critique of “the selective realism of mathematics”. Counting and quantifying concern spatial relations. It is in mathematical imagination that time is most fundamentally conceived as a spatial dimension. Mathematics is a visionary simulacrum of the one existing world, our universe, but stripped off all real time, phenomenal differences and particularity. What is more, the language of mathematics is non-causal, whereas in the real world a cause must precede its effect and causation is irreversible.

Unger and Smolin maintain that some of the abstract structured wholes and bundles of relations described by mathematics correspond to a fragment of the world, understood within a particular circumscribed horizon. As mathematics progresses, mathematical reasoning increasingly leaves perceptual experience. The concept of the infinite – central to mathematics – is such a human invention. In reality nothing is unlimited or unbounded. “Everything that exists in nature, including the universe and all of its phenomena and events, results from other events and phenomena in time.” (p.315)

Some of the new branches of mathematics may turn out useful in theorization of the relations, structures and mechanisms of those physical realities that are homogeneous and isotropic in our cooled-down universe. Many other branches are just human inventions corresponding to nothing at all in the real world. The relevance of any particular mathematical notion is up to science to determine. Mathematics do not give us a privileged insight into the world.

Unger could have made this argument even stronger by using the theory of metaphors to outline the origins of mathematics in our everyday spatial experiences and quest for practical problem-solving. In their book Where Mathematics Come From, George Lakoff and Rafael E. Núñez have shown that mathematics stem from a few simple grounding metaphors, all of which involve countable things or measurable distances (object collection, object construction, measuring stick, motion along a path). Linking metaphors can yield more sophisticated ideas from these. For instance, the concept of infinity may be formed by simple iteration from the metaphor of motion along a path. A continues process can then be broken down into infinitely iterating step-by-step processes, making it possible to simulate and calculate movements and changes. Metaphorical infinites can in turn be used as numbers, compared etc. While useful for some purposes, these kinds of conceptions can also be misleading. [9]

The domain of physics is only one level of reality. The emergent levels of higher complexity tend to be less susceptible to mathematical reasoning than the physical-level reality. The more there are qualitative changes and phenomenal differences, and the more contextuality and particularity dominate the level of reality under study, the less adequate our mathematical simulations usually are. A critical realist would add that the more open the system is, the larger the resulting asymmetry between explanation and prediction; and the larger this asymmetry is, the more explicitly historical (retroductive) our methods of study must be.

Unger stresses that while mathematics have provided powerful tools for science, our mathematical capabilities also subject us to two dangerous temptations. The first temptation is to think that mathematics can in its own right generate timeless truths, although the world as well as our knowledge of it are changing; and the second temptation is to fall victim to the illusion of certainty bred by mathematics. These temptations lead us all too easily to diminish or even reject the reality of historical time. When one surrenders to these temptations in humanities and social sciences – for example in economics – the result tends to be a particularly unfortunate combination of bad science and stubborn, intolerant ideology.

Not so radically new after all?

Some two weeks after London, having finally found the time to complete the first – namely Unger’s – part of The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, I must confess feeling a tad disappointed. Unger’s style of writing is rather hard-going, replenished with constant repetition of key points and promises of things to come. These stylistic problems, combined with my sense of familiarity with many of the arguments, made the reading experience, in the end, less rewarding than I had expected. Moreover, Unger’s viewpoint seems to leave a few critical questions unanswered.

True, the idea of a preferred cosmic time is partly new, but it appears a bit underdeveloped, at least in Unger’s part. In Unger’s general characterization, time is connected to change and change is causal. I find Bhaskar’s conceptualisation of time more precise and illuminating. Linking the reality of tense, causation and processes, Bhaskar argues that “now” is not a point on an abstract segment of a line, but an indefinite boundary state of a process that is happening. We are living in and constituted by a multiplicity of differential rhythmic processes.

Both Bhaskar and Unger accept that relativity applies to all non-total world-lines. What is novel about Unger, however, is the claim that time as such is global, irreversible and continuous. The universe is about 13.8 billion years old. This amounts to the claim that in the cosmic context there is one overall process of cosmic evolution (note, however, that the preferred cosmic time is relational by virtue of the fact that it is dynamically determined, as explained by Smolin on p.421 and thereafter). In other words, all the multiplicity of differential rhythmic processes are happening within this single complex relational process.

Unger and Smolin reject the idea of multiple (simultaneous?; what could simultaneity mean here?) universes. This idea has always seemed implausible to me. As I wrote in an article a few years ago, the problem with “speculations about cosmic selection or lottery is that these presuppose the existence of something that cannot, even in principle, ever be observed. Thereby they also radically multiply beings, thus violating even the most cautious and qualified interpretation of Ockham’s razor.” [10]

Like many cosmologists and philosophers, I have also posed the question of whether the constants and laws of nature may change. Assuming they can, we should on the other hand also ask: if the constants and laws of nature can change within our cooled-down universe, why are they so stable? Unger’s answer is that the underlying structures are homogeneous (composed of parts or elements that are all of the same kind) and isotropic (uniform in all directions) at that level of reality.

Unger pushes aside the anthropic principle, according to which the cosmos must be like it is for life and sentient and conscious beings like us to be possible. Many others have, however, argued that “given the time and stability required for life to evolve, the anthropic principle provides a strong reason to believe in predominantly invariant constants and laws of nature” [11]. That is of course true, but it too seems to peg the question: why are the underlying structures so stable? (One possible answer is that things became locked in in a stable, if only a possible, equilibrium in the cosmos-wide background field, the Higgs field, after the Big Bang).

The idea that there may be a succession of universes that evolve historically has been developed by Smolin in his earlier works and debated among cosmologists (in this book discussed especially on pp.449-60). For instance, James Gardner points out that Smolin’s hypothesis of meta-cosmic evolutionary process lacks sufficient mechanisms of heredity that would ensure high-fidelity replication of universes. [12] Gardner himself gives a new twist to Smolin’s idea by seriously contemplating the possibility of naturalistic design by intelligent beings of earlier universes.

Leaving these controversies aside, what can be said more reliably and confidently is that it is now widely accepted (i) that this universe of ours has evolved historically to what it is, and (ii) that the process continues. Unger does not add much to our substantial knowledge of cosmic evolution of the current single universe. There are articles and books exploring cosmic emergence and complexity in a much more systematic fashion at the variety of levels. Also the question of whether the overall cosmic process exhibits directionality is set aside by Unger.

Unger’s critique of the limits of mathematical reason is well taken, but not unique. In cognitive science, philosophy and human sciences, similar arguments are widely known. Also many physicists have been rather sceptical about the possibility of a mathematical-structural “theory of everything”. [13] In particular, the string theorists have frequently been accused of developing mathematical ideas that bear no relationship whatsoever to any possible empirically observable reality. [14]

Unger’s main contribution seems to lie in stressing the importance of time-causation-history in cosmology (depicted at the philosophical level of abstraction).

Smolin’s temporal and ethical naturalism

Smolin’s part of the book begins with some sharp (re-)formulations of the main theses of the book. Not only are time and causation real, “the single, unique universe must contain all of its causes, and there is nothing outside of it” (p.358). Laws evolve and hypotheses about the mechanisms selecting these laws can be tested. Scientific cosmology requires new paradigms of explanation, because it does not deal with subsystems but with the whole of the historically evolving everything.

Smolin attacks especially harshly the metaphorical notion that the world is a machine. This notion is a consequence of the idea that nature is governed by laws which are timeless, immutable and mathematical. What is more, this kind of reductionist naturalism reduces human experiences and aspirations to illusion, as in the identity theories of the philosophy of mind, in the programme of strong artificial intelligence, and in various versions of economics. From an adequate cosmological viewpoint, we can easily see that emergent layers such as conscious experience, agency, will and intentions are all real and can be causally efficacious.

While time is real, ”the future may not be completely determined”, not even on a cosmic scale (following Bhaskar, I would formulate this slightly differently: future is real but not yet determined, and certainly not yet completely determined). This implies that the process of cosmic evolution is, like our human world history within it, open-ended. Smolin argues that in order to understand the mechanisms and process of nature better, we need to adopt temporal and ethical naturalism. Science is pluralistic. It involves many methods and approaches and consists of ethical communities organized around a particular subject. Science respects nature in the same way as we aspire to show respect to each other in a democratic society.

What is stake here, again, is the role of mathematical imagination. We should not substitute nature with an imagined world, “believed to be transcendent but, in reality, just a construction of our imagination” (p.364). The world is not a mathematical object. Our knowledge is always incomplete and never completely certain. Moreover, ethical naturalists are not reductionists. Physics focusses on one layer of reality. Complex systems made out of many atoms can have emergent properties not expressible or derivable from the properties of elementary particles. These in turn can create new emergent systems and so on, until we reach the social/psychological level of conscious experience, agency, will and intentions. Each subject matter calls for somewhat different approaches and methods.

Smolin makes a series of methodological points. The Newtonian paradigm is not suitable for the study of the unique cosmos as a whole. On fundamental scales events are idiosyncratic. The Newtonian paradigm looks only at isolated and stable (non-changing) subsystems of the universe, where laws can be identified as repeatable regularities. In critical realist terms, what Smolin’s points mean is that the universe as a whole is not a closed system. Its fundamental constituents are unique; its initial conditions and laws have come from somewhere and are unique; and it is changing qualitatively, also in unpredictable ways, thus constantly creating new out of the old – resulting for instance in ourselves and our creations.

What Smolin also argues is that the intermediate-scale physics – at the level of which the Newtonian paradigm applies – must neglect information. Therefore it must be statistical. “It is interesting to wonder whether this might be the origin of quantum uncertainty. That is, the hidden variables needed to complete quantum theory, if we are to explain why individual events take place, must be relational.” (p.392) What is more, the relational hidden variables must be non-local (meaning that there are deep-level cosmic connections across vast distances). This reminds me of David Bohm’s scientific realist attempt to develop an alternative to the positivism of the Copenhagen interpretation [15] – a link made explicit on p.488.

In this review it is not possible to do justice to all the philosophical ideas and technical subtleties, on which Smolin’s arguments are built. He stresses the importance of falsifiability (or at least strong confirmability) of scientific theories and the principle of differentiated sufficient reason, alongside with a few other principles. A very important claim concerns the nature of mathematics.

Mathematics is evoked rather than discovered or just invented. Once a formal axiomatic system is evoked – based on grounding metaphors and conceptual blendings – there are many discoveries to be made about it. New discoveries open up new questions, sometimes also about the physical world. No axiomatic system exists, however, before it is brought to reality by human imagination and work. Mathematical proofs are just a form of specialization of rational public arguments.

Mere simple wonder at the possibility of novel systems to explore is quite enough. There is no reason to mystify mathematics, or any aspect of science for that matter.

Conclusions and disagreements

Having finally completed reading The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time nearly three weeks after London, I remain pleased to have run into this book almost accidentally. While it is not always a pleasure to read, and while parts of the argument are not as novel as I first thought, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The book articulates and integrates a systematic realist vision of the cosmos. It is an alternative that needs to be taken seriously.

This vision resonates nicely with the basic insight of critical realism. The mystifying – and in many contexts, ideological – idea of a single Scientific Method has been built on a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of both cosmic being (ontology) and scientific practices (epistemology). Unger and Smolin push this insight further into the frontiers of cosmology. Their book is thus a critique of the currently hegemonic scientific worldview. No laws are immutable, not even in physics. Our universe is both unique and historical. Its history is open-ended. Life and humanity are real parts of the cosmos that is constantly creating new things out of the lower layers of emergence. At higher levels of emergence, structures are not at all stable, homogeneous and isotropic. Especially at the level of human mind and society, concept- and activity dependent structures are in a recurrent process of structuration and their endurance tends to be only a matter of tens or at the most hundreds of years (although each transformation is also preservative of something and thus can retain much older relational elements).

At the very end of the book (pp.512-32), there is a note concerning disagreements between the authors. This note is informative about the state of scientific cosmology. The closer we try to get to the Big Bang and reveal the mystery of being, the more our philosophical principles, scientific theories and mathematical conceptions seem to be open towards a wide array of speculative possibilities.

For every possible explanation of the available evidence, there seems to be many alternatives. For instance, the homogeneity of the cosmic background radiation is nowadays habitually interpreted as evidence for the cosmic inflation at the beginning of the universe, but if time did not start then, there are plausible alternative explanations (and new ones can be created in the course of future scientific processes). Similarly, while Smolin’s ideas about a process of evolutionary succession of universes may be capable of yielding falsifiable empirical implications, it is hard for me to see the confirmation or falsification of those implications as conclusive evidence about anything beyond this universe.

The disagreements between Unger and Smolin concern the exclusivity of our confidence in science, the principle of sufficient reason, how the laws of physics may change in the future, the reality of tense (past and future, not only the present), the conundrum of metalaws (which is related to the nature of causation) and the relationship of mathematics to nature. Sometimes their disagreements seem to concern only nuances within the same worldview; at times they are more fundamental.

As a general rule, Unger sees deeper problems with contemporary science and scientism than Smolin, whereas Smolin is committed to the idea of sufficient reason and tries to translate all claims to possibilities that are compatible with at least some reading of the already existing scientific theories. I tend to agree with Unger that there are many sources of insight and experience; that causation is not dependent on laws but can be and often is idiosyncratic (causal forces operate constellationally in open systems, as implied by J.L. Mackie’s famous account of causes as INUS-conditions [16]; and especially at higher levels of emergence causal forces are often multi-layered, diverse, and heterogeneous); and that complete sufficient reason is too much to ask even when it may work as a heuristic principle.

Smolin may, however, be right in his claim that the strong empirical support for the theory of general relativity implies that (non-totally conceived) spacetime really is Lorentzian. And I consider Bhaskar’s formulations in Dialectic about the reality of time and tense to be superior to both Unger and Smolin.

Let me just add two final remarks. The first concerns God and religion. Unger and Smolin are basically saying that “let’s focus on this universe, it’s unique and real and probably the only universe there is”. One should empathetically add that many contemporary scientists seem to understate its vastness in time and space. They get carried away by their oftentimes misleading mathematical imagination. Compared to “infinity” this universe may look like a mere grain of sand, but in reality the 100+ billion galaxies or so that we can see appears to be only a tiny part of the whole of the universe. Yet our galaxy alone is huge. It takes 30,000 years for light to travel from the centre of the Milky Way to planet Earth. This galaxy has existed in the order of 10 billion years and it will continue to produce new stars for billions and billions of years (and collide with Andromeda in about 4 billion years).

For all we know/do not know about the origins of this universe, there remains room for religious interpretations and stories, at least if conceived at a sufficiently high level of abstraction. Globalization as coming-together of humanity requires an open-ended dialogue about these fundamentals. [17] This dialogue must of course be open to scientific evidence. The relevant evidence may not be related to cosmology only.

The religious stories typically assume that humanity is at least in some metaphorical sense at the centre of the universe, or even its purpose. How typical is our planet? Is there complex life anywhere else? The religious interpretations usually imply that we as conscious beings should be special and thus exceedingly rare. Across all time and space of the universe, there may all together be only a few cases of emergence of consciousness. [18] Certainly we should not expect to find anyone else in the Milky Way. [19] As our knowledge of distant planets is rapidly growing, in the course of this century we may start to find out about other (at least simple) forms of life and other processes of biological evolution. Rather than cosmology, exobiology may turn out to be the most important future science.

My final remark concerns the long-term future of the cosmos. The prevailing scientific story of the ultimate end is summarised almost poetically by David Christian at the end of his Maps of Time. “Vacuum energy appears to be gently accelerating the rate at which the universe expands”, until finally “the universe will be a dark, cold place, filled only with black holes and stray subatomic particles that wonder light-years apart from each other” [20]. This is a rather bleak vision.

Unger and Smolin beg to disagree. They argue that the future of the cosmos is, at least to a degree, open-ended. Partly this open-endedness is about uncertainty, stemming in part from our fallibility and ignorance. For instance, our theories may change and, moreover, there may be yet unknown metalaws that change the constants and laws of the universe over time. A more intriguing possibility is that on-going process of emergence and increasing complexity may generate something that affects the future of the cosmos. The way change occurs changes.

We humans can in fact have a role in this meta-level change due to emergence and new forms of complexity. “In the remote future, we may be able to influence the history of the universe as well as the history of our planet” (p.520). And if we are incapable of surviving and developing our capacities that long, perhaps another conscious and intelligent species somewhere in the universe will – a species more capable of ethical and political learning than we humans.

PS. I will publish a shorter, depersonalized version of this review in a journal in early 2016. Please send your comments and suggestions for further ideas and development by e-mail to: heikki.patomaki@helsinki.fi.



[1] Moreover, I have drawn on Unger’s ideas in several of my works. Perhaps most notably, following Unger’s point that it is possible to change not only the content but also the force of social contexts, I have reinterpreted and developed further the Deutschian conception of security community in International Relations theory (especially in chapter 8 of After International Relations, Routledge, 2002). Moreover, in a recent book on the future of economic policy (Suomen talouspolitiikan tulevaisuus: teoriasta käytäntöön, Into, 2015; to be rewritten in English), I have utilized two ideas borrowed from Unger, namely his experimentalism regarding forms of economic organizations, and his constructivism vis-à-vis country’s “comparative advantage” in the world economy.

[2] For instance, there is more than a residue of romantic nationalism in Unger’s politico-economic project. Despite his deep world-historical perspective, Unger seems to downplay the extent to which our fates are now interconnected and interwoven across the planet.

[3] This does not mean that there are no meaningful ways of talking about universal stages of human development, whether we are talking about political economy or ethico-political learning. In political economy, for instance, we can distinguish: (i) The stage of hunter-gatherers, who can handle fire and simple tools but have no other sources of energy than their own muscles and the heat of fire; (ii) The stage of agricultural civilization, where the main source of energy is human and animal muscle, although increasingly also wind, water flows and chemical explosives are being exploited; (iii) The stage of industrial civilization, based on the work of machines operated with external sources of energy, such as fossil fuels, wind or water flows which are transformed into electricity, and nuclear power. See “Back to the Kantian Idea of ‘Universal History’? Overcoming Eurocentric Accounts of the International Problematic”, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, (34):3, 2007, pp.575-95. I have discussed the idea of ethico-political learning in several of my recent publications.

[4] The conference ran from Thursday to Sunday (5-8 November 2015). On Friday afternoon I presented a paper “Reflexive Self-Regulation on a Planetary Scale: From Privatisation of the Atmosphere to Global Taxes and Common Good” in a panel entitled ‘Climate Crisis and Counter-Austerity’, organized by James Goodman from the Technology University of Sydney. Next day, my attempt to attend panels were interrupted by embarrassing outbursts of coughing and sneezing. Coupled with intellectual and also ethico-political frustrations (apart from the problems related to the old-style Marxist rhetoric, I also found e.g. some of the discussions about the current political situation by those Syriza members who had decided to stay on in the Tsipras camp a bit disturbing), I soon reached a decision to spend the rest of the afternoon in bookshops and go to the hotel early, in order to recover from the flu and to be prepared for a return flight to Helsinki.

[5] See my article “On the Complexities of Time and Temporality: Implications for World History and Global Futures”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, (57):3, 2011, pp.339-352, available here.

[6] Bhaskar, Roy, Dialectic. The Pulse of Freedom, Verso, 1993; the entire book seems to be freely downloadable here (possibly or probably illegally).

[7] Christian, David, Maps of Time. An Introduction to Big History, University of California Press, 2004. See the publisher’s site of the new 2011 edition of the book.

[8] Here I rely also on Lakoff, George & Johnson, Mark, Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, Basic Books, 1999, pp.159-61. A very short summary of the book is available here.

[9] Lakoff, George & Núñez, Rafael E., Where Mathematics Come From. How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being, Basic Books, 2000. The discussion on the basic metaphor of infinity can be found on pp.155-81, but see also the subsequent chs 9-11. A very short summary of the book is available here.

[10] “After Critical Realism? The Relevance of Contemporary Science”, Journal of Critical Realism, (9):1, 2010, note 81, pp.83-4; click here to download this article.

[11] Barrow, J. D. and F. J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.21.

[12] Gardner, James N., Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life is the Architect of the Universe, Inner Ocean, 2003, pp.84-5.

[13] For instance, Barrow, John D., New Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[14] Woit, Peter, Not Even Wrong. The Failure of String Theory and the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics, Vintage Books, 2007.

[15] See Bohm, David, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge (Classics), 2002, originally published in 1980.

[16] In my works I have used a realist redefinition of Mackie’s INUS-condition: cause is an insufficient but non-redundant (necessary) part of a complex which is itself unnecessary but sufficient for the production of a result.

[17] Cf. ”From East to West: Emergent Global Philosophies – Beginnings of the End of the Western Dominance?”, Theory, Culture & Society, (19):3, 2002, pp.89-111.

[18] By using probability calculus, it can be calculated that if God wanted to ensure at least one “Earth” in this cosmos based also on chance, it is likely there will be more than ten of them – but only in the whole of universe. See Bartholomew, David J., God, Chance and Purpose: Can God Have It Both Ways?, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

[19] Morris, Simon Conway, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

[20] Christian [note 7], pp.488-9.