Thursday, November 29, 2007


"When I was about fourteen, my biology master at school had convinced me that religion was a thing of the past, and science was the thing of the future. Religion shackled humans to superstition, priests, and dogma; but science liberated humans and enabled them to march forward to a new era of prosperity and brotherhood. Technological progress would bring about this kind of heaven on earth, through human reason, not through blind faith and mumbo jumbo.

It was nice to think that I was in the vanguard of a heroic, liberating movement. I took an optimistic atheistic and humanistic attitude, which lasted a long time. It’s a very firmly embedded mind-set once you get into it."

"I knew from quite an early age that I wanted to do biology, and I specialized in science at school. Then I went to Cambridge where I studied biology and biochemistry. However, as I proceeded in my studies, a great gulf opened between my original inspiration, namely an interest in life, actual living organisms and the kind of biology I was taught: orthodox, mechanistic biology which essentially denies the life of organisms but instead treats them as machines. I had to learn that you can’t respond emotionally to animals and plants. You can’t connect with them in any way except by detached objective reason. There seemed to be very little connection between the direct experience of animals and plants and the way I was learning about them, manipulating them, dissecting them into smaller and smaller bits, getting down to the molecular level and seeing them as evolving by blind chance and blind forces of natural selection"

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D.

I am not a scientist and I am going to make some observations about life. This in itself seems an arrogant statement in our society. Knowledge of life has become the sole province of biologists and biochemists and anyone who has not spent years looking through microscopes, scanners and x-ray machines, laboring to understand the complex chemical and electrical processes that are revealed with the help of this equipment, is seen to lack the authority to make statements about them. I do, however, have nothing but appreciation for all the dedicated hard work that has been invested in the study of biological processes and I applaud the accomplishments of Western medicine and science. I have no qualm with any of the actual observations that are made; how can you argue with an observation? What is disturbing to me, and, I think, of great damage to the society as a whole, are not the observations themselves, but many of the assumptions and inferences based on these observations.

What you see when you observe the world is a function of the instrument that you are using to make your observations, and this, of course, includes the human eye. When you look at a part of your body with the naked eye, you see one thing. When you look through a microscope you see something very different, and when you look through an electron microscope at the same body part, you see a third, and completely different thing than either of the other two. One of the assumptions that I think is dangerous, is the assumption that when you see this new vista, thanks to the microscope, that somehow you are seeing a greater, or deeper truth than you were seeing with the naked eye; that with the naked eye you were seeing a result, but with the microscope you are seeing cause. Another possibility is that you are simply seeing another view, which is neither more causal, nor more fundamental than the first view. Another way of saying that would be that smaller biological things are not necessarily the cause of larger biological things, but that they simply coexist on different planes. A second assumption is that with the naked eye you are seeing some things, but now, with the microscope, you are seeing everything. This view was, of course, disproved by the arrival of the electron microscope which revealed whole new worlds within the microscopic world. This is not necessarily, however, the end of the line. New worlds and new discoveries could be there awaiting the arrival of new instrumentation. And there may be whole planes of existence that are simply not visible, but that affect, very profoundly, the processes that you are looking at. Even if, hypothetically, we could see everything within a human body, would we be seeing cause? Is cause something that can be seen? Is cause a thing?

And one final assumption of biologists that I would like to mention is that if something cannot be seen it does not exist. Now this is not the assumption of other scientists, including physicists and psychologists. No one would argue that gravity does not exist, but no one can see it either. Forces, which are the province of physicists, cannot be seen directly. They are measured by their effects on matter. And psychologists study feelings: love, hate, ambition, jealousy; all of which can be deduced from the statements and behaviors of others, but not observed directly. The study and measurement of intelligence has also become part of the province of psychologists, and this too, like gravity, electro-magnetism and emotions, cannot be seen, but must be deduced from a person's conversation, written responses and creations.

Let's look at some of the conclusions drawn from these assumptions. Now, the latest brain research is grabbing headlines in major newspapers and magazines. Steve Pinker, writing in Time Magazine offers this, "Scientists have exorcised the ghost from the machine, not because they are materialistic killjoys, but because they have discovered that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain." Does that mean that consciousness is the brain? I can be tied to a pole. Does that mean that I am the pole? In fact, just by saying that something is tied to something else, implies the existence of two separate things. So, yes, consciousness is tied to the brain; but, no, consciousness is not the brain. What they, the brain researchers, have actually observed, is that during whatever mental activity there is: thinking, dreaming, seeing, remembering, hearing, etc., some part of the brain is activated; there is some heightened chemical and electrical activity in a specific part of the brain, depending on the particular activity involved. So as you focus on the beauty of a sunset, a certain part of the brain, as recorded by certain kinds of scanners, will light up. When you try to remember something, another part lights up. If you are worried about that stain on your shirt, from where you spilled your coffee this morning, yet another part is lit. When scientists study the location of all these different processes that shift every time you change your focus, do they ever wonder where you are, who is not the processes, but whose shifting focus is creating all these processes?But even though you are the primary and most obvious truth of your existence, in terms of these scientific observers, you do not exist, because you cannot be observed. They have eliminated you from their investigations, theories and conclusions.


Now, according to the most advanced research, we know that the brain remembers, the brain sees, the brain hears, the brain protects us, the brain repairs itself, etc., etc. Each day, it seems we are discovering yet another wonderful thing that our friend, the brain, does. But, hold on! The brain doesn't do any of those things. The brain is three pounds of protein. The brain is no more than the passive conductor of these processes. Let's look at memory. When you try to remember something, it is you, not your brain, that is remembering. Your brain's contribution is that of a filing cabinet. A filing cabinet has no memory. It simply stores information, in the form of letters, numbers and pictures. You look through that cabinet and locate the desired information that you decode from those letters, numbers and pictures to help you get in touch with the experience that you were trying to remember. The brain doesn't remember, doesn't try to remember, doesn't care whether you remember or not. The brain doesn't even know you. The brain doesn't even know it's a brain. It stores and conducts chemical and electrical charges that we interpret as information, but it doesn't know that it is storing or conducting information. The only differences between a brain and a filing cabinet in the area of memory, is that a filing cabinet stores information in codes that we are consciously familiar with, i.e. letters, numbers and pictures. The brain stores information in codes that we do not yet understand intellectually, but that we, our self, automatically translates into various memories, in the same way that we translate other patterns of electrical and chemical responses into the experience of sights, sounds, smells, emotions, etc. Also, while we use our physical body to access our filing cabinet, we use part of our non-physical self to access the memory codes stored in our brain. This non-physical part is called our focus, or our attention. Focus, or attention, is so much an integral part of our experience, has so much more reality for us than any biological information gotten from a scanning machine, and yet, according to brain researchers, it, too, does not exist. Why? Again, because it cannot be observed, although the results of it can easily be seen by the shifting patterns of excitation as you watch any brain scan unfold.

When people say it cannot be observed, therefore it has no reality, what they really mean is that it cannot be observed by anyone other than yourself. In other words, if you experience something it has no reality unless it can be observed by others. That's a bit of a shame really, when you consider that your self, your focus, your feelings and everything that you experience, in fact the entirety of your life, cannot be observed by anyone outside of yourself. You can tell them about. You can write books about it. But since no one else can directly observe it, you and the entire experience of your life does not exist for modern research scientists. This, too, would be okay if these researchers confined themselves to talking about the chemical and electrical processes that they observe, but they do not. They equate these with life, as if these processes are life itself, and anything else, like the self, like focus, etc., are quaint, superstitious myths.

Then, since they cannot see the self, or consciousness, and they cannot see God, or the Cosmic Consciousness, they confer intelligence, will, desire, ambition and creativity on the things they can see, especially brains and genes. With all the articles written about what "Your Brain" wants and what "Your Genes" compel you to do, there seems to be no room for you, for the actual existence of the individual. We have become little bewildered specks being tossed about at the confluence of two mighty rivers, "Our Brain" and "Our Genes". Yet I have news for you. There is no such entity as "Your Brain". Talk about a quaint, superstitious myth, a being called "Your Brain" does not exist. Of course there are three pounds of protein that are sitting in your skull, and those proteins are the passive conductors of countless electrical and chemical processes that keep you alive and conscious, but they do not act as an entity. They do not form one living being. They do not have their own will, their own desires or their own agenda. You have those things. You decide, by where you place your focus, which part of the brain is being used at any time. You remember. You see. You desire things. The brain is the place where those processes, that assist you in doing those things that you want to do, are arranged in such a way that you, not the brain, can translate them into the actual experience of your life.

What, I think, has happened, is that as researchers have figured out the purpose of many of these complex electrical and chemical processes that take place in your brain, they have instinctively realized that there must be an entity, a being, that has those purposes. If the goal of these processes is to assist you in remembering, or hearing or preventing sensory overload, it is not the actual electrons or the chemical traces of these processes that has that goal. They, the researchers, have unwittingly, I think, ascribed these purposes to your brain, because they can see the brain. But it is not the proteins of the brain that are the ground of being, the seat of these purposes. It is not any easier to imagine proteins wanting to accomplish anything, or having an agenda, than to imagine a stream of electrons having an agenda. We instinctively know, if we consciously attend to it, that desires, ambitions and purpose begin in the non-material, not the material. Beings have desire and purpose, proteins do not. When scientists say "your brain wants..." they have unintentionally created a being called "Your Brain" that is not the proteins in your skull, but a non-physical entity that lives alongside these proteins. It is the point of view of this post, that the two entities, "Your Brain" and "Your Genes", that have been unwittingly created by research scientists, have no reality, and the two entities that they have replaced from the modern perspective, your Self, or consciousness, and God, or the cosmic consciousness, not only have reality, but, between the two, they are the source of, they create, your entire reality. The being whose purposes are served by the brain and its processes is not the brain itself, but you, your Self. And the being whose purposes are served by the genes and the genetic code is not the genes themselves, but is God or the cosmic consciousness.

From the perspective that all life is observable, it seems that those patterns on the surface of the brain are the culmination of life, the end of the process. What is not seen is the invisible process that translates those patterns into actual experience. If I am scanning your brain while you watch a sunset, I am not seeing that sunset, am I? When you are listening to Beethoven, I don't hear Beethoven when I look at your scan, do I? The culmination of life is not a brain process, for the satisfaction of the brain. The culmination of life is the conscious experience that you have when you translate those processes into actual experience. Sense organs in conjunction with nerves translate incoming light waves, sound waves, tastes and touches into electric and chemical brain patterns. The organ that translates these brain patterns into actual experience is not seen. It is not part of the physical universe. We call that organ 'you'.


And I should interject here a few words about the eye. Darwin describes at some length, and in a way that has become perfectly acceptable to most scientists, the manner in which the eye could develop, step by step, from the seemingly simple light sensitive membrane found in single celled beings to the exquisitely complex organ found in humans. But, hold on! The eye does not see. The eye separated from a living being is a lens with some gelatinous proteins attached to it. The eye in a living being, and in conjunction with the optic nerve, is the passive conductor of light waves and electrical impulses which form a pattern in the brain. The eye does not see. You see. You translate those brain patterns into trees and sunsets and friends and enemies, the actual experience of seeing. And you were the one that began the whole process of receiving certain light waves in the first place, because you, not your eye, wanted to look at something. What Darwin was talking about was not the evolution of life, but the evolution of the equipment that life uses. By what manner did this equipment evolve? According to Darwin it evolved step by step because at each step it gave a survival advantage. But a survival advantage to whom? To the eye itself? Of course not. It gave a survival advantage to the intelligent being who was looking through this equipment. How can you explain the evolution of an eye if you exclude the intelligent beings without whom the eye would have absolutely no use. Now you may object to the word "intelligent" since Darwin's whole point was to devise a scenario in which life could evolve without intelligence. But the ability to discern enemies from friends, food from poison, and safe environments from threatening ones, and to adjust one's behavior accordingly is, precisely, intelligence. If intelligence is not the reading of one's environment and the making of appropriate adjustments to it, then what else could it be?

Humans, using language and writing, have been able to extend this intelligence to the contemplation of other environments besides the one that is immediately at hand, including our attempts to understand past environments, to anticipate future environments and to understand environments other than our own. We also live in an environment of ideas and concepts that we try to understand, to 'read', and then to make our own adjustments, our "intellectual adaptations" based on this new learning. So humans may be the only species that has intellect, which is a form of conceptual intelligence, but all species, including plants and animals have intelligence. The being whose entire sensory equipment consists of the light sensitive membrane of one cell, may have a much more limited use of intelligence than a being who is blessed with the one hundred trillion celled human body with its dazzling array of sense organs, but they are both using intelligence. How can you try to describe this exquisite system of adaptation that you call evolution and then say that there is no intelligence involved, when adaptation is the entire point of intelligence.

Let me interject something to try to clarify the difference and similarity between intelligence and intellect. If you live near the seashore or have visited there, I hope you have had the pleasure of throwing bread crumbs into the air and watching the seagulls dive and swoop to catch these crumbs in their beaks. Sometimes they misjudge the texture and density of these morsels and they clamp their beaks down too hard and the crumb disintegrates, but they never miss. If there is a breeze blowing from the sea to the shore, they never miss. If there is a breeze blowing from the shore to the sea, they never miss. If there is no breeze blowing, they never miss.

To catch a crumb in the air when you are already flying in the air, requires a calculation of the velocity and the arc at which the crumb is thrown, a calculation of the wind and barometric pressure as it effects your current velocity and inertia and as it effects the amount of energy you have to exert on all the muscles of your wings and torso to change direction and velocity and the precise moment to open and close your beak. Now the fact that a seagull is doing this instantaneously without any conscious calculation does not mean that these calculations are not being made; they are just not being made in time. That is intelligence. Now a really skilled physicist with instruments to measure the weight of the crumb, the force and angle of the throw, the barometric pressure of the air, the velocity of the wind, the weight of the bird, and the anatomical understanding of which of those many muscles does what, and how much energy is required for each, could, theoretically, figure out what that bird has to do in order to catch that crumb. But by the time our beleaguered physicist arrives at his conclusions, the seagull will have already caught the crumb, digested the crumb and pooped it out all over his calculations. That is intellect! With the exception of the weird bubble that some of our intellectuals have been in for the past century or so, it has been commonly understood that the whole thrust of human intellect has been to slowly, slowly, baby step by baby step, come to an ever deepening understanding of the intelligence of the universe which surrounds us, pervades us and has been with us since the beginning of time. But to think that humans are in sole possession of the only intelligence in the universe, when the only measure of that intelligence is the extent to which we are able to understand the very universe that is supposed to be devoid of intelligence, is a feat of arrogance compared to which Aristotle's placement of the earth at the center of the solar system seems a minor faux pas.


From the same perspective, that all life is observable, in the same way that it seems that life culminates with the brain, it appears that life begins with the genes. The assumption is that genes are not only the starting point of individual life, but that genes began the entire evolutionary process of life. The theory is that genes, microscopic bits of nucleic acids called nucleotides, randomly came together by a kind of freak accident, in such a way that they formed a code, that no one ever invented, but which allowed them to start replicating themselves. I should mention that nucleotides and proteins are always made by a living being. All proteins are either animal or vegetable. There is no such thing as laboratory protein. There is no protein found on the side of the road or floating around in a pond, that was not part of a living body that was born, that grew and died and that was manufactured by the miraculous processes of metabolism and digestion. (If you don't think that these processes are miraculous, that they are 'understood', then please prove me wrong and create something that metabolizes and digests; and, of course, I know Miller/Urey type experiments where a few carbon compounds and amino acids were produced, all of which had to be immediately removed from the very atmosphere that created them or they would quickly break down. I am not talking about a carbon compound or an isolated amino acid. I am talking about a protein.) Yet, by this theory, nucleic acids and proteins created life, rather than life creating proteins and nucleic acids. Not only did these infintesimally tiny dots of acid create life, but everything that was created in the entire kingdom of plants and animals on this planet is attributed to 'discoveries' (always written in quotes) made by these acid particles, or genes. Genes 'discovered' how to build cells. Genes 'discovered' digestion. Genes 'discovered' consciousness. Genes 'discovered' photosynthesis. Genes 'discovered' how to build brains, etc., etc. Based solely on this assumption, we have nullified the concept of God, of a cosmic consciousness, because we cannot see it, and freighted our poor little genes, these microscopic bits of nucleic acid, with all the intelligence, will and creativity of a deity because we can see them. Yes, we know that certain combinations of genes will lead to certain traits and characteristics. We even have some sense of how the genes are involved in the manufacture of proteins. But the body is not just a puddle of proteins. It has a unique and incredibly precise and complex shape. We know that different gene formations result in different shapes, but what that process is, what hand the genes have in the creation of shape, is not known by Western science. Also, it is not just a body that is reproduced, is it? Are we as joyful at the birth of a still born baby as a live one? What we celebrate at birth is not just a new body, but a new being. That new baby is as alive, as conscious, as intelligent, and as willful as we are. A new combination of genes attracts a particular consciousness, will and intelligence along with a particular shape and a particular sequencing of protein manufacture. How is it done? This is not known, but the assumption is that the genes, themselves, are doing it.

Suppose we didn't deify these bits of nucleic acid that we call genes. Suppose we accept them for what they are, nucleotides. Then, first of all, we wouldn't have to create these tortured, impossible scenarios of how genes started replicating, by themselves, and how they discovered every miraculous aspect of life, by themselves. Richard Dawkins, in his book, "River Out of Eden" likens the genetic code to computer code as a way of demystifying it. If you think about it, it is a good analogy, to a point, but not the way Dawkins intended. Computer code is made from arrangements of high and low frequency electric charges, 1 or 0. Genetic code is made from arrangements of four nucleotides, A, T, C and G. The brilliance and creativity of computers, what caused the computer revolution, was not, of course, the high and low frequencies, by themselves. It was the brilliance and creativity of computer scientists and soft ware engineers that created arrangements of these codes to serve human purposes. Dawkins would like us to think that it is the microscopic pieces of adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine, by themselves, that create a human body, never mind consciousness, will and intelligence. That makes exactly as much sense as saying that the high frequency and the low frequency of computer code got together, by themselves, and without the intervention of any intelligence, human or otherwise, created Microsoft, Dell and Apple Computers!

We actually have a pretty good understanding at this point of what genes actually do. Most of the time, in terms of observable activity, they do nothing. They sit encased with, in the case of human beings, three billion of their brethren, within the nucleosome of each cell in our bodies. Occasionally, when a particular enzyme is needed by the body, another enzyme opens a tiny hole in the nucleosome at the exact spot among the three billion genes, that will reveal the needed strand of code. Another enzyme, again, from the cell and not the genes, separates the needed strand of genes from its partnered strand (all genes are arranged in double strands) and presses it against the opening in the nucleosome. At that point an RNA molecule copies the exposed code. Another enzyme returns the strand to its partner and another enzyme closes the hole. That's it! That is the entire involvement of genes in protein manufacture. They are moved by an enzyme to an opening where they get copied, and then they are moved back. The genes are not initiating any of this. The genes are not manufacturing anything. They are not planning anything. They are not coordinating their activities with other genes. They are not figuring out what the body needs. They are doing exactly what you would expect microscopic pieces of matter to be doing, which is absolutely nothing. They passively participate in a process that they neither initiate, energize or control. And the same is true for replication. When genes replicate they do it in conjunction with the whole cell's replication. Replication begins in the outer cell and the genes start replicating at a certain point in that process after a signal has been received from the outer cell. The DNA molecule, containing the genes, does go through some complex gymnastics during replication, but that, again, is at the behest of signals and enzymes that it receives. Once again, it is neither initiating, energizing or controlling this process. It is simply, totally and completely passive.


Yet, obviously, the genes are connected in some way to all the biological functions of our body, to its specific shape and to the abilities and the emotional make up of the being that inhabits this body. How can the genes determine all this if they are not creating it? Because the genes, even when they are not doing anything, which is the great majority of the time, are receivers. They are attracting to our bodies the particular consciousness, will and intelligence that makes the whole thing work. This is a bit hard to grasp because even though we cannot see consciousness, will, and intelligence, we associate them with physical bodies, especially human bodies. From the spiritual perspective, consciousness,will and intelligence are not created by bodies, or by matter (genes, of course, are tiny bits of matter). Instead, bodies, including genes, are created by consciousness, will and intelligence. This may strike many as odd (though no more odd than the other way, from material to spiritual) because, normally, consciousness, will and intelligence are experienced as coming from within, and in our twenty-first century society with its materialist bent, "within" is considered to be deep within the body, and not deep within the spirit.

Yet, many of us have had unusual or abnormal experiences of consciousness, will and intelligence. These 'supernormal' experiences of consciousness, will and intelligence, are usually experienced as coming from without; as something received. Soldiers on the battlefield, fire fighters and police officers in critical situations, have had the sudden experience of an extra rush of energy, clarity and determination. No one is more surprised at their heroism than they are, and they describe that moment when that extra energy and determination overtook them with a kind of awe. They consider it something that came into them, something received. These are examples of being touched by the cosmic will that sustains us all at every moment, but usually works separately from our conscious will. Great writers, artists and scientists, as they labor at a problem, as they obsess on the same information, or the same scenario to no avail, pray for an inspiration (atheism does not diminish the artist's enthusiasm for prayer at this juncture). Inspiration literally means the intake of breath. They pray for a gift to be taken in, to be received. They certainly don't pray for an expiration, which means breathing out and is associated with death. Einstein wrote a fascinating account of how the idea, the insight, of the theory of relativity entered his body; how he could feel it coming up through his legs and into his brain, and then getting it. Archimedes, having received a thunderbolt of inspiration, lept from his tub shouting 'Eureka' as he ran wet and naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse. Horowitz, the great concert pianist, when asked what he did in the moments before an important performance, said that he just tries to relax and hope that the winds of inspiration blow through him that night. Moments of great insight, great heroism, great performing, are considered by the people that experience them to be, not their own, but gifts from without, some thing unseen, yet extremely tangible, in fact always among the most vivid experiences of their lives. And, of course, spiritual seekers, people in deep prayer, fasting, chanting and/or meditation, report being transported to a new level of consciousness, which led to a new sense of themselves. Not so much that something was received, but that a boundary, a sense of separation between their limited consciousness and the unlimited cosmic consciousness, was momentarily dissolved. They were still themselves, of course, but they had a much greater, more expanded sense of who they were; of being an inextricable part of something infinitely greater than their individual bodies and brains.

All this is to say that consciousness, will and intelligence are the foundation out of which physical life comes, not vice versa. This consciousness, will and intelligence that is not bound by a particular body, not even bound by space and time, is far beyond our power to understand or even conceive. We call it God, Infinity, the Tao, the Atman, Allah, Buddha, Christ, the Cosmic Consciousness, etc. Every culture has its own name, but the name is irrelevant. As Lao Tzu said, "The name that can be named is not the Nameless Name ". The spiritual perspective, and the only one that really makes sense, is that consciousness existed before physical bodies, that physical bodies grew out of the desire of cosmic consciousness, or God, to have a presence in, to participate and interact with, the physical universe. This cosmic will, or God's will, is the energy that drives the ten quadrillion biological processes occurring simultaneously in each of our bodies, and every biological process in every physical body of every being on this planet, toward survival and replication. Cosmic intelligence, or God's intelligence, is the amazing way that this energy responds, adapts and reconfigures itself at every moment, in response to it's changing surroundings. The genes, then, from this perspective, are receivers, God's channel changers if you will. They don't create life, but they attract, depending on their configuration, the particular cosmic will and cosmic intelligence to grow and maintain your body. They also attract a particular nexus of consciousness, will and intelligence. I have been referring to this nexus as you, or your self. It is also referred to in many religions as your soul.

If there are hierarchies of spiritual beings, of souls, and how, and the degree to which, they are separated from God, from the ultimate consciousness; whether or not these souls choose this new combination of genes, or whether it is thrust upon them; if this takes place at the moment of conception or thereafter; what the purpose is of this action, which results in a new birth and a new life; these are all valid questions, but they do not concern us here. The important thing for now is that out of the cosmic will, consciousness and intelligence comes three things that can and should be separated. There is life, which is experienced but not directly observed and which contains its own limited and seemingly separate consciousness, will and intelligence. There are biological processes, mainly electric and chemical, that support that life, and there is a body, mainly proteins, that conducts and transmits these processes.

If you have a different opinion, for instance if you believe that biological processes are life itself, that life was created by nucleic acids, that the highest intelligence in the universe is human intelligence, and that the ten quadrillion (not a hyperbolic but an actual and very conservative estimate) biological processes, that are going on at this very moment in your body as you read these words, are all conducted and synchronized with no intelligence, what so ever; all that is fine. But if you are a research scientist who studies these biological processes, then, in your professional capacity, make statements about biological processes. Don't make statements with the mantle of authority and science that are really conjectures, or unexamined assumptions about the nature of these processes, who is doing them and what their ultimate purpose is. Don't make statements, for instance, that imply that because you see a process taking place in some tissues in my skull that we call the brain, that, therefore, "My Brain" is doing these processes. There is a lot of cooking done in my kitchen, but a mythical being called "My Kitchen" is not doing them. And, please avoid condescending statements, such as, "I have been looking through a microscope for thirty years and I can assure you there is no such thing as a soul, a self or consciousness, based on the fact that I have never seen any of them". No, you will never see any of them, but did you ever wonder who it is that is doing the looking? As to that final observation, at the cessation of biological processes, please do not say, "She's dead." Much better would be "she's passed on," or "she's no longer with us." And if your beliefs in the supernatural powers of nucleotides and proteins are so rigid that you cannot bring yourself to say either of these, then, perhaps, you should just say, "I'm sorry."

If your statements about what you observed are actually that, statements about what you actually observed, then we will believe you, we will respect you, and we will accept your findings in good faith. If you start, intentionally, or not, to make inferences about the nature of biological processes, about why they are there, about who or what is doing them, and about who or what they are for, in other words, statements about life rather than biological processes, then you are conjecturing about that which you have no expertise and you are unnecessarily alienating people of a spiritual persuasion. In fact, you may be sorely lacking in expertise in this area, because you have accepted all the materialist assumptions of your society without questioning them. And it is entirely possible that there may be more to learn about actual life, as opposed to biological processes, by experiencing it rather than trying to look at it through a microscope.

Any comments? Please let me hear from you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


It's not the F word, the N word, the L word, or even the C word. The most politically incorrect word in the English language that you can utter, at least in most of the social situations that I find myself in, is the G word. There are a few exceptions. As the first half of a curse it's okay. So, "Where are my goddamn shoes?" would be perfectly acceptable. "God Almighty, you're not doing that again!" is a little quaint, but tolerable. Using the G word at the end of a curse rather than the beginning, is even more old fashioned but still forgivable, as in "Holy Mary, Mother of God, who left the kitchen like this?" But a simple, sincere expression of the G word, especially if it implies that you not only believe in God but that you believe that God is alive and is having an impact on your life, is enough to provoke a stunned silence in most social gatherings. And this is not a momentary silence. Once the awful word has been uttered, there is no more comfortable communication to be had with anyone who had been in earshot of the offense.

Not that God is the perfect word, I just don't know of a better one. For one thing, it carries the implication that God is a man; a tremendously powerful, brilliant, kindly, and when He loses his temper, which is not that rare, a tremendously scary man; but a man never the less. God is certainly not a woman. You cannot even correctly say "Goddess loves me", it would have to be "A goddess loves me". So, the word God has the implication that it's a man, and a man who may have many underlings, but no partners. God is calling all the shots, and He is doing that alone. On the contrary, there maybe goddesses, but there is never Goddess. There is only a goddess, one of many. God works alone, but the best a poor goddess can hope for is to be a member of His support team.

I have stated in other posts what I think God does and if you think of God as a man, no matter what His talents are, it is just flat out impossible for Him to accomplish all that. If you think of God as a woman, it would actually make it a bit more feasible, given women's supposed talent for multi-tasking, but only marginally. No, the God that I am thinking of could not possibly be confined to a body.

Eastern religions revere the Tao, the Atman, and the Infinite. These words imply a kind of spiritual substrate that supports and creates our lives at every moment. So that rather than having a God who has a specific location, this God is omnipresent; there is no where that this God is not. No matter what we do or don't do, and whatever we believe or don't believe, whether we recognize it or not, God is there, because God is everywhere. Our experience of closeness to God or distance from God is a matter of our perception rather than actual distance. This is much closer to my thinking, but it has a connotation of being simply a kind of energy. It's hard for us to grasp the idea that intelligence, creativity, will and caring could exist in an unbounded form, separate from any physical body. But that is pretty much my conception of it. An endless ocean of energy, intelligence, and love, that, whether we realize it or not, is supporting us, and energizing and directing all the ten quadrillion biological processes occurring in each human body at every moment, to say nothing of all the biological processes of every living being on this planet.

If you think of God as a man who is around when He's happy with you, and disappears when He's not, you won't arrive at a conception that is possibly big enough to accomplish everything that I think God is accomplishing. I go back to the Old Testament. God is eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent. Now, that's my guy!, if He just weren't a guy. Let me try to replace this Western image of a sort of helpless human supplicant and an all powerful divine companion who may be very close to you, but still a separate being, with a different image. Hindus speak a lot about the ocean of the Divine. Where is that ocean? Everywhere. We are swimming in it. And just like fish who have spent their entire lives in water, and do not know what it is because they have never experienced 'no water', we do not know God because God is the context of our entire existence. We are swimming in God, but we don't realize it, because we have never experienced 'no God'. We may think we have, but just the fact that we are thinking, that we have consciousness, that our hearts are beating and our blood is flowing, means that we are still part of that context. In the same way, a fish, no matter how despairing her mood, is still in the ocean. Now you can pull a fish out of water, and put her back. From the moment that fish returns, she has an understanding and an appreciation of water, because she has experienced 'no water'. She suddenly realizes the reality of it. But we can't be pulled out of the Divine ocean, because that is our entire existence. There is nothing outside of it.

If I were a wave on that Divine ocean, a wave that has a separate consciousness, I might think, during my short life, that I was separate from the rest of the ocean, but I would be wrong. I started out, was formed by, this ocean, and after my very brief existence as a wave, I return to being an inextricable part of this ocean. My sense of separation, including all the feelings that result from that sense of separation; my initial intimidation at the size of the other waves, my increasing confidence as I continued to grow, my feeling of invincibility as I reached the peak of my power, and my feeling of vulnerability and fear of death, as my power diminished, would all be illusory, because they would all stem from the same false premise, that I am a separate entity, separate from the entire ocean.

Our whole existence here, on this physical plane, is based on our experience of separation, of having an individual consciousness tied to a particular body, a particular brain and a particular history, but if, or when, we go back to God, we no longer have that separation. It's not as if an individual is traveling back home, it is as if we are melting, as if the walls of separation are dissolving and we expand into a bigger and bigger space. So it's not as if we lose our sense of self, it's as if our sense of self expands infinitely, yours joins with mine, until there is only one consciousness, until we realize that all these separate beings that we have encountered during our existence are actually all aspects of the same Being.

Anyway, if I were trying to convince you of the validity of all these beliefs, what could I do? I could talk about my experience and the experience of many others, and share that with you. I could talk about the difficulty of imagining, which I have done in several other posts, that our spiritual life, including consciousness, will and intelligence, originates from matter, from nucleotides and proteins. That it makes much more sense to envision it the other way; that living bodies and biological processes come out of, originate from, consciousness, intelligence and will. But in doing so, I seem to be embarking in a direction opposite from modern science. Evolutionists, biologists and biochemists are espousing the view that genes are the foundation of life, that our existence is, at base, a way of serving these genes, and that consciousness, the soul, even life itself and 'you' are quaint concepts that have no bases in reality (because they cannot be seen). No matter how cogently I argue, I cannot keep pace with these increasingly materialist views that seem to be supported by the latest research.

But hold on! Those are evolutionists, biologists and biochemists. They're not the only game in town! What about those other mystical, gullible, self-deluded nuts, the astrophysicists? (Cut to the sound of the cavalry bugle call, as five hundred mounted astrophysicists appear over the crest of a distant hill and start galloping toward us.) Those uneducated flakes are now telling us that there is a lot more to the universe than meets the eye. These weirdos are saying that not only is there an invisible world, but that they have measured it, because, although it cannot be seen, it does have an effect on gravity. Not only that, but the visible world is only a small portion of the universe; that fully ninety-four per cent of it, at the current measure, is invisible. That's very interesting, isn't it? Here we have a community of evolutionary biologists and biochemists who snicker at the possible existence of anything that cannot be seen, and, at exactly the same time in our history, we have another community of scientists who are telling us that the great majority of the universe around us is invisible. Do Richard Dawkins and the evolutionary biologists deny the carefully measured results of the astrophysicists? Would Darwin deny Einstein? If they, Dawkins and the biologists, are contending that all of the astrophysical stuff is happening 'in space' and they are talking about life, which happens here, then they would be wrong. The last time I looked, we were in space. Everything that is in time is also in space. The earth is a planet, which is in a solar system, which is in a galaxy, which is 'in space'. If you have been wondering what being 'in space' would be like, wonder no more. You are in it.

Now Einstein postulated that there were ten or eleven planes of existence that were not visible. So far, physicists have discovered one, the neutrino plane. There are two reasons, according to these fanatic, cultist physicists, that it is impossible to see and so hard to detect this 'other' universe. One is that neutrinos are unfathomably small. The largest is a fraction of an electron and the smallest is thousands of times smaller than that. Also, they do not have a charge; while all of the physical, visible, universe is charged either positively or negatively, or some combination of the two; this invisible world is neutral, has neither a positive nor a negative charge. So there is nothing in the physical universe that attracts or repels neutrinos. They flow through every nook and cranny of the universe without anything impeding their movement. This is important to note. It's not as if they only fill the huge gaps between stars, they flow right through the stars themselves. So, it's not as if there is a visible neighborhood and an invisible neighborhood. The two are inextricably entwined. And this is not happening somewhere 'in space'. This is happening right here, on this planet. And it is not happening just in the atmosphere. It is happening within and through physical matter and within and through our own bodies!

Hmmmm! Is any of this sounding familiar? I have been talking, probably too much, in all the other posts about how life can be experienced, but not seen; how God, or the cosmic consciousness is a substrate, a plane of existence that supports and creates our physical existence, how genes and the genetic code are the bridge between the invisible world of consciousness, will and intelligence, and the physical world of matter. I have also mentioned that God is beyond opposition, neither this nor that. Taoism and many ancient religions are forms of monistic dualism. Out of One comes two, and from two comes all diversity. Different ways of saying this same thing are: Infinity bifurcates into yin and yang; God created the heaven and the earth; out of perfect balance, comes two seemingly antagonistic but really complementary forces. The interaction of these two forces creates the physical universe. Will the discovery of this neutrino invisible universe that transcends and permeates our visible universe of positive and negative particles eventually become the scientific proof of Taoism? Is our life an intersection of the visible and the invisible universe? Is our physical body and its biological processes part of the physical universe, and our consciousness, will and intelligence, in other words, our soul, part of the invisible universe? Do we come from the invisible universe of perfect balance to participate briefly in the charged physical universe of attraction and repulsion and then go home again to the perfect balance and peace of the invisible universe? Will the post-Einstein astrophysicists finally provide the proof for that which the mystics and saints have been experiencing for thousands of years? And will Dawkins, Hutchinson and the 'no nonsense realists' who stubbornly refuse to give any credence to anything that cannot be seen, become the 'flat-earthers' of the 21st century?

I remind you that the astrophysicists, thus far, have only detected one invisible plane of the ten or eleven that Einstein postulated. We can assume that if there are other planes, that they would be even harder to detect. The particles would get smaller and smaller, their mass would be less and less, and their effect or pull on anything in the rest of the universe would get weaker and weaker. Even the neutrino plane was considered, originally, to be without mass. Then it was discovered that even though neutrinos are so tiny that they are barely measurable, when you consider that they fill the entire universe, including interstellar space, their total mass has a very significant effect on gravity and the rate of expansion of the universe.

Let me borrow one more page from the world of physics and add one more conjecture. Einstein determined the speed of light, and that is referred to as a constant. It is the C of E=MC2. It is the highest speed at which any form of matter or particle can move. But what if we looked at it not as a kind of cosmic speed limit, but as a threshold? What if light waves don't know there is any such speed limit and continue accelerating past it? What if, at that point, they stop being a wave or even a thing, and this 'no thing' continued accelerating until it reached infinite speed, and it could reach infinite speed because it would have no mass to impede its momentum? 'No thing' traveling at infinite speed would be everywhere at the same time, because it would take it no time to travel the entire universe and come back to the same point. 'No thing' vibrating at infinite speed would be infinitely fast and absolutely still at the same time. 'No thing' would have no parts, because there would be no 'thingness' to separate one portion of it from another. So 'no thing' would occupy all space and no space simultaneously. Within 'no thing' there would be perfect union, since there would be no thing to separate one part from the other.

Now, you may ask, "If this 'no thing' has no mass and no charge, what possible effect could it have on us? And if this 'no thing' has no effect on us, why worry about it, or even try to think about it? The answer is that although it, this ultimate plane that lies beyond space and time, is not effected by the material world, the material world is effected by it, but not by simple collisions, attractions or repulsions. Let me explain. A few years ago I was standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. From that vantage it looks like every inch of the island of Manhattan is covered with elaborate buildings. The amount of effort and imagination and history that that panorama represents is breathtaking. How did it all get there? Yes, you could say that the steel came from iron deposits in Minnesota and was processed in mills in Ohio, and that the stone came from quarries in Vermont. That's not really what I am getting at. All of that construction began with desires in different human beings. No building was built unless someone wanted it built. No material was transported unless someone wanted it transported. Now they may have been built for a variety of desires and various combinations of desires, i.e. to make more money, to beautify a certain neighborhood, to provide shelter, to bring glory to the owner, etc. Yet they all started with a desire. And if we look at it from the perspective of an individual being, they all began with a certain restlessness; the desire created a stirring, a certain polarity, a charge, which created a biological process, which created a body sensation (a 'fire in the belly' or a 'swelling' in the chest') and the firing of some thought processes in the brain which resulted in a more solidified, more materialized plan. Desire automatically creates the energy and commitment to see this desire fulfilled, which we call will. With will, fueled by desire, the builder now uses his or her muscles and sinews and brains to do all the planning, the activity and organization necessary to get the building built. Everything that has been constructed, composed,written, sculpted or drawn by our species, not just in Manhattan, but in the entire world, began with a desire; and every desire comes automatically with the energy, which we call will, and the ability to focus that energy in the most effective way, which we call intelligence, to realize that desire. But where is the seat of desire; from what or from where does desire spring? Your desires spring from you, and you is not a thing. It is consciousness. In exactly the same way, the desire to create a physical universe springs from God, from the cosmic consciousness, which is also not a thing. In fact, it is 'no thing', it is the very 'no thing' that we have been talking about. So, does this plane,that is on the other side of light, that is not a thing, that is beyond space and time, beyond this or that, that is perfect union, does this plane effect us? No, this plane does not effect us. This plane IS us! This plane is the birthplace of desire and from this plane comes everything you see around you; all the human things that come from our desires and all the natural things that come from (and here is that G word again) God's desires.

Now this ultimate plane, since it has no mass, can neither be seen nor detected by any instrument. When we try to detect it we are looking in the wrong direction. It is not something out there to be detected, it is the one who is doing the detecting. It is the detector not the detectee, if you will. If we are waiting for physicists to discover it, we are waiting in vain. Rather than going to people whose expertise is in looking out at the world, we should be consulting with people whose expertise is in looking in at the Self; meditators and spiritual teachers. And we, of course, can do this ourselves. When we meditate, when we turn our focus away from the material world; we look at ourselves, not at what we are attached to, but at what is being attached. When we do that, when we remove ourselves from all the things that we desire and are entangled with, then the walls of separation break down. We begin to experience ourselves as an inextricable part of the consciousness of the world. We are of the same fabric, the same plane, as the Divine, and as such, not as our bodies and our biological processes, but as ourselves, we are boundless, immutable and eternal. And I would have told you all this a long time ago if you hadn't shunned me the moment I mentioned the G word!

Thanks for reading. I sincerely welcome your feedback.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


"There are people with their eyes open
whose hearts are shut. What do they see? Matter."

At the risk of some redundancy with earlier posts, I feel that I have to devote some time to a discussion of Dawkins' first widely popular book, 'The Selfish Gene,' published in 1976. This book, more than any other, has caused deep underlying changes in the way we think about life and deepened the schism between the scientific and spiritual communities. To the torrent of complaints that Dawkins received that his book had caused in his readers severe depression, despair and a kind of spiritual death, Dawkins replied, "If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will undo it." The purpose of this post is to apply, not wishful thinking, but simple logic, reasoning and common sense to the basic notions of this book, and especially to the theory, or story, of pre-biotic evolution that Dawkins espouses in the chapter of 'The Selfish Gene' called 'The Replicators'.

Pre-biotic evolution purports to explain how things may have evolved prior to the beginning of life. One of the basic tenets (or, as Dawkins' calls them, 'memes') of evolutionary thinking is that things proceed from the simple to the complex. What, then, were the logical steps, from simple to complex, that led to the formation of the first cell and later on to the formation of the bafflingly complex creatures that we see inhabiting the earth today? The impetus for creating this story in the first place, was the discovery, thanks to the invention of progressively more and more powerful microscopes, of greater and greater levels of complexity in the 'simple' cell which, initially, was assumed to be the beginning of the story of evolution. A cell, which grows, genetically replicates, senses its environment, digests, eliminates and moves, could not be explained away by the chance collision of atoms. The scientific community is committed to the basic axiom (another of Dawkins' 'memes') that human intelligence is the only intelligence in the universe, even though, as was discussed in another post, intelligence, human or otherwise, cannot be seen but only inferred. At the same time that we scoff at the idea that life, which is infinitely more complex than any man made creation, was created by an intelligence that transcends our limited human intelligence, we congratulate ourselves for our own brilliance every time we manage to read a map and arrive in one piece at a new destination or remember all the items on our shopping list. To sustain the fantasy of life evolving by 'itself', the story of pre-biotic evolution has been spun out of thin air, and is now accepted as orthodox scientific truth.

The pre-biotic story is laid out in a superficially compelling way in the chapter of 'The Selfish Gene' called 'The Replicators'. This chapter is only eight pages long, but the damage it has caused to the spiritual underpinnings of our thinking cannot be over estimated. The purpose of this post is to repair some of that damage and, to that end, I will analyze each section of this chapter in some detail.

In the first paragraph Dawkins says, "Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows us a way in which simplicity could change into complexity, how unordered atoms could group themselves into ever more complex patterns until they ended up manufacturing people." Yes. It is especially satisfying to people who are married to the notion (the meme) that human intelligence is the ultimate intelligence in the universe, even though the only purpose of that intelligence is to try to figure out how this universe, which has already been created, works. Those people who believe that consciousness and intelligence are not the accidental outgrowths of a blind process of evolution, but are the origin, are the foundation out of which evolution comes, don't see the universe as moving from the simple to the complex, but from the subtle to the gross, from the spiritual to the physical, and then back again.

For Dawkins to talk about Darwin in relation to the grouping of atoms is completely fanciful. Darwin mentions nothing about the grouping of atoms. Darwin also reached no definitive conclusion regarding the origin of life. He wrote of the "Origin of the Species", not the origin of life. He was concerned with the ways in which life forms, from the supposedly 'simple' one celled beings to the complex creatures that we see today, develop different traits, different ways in which they sense and move about in and communicate with their environment. It is terribly important to have a sense of the difference between the essence of life and the variety of forms and traits that life takes ( see the post Life vs. Traits). Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection go as far back as the cell. To extrapolate back past the cell to an 'evolution' of molecules and then an evolution of 'replicating' molecules is a stretch that Darwin never intended. Whether he would welcome these conjectures or be appalled by them is anyone's guess. My issue with pre-biotic evolution theories is not whether they are congruent with traditional Darwinism, but whether they are congruent with simple logic and reason.

In fact, with our modern understanding of 'simple one celled creatures' it turns out that Darwin was not talking about an evolution from the simple to the complex at all. He was talking about changes from complex to complex. Modern human beings may be more intelligent than our forebears on this planet, but to think that the one hundred trillion celled human is more complex that the ten quadrillion celled brontosaurus, that somehow this involves an evolution from the simple to the complex; when a single eukaryotic cell, which is the building block of all plant and animal life, defies our understanding at every level, this notion, of simple to complex, may have a pleasing, romantic simplicity to those people that cling to the 'simple to complex' meme and to the 'atheistic' meme, but it makes no actual sense.

Then, Dawkins spends two paragraphs talking about how nature, prior to the advent of life, can evolve from atoms into complex molecules. He mentions soap bubbles, salt crystals and diamonds. Fine. All this makes perfect sense in terms of what we know of the structure of atoms. They will bond with other atoms to form molecules with either covalent, ionic, hydrogen, metallic or Van der Waals bonds. All of these have to do with electromagnetism and the attraction and repulsion of ions and protons. But, then he leaves diamonds and salt and spends a long paragraph describing the enormous complexity and precision of the hemoglobin molecule as an example of the natural evolution of atoms from simplicity to complexity prior to the advent of life. But hold on! Hemoglobin is the molecule found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is produced by living beings. He calls hemoglobin a 'modern' molecule, conveniently leaving out the fact that hemoglobin is a product of life, not part of any causal build up to life.

Having snuck in the structure of hemoglobin molecules, Dawkins now makes it more plausible for the reader to think of a molecule coming together from the natural collisions and combinings of atoms, that is of sufficient complexity in order to replicate. The truth of the matter is that there is no molecule that even remotely approaches the complexity of the DNA molecule found in the world outside of those that are the result of the miraculous processes of genetic replication using material prepared by the miraculous processes of digestion and fueled by the miraculous processes of metabolism within living beings. And this, of course, is the crux of the whole thing. He has to plausibly get to a molecule that replicates by 'itself' (even though molecules don't have selves as was discussed earlier). The point of 'pre-biotic' evolution is that life does not begin with a cell, which is too complex. It begins with a replicating molecule, a 'molecule that makes copies of itself.' The obvious candidate for this replicating molecule would be DNA, since DNA is an integral part of every replication of every cell on this planet. But, much to the chagrin of the 'pre-biotic' evolutionists, DNA had to be rejected as the candidate for the original 'replicator'. Why? Because, first of all, DNA does not replicate, at least not outside of a cell. In fact, DNA replication is always part of a whole cell's replication, and energy is provided by the cell to enable the DNA to perform the processes of replication. Allthough many attempts have been made to remove DNA from a cell and surround it with all the appropriate organic materials (which, aside from a laboratory, would not be found naturally outside of a cell), they never resulted in replication . The second reason for its rejection was that it was just too complex. It was too hard to imagine the DNA molecule, with a genetic code of nucleotides, forming from the random movements of atoms. A simpler molecule had to be conjured up, although no one has any idea what this molecule was made of, they are certain that it was simpler than DNA, because, after all, things always begin with simplicity.

So, what is this replicating molecule? No one knows! Supposedly, superior replicating molecules have evolved and devoured the originals. So no one has seen this replicating molecule, no one has seen any remnants of this molecule, and no one has seen any molecule, DNA or otherwise, that can replicate outside of a cell. All the neo-Darwinists are convinced that this molecule was 'simpler' than DNA, because it is an unquestioned truth in their community that all things begin with simplicity and evolve into complexity. So no one has seen this molecule, no one has seen any molecule that makes copies of itself outside of DNA which always replicates as a part of a whole cell's replication, and no one has any idea what it was made of. Yet, this 'replicator' has become the foundation for the ENTIRE neo-Darwinist theory of the origin of life and evolution.

In the 'Replicators' Dawkins goes on to describe 'the primeval soup'. This is yet another fabrication of the neo-Darwinists, based on conjectures of what the earth may have been like 4 billion years ago. What is postulated is that their were large organic molecules floating around in seas on this planet prior to the advent of life. Dawkins writes , 'Nowadays large organic molecules would not last long enough to be noticed: they would be quickly absorbed and broken down by bacteria or other living creatures. But bacteria and the rest of us are late-comers, and in those days large organic molecules could drift unmolested through the thickening broth." Unmolested? By predators, yes, but, remember, we are talking about organic material that is not protected by the walls of a cell, or by the cell's own commitment to it's survival. We are talking about carbon compounds somehow combining into amino acids, and amino acids combining into proteins, and proteins combining, along with sugars which react strongly with amino acids and affect their synthesis, combining with, modestly, millions of nucleotides, miraculously arranged in perfect sequences, all of which combinations supposedly took many, many millions of years to achieve. Again, I remind you that we are not talking about living things yet. We are talking about a supposed chemical evolution leading up to life. So these organic materials are not beginning a task and leaving their progeny to finish it. There is no progeny. We are talking about exactly the same compounds combining and staying in tact for millions of years. So, yes, there were no predators to molest these molecules, but how about heat above 50 degrees Centigrade or below thirty degrees Centigrade? How about too much acid or base in the pre-biotic solution? Then there are other products of biochemical reactions that would occur and that have occurred under experimental conditions that would be fatal to this process. These include ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, cyanides and carbon monoxide. Also, heavy metal ions are destructive of organic material. Then there is sunlight which contains both wave lengths that are chemical building and wave lengths that are chemical destroying. Amino acids are very delicate and readily breakdown in sunlight. Ultra-violet light also penetrates to several meters of water, destroying and breaking down organic material well below the ocean surface. Even any movement that is agitated will break up polypeptide bonds and denature protein, as anyone who has whipped cream or beaten an egg can attest. And these are just some of the concerns that scientists have begun to have with 'chemical evolution' since the giddy time over fifty years ago when Miller and Urey produced some carbon compounds in a test tube and people thought that the manufacture of a life form under laboratory conditions was just around the corner. On the contrary, now, many scientists have abandoned the primeval soup theory and have looked to other scenarios including: alongside thermal vents on the ocean floor, in shallow tide pools, anaerobically, deep within the crust of the earth, or that extremophile life was transported here from other planets, embedded in meteors.

Although many of these arguments are found in textbooks under the heading 'Origin of Life' they are not really about the origin of life, but about the theoretical build up to the origin. Pre-biotic evolution theories purport to explain no more than how all the materials necessary for life might have gotten assembled. They do not explain life itself. That part, how a non-living molecule becomes alive, is what is of real interest here, and we will spend quite a bit of time on it.

Dawkins says, on p.15, "At some point a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident. We will call it the Replicator. It may not necessarily have been the biggest or the most complex molecule around, but it had the extraordinary property of being able to create copies of itself. This may seem a very unlikely sort of accident to happen. So it was. It was exceedingly improbable. In the lifetime of a man, things that are that improbable can be treated for practical purposes as impossible. That is why you will never win a big prize on the football pools. But in our human estimates of what is probable and what is not, we are not used to dealing in hundreds of millions of years. If you filled in pools coupons every week for a hundred million years you would very likely win several jackpots."

Please look carefully at this example. Winning the football pools is highly improbable, but not impossible. No one would call it impossible. Some one buys coupons every week, they may win or not win. It is a question of probabilities. But aren't there some things that are impossible? If I said that in my lifetime I never saw a rock talk or a puddle of water dance a jig, would it be reasonable, then, to say, that if I lived for a hundred million years I would very likely see these things several times? If we had billions of molecules that were trying to replicate for a hundred million years, then maybe one time they would succeed. But are molecules trying to replicate? What are molecules trying to do, anyway? They are trying to do nothing, of course; they are molecules. They are not doing anything and they are not making anything. They are just molecules. Don't confuse molecules prior to life with molecules as they function in a living being. You can take a liver freshly removed from a living human body at which point it is a couple of pounds of meat and an enormous collection of molecules encased in cells, but if you are able to transplant that liver into another human being and it becomes part of the nexus of will, consciousness and intelligence, that is that person's life, then that liver, and the molecules within it, start performing all sorts of difficult and precise functions. But a molecule, prior to life, outside of life, is a molecule, a piece of lifeless matter. It is not purchasing pool coupons and it is not trying to replicate. It is not even an 'it', but more of this later.

Here's the next paragraph, "Actually a molecule that makes copies of itself is not as difficult to imagine as it seems at first, and it only had to arise once. Think of the replicator as a mould or template. Imagine it as a large molecule consisting of a complex chain of various sorts of building block molecules. The small building blocks were abundantly available in the soup surrounding the replicator. Now suppose that each building block has an affinity for its own kind. Then whenever a building block from out in the soup lands up next to a part of the replicator for which it has an affinity, it will tend to stick there. The building blocks that attach themselves in this way will automatically be arranged in a sequence that mimics that of the replicator itself. It is easy then to think of them joining up to form a stable chain just as in the formation of the original replicator. This process could continue as a progressive stacking up, layer upon layer. This is how crystals are formed. On the other hand, the two chains might split apart, in which case we have two replicators, each of which can go on to make further copies."

Yes, if you think of the replicator as a mould or a template, then this all makes sense, but all Dawkins is describing here is the construction of a crystal. He has completely ignored the supposed essential action of this molecule. It is not building up mass like a crystal, it is not just glomming more material onto itself. It is replicating. What does that mean exactly? I am going to focus in on three words of that paragraph. Dawkins is talking about a molecule that 'MAKES COPIES of ITSELF'. Let's look at each of these words separately and what they actually mean in this context.

MAKES. Dawkins is talking about a molecule that is making something. According to Dawkins, et. al's understanding of the world, what else have molecules made up until this point in time? Absolutely nothing. In fact, nothing has made nothing up until that moment. Prior to life, according to Dawkins, there was no will, no intelligence, no imagination, no thought, not even an "it" in terms of anything that would be an agent for 'making' or 'doing' anything. All that there was prior to that moment was passive matter. In other words, things moved, heated up, cooled down, exploded and shrank, but each of those actions was a reaction traceable to some prior action. In a later paragraph of the same chapter Dawkins says, "Should we then call the original replicator molecules 'living'? Who cares?" Well, I do for one. Isn't that the whole point of this story, to explain the beginning of life? If it were a chapter about Arabian race horses or the history of the Balkan Wars, I wouldn't care in the least. But if you start out by telling us that you will now explain how life began, then, whether or not these replicators were living is not only an issue, but it is the issue.

My point is that we have no experience of anything initiating any activity or making anything whatsoever except living beings or machines conceived and constructed by living beings. That is one of the hallmarks of life, that it has the capacity to initiate action. It is even built into our language. You can say a bird makes a nest, a dog makes a hole, but it makes no sense to say that a rock or a puddle of water makes anything. The moment you say a molecule 'makes' that molecule has become something completely different than anything that existed prior to that moment. It has become alive, but how that happened is not addressed. It has been omitted, skipped over. We went from molecules that stick to each other, as in a crystal, to molecules making copies of themselves without ever discussing it, beyond saying that it was very unusual.

COPIES. Making copies seems to be a daunting task, but not unimaginable. After all, we have copying machines that can turn out many, many copies of an original document. Putting aside the fact that copy machines were created by human beings, supposedly the most advanced product of this process of evolution, is replication the same as copying? If there were no copying machine, no equipment whatsoever, and a document were just splitting by itself and forming two documents, each of which, in turn, split to form two more, this would be closer to it, but still not really replication. In another book, Dawkins goes to great length to liken biological replication to digital reproduction. The difference, though, is that while digital reproduction reproduces a signal, biological reproduction reproduces a three dimensional being that grows, replicates, is aware of its environment, etc. So what are we talking about here? If you believe that biological replication began with a replicating molecule (which I don't) or a replicating cell (which I do) what is replication, really?

If replication were only the exact reproduction of a three dimensional DNA molecule, with it's millions and billions of components and it's delicate spiralling structures of enzymes and sugars, that would be a miraculous feat, in and of itself. But replication is not merely the reproduction of matter. The new DNA molecule has the exact desire and will to replicate as the first one does, is exactly as alive and willful as the original. If replication were merely the reproduction of matter, we would be as joyous and celebratory at the birth of a still born baby as a live one. The thing that overwhelms you, when you are having a child, is not just all those perfect toes and fingers and eyes, it is the perfect being that is looking back at you from behind those perfect eyes. Your baby is exactly as alive and willful, as intelligent and conscious, as you are. That is the miracle of replication. That is what gets your heart pounding and your knees knocking. Two have become three. And that is what was left out of the obstetrics manual that you had dutifully studied for the previous nine months. Somehow, at some moment, a new life, a new soul, a new being, was slipped into those proteins that were multiplying inside your wife's belly. That is replication. And that is exactly what is happening in your body a trillion times over as one cell becomes two, each as alive and willful as the first one. Each as transfused with intelligence and purpose as the original. This miracle of replication is what is happening a quadrillion quintillion times at every moment on this teeming planet. Put aside your expertise, your professionalism, your stable definitions of who you are and what the world is. Put aside your 'memes.' Can you hear the roar and whoosh of it? Can you feel the power and majesty of it? Can you sense the awesome intelligence of it? And you, your body and your mind, are an integral part of it. The ecstatic experience of realizing that you are surrounded by and are part of this miraculous creativity at every moment, is the very experience that Dawkins would lull you out of by his smug, ungrateful, tedious talk of digital reproduction and molecules blindly, purposelessly, by random chance, making copies of themselves.

ITSELF. So what is a self? Dawkins contends that the replicator is a molecule that makes copies of itself. This implies the notion of independent action. The molecule is accomplishing this replication, this miracle, by itself. This is a hugely important point, because whether you believe that evolution begins with the replication of a molecule, or the replication of a cell, if you believe that replication is happening by itself, that the molecule or the cell is an independent agent and gets no assistance, then, that is the beginning of the death of gratitude. If the miracle of replication happens by chance, by a freak accidental collision of atoms, which in turn forms a molecule capable, by itself, of the miracle of replication, then Dawkins is right, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, Incas and Sufis are wrong, and there is no one or nothing to thank. We are completely independent agents, each cell is a completely independent entity, doing it's myriad functions completely by itself, and we are separate, independent machines whose sole purpose is to try to survive. If Dawkins is wrong and the molecule is not replicating by 'itself' because it has no self, then every mystic down through the ages is right and the first molecule, or cell, is replicated by the consciousness, will and intelligence of the cosmic mind, the cosmic consciousness, God the Father, the Tao, the Divine, or whatever you choose to call it, that was there from the beginning. We, then, rather than being independent entities, are connected with bonds of consciousness and gratitude to the entire universe.

So, again, what is a self? Suppose I build a box, and inside the box I place a thermostat and a tape recorder. I set up this equipment so that when the temperature rises a tape plays that says , "Hot enough, for you?" When the temperature goes down, a different tape plays that says, "Cold enough, for you?" Now when you hear either of those sentences coming out of that box you don't stop for a moment to consider that there is anything in that box that is actually feeling hot or cold, do you? And, certainly, you don't consider that there is anything in that box that is interested in your welfare or that seeks to make dialogue with you, do you? Now, let's get more sophisticated. Suppose I build another box on which I paint or sculpt a very human looking face. Behind the eyes of that face I have a camera hooked up to more equipment that can recognize a variety of things in your appearance and your movement. Now I have fifty different tapes that can say fifty different observational things about you like, "Looks like you could use a cup of coffee,' or "Want to talk about it?" Are we still clear that no matter how much equipment I stuff into that box, and how realistic I make the shape of that box to resemble a human being, that there is nothing in that box that feels, or experiences any mood that I am in, or that actually sees or hears me? Also, that there is nothing in that box that has any concern for me or my welfare? Good. On the other hand, you know that if you have a cat or a dog, even if they can't articulate it, it is clear that they can see you, and that they do respond to things that you do. Your cat or dog can get very excited about the food that you serve them when they are really hungry, while your most sophisticated computer has no excitement, whatsoever, when it gets a tune up, even if that tune up is desperately needed. There is nothing in the computer that experiences a need for anything, that experiences a desire or the fulfillment of that desire. If a computer needs a repair a warning light, or an icon, may flash, but the computer is not concerned about whether or not it gets repaired, or whether it functions at all. Your pets, however, do have a concern about their survival, and getting their needs met. There is an 'it' there. The dog or the cat experiences things and non-living matter does not.

Where in the body of the cat or the dog is that center of experience located? Is it behind the eyes? Although it seems to reside there most of the time, it is not necessarily behind one's eyes. When your eyes are closed, or you are dreaming, or if you lose your sight, you still continue to experience things. The ground of being is still in tact, but the location has changed. Is it in some place in the brain? I hesitate to substitute the word consciousness for the ground of being because scientists like Dawkins will quickly confuse the contents of consciousness with consciousness itself. Elsewhere, Dawkins writes that we developed consciousnes because it was advantageous to our survival to have a picture of ourselves in our minds. This, of course, confuses consciousness with self-consciousness, a mental image of one's self with the actual self that is experiencing the image. Scientists can now track almost every aspect of consciousness, every thing you might be thinking or feeling, to some electrical or chemical pattern in the brain. These patterns are not consciousness, however, but the antecedents of consciousness. You still have to translate these patterns into actual thoughts and feelings, into experience. So consciousness is not those electrical or chemical patterns, and it is not those thoughts, images or feelings, which are contents of consciousness, but not consciousness itself. Consciousness is that which experiences that. Consciousness is the non-physical ground of your experience. It is the empty bowl within which you experience your life. This consciousness, or ground of being, is still there even if a life form does not have a brain, per se. If a being is responsive to its environment in any way, if it can distinguish what is edible from what is harmful, if it moves toward what it desires and avoids or protects itself from what will do it harm, then that being has some form of consciousness. That being is experiencing something. That being has a will and the capacity to initiate action. That being has a self.

In the next paragraph Dawkins says, "Previously it is probable that no particular kind of complex molecule was very abundant in the soup, because each was dependent on building blocks happening to fall by luck into a particular stable configuration. As soon as the replicator was born it must have spread its copies rapidly throughout the seas, until the smaller building block molecules became a scarce resource, and other larger molecules were formed more and more rarely." Why? How does the replicator spread copies if it's not by the chance passage of the proper building blocks in the soup? Can the replicator move? In the previous paragraph Dawkins uses the word 'affinity' twice to describe the attraction that building blocks of the replicator molecule might have for building blocks in the 'soup'. But what is that affinity? Are we talking about something electro-magnetic, one of the normal chemical bonds that we know of? If that were so, the replicator would still be as dependent after replication as it was before replication for the chance passage of appropriate building block materials. Or are we talking about another kind of affinity, which is the affinity that a living being has for something that it needs? If that is the case, then this 'molecule' would have to have some kind of consciousness to discern where in the soup these needed building blocks were located, and it would have to have some kind of locomotion to get to the building block after it was located. So either we have a molecule which has to continue to wait passively (if it took a hundred million years for the first occurrence, then it would take another hundred million for the second), or we have a 'molecule' which is actively searching for building block materials in which case we don't have a molecule at all, but a living being with consciousness, desire and locomotion; and the 'affinity' that Dawkins speaks of is 'will' which is no more a function of the molecule 'itself' than the will that is beating our hearts and growing our cells and energizing the ten quadrillion simultaneous biological processes of our bodies is something that we are doing by ourselves.

Now I want you to look again at the above paragraph. Thirty years after the publication of this book, 'The Selfish Gene,' Dawkins wrote in the preface to the most recent edition that, aside from a small concern that he may now have about the title he will let it all stand as is. Therefore, we can assume that he and his editors considered carefully the following phrase, "As soon as the replicator was BORN...." Of course, how else could you describe the creation of an object that replicates and seeks out material for replication except to say that it was a birth. Astoundingly, on exactly the same page, page sixteen, he describes the virgin birth of Jesus to be the result of a translation error from the Hebrew word for 'young woman' to the Greek word for 'virgin'. The implication being that the only possible explanation for a virgin birth would be a mistake in the translation. Yet, on the very same page he is talking about the birth of a replicator molecule which is missing not one parent, but two. If you cannot explain a birth if there is only one parent, how can you explain a birth when there are no parents? One is considered a silly myth propagated by people with foolish beliefs, and the other, the one that is not just highly improbable, but flat out impossible, is now considered sober, scientific fact!

Dawkins may not be interested in whether or not the replicator is alive, but if he claims that this molecule is making copies of 'itself', by itself, then he is conferring on it selfhood and will. In other words he is not just saying that accidentally a molecule started making copies of itself, he is saying that accidentally a molecule had come to life. Dawkins explanation, then, for the beginning of life is exactly no explanation. All the talk of the evolution of more complex molecules is irrelevant. All the talk of a pre-biotic soups irrelevant. There was a molecule and then there was a living thing called a replicator, with no parents, no build up, nothing. There was no life; there was a freakish accident, and then, poof!, there was. Dawkins explanation of the beginning of life is no explanation at all.

The next two pages of the chapter are a sort of boiler plate list of evolutionary principles which make some kind of sense when you are talking about the replication of living beings. What kind of sense do these principles make when you are talking about the replication of molecules? Dawkins talks about how copying errors create new varieties and how some of these new varieties may have a survival advantage over the originals. So, he is now fantasizing about many varieties of 'replicating' molecules competing for survival. This is remarkable, considering that we cannot even imagine, discover, or genetically alter one molecule that can replicate outside of a cell. The process of replication in Dawkins' description has suddenly become genetic replication. Where did that come from? We were discussing how crystals are formed, when the building block of one molecule bonds with another, and suddenly we are discussing a process of genetic replication. The only explanation for its arrival is that it was an admittedly weird accident.

Then he mentions how molecules with greater longevity would have an advantage over molecules with shorter longevity. Wait! Is he still talking about molecules? What longevity is there in a molecule. If a molecule is not alive, there is no life span, so he would be talking about the sturdiness of a molecule, its ability to stay in tact. But the replicating molecule would have to be made of millions of parts, all in exact arrangements and shapes and all connected by delicate bonds, which is why the DNA in our cells is protected by two membranes, the nuclear membrane and the outer wall of the cell. These delicate peptide and sulfide bonds are vulnerable to temperature changes, exposures to many types of elements, including oxygen and carbon dioxide, heavy metal ions, many other organic compounds, alcohols, and any compound that has the same chemical composition but the wrong physical structure (right handed instead of left handed carbon compounds or left handed instead of right handed sugars). Organic matter is also vulnerable to any strong movement and to ultra-violet light. Now keep in mind, that, according to this theory, all the components of the replicating molecule were not alive until the moment of replication, and, even then, according to the theory, their 'aliveness' was questionable. If they were not alive then there were no ancestors to begin this work of pre-biotic evolution, and no progeny to continue it. That means that the very same carbon compounds that amazingly came together to form amino acids, by themselves, and the amino acids that amazingly came together to form proteins, and the proteins that came together in millions of microscopic parts, in exactly the right shape and formation to form a molecule capable of replication, were precisely the same compounds, acids and proteins that had begun to come together hundreds of millions of years earlier! If we are to believe that all these millions of components had held together through volcanoes, storms, tectonic plate shifts, meteor bombardments, enormous temperature changes, and all of the other vicissitudes of the first hundreds of millions of years of our earth's history, why would there be any issue of longevity? On the other hand, if it is 'alive' then we are talking about life spans, about birth, maturation and death, but what life span could there be if there is no body? Also, the way our replicating molecule, DNA, contorts itself, as part of a whole cells replication, the complex gymnastics it goes through and then returns to its exact original shape, cannot be explained by simple physics and chemistry. This is a function of the will of the cell to survive and maintain its shape, which is not understood at all by modern science. If we do not begin to understand it, how can we pretend to explain how it was created?

Same goes for 'fecundity' which is the next topic on Dawkins' evolutionary checklist. What sense does fecundity make when you are talking about a molecule? If we are discussing cellular replication, yes, the cell, or the organism, cannot replicate again until it has grown and matured. But what maturation process would there be for a molecule that has no body attached to it? If it could replicate, why couldn't it immediately turn around and replicate again? Although Dawkins doesn't want to discuss whether or not the replicator molecule is alive, everything he is theorizing is predicated on these molecules not only being alive, but having mortal bodies, discernment and will. When he is talking about a survival advantage of one molecule over another, what advantage could he be talking about? Would one type of molecule move faster than another type? Then, we are talking about molecules with locomotion. Would one type of molecule survive longer than another type? Then, we are talking about lifespans. Would one type be able to find the materials it needs for replication better than another? Again, we are talking about a living being that can move, and discern what it needs from its surrounding environment.

Now Dawkins makes a point of saying that these molecules, creatures, whatever, do not want to evolve. That nothing really wants to evolve. Well, the replicators may not want to evolve, but they sure as hell want to replicate! In fact, it is the incessant drive and competition to replicate, that is the motor that drives this whole fantasy. How did the whole process of digestion begin? "Some of them (the replicators) may even have 'discovered' how to break up molecules of rival varieties chemically, and to use the building blocks so released for making their own copies," Dawkins writes. Gee, what a neat discovery. Too bad our Nobel Laureate scientists can't come up with anything approaching that. How, pray tell, could a replicator, a microscopic piece of protein, make such a discovery? And how would a molecule execute this discovery once it had discovered it? It would have to manufacture a chemical by a process of digestion and then secrete it at its rival. Where would we find the organs of digestion and secretion in a molecule? It is insulting enough to claim that cells are doing these kinds of things, digestion and secretion, by themselves, but to claim that a molecule is doing it by itself is insulting not just to people of a spiritual persuasion but to anyone who can think.

"Other replicators perhaps discovered how to protect themselves, either chemically, or by building a physical wall of protein around themselves. This may have been how the first living cells appeared." There are myriad reasons why this statement is utterly devoid of meaning or sense, but I will just mention a few. First of all, a single celled organism, as with any living being, behaves as a unit. It is not a DNA molecule with a coat on. It is a unitary being. To say that growing a body is like building a wall, or putting on a protective coat, is an attempt to trivialize and demystify a process that is wondrous, in the same way that calling the replication of a living being, even a cell, a copying process, trivializes that process in a way that gives us the illusion that it is understood when it is not understood in the most fundamental way. Putting on a coat, or building a wall, is something that we can understand, although having a molecule put on a coat or build a wall does take a remarkable stretch of the imagination. Putting on a body, though, is very different than putting on a coat. Our body is the physical extension of ourself. It is an indivisible unit. Our commitment to survival extends to every part of our body. Our digestion feeds every part. When we move, we don't leave parts of ourselves behind. When we grow, we grow as a proportional whole. Every cell in every part of our body works in perfect harmony with every other cell to guarantee our moment to moment survival. But to think of the cell, surrounding the nucleus, as a protective wall, that the will, energy and commitment to survive are all coming from the nucleus and the surrounding cell is merely a buffer, does not compute with anything that we know about the cell, or with our experience of our own bodies.

An entire set of genes is located in the nucleus of every cell. At different times, those same set of genes guide the construction of our fetal body, our infant body, our child body and our adult body. The same set of genes that guides the construction of the caterpillar, guides the construction of the butterfly. Depending on the creature, there are many thousands, or millions or billions of genes. But the selection of which genes are used to manufacture which enzyme at any given moment emanates, at least on the physical plane, not from the nucleus to the outer cell but from the outer cell to the nucleus. If we draw an analogy from the world of computing, the nucleus contains the coding for many, many programs. The rest of the cell decides which program it needs at which moment. The cell is also the equipment that the codes are built to operate in, and the survival of the cell, is the purpose for which the codes exist in the first place. The argument that the genes, or the replicating nucleus, serves the surrounding cell, is just as strong, if not stronger, than the argument that the surrounding cell serves the nucleus. Dawkins may try to separate them (the nucleus and the surrounding cell) in an attempt to conform to his 'simple to complex meme,' but, in truth, they cannot be separated, any more than you can say, regarding any object, that the inside preceded the outside, or the left side preceded the right side.

If we humored Dawkins and tried to imagine how this process of cell building would begin, what would we think? Would the molecule pull something toward it and hold it to itself for protection? We can imagine ourselves doing such a thing, but how would a molecule do it? What part of the molecule would discern what it needs for protection? What part would hold this material to it? And at what point, either in the example of ourselves or the 'replicator' does that material that is clinging to us, or it, miraculously transform from something adjacent but external to ourselves, to something that is an integral, indivisible part of our will and our selves. That is a mystery that neither Dawkins, nor anyone, can begin to explain for any creature much less for a 'replicating molecule.' Again, if you don't understand it, how can you pretend to know how it originated?

Also, the purpose of the genetic code, at least the one purpose that has been detected by Western science to this point, is the manufacture of proteins. These proteins form the physical contents of the bodies surrounding the genes. How these bodies take on a particular shape, how they are filled with intelligence, will and consciousness, and the involvement of the genes in any of this, has not yet been determined. But if the sole determined purpose of the genes is protein manufacture, how can you imagine sets of genes in a 'replicating molecule' miraculously replicating for hundreds of millions of years without ever functioning? In other words, you have this fantastically elaborate equipment to manufacture protein that miraculously replicates for all that time without ever being used. That would be like cook books being printed for millions of years, over and over again, without any kitchens, any stoves or any cooks; with untold numbers of recipes but nothing ever being cooked or eaten; or countless numbers of software programs being replicated with no computers to play them on, no screens to see them on and no people to use or enjoy them. If the sole detectable function of genes is to manufacture proteins to build and maintain bodies, how can you imagine genes being replicated over and over again without ever being used? Yet, here we have Dawkins fantasizing about molecules genetically replicating, by themselves, for hundreds of millions of years and THEN 'discovering' how to build bodies.

Now, to complete his explanation for the origin of life, Dawkins adds two things. One is that there was a competition, initially not for food, but for material to replicate building blocks. And the second, is that in the genetic replicating process, which in all its wondrous complexity just started operating one day on its own, mistakes are occasionally made. Of these rare mistakes, once in a very great while, a mistake is made that enhances the survival prospects of the 'mistake' over its fellow replicators, so that this new replicator soon devours and dominates the others. Keep in mind that there is nothing in this process of 'copying mistakes' that expands the number of genes or the amount of genetic information. It is merely one or several genes swapping for one or several others. The resultant 'mistake' never has more genes, more genetic information, more complexity than the original. This process may explain in a superficial way (superficial because any biological process that is explained purely on the physical plane is incomplete) why we have blue eyes rather than brown, or a flat rather than an aquiline nose, but aside from the swapping of traits, it offers no explanation as to how beings would grow more complex, develop new organs or change their shape in any fundamental way. Yet it is on this fragile, rickety scaffold of replicator molecules, that no one has ever seen or can even imagine, and this system of fortuitous genetic mistakes based on a code that no one ever invented, that Dawkins has the audacity to hang the entire creation of life on this teeming planet. Where did the nervous system come from? The replicators, by chance, discovered how to build a nervous system and those that had a nervous system prevailed over those that didn't. What about the brain? Easy! Another invention, by chance, of the replicators, and those with a brain had an advantage over those that didn't; so, voila! brains. Consciousness? The replicators that discovered, by chance, consciousness, were better able to protect themselves over the replicators that had no consciousness. Eyes, ears, hearts, swimming, flying, thinking, loving, the origin of whatever you can find that's alive on this wondrous planet, can now be reduced to the same stultifyingly mundane, idiotic and meaningless formula. It gave the replicator molecule an advantage.

Even if all of this fantasy were true, you would still have to explain this ceaseless will of the replicators. Why do they keep, endlessly trying to replicate? What is the source of that drive which is completely different than any other force in the universe. First there was electro-magnetism, gravity, the strong force (that binds the nucleus of atoms together) and the weak force (that binds sub-atomic particles). Now, suddenly, there is will, the will to replicate, with discernment and locomotion to serve this will. Where did it come from? Dawkins' explanation: a very weird accident.

The repercussions of creating the fantasy of these replicating molecules as the underpinning of all of life are enormous. What has been imagined are creatures that are alive to this extent: they have no consciousness, no intelligence, no interest at all, except for their single minded and relentless need to replicate. If the cell were postulated as the beginning of evolution then the driving force of evolution could be seen as the expansion of consciousness, since the cell has a responsiveness to its environment, has a ground of being. If it were thought about deeply, even the replicator would have a ground of being, because the replicator would need some form of discernment to locate what materials it needs for replication. If there is discernment and will, then there has to be a ground of being, a non-physical reference point that experiences that will and that discernment. Then, instead of thinking of the process of evolution as the ruthless development of more and more efficient replication machines, we might think of evolution as the development of more and more expansive forms of consciousness.

And finally Dawkins writes, “Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use, and that the mere presence in the dictionary of a word like ‘living’ does not mean it necessarily has to refer to something definite in the real world.” And what of the human suffering caused by people that espouse a view that life, consciousness, purpose, will, God and oneness have no reality and that vicious, mindless, relentless replicator molecules that no one has ever seen or can even conceive of in any detail, not only do have reality, but are the basic underlying reality of all of life?

By 'something definite in the real world,' Dawkins means something you can feel, taste, touch and measure. By this standard, everything in life that is truly meaningful has no reality, and that includes love and one’s self. How can we define living , Dawkins wonders? Answer: something is living if it experiences things. And all of experience, including mine, yours and Dawkins’, cannot be felt, tasted, touched, seen or measured by anyone but one’s self. If you tell me you are seeing a gorgeous sunset, I can perhaps do a scan and see an electrical pattern in your brain, but the manner in which that pattern get translated into your actual experience of a sunset, or how Dawkins’ brain patterns get translated into the cynical words that you read in his books, is a mystery that cannot be solved by the scientific method of observation and measurement. And more mysterious than that, is the ground of that experience, which is you. That you, which is not the content, but the context of your entire experience of life, even Dawkins’ experience of life, is not in the physical universe. It is immutable and immeasurable. Is it real? It’s the only reality, ultimately. All the attributes of those ‘definite’ things that Dawkins measures melt away into molecules when we look at them under the microscope. Those solid molecules then melt away into atoms, and those solid atoms melt into sub-atomic particles separated by huge spaces when we look through instruments of higher and higher magnification. What happened to that definite, solid, measurable world? It disappeared. But you, the observer, are still there, just as you always have been and always will be.

Soon after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of England in 1979, Steven Rose wrote in New Scientist: "......the switch in scientific fashion, if only from group to kin selection models in evolutionary theory, will come to be seen as part of the tide which has rolled the Thatcherites and their concept of a fixed, 19th century competitive and xenophobic human nature into power." And, this is not just a political tide. It seems that every aspect of life has been infected by a cynicism which mistrusts anything that even hints of idealism or alludes to any motive beyond our most narrowly defined selfishness. Has the 'meme' of the mindless, ruthless, replicators as the sole foundation of our existence infected our entire culture? Now we seem on the brink of catastrophe, as armed camps of religious sectarians face each other down, and huge masses of bewildered atheists sit on the side lines feeling confused by, but still superior to, the passions on either side. While some people worship Allah, some worship Jesus, some worship proteins and some worship replicator molecules, the Nameless One is erupting at every moment in oceans of glorious creativity from within and without. Only when we realize that, will the joy, the passion and the liberation of spiritual life be ours without competition, without rivalry and without war. It's the twenty- first century. We have exploded the forces of the atom and imploded the national boundaries that separated and protected us from each other. It's time that the uniters save us from the dividers; that transcendentalism shows us the way past militant sectarianism and myopic secularism. Peace.

Any feedback? Your comments are very welcome.