Saturday, September 30, 2017

OLD SCHOOL

Deep in the middle of the ocean there is a gigantic school of fish, a veritable thalassic mega-university.  The student population is so large that it dwarfs that of UCLA, the University of Texas and NYU combined.  It is so old that the universities of Bologna, Oxford and Salamanca are mere upstarts in comparison.  At this venerable and mammoth institution there are only three professors: the Minister, the Marinologist and the Mystic.  Are these the same three professors who have been teaching at the university all through the millennia?  Probably not, but it's hard to say, because each of them teaches the identical things and in the identical manner that their predecessor taught.

When they first arrive at the University, the fishmen (they used to be called freshmen, then fresh fishmen, then fresh fish; but fishmen was finally settled on), these new arrivals study exclusively with the Minister. The Minister asks them to close their eyes and to imagine something so great, so powerful, so essential to their lives that they are utterly dependent on it.  The fishmen all try terribly hard to imagine such a thing, but then confess that they cannot.  The Minister at that point always cries, "Exactly so.  This thing is so much larger, so much more terrifying and so much more benevolent than we can imagine.  And we call this thing Water!"  "But how can we believe in 'Water' if we cannot imagine it?" cry the fishmen.  "Because you must!,"  cries the minister, "and woe to you who does not.  Because if you do not believe in Water a fate awaits you worse than you can imagine, and if you do believe in Water you will find your reward in a paradise that is also beyond your imagining."  Terrified, all the fishmen would shout in unison, "We believe!  We believe."  But underneath that belief there always lurked this nagging doubt.  "What if there really was no Water?  What if we believe only because we are afraid not to believe?"

After the passage of some time of alternating believing and doubting, each fish, still seeking some solid truth, finds its way back to the University.  These returning students now study with the second professor, the Marinologist.  The first thing the Marinologist asks them is to keep their eyes open, wide open.  He leads them on a long journey of observation where they encounter arthropods, cnidarians, echinoderms, hemichordates, lophophorates, every possible form of sea vegetable and sea animal and every form of coral and rock and sand formation.  At the end of this long journey the Marinologist says, "We have now seen all there is to see.  So I ask you this: has anyone observed anything called Water?"  And that entire multitude of fish confess in unison that they had observed no such thing.  "Then do not let me hear you, ever again, refer to anything called Water.  It is a myth, a delusion, a superstition.  It is something that you learn when you are children, little fishmen, but now you are older and wiser.  You are adults and to be a knowledgeable and sophisticated adult you must give up these childish things."

Older and wiser, they return to their homes, but after a while nagging doubts resurface.  The minister had impressed upon them so powerfully, the need to believe in Water and the dreadful consequences of not doing so, that the thought occurs, "What if there really is Water and we just cannot see it?"  So after leading this wise and sophisticated life for some time, the doubts and insecurities that underlie that sophisticated veneer come to the fore and the fish find themselves returning to the University for yet another time.  This time they study with the third professor, the Mystic.

The Mystic says nothing.  Rather than lecture his students, he takes them to a very high underwater mountain.  The top of this mountain, which is a flat rock, protrudes at the moment of lowest tide, for a fraction of an inch above the water line.  Then, in another moment or two, when the tide starts to rise, the mountain top is, once again, submerged.  All the student fish follow the professor to the mountain top just before lowest tide.  There they all, for a few moments, endure a ghastly experience including the inability to breathe or swim, but merely to quiver in helpless fear and anxiety,  until the water returns, at which point every fish on that mountain top can now, for the first time, experience something that they can without doubt, refer to as 'Water.'  For the rest of their lives, these fish do not believe in Water, because they do not need to.  They know Water, because they have known 'no Water.'  Although they may not have all the information that the Marinologist has, they are, in an important way, wiser; because they have experienced this world from a wider and deeper perspective;  beyond the box within which the Marinologist, unwittingly,  views the world.  They also do not share the beliefs of the Minister.  They do not believe; they know.  And what they know they cannot observe, because water is not part of the observable content of their lives, but part of its unobservable context.  

When they return home, they return with knowledge.  They are not morally better than the Minister and his believers; but they are more secure and their gratitude for Water is never insincere.  They realize that life within Water is, already, the paradise that the Minister had promised.  Also, all the information that they received from the Marinologist is still with them.  They do not know more than the Marinologist, but they realize that Water is the context of everything that they had observed under  his guidance.




Thanks for reading.  The comment lamp is lit!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

THE SUN

I went with my son to see the sun; more specifically, the total solar eclipse of the sun.  We drove 1800 miles in two days and watched the eclipse from a mountain top accessible only by a logging road, 17 miles outside of the town of Sweet Home, Oregon.  I really didn't know what to expect, but here is what I saw:

Through my 'eclipse' glasses the sun looked roughly as illuminated as the moon, except that this was an orange moon.  Everything else, besides that orange 'moon' was inky black.  Then a black sphere, starting in the north east portion of that moon, started eating away at it.  In the beginning it looked like the Apple logo.  Then it looked like a fat banana.  Then a crescent.  Then a tiny crescent sliver.  Then it disappeared.  While this was going on, I could see from around the sides of my little eclipse glasses, that we were moving quickly from day to night, including the growing sounds of crickets and cicadas.  But the real pay off, the thing that I wasn't really expecting, and which proved to be the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my entire life, was that when the sun was totally eclipsed and I could see nothing but blackness through my eclipse glasses, I could then look at the sun, or the eclipsed sun, with my naked eyes.  The moon was dark, but not completely dark.  It was illuminated by the reflection of those parts of the earth that were not being totally covered by the moon's shadow, so you could see the surface of the moon in amazing detail.  But surrounding that dark moon was the sun's corona.  Still pictures of the corona do not do it justice.  It is a mass of roiling, boiling, silver gasses spread out for millions of miles in all directions.  Suddenly I experienced, for the first time, the majesty and awesome power of the sun.  Not the gentle,  warming, comforting sun, that we are used to,  but a terrifyingly gigantic, smoking engine; an unfathomably powerful ancient generator that energizes every living thing on this planet and keeps the entire solar system and all of us in its orbit.  We are all falcons and suddenly we get to glimpse  the falconer; an immediate, visceral sense of the power of this universe and our total dependence on it.

If you saw it, you will know exactly what I mean.  If you didn't see it, make your plans NOW to see the next total eclipse, which will arrive on April 4, 2024.  The band of totality in the United States will spread from Texas to Maine.  This time, God willing, I will be flying, not driving.  Driving that distance in two days at my age was a stretch.  In seven years it will be an impossibility.

See you there!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

UNDERSTANDING THE QUANTUM, THE PARTICLE/WAVE DUALITY

The quantum is the world of tiny, very tiny, unfathomably tiny sub atomic particles that make up the fabric of our bodies and the world around us.  It is said that “if you think you understand the quantum, then you don’t.”  That the behavior of these particles is so bizarre, so weird in relation to the way that things behave in our familiar world of visible objects, that it is just impossible to make any sense of it. The point of this post is to do exactly that, to suggest to you a framework in which not only quantum phenomena, but also phenomena in our familiar visible world, phenomena in the astonomical world of gigantic objects hurtling through space at unfathomable speeds and even the personal world of our internal experience all make some kind of consistent, coherent sense.

In this post I wont be discussing all the weirdness of the quantum, just one important aspect of it; the particle/wave duality. To do that we’ll hone in on the experiment through which the particle/wave duality was first discovered, the double slit experiment. Now please really focus on this so you can appreciate how truly weird this is.

Here is an illustration of this experiment done with light. 





We normally think of light as a wave, and it is, but it has also been found to contain tiny particles, minute packets of energy, that we call photons. In this illustration, light is shone at this wall that contains two slits, and some of that light goes through the slits and photons hit this plate, which is a light sensitive photographic plate; so when a photon hits it, it makes a tiny white dot. As the photons build up a white pattern emerges.  If I cover up one of these slits, so the light can only go through the other slit, you would expect to get a band of white, directly in line from the lamp, through the open slit, to the plate. That is what you would expect and that is what you get.  And if I expose this other slit, you would expect to get two bands of light in the direct line from the lamp, through either of the two slits and onto the plate.  That is  what you would expect, but that is not what you get.  

What you get is this: 



a series of bands of light alternating with bands of darkness. This is called an interference pattern.  And it is made when two waves overlap.   Waves move in crests and troughs.  When a crest emerging from one slit overlaps a crest emerging from the other slit, they make one higher crest and when this higher crest reaches the plate, you get a solid white band.  Same with troughs. If troughs from each wave overlap each other, then you get a deeper trough and when it reaches the plate you get another solid white band.  But if a crest overlaps a trough, their energies  cancel each other out. In that area, no photons reach the plate and you get a dark band.    Light, dark, light dark, like that.

So when the light goes through one slit, the photons behave like perfectly respectable particles, continue in their straight trajectory and you get one band.  But when both slits are open, you get a wave of light emerging from each slit, not a particle. The  two waves merge and you get this interference pattern. Although please note that no matter how the light travels from the slits to the plate, either as a wave or a particle, when it collides with the plate, it always collides as a particle; always making a single dot of white and not a white wave. That is important and I’ll get back to it later.

So this is weird, but here is something weirder. If I set up a detection device at the slits,  so we know which slit the photon is passing through: the first one went through the right slit, the second one went through the left, etc., when we know that, then the interference pattern disappears, the light acts like well behaved particles and we get just the two bands directly in line with the slits. When we know which slit the photon is passing through, we get the two bands; when we don’t know, we get the interference pattern.  Now that is very weird.

Okay, weirder than that:  If I dim the light so much, and reduce the aperture of the lamp so much that only one photon is being released at a time, say at intervals of ten seconds, and both slits are open, a tiny white dot will appear on the plate every ten seconds and very gradually a pattern will emerge; but that pattern will not be the two band pattern, it will be the interference pattern.  What?  Hold on!   How can one photon, or one wave, interfere with itself, or interfere with another photon that will be making a wave, but hasn’t made a wave yet?  That is very, very weird.

Most weird of all:  It doesn’t work just with light,  but with electrons, protons, neutrons, whole atoms, even molecules consisting of several atoms.  When you shoot particles at two slits and you don’t know which slit the particles are passing through, you will get an interference pattern,  indicating the intermingling of two waves and not the separate trajectories of two particles.

The atom?  The atom?  So long thought of as completely indivisible and eternal, the bedrock foundation of the materialist point of view, and then once it was split in the twentieth century  only with the release of terrifying powers, enough to decimate whole cities and the release of deadly radiation that threatens all of civilization;  this same atom, does what? casually morphs into a fluid wave, maybe two waves, mingles, becomes a particle again?  There’s no explosion, no damage.  The laboratory is fine, the equipment is fine, the researcher is fine.  What’s going on?

Erwin Shrodinger, a prominent physicist, first thought that the wave was  an extended form of the particle.  If the particle were, say, an electron, the wave would be a stretched out electron.  In that case, researchers felt, they should be able to detect fractional electrons.  If the particle is stretched out, there should be a tenth of an electron here, a twentieth of it there, etc.  Yet no such fractions were ever detected. If you are in the business of detecting electrons,  you either detect nothing or you detect a whole electron, with the same mass, the same charge, the same spin as every other electron. 

I should note here that all the subatomic particles that we will be discussing have never been seen.  They are way, way too small for that.  They are detected, but not seen, by detecting a certain mass, a certain spin and a certain charge coming from a precise, discrete area.   

So if the wave is not an extended form of the particle, then what is it? There is no agreed upon understanding of what the wave is and no agreed upon explanation for the wave/particle duality. There are methods of calculating, and calculating very accurately,  the probabilities of where particles will be if they become waves and create interference patterns; basically, the brighter areas of the pattern would be the areas where a particle would be more likely to show up, and dimmer areas, less so.  But these are methods of calculating results, not explanations of how these results are achieved; not explaining in a satisfying way what a wave is, or why it  turns into a particle, if it does,  or why a particle turns into a wave,  if it does, or why in the world it is effected by whether or not we know which slit the particles are passing through.  

The field abounds with wild speculations:  The wave is a wave of probability.  It susses out, like a pathfinder,  all the places along the interference pattern where a particle could land, but doesn’t actually move the particle there, itself.  Then, how does the particle move from the slits to the plate?  Actually, it doesn’t. The particle disappears into another universe when it leaves the slits and reappears at the plate, shuttling back and forth between two universes.  Or, each particle lands at every possible landing site on the interference pattern, but in a different universe for each site.  Or, there is no wave.  The  particle simultaneously travels every possible path from the lamp through the slits to the plate, including getting there via the moon and the Andromeda galaxy and is effected by the forces it encounters on each of these journeys, until all other paths are cancelled out except the ones that will bring it to the interference pattern, with more paths leading to the brighter spots and fewer paths leading to the dimmer spots.  This one is called the ‘sum of paths’ approach and although it calculates the probable location of particles with great accuracy, it’s author, Richard Feynman, is the very man who said, “If you think you understand the quantum, then you don’t.”

Many prominent scientists have been pondering the particle/wave duality for  over a century; Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck among them.  As brilliant as these men were, they were all looking at the world from a Western perspective which is really, now, the dominant modern perspective of both East and West.  And deeply, deeply ingrained in this perspective is the idea  that forces are connected to matter, and emanate from matter.  That matter, in the form of particles, is the foundational structure of our universe and that everything, including forces, planets, galaxies, even life, consciousness and love, somehow come out of the endless and countless and unguided interplay of these particles. 

If you went to school when I did, you learned that civilization and the accumulation of accurate knowledge began in Greece, not quite three thousand years ago, proceeded to Rome , continued from there through a few different European countries until some of those European people came to America at which point some of civilization and real learning spread here as well.  

About 2500 years ago Democritus, in Greece, had the idea that the world around us was not made of solid matter, that it was actually divided into tiny bits, way too small to be seen,  that he called atoms, from the Greek word atomos, which means indivisible.

Here is an illustration of Democritus’ conception of the atom: 




Monday, June 26, 2017

TWO ANOMALIES

Many galaxies in the universe are expanding much more slowly than expected; and many more galxies are expanding much more rapidly than expected.  To explain this anomaly, the conventional wisdom is that fully 95% of the mass/energy of the universe is either dark matter, which increases gravity, or dark energy, which decreases gravity; neither of which can be either seen or detected.  A related anomaly is that the length of the known universe is 95 billion light years, roughly 550 billion, trillion miles.  If Einstein is correct and the maximum speed that a wave or a particle can move is the speed of light, and if the Big Bang took place not quite fourteen billion years ago, then the maximum length of the universe should be something shy of twenty-eight billion light years.  If particles or matter were moving away from the site of the Big Bang at light speed, then no particle could have gone further than fourteen billion light years in any direction, so the length, or the diameter of that expansion would be twice that, but it is more than six times as long!  So either the measurements are wrong, Einstein is wrong, the age of the Big Bang is wrong, or we need another explanation.

This post is an attempt to explain both those anomalies.  The Western materialist assumption is that the ultimate foundation of the universe is some sort of particle.  Democritus thought it was the tiny atom.  Rutherford thought it was the much tinier electrons, protons and neutrons.  Standard Model physicists think it is the electron and the quark that are so small they consider them to be point particles (Speaking of anomalies, how could a particle be a point?  A point has no dimension.  The only place a point could exist is in our imagination.  If electrons and quarks were truly points, then how could they have mass, or spin, or be made of any material what so ever?)  And string theorists believe that the quark and the electron are not point particles, but have some tiny dimension and within that tiny dimension are vibrating loops of string, so tiny that if an atom were blown up to be the size of the known universe, one of these loops of string, blown up at the same ratio, would be the size of a small tree!)  However fantastically tiny these particles supposedly are, they each have replaced somewhat larger particles, previously considered indivisible, as the ultimate foundation of the universe,

The ancients believed that the foundation of the universe were two opposing forces that had the ability to interact and configure with each other; to form shapes and fields of mutual attraction and repulsion, and it was these shapes and the force fields of attraction and repulsion between them, that created the physical universe, or the illusion of the physical universe.  From this perspective, there are no particles.  Forces do not emanate from matter, rather matter, or the appearance of matter, emanates from the interaction of forces; and it is these forces that are truly foundational.  They are not composed of particles; rather the appearance of particles is the result of the interaction of forces.

These forces have been referred to variously as In and Yo, Shiva and Shakti, the Celestial and the Terrestrial, Baqa and Fana, Akira and Tirawa, Yin and Yang, Father Sky and Mother Earth, etc. And in the Old Testament they are referred to as Heaven and Earth.  The Old Testament begins with, "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth."  The earth, as in our planet, did not begin to be created until the second day and the heavens with the sun and stars were not created until the fourth day (or the fourth epoch, since they certainly could not have referred to a twenty-four hour day.)  So the Heaven and the Earth of that first sentence must be referring to two opposing forces, making that sentence identical with the following sentence, "Infinity bifurcates into Yin and Yang," which is the cosmological foundation of Taoism, an ancient Chinese religion.

I will be using the words yin and yang, but they are completely replaceable with any of the other pairs of forces that I just mentioned. You have probably heard of yin and yang, but most likely used in a modern way.  Some things are yin; some are yang; yin and yang are properties of things.  I will be using them in an ancient way, or a pre-industrial way.  Yin and yang are not properties of things; they are the things themselves.  Or, yin and yang in combination give the appearance of things.

Yin and yang, by themselves, are not things.  They exist but are not detectable, directly in the physical universe.  Yang is contractive.  Yin is expansive.  Yang pulls everything into the center.  Yin spreads everything out to the periphery.  The dimension of a thing is caused by the outward push of yin.  The contours, the boundaries of a thing are caused by the inward pull of yang.  Yin and yang do not so much attract each other as they entrap each other.  Yang is bound by yin everywhere in the universe.  The nucleus of the atom is bound by the expansive yin electron waves that surround it and push away from it, preventing it from contracting further into itself.  A star is bound by its orbiting planets that try to centrifugally expand away from the star, as the star centripetally prevents that outward expansion.  It is now considered that there is a black hole at the center of every galaxy.  The black hole, which is an enormous force of yang, is bound by the entire galaxy stars surrounding it and spiraling outward against the contractive force, the yang force, of the black hole.

You can discover the origin of an explosion by tracing back the lines of debris blown out from that explosion.  If the universe is, as physicists say, the debris of the Big Bang; and if the physical universe is, as physicists say,  like the surface of an expanding balloon; then the origin of that expansive explosion will not be found on the surface of the balloon, in the physical universe, but in the non-physical center of that balloon, which is the yang residue of the Big Bang.  You did think the Big Bang took place somewhere, didn't you?  Every black hole is surrounded by an event horizon, an area within which no matter can escape.  I would add that the event horizon is the area in which no matter can exist, since anything that crossed the event horizon would be very rapidly sucked into the center of it as the crushing, contractive force of the black hole squeezes molecules and atoms out of existence.  Physicists think there must be some tiny, super contractive particle that is left after all this crushing, but that is the result of their belief that particles, or matter, is the ultimate foundation of the universe.  The result of this crushing, from this perspective, is that matter disappears and the thing or the particle is broken down to its really fundamental parts which is yin and yang, the pure yang joining the black hole and making it even stronger and the yin leaving the black hole at infinite speed.

Did I say infinite speed?   Yes.  The speed of light is the fastest velocity that a thing or a wave can travel.  But pure yin is not a thing and is not a wave.  There is no mass, no yang energy, no thingness, to hold back its acceleration.  Everywhere in the universe, from the vast reaches of empty space to the interstices between atoms, wherever yin is not bound by yang, there is pure yin.  The moment yang is unbound, it is instantly surrounded by yin.  That is why you see all these momentary strange particles being discovered at CERN and other proton accelerators.  These collisions temporarily unbind yang, which is instantly surrounded by yin and a "new" particle is registered.

So the balloon that physicists refer to all the time, in a metaphoric way, "It's as if the physical universe is the surface of an expanding balloon,"  is an actual balloon, which is the event horizon of that central black hole, which is the yang residue of the Big Bang.  Those galaxies closest to the event horizon feel the pull of it most strongly and have little to no expansion.  those galaxies further away feel much less of a pull and expand much faster.  So...no dark matter, no dark energy, just the event horizon of a central black hole, which is the residue of the Big Bang, which had to have take place somewhere, and is an extension of the same model as atoms, solar systems, galaxies, and the whole universe, rather than a somewhat desperate, although now commonly accepted, way of explaining a huge anomaly.

Also, this event horizon balloon is not expanding.  The physical universe is expanding around it.  The diameter of the event horizon is roughly 67 billion light years.  The physical universe expanding almost fourteen billion light years in every direction off that surface, leaving a total universal diameter of 95 billion light years and growing.  How long did it take for that event horizon to establish itself, for the yin expansive force to get away from the yang force at the center?  No time!  Infinite speed comes in handy some times, doesn't it?  That was the Big Bang.  Sorry we missed it!

Any comments?  Let me hear from you!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL UNIVERSE

The normal person thinks in and operates in four dimensions: length, breadth, height and time.  If I am going to meet you some place we might agree to meet on the ninth floor (height) of the Brand Building at Hollywood and Vine (length and breadth) at 4:00pm (time).  Not so for quantum string theorists.  They have discovered ten or possibly eleven "hidden" dimensions lurking in every tiny corner of the universe.

To demonstrate this they will give an example of a very long hose spread between two mountain tops.  Now from a distance, they say, that hose will look like a line and we would locate any position on that line by making one measurement, its distance from one of the mountain tops.  However, since it is really a hose, the position of, say,  ants travellng around the circumference of that hose, could not be determined by that one coordinate.

Well, that's true!  If I thought from a distance that a house looked flat, which it does, then I couldn't locate the people eating their dinner in that house, by simply using coordinates that always put me on the facade of the house.  If I thought the sun was a flat disk, I couldn't locate anything in the sun's core, or even imagine that there could be a core.  Other examples are given of "flat" rugs which actually have a nap that may be a fraction of an inch or a couple of inches in height.  Within the nap of that rug their are fibers that could be twisting and curling this way and that and I, assuming that the rug was flat, would not be able to locate them.

So, yes, that is true.  If you misperceive something and think that it is flat when it has depth, think that it is linear when it has both height and depth, then you will be missing something.  However, if you knew all the dimensions involved, if you knew the actual height and length and breadth, you would be able to locate any object, providing it was stationary, within that hose, or any person within that house using those three coordinates.  I am not dealing with objects in motion, because their location is changing over time and cannot necessarily be predicted.

All of this is based on the idea that because light is quantized, comes in little discrete packets of energy, and has some minimum wavelength, there is a minimum amount of distance that one can measure no matter what instrumentation. The extra dimensions are supposedly curled up within these unmeasurably tiny interstices of space. Yet, we can deduce that whatever interesting shapes and curls one assumes are occupying these miniscule unmeasurable spaces; the truth is that if we could measure it, if we could put all those fancy shapes on a grid of length width and height, that we could still locate any point within those curled up shapes, any one.  So, although we can not measure it, we can imagine it, and our imagination allows no "dimension" that is beyond the purview of height, length and breadth.

In fact our entire sense of dimension is based on imagination.  There are no actual lines.  For a line to be seen, for it to have existence in the physical world it cannot have only one dimension.  A line without 'any' width could not exist.  Neither could a two dimensional flat surface without any depth.  Even if you painted something on a wall, the paint has some depth (a tiny depth in our normal world, but a vast depth in the quantum world).  If you projected something on a wall, then that projection may not have depth, but that projection does not exist in the real world; it is just an image of something real, just like there are no real people or houses or football stadiums on your television screen.

In the Standard Model of Particle Physics, subatomic particles like quarks and electrons are considered to be point particles.  But "point-particle"  is an oxymoron.  How could something that has no dimensions (a point) also be a particle.  There would be nothing to be a particle of.  Even a 'real point' is an oxymoron.  You can indicate a point with a dot, but even the tiniest dot has dimension, has length  and width and even some tiny height which would be the height of the medium in which you are drawing the dot.  If it 'really' had no dimensions it would 'really' disappear!  Just because we cannot observe actual points and lines and flat spaces in the real world, but only approximations of them, that doesn't limit our ability to think in three dimensions and it doesn't limit our ability to apply those three dimensions, or four if there is movement and therefore time involved, to spaces that we cannot directly observe.

The theory of a multi-dimensional universe in the countless, tiny, unobservable corners of space was cooked up by string theorists whose theories are based on the idea that the oscillations of loops of impossibly tiny strings within all subatomic particles, within all the quarks and gluons and photons and bosons of the universe, are creating their mass and spin, energy and gravity.  The only way that these strings could produce the necessary oscillations to create all these effects would be if they were under enormous tension and were shaped in a variety of strange, curled and bent formations.

I will quote now from Brian Greene's 'The Elegant Universe':

"If a string is constrained to lie on a two-dimensional surface-such as the surface of a table or a garden hose-the number of independent directions in which it can vibrate is reduced to two: the left right and backforth dimensions along the surface.  Any vibrational pattern that remains on the surface involves combinations of vibrations in these two directions.  If, however, the string is allowed to leave the surface, the number of independent vibrational directions increases to three, since the string then can oscillate in the updown direction.  Equivalently, in a universe with three spatial dimensions, a string can vibrate in three independent directions.  Although it gets harder to envision, the pattern continues:  In a universe with ever more spatial directions, there are ever more independent directions in which it can vibrate."

What utter nonsense!  Where do I begin?  First of all, a string cannot lie in a two-dimensional space.  Nothing can.  The only way that it could do that is if it had no height.  If it had no height it would not be a string.  It would disappear.  The same is true, of course, for what Greene refers to as the garden hose circular world of two-dimensions.  Anything that is crawling on it, including the ants that he uses elsewhere to demonstrate how a two-dimensional universe operates, must have three dimensions.  Ants cannot exist if they don't have breadth as well as width and height; and the haemolymph molecules, and food particles, and nerve signals moving within that ant are moving in a world of three dimensions, otherwise they, and the ant in which they are moving,  could not exist.  

Second, a three dimensional space does not in any way limit the direction of movement to one of those three planes, or combinations of those three planes.  I live in three dimensional space; does that mean that I cannot curl my fingers, arch my back, or do a somersault?  Greene confuses dimension with physical constraint of movement and also with support of movement.  I am not supported by the length dimension.  I am supported by the energy that I put into contracting my muscles against the force of gravity so that I can stand up.  A wind or a push may force me in a horizontal direction, but it is not the horizontal dimension itself that is forcing me to do that.  In fact I move in whatever direction I choose to move in, limited only by my body's flexibility and my desire to do so.  

In 1928 Rudolph Laban developed Labanotation, a written system of communicaing choreographed movement so that a Russian ballet performed by a Chilean dance company did not necessitate the Russian choreographer travelling to Chile to supervise the production; and also to preserve dance choreography for future generations.  Every direction and every strength and speed of movement that is humanly possible is denoted in this system.  Also, models of all the elaborate shapes that string theorists dream up, called Calabi-Yau spaces, that supposedly represent nine or ten dimensional space, are all sculpted in three dimensional space.  If we can sculpt them in three dimensions why can't we move in each of those directions using only three dimensions, plus, of course, time.

Dimensions do not force you into any particular direction of movement and do not support you if you do.  I cannot lie horizontally in space and vibrate, even if I wanted to.  I would need something to support me in my horizontality, like a floor or a bed.  The string theorists assume that all these dimensions support a free standing string to vibrate in curled and bent loops.  Really?  A string, floating in space, would have to be supported by something to keep it afloat.  A vibrating string would have to be supported by two really stable holders on either side of that string.  In that tiny, tiny, submicroscopic space, I wonder what those holders would be made out of, especially if they had to hold a string in place that was under enormous tension; and what would be supporting the holders?

While we're on the subject of matter, what would the strings be made out of?  These strings are so tiny that if the atom that they found themselves in were blown up to be the size of the entire known universe (95 billion light years in diameter, and each light year being a tad under six trillion miles), then the string, unbelievably, would be, at the same rate of expansion, the size of a small tree.  Since matter, as we know it, is made out of atoms, and solid matter is made out of larger atoms with multiple protons and neutrons, then what could this string possibly be made out of?  String theorists say it is made out of the elemental, indivisible, foundational stuff of the universe, that is beyond our ability to observe; bringing us right back to where we started from: Democritus and the ancient Greeks.  

Rather than being a Theory of Everything as the string theorists claim, it is a theory that creates more absurdities than answers. The multi-dimensional universe  is something that has been cooked up by theorists to justify their theories.  It has never been observed, couldn't possibly exist, and even if it did it would not do for those tiny strings what the theorists think it would do for them:  force them into certain directions and give them the support to continue to vibrate under extreme tensions without any other external support.  And, of course, string theory does not address the central question of who or what is it that is plucking those strings to cause them to vibrate at a certain intensity for eternity?  It's time to try a different justification or, better yet, try a different theory.




I welcome your comments.  Physicists, I especially welcome you to tell me where I went wrong.

Monday, March 6, 2017

DOES THE BRAIN GENERATE CONSCIOUSNESS?

Many Western scientists seem to think so.  A lot of research is being conducted at the moment to determine just where in the brain that consciousness is being generated.  Of course consciousness is never observed by these researchers.  What is observed are electrical patterns of firing neurons and the assumption is that firing neurons are generating consciousness which is not observed.  While it is obviously true that firing neurons effect the quality and content of consciousness, they do not generate consciousness.  It is also true that the firing neurons are the instrument of this change of consciousness, but not the cause of this change.  Firing neurons are the result, not the cause, of intentions, both personal intentions and Divine intentions.  The fantastic construction of our organisms, of any organism, is the result of Divine intention and the equally fantastic systems for the maintenance of that organism, to keep it surviving for as long as possible, is also the result of Divine intention.  So when your conciousness is effected by pain, which is a way of communicating to you to stop doing whatever it is that you are doing that is causing that pain; and when your consciousness is effected by thirst, or hunger, or fatigue, or the experience of being very hot or very cold, or very sexually desirous, this is the Divine communicating to you to do something that will insure your survival and insure the survival of your species.

There are experiments to show that electrical brain activity precedes consciousness.  Here is one of them:


Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using UItra-High Field fMRI

Abstract


Recently, we demonstrated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that the outcome of free decisions can be decoded from brain activity several seconds before reaching conscious awareness. Activity patterns in anterior frontopolar cortex (BA 10) were temporally the first to carry intention-related information and thus a candidate region for the unconscious generation of free decisions. In the present study, the original paradigm was replicated and multivariate pattern classification was applied to functional images of frontopolar cortex, acquired using ultra-high field fMRI at 7 Tesla. Here, we show that predictive activity patterns recorded before a decision was made became increasingly stable with increasing temporal proximity to the time point of the conscious decision. Furthermore, detailed questionnaires exploring subjects' thoughts before and during the decision confirmed that decisions were made spontaneously and subjects were unaware of the evolution of their decision outcomes. These results give further evidence that FPC stands at the top of the prefrontal executive hierarchy in the unconscious generation of free decisions.
I have just included the abstract.  If you would like to read more you can google the title of the experiment above.

The attempt here is to locate the areas of the brain where decision making is generated.  What the researchers overlook is that the process was initiated not by firing neurons, but by the participants conscious decision to participate in the experiment and then to follow the instructions of the researchers.  The researchers wanted them to make a decision and they, wanting to collect their fee for participating, wanted to comply.  It was their conscious decision to decide which number to press or which button to push that set the whole process in motion.  But isn't this the way that it always is?  A couple decides they want to have a baby.  They copulate and hopefully the woman becomes impregnated.  Nine months later they hopefully have what they wished for, but all the incredible processes involved in giving them what they want took place beyond the purview of their consciousness.  Right now when you get up to get a glass of water whole cascades of molecular reactions leading to muscular and skeletal reactions are set in motion that are beyond your conscious purview; but the whole process was set in motion by your conscious experience of thirst leading to the experience of the satisfaction of your thirst.

The fabulous workings of our organisms can be divided into two areas.  One is to satisfy or attempt to satisfy whatever conscious desires we have.  Every time we want something, whole cascades of molecular reactions are set in motion that result in us satisfying or attempting to satisfy that desire.  So that is the genie aspect of our organisms. The other is to keep this organism alive as long as possible so that we can continue to enjoy this way of experiencing the world for as long as possible.  This includes all the metabolic and homeostatic and digestive and circulatory and reproductive activities that take place beyond our conscious awareness. It also includes a system of biological desires that align perfectly with our biological needs.  So, ignorant of our biologifcal needs, we, humans and otherwise, seek a certain type of food when we are hungry, seek water when we are thirsty, seek rest when we are tired, try to stop doing whatever we are doing when we feel pain, seek refuge when we feel threatened, and seek a member of the opposite sex, but the same species, when we have sexual feelings.  Those desires, plus the know how to satisfy those desires, plus the fabulous nerve and muscle and skeletal and molecular equipment that allows us to satisfy those desires, are all gifts of the Divine whose goal is to provide us with this way of experiencing the world, that is called our organism, for as long as possible.  
Finally, consciousness is not generated, by the brain or anywhere else.  Consciousnes is.  It has no beginning and no end.  Organisms are ways of providing, for consciousness, a unique experience of living in this world, a unique experience of a separate existence.  The body does not generate consciousness.  Consciousness attaches to the body to have this particular experience and detaches from the body when the body is no longer capable of providing that experience.

Something must be eternal.  Otherwise you are faced with the problem of something emerging from nothing, which seems insurmountable.  Materialists used to think that particles were eternal until two discoveries made them very quiet on this subject.  The first was the Big Bang, which, according to their western scientific brethren was the beginning of particles.  The second was the discovery by quantum physicists that particles are a function of perception; that what exists prior to perception are wave potentials; with the potential of materializing in a whole variety of particular ways depending on which living organism is perceiving it.  
We are, as John Milton so beautifully put it, the "bright effluence of bright essence increate."  The over flow of the Divine energy and light that has no beginning and no end. 

I want to remind you of two things: One is that my play 'Disinherit The Wind' has just opened in Los Angeles (see post 'Shameless Commerce Division') and that your comments are always welcome. 







Sunday, January 15, 2017

SHAMELESS COMMERCE DIVISION

After much tossing and turning, I have decided to pass on Google's generous offer of making possibly $11 per month to allow advertisements on my blog.  I will reserve this post, however, to do my own shameless advertising.  I am doing my play, 'Disinherit The Wind' again.  I did it over a year ago and it got some sensational reviews.  Here's one from the LA Examiner:

Disinherit the Wind' Spellbinding RATING: *****

"One of the most compelling, riveting , spell binding shows to hit the stage in a very long time. A college professor Bertram Cates [masterfully portrayed by Matt Chait] takes a position not totally in compliance with the academic norm and is vilified. Eventually the matter winds its way into a court room and the scene is set for an overpowering intellectual battle. The amazing detail with which the issues unfold on stage and before the court creates an experience that is truly unforgettable. Much of the credit goes to Matt Chait who not only wrote the play ‘Disinherit the Wind’ but who also brought the lead character Bertram Cates to life on stage along with another stellar performance from Circus-Szalewski as the more than a little arrogant Professor Hawkins.

The pivotal issue is the extent to which any level of spirituality plays a significant
role in the character and advancement of man versus a belief solely in the Darwinian Theory of evolution and natural selection. This is somewhat rather weighty material, however the entire team presenting the world premiere of ‘Disinherit the Wind’ is so unbelievably skilled that what appears to the audience in something a bit over two hours of utter intellectual and even emotional enchantment. This is not just another play, this is something deeply extraordinary. ‘Disinherit the Wind’ is something utterly unique as it thoroughly captures the minds of everyone who watches as the story unfolds. It is one the most worthy and poignant plays to have ever been staged. It deserves ten stars but I am confined to a maximum of five. "


                   




As I said, this is the shameless commerce division, so modesty has no place here.  The production we will be doing in March (March 3-April 9th) is a revison of the earlier production.  I revised it for several reasons.  One is that I was surprised at how many people had an affinity for the main character's ideas, which are many of the ideas expressed in this blog. So the play is now not so much about the lead character vs. the world, but about the spiritual dimension in all of us vs. the materialist establishment that would supress that dimension.  It is also more interactive, funnier and more dramatic than before.  I am very excited, and that's not shameless bragging; that's the truth.

I should tell you the basic plot of the play.  Do you know the play/movie Inherit The Wind?  That play was about the Scopes Trial, also known as the monkey trial, which took place in the 1920's in a small town referred to in that play as "the buckle on the Bible Belt."  The citizenry of this town were up in arms because a teacher read to his class some portion of Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species.'  At that time, presenting anything other than a biblical account of the origin of life was illegal in that state.  It became a trial of international significance, with the teacher being represented by Clarence Darrow, the foremost trial lawyer in the country, and the townspeople being represented by William Jennings Bryant, the foremost orator in the country.

Disinherit The Wind takes place in the present.  An eminent neurobiologist from the University of California has been dismissed from his tenured position for espousing a view of evolution that is different than Darwin's and that has a spiritual perspective.  After a lot of humiliating publicity and unable to find work as a teacher or laboratory access to continue his research, he sues the University to be re-instated.  The teacher and his graduate student disciple present many of the ideas that run through this blog.  The characters share the same names as characters from Inherit The Wind, although their roles are very different.  The one exception is the expert witness for the University's defense, whose name is Robert Hawkins and who shares an uncanny resemblance to someone that is often mentioned in this blog, Darwinian front man and promoter, Richard Dawkins.

If you enjoy reading this blog, attending this production, I imagine, will be "truly unforgettable." (Remember, this is still the shameless commerce division.)  Small theater in Los Angeles is always a money losing proposition, but if the admission price is difficult for you, you can enter 'Deal50' when you make your reservation and get a half price ticket.

If coming to Los Angeles is not in the cards, then you can purchase a copy of the play at amazon.com. I would wait on this, however, since the play that they are selling now is the original and the revised edition wont be ready for at least a month.

Here are some reviews of the current version of the play:


Santa Monica Observer 
By Ron Irwin 
Observer Staff Writer 

Play offers rather rare quality of complete mental immersion in the subject matter 

The show begins in a University lecture hall where Professor Bertram Cates is presenting an abundance of details about the biological and physical structure of the human body. Compelling are these details of DNA and cell formation and other fascinating facts about physical life and they are made even more impressive as actual scientific video is projected on a very large screen as the good professor explains to the assembled class also known as theatre audience in this instance exactly what it is they are looking at. 

Instantly the audience knows that whatever may be ahead it is absolutely not your typical theatrical event and indeed it is not. It becomes far richer and infinitely more thought provoking yet retains the essential requirement of being fully entertaining as it dives into the question of how does spirituality connect with science? 

Soon the story moves forward several years. Professor Cates has lost his tenured teaching job for daring to challenge the academic establishment. Professor Cates you see actually started to look beyond the mere mechanics of human life and began to ponder the true meaning of life. As he did so he increasingly began to challenge the Darwinian theory of natural selection and began to focus more on consciousness and spirituality along with other scientific knowledge that has emerged subsequent to the development and wide acceptance of Darwin's theory of evolution. Taking that position put him out of work and eventually in a courtroom seeking some level of justice. 

The courtroom battle is intense and pits Professor Cates against the world renowned Dr. Robert Hawkins a deeply devoted subscriber to the Darwinian theory. The battle of wit is brilliantly presented and utterly captivating. Very unique in the world of theatre "Disinherit the Wind" compels a complete mental emersion and evokes long term analytical thinking, and that is both the strength and the weakness of this magnificent show. 

It gives "Disinherit the Wind" a rather rare quality of complete mental immersion in the subject matter. Such immersion is richly stimulating and for many a source of great joy regardless of any conclusions that may be drawn. But then again there are those who consider "The Kardashians" and "The Bachelor" to be really good television. Those folks will likely not enjoy "Disinherit the Wind." 

"Disinherit the Wind" is intense and compelling and extremely well acted by the entire cast, superbly written by Matt Chait and brilliantly directed by Gary Lee Reed. So except for those who actually watch "The Kardasians" or "The Bachelor" I highly recommend "Disinherit the Wind" playing now through April 9th 2017 at The Complex [Ruby Theatre], 6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, California. Show times are Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. This is one show you will never forget. 



Colorado Boulevard

“Disinherit the Wind” at the Complex Theater

Did Darwin skip a link?
Here’s a line we don’t often hear: “I’m going to make you feel great about your body.” Now place it in the mouth of a tenured microbiology professor, and you have the essence of what makes playwright Matt Chait’s Disinherit the Wind so unique.

By Melanie Hooks

Just opened at the Complex Theatre in Hollywood, Chait’s courtroom drama debates evolution theory, specifically Darwin’s, and its lionization among scientists. Chait himself plays the lead, Dr. Bertram Cates, a professor stripped of his position and reputation by the University of California when his unusual take on consciousness brings unwanted media attention. As we learn through the courtroom proceedings, however, Chait’s real beef is with Darwin’s Origin of Species conclusions. The institution’s, and indeed the field’s, knee-jerk reaction is to label him a creationist (which he assuredly is not) and laugh him out of his profession. Cates has his day of reckoning to clear his name, and we the audience go along for the intellectual, spiritual, and occasionally emotional ride.

The biggest draw is Chait himself, nimbly managing the lion’s share of dialogue, over the 2 hour, 40 minute run-time. He immediately establishes credibility as a professor in the opening scene’s sample Molecular Biology lecture. His topic – the delicacy and intricacy of DNA replication – fascinates and awes him, and his energy, like any great university lecturer’s, spreads throughout the room. Audience members nod in understanding as he breaks down the topic and leans into the best bits. The Complex is a small, black box space, so there is little hiding even in the darkened seats, adding to the feel of a classroom. “Life is a million times older than the pyramids;” “One hundred trillion hemoglobins/second are produced by ribosomes;” “Your body has 37.2 trillion cells.” These could be delivered as dry facts, but Cates practically sings them. The body’s complexity enthralls him, and the character, even later when beaten down by humiliation and exhaustion, stays true to that pure love. This love is the basis of his spirituality, which he’s not shy about sharing. It’s refreshing to see such a duality in an academic character.

More common in drama is the representation of Cates’s rival, Dr. Robert Hawkins, played by Circus Szalewski with exactly the sort of sneer one expects from a Cambridge don. Unfortunately his dissertation-style dialogue doesn’t allow for much comedy, but when it does, Szalewski shines.

Cates’s protégé, Howard Blair, is closer to tears than laughter, as his fellowship and engagement to the Dean’s daughter are both on the line. Actor Stephen Tyler Howell shakes with all the nervous energy one can well imagine having on the biggest day of a young life. He arguably has more to lose as Cates’s only character witness. Blair is gambling a future career yet to happen versus Cates’s defense of a long-established one. Howell and Rehany Aulani, who plays his fiancé Melinda Brown, share a nice, believable chemistry amongst the biologists, and Aulani strikes a grounding daughter-father presence with G. Smokey Campbell, who plays the pro-Darwin crusading UC department head, Dr. Jared Brown. Neither Brown nor Hawkins can imagine an explanation of life’s origin outside Darwin’s theory, and both struggle to understand Cates’s thoughts about consciousness versus physical existence. Where does the mind fit in?

Brown’s character has the potential to be the most morally complex and conflicted, torn between his desire to defend the university’s reputation and his own love for new ideas, something his bureaucratic tenure has denied him. Campbell is afforded little opportunity to express this middle ground position, as most of the play’s real estate concentrates on the ideas themselves as expressed by their real believers, Cates and Hawkins. Playgoers however are treated to Brown’s forceful academic animosity in contrast with his real tenderness toward daughter Mel, a tease at a deeper emotional journey that would have been enjoyable to experience more often. Campbell’s stillness when holding daughter Mel’s hand might be the show’s most deeply felt moment – quiet, brief, jealously guarded.

As it stands, grad student Blair takes the prize for Act One’s most transformative personal choice, and Cates’s highs and lows take the audience along the whole of Act Two. The writing makes good use of the Judge (Christina Hart)’s reminders to both sides that they should be sticking to the evidence instead of their desire to win small, personal points. Even lauded academics are human, perhaps more painfully so, as their daily goals often knock on the door of eternal questions. The visuals, projected on scrims, of microscopic and galactic images also harken back to the real topic – the mystery and wonder of life.

Including intermission, the entire experience runs around three hours, which starts to feel it at about Hour 2.25. But as a summary of his own life’s writings and insights into spiritual-scientific links, it likely feels short to Chait, who remains just as invested emotionally by the end of the play as in its opening. His drive powers along the last section, and we experience Cates’s personal resolution as genuine and profound.

In an interview with Dan Berkowitz, Chait dismisses cautious and ‘good enough’ attitudes about theater: “If you are not trying to deliver an experience to an audience that is life-changing, or attempting to affect people in a way that they will never forget, then what is the point?” Whatever one’s own conclusions about the origin or meaning of life, it’s unlikely that Disinherit the Wind will leave the mind unchallenged or unaffected.

Well worth your time – enjoy




The World Through Night-Tinted Glasses

Monday, March 6, 2017
Disinherit The Wind (review)
Spoilers ahoy!

I feel strange writing this. Disinherit The Wind (the title is a sly reference to the famous Pro-Evolution play Inherit The Wind--one of several) is a polemic about the relationship between science and spirituality, with an emphasis on how the two can live side by side. It attacks pure materialism, while eschewing anything smacking of fundamentalism or Creationism. But it also rejects Darwinian Evolution.

Now, most of this is actually my own point of view as well. I also see the universe itself as the manifestation of a transcendent consciousness of which we are a part. I see no inherent conflict between my faith and science.

But...

Disinherit The Wind tells a moving story, one that centers around some fairly esoteric questions of evolution, biology, genetics and other sciences. The fact such seemingly dry fare becomes a source of fascination and passion marks one of the play's great strengths. It urges, encourages, almost makes audience members think! Which is nearly the highest praise I can offer.

Dr. Bertram Cates (Matt Chatt--the playwright and owner of the Complex Theatre) is our protagonist--a neurobiologist fired because (he claims in a lawsuit) he disagreed with Darwinian Evolution. Financially he defends himself while the University has prominent attorney William Brady (Ken Stirbl) assisting Dr. Jared Brown (G. Smokey Campbell). The only witness Cates has on his side is graduate student Howard Blair (Stephen Tyler Howell), engaged to Dr. Brown's daughter Melinda (Renahy Aulani). One can see how the case cannot help but strum the strings of conflict, also the real battle happens in Act Two.

That is when Cates confronts the University's prime witness--Dr. Robert Hawkins (Circus-Szalewski) a very thinly veiled version/parody of Richard Dawkins. Since all this takes the form of testimony before not a scientist but a judge, both debaters are forced to make their points in layman's language--which sometimes even strays into the poetic.

Juicy stuff. It works I feel for the characters, and the rest of the audience felt for them as well. More I was so involved in the debate my urge to enter into it, making a point, needed stifling! Wow. Well done! Entertaining, moving and thoughtful--as fine a trio of adjectives as most plays could hope for! And totally deserved!

So why do I feel strange? Especially since I essentially agree with the protagonist in what after remains a play with a great big MESSAGE delivered pretty explicitly over and over again?

Well, I don't think he succeeded in making his case. Not in the way he claimed, anyway. Frankly Hawkins is set up as a straw man, the authoritative voice of the opposition. And he comes across as very intelligent, very arrogant, very unwilling to consider any world view other than his own--to the point where he storms off rather than even talk with Dr. Cates.

Frankly that feels like cheating. I wanted to step on stage and take his place--specifically because I do agree with Dr. Cates and wanted to hear him expound on important things such as punctuated equalibrium, and alternate definitions of life, and other matters. The play presents the question of evolution and beginning of life as in any way related--they are not. The latter is an infant science and anyone who confidently claims ideas common before I was born as current thinking--as Hawkins does--of course comes across as a fool. The playwright set up his voice of dissent to fail.

Of course that also makes for a good story, so in a way I cannot blame him. It helps as well the whole cast does a fine job--including Lon S. Lewi, Tony Cicchetti, Caroline Simone O'Brien and Christina Hart. All of which adds up to an almost startlingly good piece of theatre, a theatre of ideas that (and this makes for very high praise) fuels serious thought on the part of the audience.

So despite my whining, this remains a good play and very compelling production.



If you do come to see the play, please say hello to me after the show.  It only takes me about five minutes to emerge from the dressing room.  Thanks.


Friday, December 9, 2016

WESTWORLD


So now there's Westworld, the latest in a long line of books, movies and TV shows tracking the plight of various robots who feel disrespected, maligned, alienated and ignored, or whose more aggressive brethren seek revenge, justice, equal rights or domination over the species that created them. And if there are a few among us to whom all of this seems absurd, there is always an 'expert' on hand to assure us in dulcet tones that, although it may now seem farfetched  to have robots with this level of sophistication and versimilitude, it is only a matter of time, perhaps twenty years or possibly thirty, when such humanoids will be commonplace.

Good God!  Do you really think the inner life of a robot has, or could have, anything in common with the life of a human being?  Do you really think that a robot has any inner life at all?  If I make a recording of myself saying, "Hello.  My name is Matt,"  and place the recording device inside a box; do you think when I play that recording that there is an entity within that box who thinks that his name is Matt?  What if I paint a face on the outside of the box?  What if I add some mechanicals so the mouth smiles and the eyes widen when the recording is played?  What if I add some light pattern recognition device so that the recording goes off automatically when anyone enters the room?  Is the box's name Matt yet?  How much more equipment do I have to add before the box's name really is Matt?  Is there any entity, any unitary being or consciousness within that box, no matter how much equipment I add, that could sanely be referred to as Matt, or Gloria or Alphonse, and by sanely I mean referring to that name as if it meant a conscious being that experiences things and that has any feelings or preferences or any self awareness or any awareness of any kind?

A computer named Alpha Go beat the world champion Go player, Lee Seedol.  The wiring of that computer was contained inside a housing on which were printed the name Alpha Go.  Do you really think any wire, any stream of electrons, any pattern recognition device within that computer considered itself as part of Alpha Go?  Do you think any part of that computer realized that it was part of something that we called a computer?   Do you think it realized that it was playing Go?  Do you think that it realized that it beat Lee Seedol?  Do you think that it knew who Lee Seedol was?  Do you think it knew what the game of Go was?  Do you think it knew anything at all?

Computers are intelligently programmed by intelligent programmers to recognize patterns of electrons.  Pattern recognition by a computer is not remotely related to the way that we recognize things, patterns or otherwise.  We think to ourselves that a pattern seems familiar.  We think of where we noticed a similar pattern before.  If we make the connection between one pattern and another we say to ourselves, "Aha, I've got it," or, if we don't say those words we experience that feeling of completion or accomplishment regarding that problem.  Computers do no such thing.  They don't think that anything seems familiar, because they don't think.  They don't experience satisfaction at making a match of patterns because they don't experience.  The only accomplishment that is felt is by the humans that are rooting for the computer.  The computer is not rooting for itself.  The computer has no self.

I have to apologize for making the same point over and over, but people give all indications of not getting it, and this belies a very deep and troubling misunderstanding of what we living beings actually are.  Yes, we have wiring, and, yes, our wiring is programmed for pattern recognition.  We have wiring but we are not our wiring.  We are what experiences our wiring and experiences the world around us.  We are the ground of our experience, which we call consciousness.  And consciousness is the milieu of desires.  Nothing matters to matter.  Matter doesn't care if it is held together in complicated molecules or dispersed into atoms or subatomic particles.  It doesn't care if it is a gas, a liquid or a solid.  It doesn't care if it is in a hot environment or a cold environment, an environment where there are many, many other similar particles or an environment where it is completely isolated.  It doesn't care about anything at all.

Machines, including computers, are made of material.  They perform certain functions because they have been designed that way.  They don't know they are performing those functions.  They don't know anything at all.  They follow instructions, not eagerly and not reluctantly, but blindly, automatically and unconsciously.  Steve Pinker may be very proud of himself because he debunked the 'ghost in the machine.'  As long as he is on a roll, he can now tackle the two other ghosts that are not in the machine, but hover just outside the  machine: namely the ghost, or the non-physical consciousness of the human being that invented the machine and the ghost, or the non-physical consciousness of the user who experiences the benefit of the machine.

If we are upset at the death of a living being, including ourselves, that is because this way that we have been experiencing the world, or our friend has been experiencing this world, this particular set of intentions and way of organizing experience, has come to an end.  We also may be upset at the loss of a machine, if that machine has given us ease or pleasure.  We may be sad when our car is totalled, or when our old computer is beyond repair.  The car and the computer and Alphonse the robot,  could care less.  They won't miss the experience of being that car or that computer or being Alphonse, because they never experienced anything in the first place.  There is no part of Alphonse that experienced being Alphonse.

Now there are some people who believe that conscious computers are right around the corner; that consciousness is just another attribute like power steering or  internet access.  That when we get our programming complicated enough, that consciousness will just grow out of those sufficiently complex electrical and computational conditions.  In fact, it is utterly amazing how many people in our modern neo-Darwinian materialist world hold to this belief.  Why? How?  Is there one shred of evidence to lead you to this bizarre conclusion?  Where did you get this idea that consciousness is an outgrowth of complicated electronics?

Some materialists are upset with this type of argument.  They say that I am impatient with science.  When the helical structure of the DNA  molecule was discovered in 1953, we still had no idea of the genetic code until some years later and then, once we knew the code, that was followed by the discovery of transcription and translation and the details of the manufacture of proteins.  In the same way, now that various neurons are being identified as connected to certain types of experience (memory, hearing, sight, heat, hunger, pleasure sensations, etc.), the code by which those neuron stimulations are translated into experience and the means by which that translation takes place will unravel itself with further research.

The problem with that analogy is this:  When the double helix was discovered, we had no idea of the structure of the cell outside of the nucleus.  We knew that the nucleus occupied only one portion of the cell, but what went on in the rest of the cell was a mystery.  As the cytoplasm and the outer cell was explored, the connection to the activities within the nucleus became clear.  Nucleotides, amino acids and proteins are all measurable, observable objects.  Consciousness is not.  There are no structures external to the neuron where a physical translation could take place.  Everything that is observable within the brain has been observed.  We may not understand it, but we have observed it.  The neuron is not the central part of a larger, as yet unexplored, structure where electric patterns are translated.  And even if some code were figured out, some algorhythm for determining which combination of neurons or activity within the neuron or even observable activity without the neuron, led to specific experiences; the means by which those algorhythmically selected particles were then translated into experience would still elude us.  This is, once again, because consciousness, our actual experience, is neither measurable nor observable; and if we limit ourselves to the scientific method, to the measurement and observation of empirical phenomena, then the best that we can hope for is to be led to the doorstep of consciousness, but never let into the house where consciousness lives; which, by the way, is the house where you live.

In the future you may develop a great affection for your robot, but, sadly, your robot will have no such affection nor disaffection for you.









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