Monday, July 27, 2009


This post is a continuation of a correspondance I have been having with Sandy McKean. It should be read after reading the previous post, 'Sandy and Me.' Thanks.

SandyMcKean said...

I appreciate Matt re-organizing our conversation into a true blog post. Clearly, he is a diligent and committed fellow. OTOH, I can't say I am particularly happy with his characterization of me as:

"He is a materialist evolutionist and especially demeaning and sarcastic toward anyone who disagrees with the strict neo-Darwinist party line....."

Frankly, I'm at a loss to figure out how he came to this characterization of me from what I have said here -- especially when he himself has thrown quite a few insults my way comparing me to Joe MacCarthy, a member of the Inquisition, and generally using pejorative terms toward me (as indeed he does in the quote directly above). Oh, and I will confirm that I am male :-). OK, now back to the discussion.....

Matt you say:

"Yes, there is an energy in biology that has not yet been discovered; at least not by evolutionary biologists......that extra energy is desire."

You say here that you (and others presumably) have discovered a form of energy that is apparently not accepted by the scientific establishment. I have a question for you: do you have an independent and objective way of measuring this energy? For example, we can use a thermometer to measure heat energy, and do experiments with heat sources while watch the thermometer go up and down measuring that heat energy just as we might predict. Or we can put a amp meter into an electric circuit and watch the needle move as we claim that electric energy flows unseen around that circuit. Or we can bring what might otherwise be an ordinary rock near a Geiger counter and listen as the clicks register energy coming from radioactive energy; or like Madame Curie we can put that same rock on a unexposed photographic plate and find the next day that something in the rock exposed the emulsion in the photographic plate. Matt, do you have same sort of experiment or device such as these 4 examples where you can MEASURE this undiscovered "energy in biology" in an objective way that is totally independent of human intervention or interpretation (such as a needle moving, or mercury in a thermometer rising, or a photographic plate being exposed without any human involment other than setting a rock on it)?

Further, I'm confused by this statement:

"Replication requires the use of extra energy, of borrowed energy, to overcome the laws of physics and chemistry."

Which specific laws of physics and chemistry have to be violated or overcome? Maybe you didn't mean to say this; maybe what you are actually trying to say is that this "extra energy" is required to overcome what you consider to be a statistical improbability.....but that is not what you said. You said that some laws of physics and chemistry have to be overcome; laws I presume such as F=MA, or the inverse square law of gravity or the electromagnetic force, or the law of chemical valance where atoms lower their energy state by having a certain number of electrons in their outer shells (such as oxygen having only 6 electrons in its outer shell when it is energetically advantageous to have 8, so it naturally combines with 2 hydrogen atoms to form water since each hydrogen has 1 more electron than is energetically advantageous). I know of nowhere in the sphere of life where a law of physics and chemistry is broken or needs to be broken (a broken law would be something like a water molecule spontaneously breaking down into separate oxygen and hydrogen atoms sicne that is energetically disadvantageous according the laws of physics and chemistry (to use my example above). Do you have specific examples of the laws of physics and chemistry being overcome? Can you tell me exactly which laws are being broken? Or are you, as I suspect, simply referring to your personal observation that it is statistically improbable that the living world you see around you could have evolved given only the laws of physics and chemistry?


"Frankly, I'm at a loss to figure out how he came to this characterization of me from what I have said here"

As I told you earlier I recognized your name and your style and your sarcasm from comments that you had written on other posts. Also, your first comment on my blog was a huge ‘Gotcha!’ moment based on the one fact that, not me, but one of the commenters on my blog signed off with the unforgivable words, ‘God Bless you.’ I wonder if on occasion even you let those awful words slip out; say, when someone sneezes in your presence? And when you do say ‘God Bless you,’ when someone sneezes, do you feel ashamed of yourself afterwards? Well, for what it’s worth, I forgive you.

"I have a question for you: do you have an independent and objective way of measuring this energy?"

I do, but before I answer that question, I have one for you. Do you have an independent and objective way of measuring yourself? Where is Sandy? I know you have a name and an address; I know you have a social security number and a telephone number; I know you can give me a list of your accomplishments, your relatives, your attitudes, your scores on various tests; but all of these are measures not of you, but of your possessions, abilities and relationships. What about you? Where and how do I measure you? I can look at x-rays, cat scans, and colonoscopy pictures, and with the help of these I can see your bones, muscle mass, blood vessels and the inside of your intestines; but through all of these Sandy is nowhere to be found. Well, you may say, I may not be my body, but I am my brain. So I’ll do MRI’s and other scans of your brain and what will I see? I’ll see one hundred billion neurons each with a thousand or more axons connecting to the other neurons and to your musculature. I know this because these are pretty much exactly the same kinds of neurons and same kinds of axons that are found in my brain. When your neurons fire, a stream of electrons will flow through these firing neurons leaving a series of chemical deposits. I know this because these are pretty much exactly the same electrons flowing at the same voltage and leaving pretty much exactly the same chemical deposits as they do in my brain. So far, looking at your brain and my brain and any other human brain we can detect no noticeable difference. So, once again, where is Sandy? And as we look at your brain scans we notice that certain areas light up at different times; sometimes the hearing center fires; sometimes the visual center fires; sometimes the memory center fires. The question is why do these different areas light up at different times? And the answer is because YOU WANT to listen to something; YOU WANT to hear something; and YOU WANT to remember something. Whenever you want to do something, whenever you focus on something, a different area of your brain will fire. But the YOU that is focusing, and the FOCUS and the WANTING is not seen by any scan, and cannot be measured by any equipment. And what about your experience; which is the result of all this neural and sometimes muscular activity? Where is that?

Can you show me your experience directly? Can you measure it? Your experience is the actual moment to moment content of your life; but where is it? I know you can write a book about it; you can even write a blog comment about it. But can you measure it directly? Can you tell me how big it is or how much it weighs? You cannot. The only instrument that YOU and your DESIRES and your EXPERIENCE effects are your own neurons. But that is enough. Your neurons, like the ignition switch of your car, are enough to initiate all the processes that allow you to get your desires met and your neurons in conjunction with your sense organs are enough to allow you to experience the world in the way that you want to experience it.

Now, hold on, you say. Anything that is in the physical, material world can be measured. If something exists in space and time then there must be some sort of device that can detect its presence. But this harks back precisely, Sandy, to the experience that you once had. You, the real you, the seer of your sights, the thinker of your thoughts, the experiencer of your experience, is exactly what you thought it was in that one moment when you realized that you were beyond space and time, that you were one with everything; that separation was the illusion and Oneness was the reality. We are here in space/time, we are playing in space/time, but we are not of space/time. You may not appreciate the source, but this is my understanding of what it means in the Bible when it says that ‘we are made in the image of God.” We are part of God, we are an inextricable part of the spiritual underpinning of the universe; but we have chosen to live this life of a separate existence, of duality; of me and you; of up and down, of past and future.

“where you can MEASURE this undiscovered "energy in biology" in an objective way that is totally independent of human intervention or interpretation (such as a needle moving, or mercury in a thermometer rising, or a photographic plate being exposed without any human involment”

Do you think there is no human involvement in the measurement of heat? We can measure expansion and contraction, but aside from that, what is heat? Is there any such thing as hot or cold without a human’s or a living being’s experience of it? Heat is the experience that a being has when it is in an environment where it is becoming too expansive for that being to survive. Cold is the experience that a being has when it is in an environment where it is becoming too contractive for that being to survive. On the surface of the sun, atoms and molecules and subatomic particles may be moving at enormous speeds but they are not looking for an air conditioned movie. At absolute zero molecules may be hardly moving at all but they are not dreaming about hot soup and fire places. Rather than being independent of human involvement, any measurement or even discussion of heat or cold, or what we call temperature, has absolutely no existence apart from the ‘experience’ of living beings. And the same must be said for colors, sounds, smells, soft and hard, permeable and impermeable. What are they apart from our, or other living beings experience of them? Take away the experience and what you are left with, from a space perspective, is just expansion and contraction; and from a time perspective is just frequency and speed. Yet even space and time have no reality apart from the way in which living beings organize their experience.

Your question was about desire and will, and how I could objectively measure them in the same way that one could measure the other forces of gravity, electro-magnetism, the weak force and the strong force. But how do you observe these other forces directly? How can you measure them except by the effect they have on matter. We know how gravity effects matter, but what is it actually? Has anyone seen gravity by itself? And the same is true for the other forces. We can only measure them by the effect they have. That’s how we know they are there. In truth the law of gravity and the laws of electromagnetism have no direct observable reality. They are laws. These universal laws, just like our man-made laws, derive their power from agreement. What is the force that emanates from red lights that has the power to stop traffic? It is simply the force of agreement. We, as a society, decided to organize our traffic that way and we as a society agree to obey these laws that we have set up. They are a result of our intention to have a safe and functional society and, specifically, a safe and functional traffic system.

Let me go back to what I said earlier, that we are made in the image of God; so that, by studying ourselves and how we operate, we can get a glimpse into how God operates. We can ask of any of our fellow human beings, regarding their accomplishments, “How did you do this?” And, they can answer with a detailed list of specific chains of events that resulted in them becoming a doctor, or building a monument, or writing a novel. But this whole chain of events began, the entire thing was first engendered, when that person first said to themselves, “I am going to be a doctor” or “I am going to write a novel.” This intention was the catalyst that energized the whole series of events that resulted in the achievement of their goal. The inviolable, precise and consistent physical laws of the universe are also a result of intention, God’s or the Universe’s intention, to create a world of matter and energy and ultimately a world that could support life forms, which is a way of having separate experiences. Another way of saying that would be, “God said let there be a physical universe, and there was a physical universe.”

So, if you agree that gravity and electro-magnetism cannot be measured directly, but only by their effects on matter, I can now return to the original question. How do I measure desire? I measure it by its effects on living bodies. Remember, I spoke of two kinds of desire. There is human desire and God’s or the Universe’s desire that we call will.

A normal person has a certain level of desire. A depressed person has a lower level of desire. A severely depressed person has a lower level of desire than that. A catatonic person, that has to be force fed and propped up to stay erect, has a lower level still. A body without will is a corpse. A good instrument to measure these differences would be your eyes.

“Which specific laws of physics and chemistry have to be violated or overcome?”

I don’t think I ever used the word violated. Isn’t the purpose of any machine to gather and focus energy to overcome physical laws? My car serves my intention of getting places. It does so by using energy to overcome friction and inertia. In terms of my own biological machine, my desire to climb a mountain creates the energy to overcome gravity. In the same way my body uses energy to overcome gravity to get blood circulating to my head; and on the molecular level I have vast numbers of pumps in every cell that move molecules into solutions with enough energy to overcome the laws of diffusion. Any metabolic system uses energy to accomplish what would not happen without this extra energy. Again, the difference between the force of will in a living body and the absence of will in a living body, is the difference between a living body and a corpse. A corpse is a body behaving as matter; that is, being a completely passive object reacting to whatever physical forces happen to be acting on it or not acting on it. A living body is a body imbued with the intention to survive which energizes a multitude of biological processes to achieve that survival. And the being that occupies a living body uses it to fulfill his or her desires.


Ben said...

Hello Matt,
Another excellent post, particularly on your understanding ogf the force of will. I can't recall if you've actually done a post yet on what consciousness is -presumably it would have to be defined by its attributes eg 1) desire or intent to evolve and grow more organised, 2) the ability to make choices, therefore free will within limits previously prescribed by the organisation process, which we call laws or habits. Matter would be consciousness almost deprived of will (but not quite, eh?)

Matt Chait said...

Great to hear from you! I've actually taken a few stabs at defining consciousness in some of these posts, but I had a great teacher once, Swami Satchidananda, whose words keep echoing in my ear,

"Once we were all fine. Then, we became defined. Now we spend our whole lives trying to be refined. But in the beginning, don't forget, that we were all fine."

And, of course, the 'we' that he was talking about was consciousness. It is the context of everything but it is not, itself, a thing. It is the ground of experience and the milieu of intentions. It is beyond space, beyond time, beyond any limitations or definitions what so ever. It is the ability to experience anything at any given moment. And the best thing about it is that it is YOU.

Now if we could only realize that!