|The divine comedy
“”I am closer to absolute truth than any man has been before me
Christopher Langan (1952–) is an American and a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID), a professional society which promotes intelligent design. His IQ score has been measured at 195 (although, at such high levels, IQ tests are highly unreliable) and he also claims to have scored a perfect SAT score while taking a nap during the test. He was employed as a bar bouncer, but now owns a horse ranch in Mercer Co., Missouri.
Langan styles himself as a misunderstood genius; indeed, Filmmaker Errol Morris directed a short documentary on Langan titled The Smartest Man in the World. However, his pet theory, the "Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe," appears to the casual observer to be a steaming mound of incoherent babbling, and Langan has reportedly used ad hominem attacks against those asking him to explain it further, which does not bode well for his "misunderstood genius" claims.
Langan accepts the theory of evolution, but believes it could not be responsible for the specified complexity of the biodiversity that we see today. He believes on various levels that intelligence is responsible for the evolution of life, the ultimate level being "GOD" or the Global Operator Definor (or Designer), which is compatible with the monotheism found in the God of the Bible. He even believes there is a logico-mathematical explanation for the phenomenon of a "messiah", which suggests Jesus wasn't the only one; however, he describes his personal approach as "logical theology" in his words,
“”What does this say about God? First, if God is real, then God inheres in the comprehensive reality syntax, and this syntax inheres in matter. Ergo, God inheres in matter, and indeed in its space-time substrate as defined on material and supramaterial levels. This amounts to pantheism, the thesis that God is omnipresent with respect to the material universe. Now, if the universe were pluralistic or reducible to its parts, this would make God, who coincides with the universe itself, a pluralistic entity with no internal cohesion. But because the mutual syntactic consistency of parts is enforced by a unitary holistic manifold with logical ascendancy over the parts themselves — because the universe is a dual-aspected monic entity consisting of essentially homogeneous, self-consistent infocognition — God retains monotheistic unity despite being distributed over reality at large. Thus, we have a new kind of theology that might be called mono-pantheism, or even more descriptively, holo-pantheism. Second, God is indeed real, for a coherent entity identified with a self-perceptual universe is self-perceptual in nature, and this endows it with various levels of self-awareness and sentience, or constructive, creative intelligence. Indeed, without a guiding Entity whose Self-awareness equates to the coherence of self-perceptual space-time, a self-perceptual universe could not coherently self-configure. Holo-pantheism is the logical, meta-theological umbrella beneath which the great religions of mankind are unknowingly situated. Why, if there exists a spiritual metalanguage in which to establish the brotherhood of man through the unity of sentience, are men perpetually at each others' throats? Unfortunately, most human brains, which comprise a particular highly-evolved subset of the set of all reality-subsystems, do not fire in strict S-isomorphism much above the object level. Where we define one aspect of "intelligence" as the amount of global structure functionally represented by a given sÎS, brains of low intelligence are generally out of accord with the global syntax D(S). This limits their capacity to form true representations of S (global reality) by syntactic autology [d(S) Éd d(S)] and make rational ethical calculations. In this sense, the vast majority of men are not well-enough equipped, conceptually speaking, to form perfectly rational worldviews and societies; they are deficient in education and intellect, albeit remediably so in most cases. This is why force has ruled in the world of man…why might has always made right, despite its marked tendency to violate the optimization of global utility derived by summing over the sentient agents of S with respect to space and time."
Racism and support of conspiracy theories
Langan's support of conspiracy theories, including the 9/11 Truther movement and the white genocide conspiracy theory, and his opposition to mixed-race relationships, have contributed to him amassing a following among members of the alt-right. Langan not only claimed that 9/11 was carried out by George W. Bush, but that the motive was to prevent the world from learning about his theory, the CTMU. In 2018, Langan wrote an obituary on Facebook for Koko the gorilla, in which he argued that the Western world should be admitting gorillas as immigrants instead of Somalis, claiming that gorillas are more intelligent. Posts such as this one have been popular on neo-Nazi forums including The Daily Stormer, Stormfront, and Vanguard News Network. Langan's high IQ score has also contributed to his popularity among the alt-right, whose members often subscribe to the belief that intelligence is based on racial characteristics. Langan's views have been described as racist and anti-Semitic by journalist Justin Ward in The Baffler.
Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU)
Langan describes the CTMU as a metatheory or a theory about how theories are made in general. The subjects he covers belong to the fields of epistemology and meta-mathematics. The main concept in the CTMU is "telic recursion" which differs from standard Markovian recursion in which the next state is only determined by the current one, but that the next state is also determined by the path it took to get to that state as well as the rest of space and time, so the state-transitional syntax of every part is ultimately determined by the "syntactic unisect" of the whole, which he identifies with "teleology", the relationship between the logic of the parts and the whole with "hology" and the theological or metaphysical system this implies as "holotheism".
“”Scientific theories are mental constructs that have objective reality as their content. According to the scientific method, science puts objective content first, letting theories be determined by observation. But the phrase "a theory of reality" contains two key nouns, theory and reality, and science is really about both. Because all theories have certain necessary logical properties that are abstract and mathematical, and therefore independent of observation — it is these very properties that let us recognize and understand our world in conceptual terms — we could just as well start with these properties and see what they might tell us about objective reality. Just as scientific observation makes demands on theories, the logic of theories makes demands on scientific observation, and these demands tell us in a general way what we may observe about the universe.
In other words, a comprehensive theory of reality is not just about observation, but about theories and their logical requirements. Since theories are mental constructs, and mental means "of the mind", this can be rephrased as follows: mind and reality are linked in mutual dependence at the most basic level of understanding. This linkage of mind and reality is what a TOE (Theory of Everything) is really about. The CTMU is such a theory; instead of being a mathematical description of specific observations (like all established scientific theories), it is a "metatheory" about the general relationship between theories and observations…i.e., about science or knowledge itself. Thus, it can credibly lay claim to the title of TOE.Mind and reality — the abstract and the concrete, the subjective and the objective, the internal and the external — are linked together in a certain way, and this linkage is the real substance of "reality theory". Just as scientific observation determines theories, the logical requirements of theories to some extent determine scientific observation. Since reality always has the ability to surprise us, the task of scientific observation can never be completed with absolute certainty, and this means that a comprehensive theory of reality cannot be based on scientific observation alone. Instead, it must be based on the process of making scientific observations in general, and this process is based on the relationship of mind and reality. So the CTMU is essentially a theory of the relationship between mind and reality.
Critics point out this model is kind of a semantic game. In an interview, Langan was asked if nonconsciousness exists, and if that question is the same as the nonsensical question: "Does nonexistence exist?" Chris Langan answered, "Consciousness is a stratified predicate. Everything partakes of global consciousness, but on the local level, incoherence results from stratification. So the answer is yes and no. Regarding existence, it is defined on its complement, namely "nonexistence". So if one exists, both exist." What is missing is a distinction between conceptual and material existence. Just because something exists materially, does not mean it can also not exist in the material world. An example is the Earth's sun in the year 2005. We know it materially exists in the year 2005. Conceptually we can imagine it not existing in that year. But materially, apparently it does exist in 2005, which means that it is not the case that it materially doesn't exist in the year 2005. Another example, "In order for X to have property X, ~X must also have property X." The former is arguable and perhaps defendable; the latter is clearly false. But by turning the former into an examination of existence, he has turned it into the latter.
Langan also explains that the Expanding Rubber Sheet Universe is the Universe as a Self-Representational Entity, which is a consequence of duality in an "infocognitive" lattice. He admits the ideas in his theory are not new, however they haven't been brought together before. The shift towards noncommutative geometry found in Shahn Majid's work is one example.
“”What I am going to argue now is that what we know about quantum gravity — what we have seen in earlier posts — is telling us that the Scientific Method itself is perhaps the fundamental ‘metaequation’ of physics. To see what I have in mind, consider playing chess but forgetting or not being aware of the rules of chess (perhaps because you learned them at a very early age). Then as you play, you experience the reality of chess, the frustration of being checkmated and so forth. In this sense the joining of a club, the acceptance or rules or constraints ‘creates’ a bit of reality, the reality of chess.
What if Physical Reality is no different, created by the rules of looking at the world as a Scientist? In other words, just maybe, as we search for the ultimate theory of physics we are in fact rediscovering our own assumptions in being Scientists, the Scientific Method?
To explain why I think so, we need to think about the nature of representation. Imagine a bunch of artists gathered around a scene X, each drawing their own representation of it from their angle, style and ethos. Any one bit x of the scene is represented by the artist f of the collection as maybe a fleck of paint on their canvas. Now, the amazing thing — and this is possibly the deepest thing I know in all of physics and mathematics — is that one could equally well view the above another way in which the ‘real thing’ is not the scene X, which might after all be just a useless bowl of fruit, but the collection, X* of artists. So it is not bits x of X being represented but rather it is the artists f in X*. Each point x of the fruit bowl can be viewed as a representation of X* in which the artist f is represented by the same fleck of paint as we had before. By looking at how different artists treat a single point x of the fruit bowl we can ‘map out’ the structure of the collection X*.
What this is is a deep duality between observer and observed which is built into the nature of representation. Whenever any mathematical object f represents some structure X we can equally well view an element x of X as representing f as an element of some other structure X*. The same numbers f(x) are written now as x(f). In mathematics we say that X and X* are dually paired. Importantly one is not more ‘real’ than the other.So within mathematics we have this deep observer-observed or measurer-measured duality symmetry. We can reverse roles. But is the reversed theory equivalent to the original? In general no; the bowl of fruit scene is not equivalent to the collection of artists. But in physics perhaps yes, and perhaps such a requirement, which I see as coming out of the scientific method, is a key missing ingredient in our theoretical understanding.
In an ID forum Langan and his partner Genie LoSasso threatened critics and engaged in relentless character assassination. Even non-critics who innocently say they don't understand his ideas are often accused by Langan of lying by pretending not to understand. He began his essay on the explanatory debts of scientific naturalism with the Hegelian dictum thesis + antithesis = synthesis, in which he attempts to show how natural selection and teleological selection are compatible explanations for evolution, not only on the biological but cosmic scale. However rather than "design" Langan uses terms like "self-determinacy" and "self-design", which are closer to the autopoietic nature of his ideas.
Under the handle Asmodeus, Langan and his partner have been caught repeatedly trying to positively skew the Wikipedia article covering him and the CTMU. Exhibiting his typical highly aggressive style of combative dialectic he attempted to brow-beat everyone who edited the page; this eventually led to him being topic banned.
View of RationalWiki
From a Quora answer of someone who claims to be Chris Langan:
“Rational Wiki” is a website which is designed to look like Wikipedia, but which is actually more like a pseudointellectual tourist trap whose inhabitants are fiercely dedicated to the mockery and defamation of people and ideas to which its proprietor objects. (As nearly as anyone can determine, this is an obscure Canadian resident and “secular humanist” calling himself “Trent Toulouse”.) It exhibits a strong and persistent bias against conservatives, roundly insulting and belittling non-leftists at every available opportunity. It is also noted for its boundless contempt for religion and metaphysics, dismissing anything its contributors find difficult to understand as “nonsense” or “woo”. Unlike Wikipedia, the site appears to have no clean-up crew(s) responsible for toning down the vitriol of its editorializers.
- Another Crank Comes to Visit: The Cognitive Theoretic Model of the Universe, Good Math, Bad Math
- Episode from Errol Morris' First Person on Langan
- First Person: The Smartest Man in the World by Errol Morris (full film)
- From Errol Morris' First Person episode
- Trump towers in Missouri’s Mercer County, which favors The Donald, Kansas City Star.
- Feldman, Ari (March 20, 2019). "The Man With The World’s Highest IQ, Christopher Langan, Is Gaining A Following On The Far Right".
- Ward, Justin (March 18, 2019). "More Smarter".
- Langan's userpage