Saturday, August 9, 2008

No molecule of love

It's true, I'm a reductionist. Everything can ultimately be explained by its constituent parts. We're all just a bunch of quarks and leptons, as they say.

But I'm told this leaves no room for love. I'm told that there is no molecule of love. I'm told that they sure got me there.

It also leaves no room for milk. There's no molecule of milk, you know. Sure, there's lactose, but that by itself isn't milk. How can a reductionist like me live without milk? They sure got me there. I better fix my philosophy up before I break my bones.

I'm also told about God. God is like a puppy that hasn't learned its name yet. Here I am, talking about reductionism and love, when God suddenly pokes his nose in, as if to say, "You called?" And then suddenly everyone acts like we were talking about God all along. Oh, obviously, he came because he heard the word "love". So cute! And isn't Love a good name for our puppy? Oh, but you don't believe in Love. Do you kick puppies too?

Only if I can't see them.

Incidentally, there is no puppy molecule. The particle zoo has no room for puppies. No room for molecules either for that matter. Molecules are made up of many quarks and leptons, interacting in an intricate quantum dance. Molecules aren't elementary particles at all. That's why molecules can't exist.

A paradox! I see reductionism collapsing around me, as if it were an electron spiraling into a nucleus. How could it ever have been stable in the first place? How did I ever believe the contradicting ideas of milk and reductionism? That's as incoherent as believing in both the brain and consciousness, or both pages and books.

A solution suggests itself. Or rather, someone suggests it to me, as if they had been reading my thoughts. There are no pages or books. There can only be libraries. Libraries, love, and God. These are all eternal cosmic forces, who only occasionally manifest themselves into the illusion of molecules. Pages are not constituent parts, but consequences of libraries. People and their feelings aren't constituent parts of love, but consequences. Spiritu-

But the suggestion dissipates, becoming as ethereal as a puppy. Realizing what just happened, I back away slowly. Carefully. But I still end up kicking it.


Anonymous said...

How can you talk about molecules? There's no atom of water!

One example I like to give in these situations is the idea of a computer program. You can break a computer down into its constituent parts, and you're certainly not going to find molecules of Firefox, or MS Word. But it turns out there are patterns you can find in the state of various bits of ram or portions of the hard drive that do in fact correspond to the thing that we call "MS Word".

Yoo said...

There's only a single wave function describing the universe: the rest are details. (There! I've managed to be both reductionist and holistic at the same time! :P )

Seriously, the only times I hear "you're being a reductionist" are when 1) they're making a valid point and try to analyze a much more complex system, or 2) it's silly a substitute for "you want to understand things". And there are far too many people of the latter type.

Anonymous said...

"There's only a single wave function describing the universe: the rest are details. (There! I've managed to be both reductionist and holistic at the same time! :P )"

Douglas Hofstadter would be so proud!

Irradiatus said...

beautiful post.

I've been called a "reductionist" as an insult on multiple occasions.

For me that's like someone calling me out as a "liberal"

or "heterosexual"

or "dude"

And there IS a molecule of love (and hate). It's called EtOH.