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SARAS -- Society for the Alignment of Religion and Science -- Scientifically aligned religious philosophy for modernity. Science understands that symmetry is the underlying theme that pervades the structure and behavior of physical reality. Religious philosophy for modern times must fundamentally account for this observed reality.



Selector Theory

Do physicality’s blueprints somehow exist outside of any context that involves mind, will, or purpose? Some say yes. The standard against which every non-empty reality can be compared with is an empty or null reality. The null reality is nothingness—no structure, no energy, no motion, no will, no cognizance, and no aim. If a non-null reality were to exist (and one obviously does), why does it exist? It may be because universes (i.e., quantifiable instances of reality) may have a property called existential stability. If every non-null reality possesses existential stability, then the likelihood of one reality prevailing over another becomes possible. If the null reality is less stable than another reality, the non-null reality will obtain (i.e., be). Then all structure and behavior that comprise an existing reality result from differences between its stability and other possible realities. The stability factor has nothing to do with a purpose driving material reality’s structure, behavior, life, or consciousness. This is the essence of a purposeless reality. Why might one reality be more stable than another? This is the subject of selector theory.

Selector theory is English philosopher Derek Parfit’s idea, extended by Jim Holt in “Why does the world exist?” Selector theory offers a reasoned explanation for the form that reality takes. Selector theory is a model that tries to explain the structure of reality as a result of the activity of abstract reality selectors. A selector selects the nature of reality, a meta-selector selects a selector, and a meta-meta-selector selects a meta-selector, and so on. The aim of selector theory is to find the simplest set of selectors, meta-selectors, and meta-meta-selectors that predicts the reality that we observe. If this set can be found then an answer can be ventured for, “Why does the world exist?” A viable selector/meta-selector solution set must not include an infinite regress of meta-selectors. A viable solution features a selector that is rapidly selected by meta-selectors, which are self-standing (i.e., not requiring higher order meta-selectors themselves).

This universe is a local-possibility of “the world.” There may be other universes that are instances of different local possibilities. The entire ensemble of local possibilities is the multiverse, and the different possible ways that the multiverse can obtain (instantaneously be) are the cosmic-possibilities. The theoretical possibilities for the multiverse’s cosmic actuality range from something greater than the null-possibility (by observation) to a set containing every possible local-possibility. Selector theory tries to narrow the cosmic-possibility by applying logic in the context of constraints (due to Jim Holt, Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story p. 237):

1)   For every truth, there is an explanation of why it is true. This is the principle of sufficient reason.

2)   No truth can explain itself. This is the axiom of foundation.

The first constraint indicates when a search for the truth may terminate—but only when no further explanation is required for a truth is that truth self-standing. If a search comprises a “vertical” ascent into an unterminating chain of higher explanatory truths, a signal is generated—a highest truth will not be found. The second constraint blocks a truth from directly explaining itself, which would violate logic and causality.

The Selector Theory Argument

At the level of cosmic reality, some selector has selected one reality from the set of cosmic-possibilities. The set of cosmic-possibilities range from the (unobserved) null-reality to the all-possible-worlds-reality. At the level of reality-selectors, the set of possible selectors include the null-selector, the simplicity-selector, many intermediate-selectors, and a completeness-selector. At the level of meta-selectors, the set of possible meta-selectors include the null-meta-selector, the simplicity-meta-selector, many intermediate-meta-selectors, and a completeness-meta-selector.

The intermediate selectors and the intermediate meta-selectors ascend up an explanatory hierarchy into a realm of high complexity and ultimately infinite regress. For example, if the cosmic possibility that obtained did so as a result of a least-violence-selector, why does the least-violence-selector obtain? It can only be active if it is selected by a least-violence-meta-selector. But, why has the least-violence-meta-selector obtained? Answer: it was selected by the least-violence-meta-meta-selector. There is no end to this chain, which is the meaning of infinite regress. All of the intermediate selectors have this property and therefore they are ruled out as reality selectors.

Now consider the remaining selectors.

1)  Null-selector: If the null-selector has determined the nature of reality and there is no reason the null-selector is active, then the form reality takes has no explanation and is a brute fact. This fails the principle of sufficient reason. 

2)  Simplicity-selector: The simplicity-selector selects the null-reality, which is not observed.

3)  Completeness-selector: The completeness-selector does not have a completeness-meta-selector, which would partially select all selectors (not just the completeness selector, which is the requirement). Therefore, if a completeness-selector were active it would be a brute fact and violate the principle of sufficient reason.

The only selector that can obtain is the null-selector, but only if it has a self-standing meta-selector. If the null-selector is active then reality is not selected by any particular criteria. Probability would rule by selecting randomly from the totality of cosmic-possibilities. The likelihood of such a pick would be, with overwhelming probability, a very average cosmic-possibility.

Now consider the meta-selectors.

1)  Null-meta-selector: The null-meta-selector is inert and does nothing to select a selector and therefore nothing to help select reality.

2)  Simplicity-meta-selector: The simplicity-meta-selector selects the null-selector, which is known to be the only viable selector. Therefore, the simplicity-meta-selector is a candidate for membership in the selector-set that selects reality.

3)  Completeness-meta-selector: The completeness-meta-selector partially selects all selectors, including the intermediate-selectors and the null-selector. As discussed, the null-selector selects a highly average reality. Is the partial selection of all intermediate-selectors consistent with the null-selector’s reality? Absolutely, because each partial selector has equal weight with every other, and because, for every intermediate-selector there is an intermediate-anti-selector that balances its dual into averageness (e.g., all least-violent balance all most-violent, all least-good balance all most-good, …).

The completeness-meta-selector and the simplicity-meta-selector are both self-standing because they are not selected by a completeness-meta-meta-selector, or a simplicity-meta-meta-selector, respectively (which would select all meta-selectors, and the null-meta-selector, respectively). And both determine that reality will be an average (i.e., generic) reality. The local-possibilities will be infinitely greater than the null-reality, but infinitely less than the all-possible-worlds reality. The entities that make up reality will be existentially balanced. The meaning/message/purpose of the reality will balance to meaninglessness, which is more stable that any form of overall meaning.

Interestingly, this conclusion concurs with the findings of science and REP, which observe that all of form-wise reality is fashioned about existential neutrality. The most fundamental entities are wave-packets that are equal but opposite displacements about their own field-contextual existential neutrality. The internal-structure of consciousness is also fashioned as displacements about consciousness-field existential neutrality. But life and consciousness as phenomena are decidedly not average, and selector theory as presented does not predict them.

Selector Theory including Reflexive Cognizance

The depressing consequences of selector theory follow from logical application of the rationality postulates. There are two issues with the standard Selector theory. The first is the absence of a satisfying explanation for why the null-reality has not obtained. Once reality is not-null, then the null-reality becomes a very special and unlikely case. However, to arrive at a non-null reality, some selector (e.g., a primordial will-to-exist) must cause nullness to negate itself. The second issue is an adequate explanation for why life and consciousness exist, because they do not conform to any view of reality as being purely average and generic. In order to examine how selector theory can be enlarged, the rationality postulates must be widened.

Although the rationality postulates seem closed and indisputable, can they be widened? We say yes. There more encompassing form is:

1)   For every truth, there is an explanation of why it is true. This is the principle of sufficient reason.

2)   The only truth that can explain itself must be formless and self-referential via reflexive cognizance. This is the extended axiom of foundation.

The first postulate is unchanged, but the second is radically different. The revised postulate widens the idea of truth away from purely thought-wise truth. A thought-wise truth can be expressed with language and “really” exists as logical sequences of thought. The validity of a thought-wise truth can be investigated and proved with other thought sequences (which are often backed by observation). In contrast, a formless truth exists outside of the realm of thought. The formless truth has an interface with form and the laws-of-nature emerge across it. What makes a formless truth a truth? An ordinary truth is something that exists within the domain of thought. A formless truth stands on its own. It is self-existent and self-effulgent, as it were.

How is it that something that is formless can exist? Formlessness is not simply the absence of matter; it is that absence of everything physical, including the vacuum and spacetime. The only way that formlessness can host a truth is if that truth is consciousness-like, but without the form of thought. But how can a thoughtless consciousness be a truth? Or, put another way, what distinguishes a thoughtless consciousness from nothingness (e.g., the null-reality)? A thoughtless consciousness is only different from nothingness if it is reflexively cognizant. This means that it is self-aware. How can formless consciousness be self-aware? By emanating across the form-wise boundary into the physical reality (i.e., the multiverse) and becoming thought-wise consciousness via the inception and evolution of life. Then at the endpoint of the evolution of consciousness, consciousness returns into the formless absolute and causes it, the formless source reality, to become reflexively self-aware—although remaining in the realm of formlessness. This process releases and resolves the ultimate truth that distinguishes somethingness from nothingness.


The addition of Self-Cognizance at the meta-selector level adds consciousness hosting universes to the actualization of reality. Self-Cognizance is not a brute-fact truth, if that which is cognizant is similar to nothingness in that it is without form or feature. Pure nothingness cannot be a truth. Yet, if nothingness possesses an interface from which supra-intelligence emerges and later returns as advanced consciousness, nothingness becomes truth. Nothingness becomes truth when it achieves formless, reflexive self-knowledge via the physical realm’s activity.

Nothingness that is reflexively self-aware is called God. God is not a brute-fact, it is a conditional truth. God, the formless absolute, exists on the condition that the physical realm has effectuated its reflexive self-awareness. Yet, the physical realm has emanated from the formless source reality, which is God. This circular dependency is the substance of the ultimate mystery that is a will-to-exist.

Meta-Selector Simplicity and Completeness are not negated by Self-Cognizance. They are complemented by it. The requirement for life and consciousness manifests itself within a context of universal averageness. All physical substance is arrayed about existential neutrality, which together average to neutrality (i.e., averageness).