The following response is a result of a prior interchange that can be found here:
I stand before a rather impossible task, Christopher Langan, author of the CTMU theory, challenged me to refute his writings. I have no doubt that within that challenge is the request that I convince him that his writings are rubbish – and yet, this task is impossible, and as such I do not undertake it. However, I do undertake the task of showing how CTMU theory is fanciful nonsense to the common reader. Mr. Langan laments that I have so much power and he has no room for any rebuttal. If, upon reading this, he wishes to submit a response (via comments section or via the contact section) I will readily post it as a full article. I should also note that his ravings can be found on many of his own sites and it is not as though I am a media giant unleashed against innocent prey. His caricature is quite to the contrary; he is a self-professed genius who has had much exposure in the media.
Mr. Langan also somewhat attempts to trick me, however clever he thinks himself to be. He, with great flourish, challenged me and me alone to debunk his nonsensical CTMU theory, or “a real, high-powered, household-word celebrity atheist to pick up the sword in [my] stead.” For what purpose does he respond to a relatively obscure blog? This is for the primary purpose of publicity. Yet he claims that his work is not popular “because [he hasn’t] really done much to promote it.” What of the television appearances, the numerous websites, and the numerous responses to online criticism? Chris Langan tries to make himself out to be modest, which after even the most superficial of investigations one can see that the ruse is laughable. So, in some sense I have fallen for his game. I have given him additional publicity. And yet, there is a marketplace of ideas and there is not nearly enough mockery of CTMU and the criticism of the “theory” is often coupled with the response that “well, you just don’t understand it.” To emulate him, it is no doubt that the sesquipedalian, obfuscated language is an intentional inoculation against healthy discourse.
The language of the CTMU theory is intentionally convoluted. Proponents might plead “but he should not have to be limited to the petty language of the common folk!” There is a problem when not only does Langan select obscure and confusing word pairings, he mixes it in with word pairings for concepts he himself is inventing. What person trying to clearly convey what they mean would mix confusing regular language with the technical terms of an at-the-moment-of-reading invention? In his words, what we all regard as clear and concise language is “clown language.” His language serves two interests, (1) it feeds his superiority complex and (2) it prevents criticism because no one will take the time to delve through 56 pages of this. Let me state clearly, none of this speaks to the truth of his claims. His claims are nonsense for other reasons yet to be stated. This is simply to provide a reasonable explanation as to why this theory has any credit whatsoever, beyond the fact that it is an intelligent design argument (which are arguments themselves without value, yet still lauded today).
In science, one attempts to fit theories to facts and not facts to theories. True, in science there is, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson puts it, a kind of grasping out that requires guessing. However, none of this reaching and grasping out is remotely akin to what happens in the mockery of a profession that is “creation science.” From his own Q and A section on his CTMU website he explains his position and belief in God:
…this much of it is true: we can attain a state of grace; we can draw near to God and partake of His eternal nature; we can fall from God’s grace; we can lose our souls for doing evil.”
Well, what is the purpose of CTMU?
…Biblical accounts of the genesis of our world and species are true but metaphorical, our task is to correctly decipher the metaphor in light of scientific evidence also given to us by God. Hence, the CTMU.”
He did not create CTMU to prove that God exists, but rather already assumes God and then uses the CTMU to explain him. He also states that (1) God is eternal, (2) there is such a thing as grace, (3) we receive punishment for our sins, and (4) the Bible is inspired by God. Chris Langan clearly think that the Bible is inspired by God and uses CTMU to attempt to interpret the message – what remotely convincing evidence is there that the Bible was inspired by God? As to (3), Chris Langan asserts that souls can be punished, but his theory (from his Q and A section) defines the soul as below:
Human temporal consciousness is the level with which we’re familiar; global (parallel) consciousness is that of the universe as a whole. The soul is the connection between the two…the embedment of the former in the latter.”
If human souls are simply the in between of a “global consciousness” and a “temporal consciousness,” where does the concept of sin come from? How does this extra stuff factor in whatsoever? It’s in the Bible, that’s how.
Let me begin with the falsehoods that are in his introduction and continue forward throughout the entirety of Langan’s paper. Langan attempts to show how processes like evolution in the biological sciences are similar to the structure of the universe as a whole – a synopsis of his work that he himself is not kind enough to share with you in such simple wording. He sets out to solve problems that do not exist. He seeks to resolve the problem of discrepancies between non-physical with the physical and seeks to explain how the universe is intelligently designed (citing, of course, irreducible complexity and specified complexity), which begs the question – he creates the problem that the universe is intelligently designed in order to try to prove how it is intelligently designed. One must concede and should already be aware of the fact that science exists because there are natural laws that humans observe and through observation and repeatable testing science uncovers the natural laws of the universe. Newton and Einstein, to name examples, witness this very order to the universe. I already agree with this premise, yet Langan goes many steps further in what mirrors a similarly flawed argument from complexity.
In his introduction, Langan lauds Intelligent Design as “not preemptively closed to teleological causation.” This is a benefit of science, it is strict about what it discerns to be true or not. He goes on to explain the problems in interpreting the world around us and mentions irreducible complexity, a repeatedly refuted and fallacious theory; this also applies to specified complexity. I will discuss irreducible complexity and specified complexity elsewhere, but an interested reader can easily research this subject. Langan goes on to say that Intelligent Design “[bucks] the traditional physical reductionism of the hard sciences,” which leads me to my next point.
Langan uses as a premise in his work that there is a dualism between the physical world and consciousness. There is no reason to believe that consciousness is a separate plane of reality, and indeed there is evidence to the contrary. Here is an excellent explanation of monism versus dualism by QualiaSoup. I do not desire to go into length beyond this, there is plenty of information on the internet regarding dualism and why there is no reason to believe it, but instead evidence to the contrary. I also doubt any reader that has braved to read thus far cares to hear a long explanation on the topic. Since this dualism runs throughout Langan’s work as a premise, as well as conflating with other types of dualism, his work can be disregarded on this issue alone.
As I previously mentioned, Langan attempts to define a soul in a scientific way based on his theory and then adds to the definition the aspects of sin and punishment. His theory in no way proves that a “global consciousness” punishes for sins. Also, what then, are sins? How do you define them? Morality is not objective. Religious people cannot even agree on what is good or bad, how is it that they have objective morality?
Again, Langan defines this “global consciousness” or “designer” as “God.” Yet, he ascribes more characteristics to the definition than his theory presents. He gets these additional traits from the Christian Bible. The reasons that the Bible are not the word of God, or rather that there is no remotely credible reason to believe so, is too extensive of an explanation to fit within the scope of this response. However, Langan masquerades as though his paper were scientific, with math, an introduction and an abstract – it is not; it is simply a theological attempt to prove the Christian God. Langan states the following regarding theological interpretations of his work:
The CTMU says that by its self-generative, self-selective nature, which follows directly from the analytic requirement of self-containment, reality is its own “designer”. Other features of the generative grammar of reality imply that reality possesses certain logical properties traditionally regarded as theological or spiritual, and that to this extent, the self-designing aspect of reality is open to a theological or spiritual interpretation. The CTMU, being a logical theory, does not attempt to force such an interpretation down anyone’s throat; not all semantic permutations need affect theoretical structure. What it does do, however, is render any anti-theological interpretation a priori false, and ensures that whatever interpretation one chooses accommodates the existence of an “intelligent designer”…namely, reality itself. In light of the CTMU, this is now a matter more of logic than of taste. [bold added]
If reality “is its own designer,” why would one then be required to use a theological explanation for the designer? If the universe designed itself, why must it be a spiritual explanation? Langan’s assertion that the intelligent designer is reality itself seems to lead only to the conclusion that if what he were saying were true, that the designer is inherently a naturalistic phenomenon and by no means a spiritual one. Even if his work were sound, the many conclusions he draws from his work are unfounded.
Christopher Hitchens notes to beware of a theory that explains everything, as it is likely to explain nothing, such is the case with CTMU. Langan’s work functions under false, weak, or unproven premises, and even assuming those premises were true (some of which could not be), his interpretations of his work cannot follow from his conclusions. This is also not an exhaustive list of the problems with CTMU. From concluding that a soul is the intermediary between the ‘global consciousness’ and the ‘temporal consciousness’ he somehow reasons that this soul has additional characteristics not described by his theory (capable of being punished, reincarnation, etc.). Langan also ascribes similar additional characteristics to what he calls “God.” Everyone can already agree that there is a kind of order to the universe, in that there are natural scientific laws. Langan might marvel at the low probability that our specific universe would be produced. I employ here a lottery example. If all people entered a lottery and there were one guaranteed winner, the person who won would find it so extraordinarily unlikely that he would think that it was not by mere chance – however, it is a fact that someone would win. With the process of natural selection there could have been infinite other variants of life forms on earth, that poses no problem for evolution whatsoever. There is, however, a problem of why we have anything at all, which Langan’s theory hardly explains. As a final note on the substantive criticism of his work, what is the practical application? Science presents practical applications from its theories. One would think that a ‘theory of everything’, a very theory that attempts to explain all of the major discrepancies would have an application – intelligent design as a whole provides no application. Langan claims “[he has] already used the CTMU for applications that would make the careers of any team of credentialed signatories.” (http://www.megasociety.net/noesis/62.htm). When he published his paper he was explicitly asked what the applications for his work were, his response is below:
As far as wringing practical applications out of it is concerned…well, there’ll be time for that later. I will say, however, that it has a lot to say about “AI”.” (http://www.iscid.org/christopherlangan-chat.php)
Let me diverge from his theory for my final notes. Well, what’s the harm in letting him be? He practices a kind of nonsensical elitism rooted in a baseless evaluation of intelligence. Langan has gone on record as saying the following regarding eugenics among other things:
People who wanted to have children would apply to make sure they have no diseases. Why do we have to do it through genetic engineering? Well, we have to let only the fit breed…. Freedom is not necessarily a right. It is a privilege that you have to earn. A lot of people abuse their freedom and that is something that people have to be trained not to do.
But who? Who does this training?
Well, I’d be perfectly willing to do it myself. Just put me in charge.”
Well, it doesn’t just stop at Langan himself:
Mars Turner: If you were to create a government founded on the belief of the CTMU what would it look like? I created a group called “Republic of ecclesiastical Dukes” to express that thought…
Mars Turner: That is why in the Republic of ecclesiastical Dukes, the ones who understand the CTMU are called “Dukes”, the rest are subjects, the goal is to create as many Dukes as possible.
I don’t doubt that many other people have pointed out to Langan that IQ is a meaningless measurement. In his interview he lamented over the fact that Guinness World Records removed IQ from their books because it wasn’t “PC” to use IQ. People don’t discredit IQ because it isn’t PC. Now that Langan has created a poor excuse for an argument for the existence of God, I expect his upcoming book to explain how he is God. In his interview one can only anticipate as much:
Langan: That’s what high intelligence does for you. It allows for you to hold many things in your mind simultaneously and all their interrelationships. I would hope to hold the whole universe in my mind. That’s the dream of a lot of people, a lot of physicists, a lot of cosmologists, a lot of philosophers…and me.
Interviewer: What would it feel like to hold the whole world in your mind?
Langan: It would feel pretty good.
Interviewer: Wouldn’t holding the whole world in your mind make you God?
Langan: As I think I explained, every human being is an endomorphic image of the mind of God. So, yes. Not with the power of God, not with the extent of God, I would still have to be humble in sight of God. But, I would have a certain theic identity. I would share an ultimate essence with God himself.
Interviewer: Have you ever met someone smarter than yourself?
Langan: As near as I can tell, no.
I finish with the same remarks I made to him before, versions of which he has no doubt heard before: Franklin said that genius without education is like silver in the mine; it is unfortunate that Langan didn’t even have the opportunity to tarnish.