Sunday, November 26, 2017

GIVING THANKS

My family is not committed to any particular organized religion.  The one ritual that we do practice religiously is taking turns around the Thanksgiving table to express what it is that each of us are grateful for.  Although I can't vouch for the others,  I don't prepare what I am going to say. I have noticed that the things that I am grateful for have changed over the years.  I am not as engaged as I once was in the world in a way that I am concerned about the outcome of events.  Of course if I get sick and especially if a loved one gets sick, I hope and pray for their return to health.  And I celebrate the successes and empathize with the failures of these loved ones.  But for myself, my life has stabilized more and more over the years and the things that I am grateful for have less to do with how things  turn out as they have to do simply with my ability to observe and remember events as they are unfolding.  These abilities that I have gratitude for are not things that special luck or  talents or opportunities have brought me beyond the immensely lucky  opportunity to be born.  They are abilities that I share with every living being.

I am grateful for life itself.  What a remarkably wonderful thing life is.  I am able to experience things.  I do this at every moment.  I can see.  I can hear.  I can feel fresh air on my skin.  I can eat and drink and taste whatever it is that I am eating and drinking.  Like everyone else, I have intentions; there are things that I want to do.  But as I grow older, the things that I want to do are almost exclusively things that I am able to do, simply by intending them.  I am not invested in a set of desires that are in competition with other people's sets of desires.  If I want to go for a walk, miraculously, all the muscles that I need to constrict and relax in order for me to go for that walk automatically begin to constrict and relax the moment that I have that intention and they constrict and relax in precisely the sequence and timing that allows me not only to walk but to walk in the specific direction that I intend to walk in.  That is wondrous.  It is no less wondrous because I share that ability with every ambulatory creature on this planet.  I can instantaneosly direct my body in the direction that I want to direct it and to do precisely what it is that I want it to do.  And these activities are very precise : like typing this essay, or getting a glass of water or tying my shoes, activities that require remarkably precise cascades of firing neurons and contracting and expanding molecules within my musculature.

I am grateful for the sun, not as an object,  but as an experience.  I observe the light and experience the warmth that it brings every day.  I feel that on my body.  I observe how all my fellow creatures react to the arrival of light every day.  I see the energy that it produces.  The same with water.  I walk the same trail at least a few days every week, and I live in an area that has a rainy season.  Prior to that season, right now for instance, most of the plants along that trail are parched.  They wait with eager anticipation for the arrival of the rains and when the rains do arrive they swell and grow and turn radiant colors in their happiness.  This is a glory to behold and I am able to observe that any time I want, simply by directing my feet in that direction.

I can think.  You may not agree with the way that I think, which is fine; and you will never know all the ways in which I think as I will never know all the ways in which you think; which is also fine.  But I can still think, and I can think about the things that I want to think about, simply by focussing on whatever it is that I want to focus on.  Again, this ability is something that I share with all my fellow humans, and with, I believe, a lot, lot more creatures that are generally not thought of as 'thinking.' And again, it is no less glorious, no less wondrous, that I am able to do that because I share that ability with everyone else.  I may live in a nominally capitalist, competitive economy and I may live in a society that shares many beliefs about the inherently competitive nature of biology, but the things that I am grateful for are not things that I am in competition with you about.  And it does not diminish, one iota, the miraculous nature of these abilities because they are shared by countless living creatures.

Life itself is truly wondrous and miraculous.  If I wish for anything, I wish for more of my fellow creatures to stop wishing (at least once in a while) and really take stock of these wonderful abilities that we are each already able to do and experience.  A lot more happiness, a lot more mutual respect, a lot more peace and joy would be generated if we did.  Belated Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

INTENTIONS

The basic thrust of modern theoretical science is to provide a framework to explain how the world, both animate and  inanimate, came to be the way that we find it today without the intervention of any intelligence or guidance.  In other words, a random world without intention. This is not only the thrust of modern theoretical science, but it is the unspoken context within which many of us experience our lives.  And this random nature of our existence, that we are the result of countless trillions of random but fortuitous collisions ( fortuitous if we have any appreciation for our lives and the world around us)  between particles of matter interacting at the mercy of blind forces,  is something that we have accepted, not happily, but with resignation because, alas, scientists, people that know much more about the world than we do, have proven it to be so.  Or have they?

The randomness of life troubles us at very deep levels.  Many of us, for instance,  pore over the details of how our parents met; all the little specific details that brought our mothers and fathers to be in the same exact place and time.  Once our parents had discovered each other, it may be more plausible to think that "something just drew them to each other."  Or that, "they knew immediately that they were meant to be together," but did all the little specific details,  including ancestors coming to America at a certain moment in time, choosing a certain neighborhood to live in; our parents sharing the same interest or sharing the same particular schedule on a particular day, or sharing some common social connection, that brought them to the same place at the same time, so that that "pre-ordained" chemistry could be allowed to occur in the first place; could all of that, that whole litany of specific circumstances, could that possibly have been the result of anyone's intention?  And, if so, whose intention was it?

My parents met at a resort hotel where they were both attending a single's weekend.  Did my mother frequent such places?  Not at all.  In fact, this was the first time she had ever gone to a single's weekend.  Why did she feel compelled to attend on that particular weekend?  I don't really know how frequently my father went to such events, and he is no longer around to ask, but even if he did go a number of times previously, why this particular weekend?  Why this particular  hotel?  My mother went with a friend.  Did they just simply decide to go or did they consider going for a while, considering different hotels and different dates until finally honing in on this particular one?  My father, also, although he attended alone, must have certainly considered other weekends and other places.  If either of them had made any other decision, they most probably would never have met; my father being from New York City and my mother from Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The hotel just happened to be about half way between these two cities.

They met at a ping pong table.  My mother was playing with her friend.  My father asked if he could play the winner.  What if her friend had won?  What if my father had walked, that morning, over to the tennis courts rather than the ping pong tables?  What if my mother did not play ping pong?  Would I have ever been born? Or my sisters?  Or our children and grandchildren, and their future children and grandchildren?

In an unfathomably vast and complex universe, we seem to be random and trivial accidents in the huge flux of physical and social forces. The idea of personal destiny, of being born to fulfill a purpose, of arriving on this planet with anything but a body filled with extremely complicated physical equipment, seems self-delusional and to fly in the face of everything that we have 'learned' in the twentieth century.  If we have any sense of purpose, we think,  it probably grew out of the particular circumstances that we were exposed to after we were first born and especially out of the particular psychological dynamics between our mothers and fathers and their relationships to us, or we can say to ourselves and others a phrase that is currently enjoying great populariy, "It's in our DNA."

We do know that DNA is part of a wondrously complex system for manufacturing proteins.  DNA is that component of the system where the recipes for these proteins are stored.  Each of us is born with a slightly different set of protein recipes and we do know that some sequences of these recipes are associated with certain behaviors and desires as opposed to others.  For instance, organisms that contain the human genome are born with a craving for their mother's milk, seek out their mothers breast and already know how to suckle it.  Newborn koalas, or centipedes, or termites, or dung beetles, each with their own unique sets of DNA sequences are also born with cravings, but with very different cravings, and seek out very different looking mothers to satisfy those cravings.  Are these different inherent cravings caused by the different arrangements of DNA in each of these creatures, or are the different arrangements of DNA associated with these different cravings, and there may or may not be a causal relationship between them?  Is there a deeper cause, some kind of over arching intention that caused a being to be born with a particular sequence of DNA because that being or some other being wanted that being to experience an existence with a certain set of desires; those desires being satisfied through a certain organism with certain characteristics and certain ways of satisfying those desires?  Is the particular set of DNA sequences that an organism possesses, in other words, the particular set and sequence of manufacturing particular proteins in an organism, is this the root cause of the way an organism is, or are these particular proteins, the sequence in which they are manufactured and the system in which they are delivered, intentional?  Is this the DNA sequence that corresponds to  the kind of organism that we want to be; in the environment in which we want to experience the world, with a particular set of desires and particular biological ways of fulfilling those desires, that we somehow chose?  Do we live the life that we want to live, facing the challenges that we want to face, and possessing the biological equipment that we want to possess to meet those challenges?

So much is made, in Darwinian evolutionary theory of  random "mutations" resulting from reproduction errors, that cause, in combination with natural selection, all the DNA differences among organisms.  What if these DNA differences were not caused by random variations and natural selection, but the result of an intention to design a being with a particular set of desires capable of functioning in a particular environment?  And not just an external environment, but an internal mammalian or reptilian or avian environment?   In other words, is the particular DNA sequences that we have another random accident, or is DNA, also, part of some kind of intention, some kind of choice that we or some other being has made prior to us being born?

What is an intention?  An intention is a desire to somehow manipulate or even create something in the physical universe that provides an experience for ones self or for others that is preferable to the experience that is provided by the physical universe prior to this manipulation.  We want ice cream because we prefer the experience of eating ice cream over the experience of not eating it.  We want a sturdy house because we prefer the experience of the safety and security of a sturdy house  over the experience of the insecurity and exposure of  an unsturdy house.  We want to scratch our foot because we prefer the experience of itchlessness over the experience of itchiness.  We want world peace because we know enough about the discomfort of tension and the horrors of war to prefer the experience of calm and peace over the experience  of tension and war.

To have an intention, a preference for one experience over the other,  implies the capacity to experience.  Inorganic material, clearly, has no such capacity.  Inorganic material is passive.  It moves or doesn't move, changes form from liquid to solid to gas, combines with other substances or separates from those substances,  purely based upon the forces that impinge upon it.  It has no preference to be stationary or to move at light speed, to be in great heat or in great cold, to be part of a huge conglomeration of matter like a star or to be an isolated atom floating through the universe.  Having no capacity to experience, inorganic matter has no preferences at all.  All the behavior of inorganic matter can be explained in terms of the forces that impinge upon it.

There are three kinds of phenomena that cannot be predicted purely by the forces that impinge on them.  Among living organisms there is biological activity and there is behavior.  Both of these, biological activity and behavior, make sense in terms of forces, but the forces are generated, in both cases, by metabolism, by a system of gathering fuel and generating energy from that fuel, not to violate, but to overcome the natural forces that impinge upon the organism.  A corpse is an organism with no self generating metabolism, therefore, no activity, biological or behavioral, which overcomes the natural forces impinging on it.  Behavior is activity that is motivated by our preference to have a certain experience or to avoid a certain experience.  It implies the capacity of living beings to experience and to prefer one experience over the other.

The third category of phenomena that cannot be predicted purely by the forces that impinge on them are the activities of machines.  A machine is a way of  using a source of energy to accomplish an activity.  The activity that a machine accomplishes, if it works,  provides an experience that is preferable to the experience provided by the physical universe prior to the use of the machine.  This experience is preferable to the inventor of the machine, the builder of the machine and the user of the machine.  It is not preferable to the machine itself.  The machine itself, including our most sophisticated electronic machines and computers,  is not capable of having an experience, therefore not capable of prefering one experience over the other; therefore the machine, itself, really has no self; the self being the nexus of the capacity to experience and the nexus of a set of preferences for one experience over the other.

A lot of idiotic science fiction movies notwithstanding, machines and all the components of machines, have no capacity to experience.  They can do very complicated tasks, but they do so with no consciousness, no experience.  Now we have many sophisticated machines in our current environment that use electricity.  These machines are able to  match patterns of electrons, but they do not know that they are matching patterns of electrons.  They can switch to matching new patterns depending on which patterns had previously matched or not matched.  Again, however, they do not know they are matching patterns or switching patterns.  They know nothing.  Knowing is a conscious activity and machines are not conscious.  The machine, called Big Blue, that beat the great chess player Garry Kasparov and the machine, called Alpha Go,  that beat the great go player Lee Seedol, did not know that they were playing chess or playing go.  They did not know that they were in a competition.  They did not know that they were called Big Blue or Alpha Go.  Although they were referred to, affectionately, by their creators as 'she' or 'he' or even 'it,'  they were not really a he or a she or an it, in the sense that we usually use those pronouns.  If these pronouns are used in the case of computers or other machines that we are fond of, they do not refer to a unitary source of agency, intention and experience, that we usually think of when we say, "He went to work,' or "she  doesn't like to be bothered"or "they are very busy at school." We usually use these pronouns simply because the machine enables us to satisfy intentions that are important to us and we have affection for these machines because they do that.  These machines, of course, do not have any affection for us.

Because they have no capacity to experience, a machine does not seek out one experience over the other.  A self driving car, thankfully, does not go where "it" wants to go.  It takes you to where you want to go.  Your computer doesn't write the emails that it wants to write to the people that it wants to get in contact with.  It assists you in writing the emails that you want to write to the people that you want to get in contact with.  It searches for the information that you are interested in, not for the information that it is interested in.  It is purely and utterly the servant of your intentions, not its own intentions.

Our bodies are a conglomeration of organic machines that also, like inorganic machines, are the servants of our intentions.  Now there are, also, within our bodies innumberable microbial creatures and viruses that are pursuing their own intentions, some of which are congruent with our intentions and some of which are in conflict with our intentions.  And there may be cancer cells, which are behaving in their own interest, gathering fuel for their own growth and expansion at the expense of our continued growth and longevity.  But our actual bodies are designed, miraculously, to do whatever it is that we want to do, the moment we want to do it.  And we are born with a set of desires that align perfectly with the environment in which we find ourselves.  As I said earlier, we are born with a craving for our mother's milk, an attraction to our mother's breast which is the source of that milk, and the knowhow to suckle that breast.  All of this, of course, is wonderfully convenient, since we are born to a human mother that has the specific kind of breast with the specific kind of milk that we are craving and that we already know how to suckle.  If we, with human desires and preferences, were born to a centipede mother or a koala mother or a termite mother, we would be in very serious trouble trying to satisfy human desires in a centipede environment.  The same, of course, would be true of a newborn centipede, trying to satisfy its centipede desires in a human environment.

When I say that the equipment that we are born with, that we call our bodies, is miraculous, I am not referring to the staggering molecular complexity of this equipment, which is wondrous but not miraculous.  I am referring to the way in which this equipment is put into motion.  The precise neurons allowing the precise cascades of sequences to deliver the behavior that we want to do to assist us in fulfilling our intentions is initiated instantly simply by us having that intention.  As I said, intention is part of our experience, and we, who we are, is that center of experience, intention and awareness, that is, in this life, connected to our bodies, but is not part of our bodies.  We are that non-physical center of awareness, intention and experience, and we initiate the manifestation of our intentions simply by having them.  This initiation of intention is a movement from the non-physical (us) to the physical: firing neurons and the cascades of molecular, and muscular activity that result.  I call it miraculous because if fits the definition of miraculous, that is: physical activity resulting from a non-physical cause.

Of course, the modern thinking is that it is the brain that has these intentions, that we are simply the passive responders to what our brains want us to do.  But if the brain is not a machine, if it is, itself, the center of intention and experience, where is that experiential center located?  When we look at the brain we see neurons with dendrite extensions that connect to other body cells and axons that connect to other neurons,  and electrical charges moving through those neurons and dendrites and axons.  In what part of the brain are these intentions and experiences located?  We can now map out different areas of the brain that are connected to different kinds of experiences; but the differences in those areas is location, not structure.  We find the same neurons, the same axons, the same dendrites, delivering, depending on location, our visual experiences, aural experiences, thoughts, memories, touches, and tastes.  Where is the consciousness that is translating these patterns of electrical charges into the actual experience that is the very moment to moment fabric (although a non-material fabric) of our lives?

We are not our bodies.  We are the non-physical center of our experience and intentions, and we attempt to realize those intentions  through the agency of our bodies.  Our bodies and, yes, our brains and our DNA, are those systems that allow us to experience the kind of life that we want to experience and the fulfillment or frustration of those intentions that we want to pursue.

What about biological processes? Those processes that exist beyond our purview, including those that exist without any intrusion of our consciousness, and those that are initiated by our conscious desires, are all of those activities, which are metabolically energized  activities, are all of them  intentional? Yes.  Their intention is to keep this entire organism functioning, so that we can experience this world from the perspective that our bodies and brains and DNA determine that we shall experience it, for as long as possible.  So, whose intention is it to allow us to have this particular experience of life on this planet for the longest possible time?  That would be the ultimate being, the being of whom we are all an aspect; that would be the Atman, Infinity, God, the Cosmic Consciousness, Allah, Hashem, the being that has been referred to by countless different names over the centuries, but always the same One being.

I asked a scientist once, a man who had been running a research lab at MIT for thirty years, "What is the difference between a firing neuron and the experience of a firing neuron?"  He said, "I don't think there is a difference."  Really?  Is there a difference between an apple and the experience of eating an apple?  Is there a difference between a CD and the experience of listening to a CD?  The materialist scientist's blindspot regarding their own experience, the entire plane of experience, could not be more clearly dramatized.  And all of modern scientific thinking and brain research rests on the totally unproven assumption that consciousness is the result of very complex electronics.  This may comport with the general assumption in our modern society that matter is the ultimate bases of the universe and that forces and experience and our conscious life spring from matter; but it is totally unproven and is the exact opposite of the much older mystic tradition that the subtle creates the gross; that matter is  the result of forces and that forces and the precise balances between forces are no more than ideas that spring from the Cosmic Consciousness and that allow us to have a material world in the first place.

We now know of many different areas of the brain which are dedicated to either thoughts, memories, visualizations, hearing, touch, heat sensations, etc.  Each of these areas are distinguished by nothing much more than their location.  The multitude of neurons in our brains allow us to make distinctions; the more neurons, the more distinctions.  We can distinguish near from far, round from square, dangerous from friendly, attractive from repellent, beautiful from ugly, and many, many distinctions between those, depending on how many neurons are devoted to that area of our experience.   Yet how can basically the same neurons, the same dendrites, the same axons, the same electrical current moving through all of these; how can this sameness be responsible for the inexhaustible richness and complexity of our moment to moment experience?  When I see a sunset, I see a sunset.  I don't see electrical patterns on my cerebral cortex, no matter how precise and complex that pattern is.  I see the sun.  Evidently scientists must first admit that there is a difference between electrical currents and consciousness.  Then, they might want to explain how such a difference could exist, and how there could be this instant translation from current to consciousness when we are considering  perception, and from consciousness to current when we are considering the translation of intention into action.

Creation, either the first creation of the physical universe or the first creation of life, began with intention.  This intention implies a being that has the capacity to experience and to prefer one experience over the other; in this case the preference that there be a physical universe rather than no physical universe and that there be life rather than no life.  A being has intention and preferences but no physicality.  A living being, like a human being or a dog being or a maple tree being, is attached to an organism, experiences this life and has preferences in this life through the medium of the physical body that it finds itself attached to.

Intention preceding creation from a non-physical being that has no beginning, that is increate, may be a mysterious way of looking at creation, but what would be a non-mysterious way of looking at creation?  Creation appears, in its essence, to be mysterious to a consciousness such as ours which is brain bound and organism bound to time and space.  If you disagree and say there was creation without intention,  then what are you left with?  That there was literally nothing, and then suddenly there was something; that physical matter or energy or force, just appeared and appeared with precisely the right amount of force and ratio of forces and velocities and energy for everything to fall in place and make an entire, synchronous, coherent and stable universe with just the exact right balance of attraction and repulsion to make this universe coherent and stable, those pockets of instability (which supporters of the 'electric universe' make so much of) being necessary to maintain the stability of the whole?

Or do we say that there was something,  some force field say, or some kind of radiation or some kind of conglomeration of particles that led to the Big Bang.  In that case the Big Bang was not really the origin of the physical universe.  Whatever you describe as preceding the Big Bang was the origin of the universe.  And if that origin was physical, did that origin have a beginning?  Do you see where I am going with this?  Something either has to be eternal, or something just popped into being from absolutely nothing: no atoms, no molecules, no forces, no energy fields, no particles at all.  There was literally and absolutely nothing and then, suddenly there was.  This to me is far more mysterious than to say that creation began with an intention; an intention that belonged to a being that had no beginning and that will have no end, and has no physicality. Why is this explanation more satisfactory than the other one?  Because I have discovered, as you can discover, that you are also a being that has the capacity to experience and a set of preferences and a desire to manipulate the physical universe in ways that satisfy those preferences; and that you are not your physical body, any part of your physical body, but you are the non-physical context within which you experience your physical body.  You are consciousness.

A brain scientist trying to explain to me where that center of consciousness may be located in the brain, shared with me that we have begun to discover a specific place where the brain attempts to make coherence out of incoherent thoughts.  Or is it, as I would suspect, the place in the brain where our attempts to find coherence from incoherence are recorded?  But whether we describe this person as being coherent with a perceptual and thought framework that she is comfortable with, or incoherent, with a perceptual and thought framework that is torturous to her, we are still describing two different conditions of the same person.  The context of consciousness is still there, it's just having two very different experiences.  So if consciousness is the context of our very deepest thoughts, if it even encompasses our very sense of coherence and incoherence, then what,  the brain scientist wanted to know,  is this context of consciousness that you talk of?  This context that we can neither see nor hear?  The context is you, you, you!  You are coherent or incoherent.  You are lucid or impaired.  Whatever the contents of your consciousness, whatever the strength or weaknesses of those contents, the good or evil of those contents, the coherence or incoherence of those contents, the context of those contents is still  you.  You are consciousness.  Not what you experience, but the experiencer.  Not what you desire, but the desirer.  Not what you observe, but the observer.  You are not a that, but a that which; that which experiences and desires.  You are consciousness and consciousness is you.



Once again, the comment lamp is lit.

Matt Chait



















Saturday, September 30, 2017

OLD SCHOOL

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

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

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

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

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

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




Thanks for reading.  The comment lamp is lit!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

THE SUN

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

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

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

See you there!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

UNDERSTANDING THE QUANTUM, THE PARTICLE/WAVE DUALITY

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

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

Here is an illustration of this experiment done with light. 





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

What you get is this: 



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, June 26, 2017

TWO ANOMALIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any comments?  Let me hear from you!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL UNIVERSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Monday, March 6, 2017

DOES THE BRAIN GENERATE CONSCIOUSNESS?

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

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


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

Abstract


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

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

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

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

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