So, What IS Going On?

Is the universe a collection of random mutations and accidental assemblies? As I pointed out before, new evidence suggests that there is a process of intelligence that seems to transcend individual decisions. So what’s the process? If we could figure it out, then we’d have the meaning of life.

Recently there was the discovery of what is known as “mirror neurons” in the brain. Scientists discovered some amazing things about these mirror neurons. For example, if you see someone pick up a glass of water, the mirror neurons in your brain will be stimulated exactly as if you picked up the glass yourself. Behavior is learned and adapted into the brain by this method, and infants can quickly learn to control certain actions by mimicry, simply because observing the actions trigger the same sections of the brain required to perform that action.

This happens throughout our lives as we observe others. The reason why we know it is not “us” that performs the action is that our skin has sensors that send messages to our brain and allows us to realize that it was another arm, and not our own, that performed the action.

However, it was discovered that if the arms are numbed so that there is no sensory message to the brain, there is no difference at all in the brain as to whether “you” pick an object, or whether someone else did it.

If you keep up with the TV series “House”, you might have seen an episode where a man had his hand blown off as he was reaching to grab a child. His muscles remained in that clenched, spasmed conditions for many years after. Dr. House “cured” the problem by taking the man’s good arm in front of a mirror in a box, and his stub arm was also in the box, but he only saw the mirror reflection of his good arm. House asked him to then clench and relax his good fist.

Within seconds, the man’s muscles on his stub arm began to relax. This has actually been performed as a cure for such people, but not so miraculously as on the TV series. People actually were able to relax muscles on disabled limbs simply by flexing the muscles in their good limbs and watching that same action in the mirror image, which their brain told them was the other limb!

This is so powerful that when we select heroes or leaders, we not only “identify with” them, but we develop actual mirror images so that we “become what we behold”!

This collective identification with “American Idols” can lead to what Hoffer called “estrangement from the self”. The power of mimicry is so powerful that certain behaviors are selected and coordinated to the exclusion of other behaviors, leading to ultimate death of a species or culture.

As we see from history, humans have little problem with organizing and centralizing cultures. They’re quite good at it. There’s Egypt, Babylon, Persia, etc, all of which showed greater capacity for larger organization.

The problem is, the greater the capacity for imitation and centralization, the less ability for freedom to adapt to change as individuals. If there is a “higher intelligence” that directs such activities, that intelligence would actually tend to produce, no collective centralism, but an increasing tendency toward diversity.

In other words, if human intelligence naturally tends to centralize its knowledge and eliminate diversity, there would have to be a kind of “antibody” or “inoculation” that would tend to cause a reversal of the process.

In short, all attempts to discover order and harmony in the universe would tend to reveal that “God throws dice”, as Einstein said.

In “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, Jared Diamond points out that empires grew from the Middle Eastern sections around Sumer and Babylon because of geography. The environment favored a type of grain that was gradually harvested, and in the harvest, the people naturally selected those grains with the biggest heads and healthiest “fruit” for re-planting. Wheat and oats went through a natural selection process that created larger, healthier crops.

At the same time, said Diamond, the people domesticated various animals such as cows, oxen, horses, chickens, pigs, sheep, and in living alongside them, the people exchanged “germs” and viruses with the farm animals, so that when they invade other countries, they actually caused widespread death and destruction among cultures that had not raised such animals.

In this growth and adaptation of favorable environments that led to empires, we have the history of the Jews, who developed strict dietary, religious, and civil laws as a result of the harsh, demanding environment of the desert. It was, in fact, these very wandering Bedouin types that became highly influential in their cultures because they were, in fact, not able to completely integrate with a fixed, specific environment..

While these Bedouin societies did carry their animals with them and were “cross pollinated” with the germs of the animals, they develop certain resistance to infectious diseases as they traveled to new areas, and their strict dietary laws allowed them to maintain certain resistance to diseases caused by less strict observance.

The general difference between Jewish culture and the usual cultures, is that, while other cultures developed alongside their environment, Israel was not allowed to inhabit a “Promised Land” until they learned to behave in a way deserving of the land. This is a reversal of the general process of social evolutionary development.

Their history suggests they were unable to keep the laws they were given, so they were forced to constantly adapt to their environments in which they found themselves. Not only to the environment, but to the cultures in which they found themselves.

If, in fact, as Paul said, the natural mind is enmity against God and cannot keep God’s laws, the natural result would be a continual increase in diversity and individual responses toward external problems. As we see in the biblical book of “Judges”, every man did what was right in his own eyes.

This very inability to adapt to a collective ideology by a “stubborn and stiff necked” people, actually created a kind of cultural “antibody” to the various empires and god-kings that had evolved by natural processes of growth. As historian Max DiMont points out in “The Indestructible Jews”:

“First, there have been twenty to thirty civilized societies in the history of mankind, the number depending on how one defines a civilization….Then the civilization has either stagnated or disintegrated. The Jews are seemingly the only exception to this ‘rule’.
Second, the moment a people lost its country through war or some other calamity, that people either disappeared as an ethnic entity or regressed into a meaningless existence….Against the odds of history(Jews)survived for two thousand years without a country of their own.
“Finally, no people except the Jews have ever managed to create a culture in exile. The Jews, however, in exile, created not just one, but six different cultures, one in each of the six major civilizations within which their history flowed”.

In fact, it is DiMont’s thesis that the Jews were actually created to be scattered, to become a “diaspora” that spread the basis of their culture around the world. If so, it makes a lot of sense, because it was a process that forced groups to constantly re-adapt to their environment in more individualized ways, to “repent” as it were.

In more modern language, we might say that the Jews were created to “inform” civilizations, to act as the “salt” that retarded the “leaven” of excessive growth.

What is “sin” called in the Old testament? Leaven. What does leaven do? It expands and grows until it consumes all available fuel, and then it collapses of its own weight. And if those who seek truth are the “salt of the earth”, we know that salt acts to retard the excessive growth of leavening.

What emerges is NOT the traditional ideas of growth, proselytizing, and narcissistic expansion of centralized “God-Kings” as Christianity tries to tell us, but rather its opposite, a constant tendency toward greater individuality, uncertainty, breakdown, and re-forming according to new information.

In short, Christianity and government is the “Borg”, while intelligence favors individual adaptation to changes within the environment.


Does Conscience Tell You Right From Wrong?

A few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of transhumanism, as presented by Ray Kurzweil. The idea is that soon, technology will enable us to “upload” ourselves into a computer or robot consisting of enough artificial intelligence that we will no longer have to worry about dying.

When I pointed out that this was nothing more than an ancient religious impulse, I enraged a few “transhumanists” who said there certainly was no religious intent! Far from it!

I pointed out that, while it might not have been a conscious intent, it is still merely a continuation of the religious impulse. After, all what is religion, but an attempt to create a concept of men, give it a physical body, and “upload” ourselves into it so we can escape death?

By the same token, what is government, if not the same thing? Kurzweil talks of physical “substrates” into which human intelligence can be uploaded, even if not strictly into the mechanical processes we envision today.

It all boils down tho the same thing. We create a decision process, we become part of the decision process, and our lives become less than the decision process itself.

But why the mechanical extension? Why did we select this process of organization? Philip Slater, in a book called “EarthWalk“, which I highly recommend, says this:

“A machinelike response in the face of danger had no real value until men began to make war on each other–it was of no use either in hunting or in surviving other predators. The most mechanical peoples won over those less so, so that a profound cultural selection took place….When man invented the machine, for which there is no external model in nature, he invented it in his own image. The human is the only animal programmed to ignore the very feedback that it is simultaneously programmed to utilize, which is why only a human can make an animal, or another human, neurotic or crazy.”

If humans can create systems large enough, sufficient to enable others to sacrifice themselves to a common cause greater than themselves, then they have achieved a form of “immortality” by “uploading” themselves into the greater system, or as Hoffer wrote, becoming “estranged from self”.

The “internal circuitry” by which the group operates assumes greater importance than the “internal circuitry” of the individual. This extension of individual “circuitry” into a greater collective “circuitry” is also known as narcissism, a process by which a person extends himself eternally, in a linear fashion, into his environment. It is also known as the proselytizing zeal.

“God” becomes an extension of ourselves, which is, by definition, idolatry.

But is there something greater than ourselves? A professor at MIT many years ago named Ed Fredkin, decided that the atoms, electrons, protons, etc, were not actually physical sub-atomic structures, but were actually bits of information. Fredkin developed an idea of the universe as “digital physics”, with the universe itself as a kind of cosmic computer in which we can’t know the outcome of anything until the program actually runs.

Is it possible we are part of an intelligence greater than our own individual thought processes? Well, there is an emergent branch of study called “swarm theory”. I first didn’t care for this study because it implied, to me, collectivism and majority rule, which my conservative mind rejected. But I found it quite interesting, because it does suggest a power to “compute” solutions that are actually greater than individual calculations.

For example, one professor took a large jar of jelly beans and asked the class to each submit an estimate of how many jelly beans were in the jar. While some of the calculations were fairly close, the professor discovered that by taking the average of the class estimates, the estimated value was surprisingly close to the actual number.

Another example of the “swarm” intelligence was shown when researchers placed a dish of sugar water outside a beehive. The swarm of bees soon found it. Next day, a dish was placed twice as far away. The swarm soon found it. After several days of this, the researchers found that when they set the dishes out at these exact measured distances, they soon found the bees waiting for them. The swarm had somehow computed the next step in a mathematical series.

The point is, this computation process was not subject to the control of one bee, but a process of collaboration among the bees to determine a process that was precisely regulated mathematically.

David Bloom, in an imaginative book called “Global Brain”, points out that even ancient bacteria exhibited an ability to adapt and compute necessary changes to their environment!

Quoting from the studies of Eshel Ben-Jacob, Bloom points out that Darwin’s theory of evolution regarding random mutations, may soon give way to a far more complex concept.

“Since 1974…a growing body of evidence had accumulated indicating that useful bacterial mutations are not completely random. By 1999, over 880 studies suggested that some mutations might, in fact, be genetic alterations ‘custom tailored’ to overcome emergencies.
“Ben-Jacob’s studies suggested that far more than the self organization of inanimate matter was at work within the petri dish…Ben-Jacob contended that the package of genes carried by each individual bacterium is more than a mere carrier of construction plans(see James’ embedded video, “Bruce Lipton and ‘Biology of Perception'”). he wrote that genome can ‘recognize difficulties and formulate problems’….what’s more, the genetic bundle seemed to accomplish something even computers cannot achieve. Said Ben-Jacob, ‘The genome makes calculations and changes itself according to the outcome’….Concluded Ben-Jacob, in the bacteria’s case ‘evolutionary progress is not a result of successful accumulation of mistakes, but is rather the outcome of designed creative processes’.”

Assuming such an intelligence, its integrative powers would NOT be dependent on individual choice, but would actually involve a level of complexity of which we could not even be aware. In fact, the effort to control such intelligence and reduce it to our pitiful human concepts, whether we represent it as “God” or “natural selection” would be woefully inadequate.

Such an intelligence, based on the complex integration of life forms, would operate on a much higher level than basic human awareness and organization.

For example, I’ve often referred to Matthew 10:34-38. Jesus said that the effort to obey him would result in a “sword”, a cutting or slicing apart of ideas until a man’s enemies would be those of his own household.

Does this process have a biological advantage? Bloom makes an interesting comparison in regard to biology:

“Among the Yanomamo, the biggest clashes are between family members–and between the groups they head. How could evolution favor feuds which current theory says should never be? Creative bickering has been honed by natural selection because, in pitting father against son and brother against brother, it opens up new avenues to genes, clans, cliques and species. It slices through genetic bonds to generate diversity”.

Another biblical passage similar to this is found in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29. If “God chose the foolish things to confound the wise, the weak to confound the mighty, and base things which are rejected by the “builders” that “no flesh should glory in his presence”, we are not talking about anything subject to human concepts and organization. In fact, we are talking about things which would, to all intents and purposes, appear as random processes, or “natural selection”.

It simply would not be subject to human conceptual control.

Does that mean there is a God? No. But it does indicate that we are part of a process of intelligence that operates across species barriers and constantly re-organizes our life processes by both separation and integration.

If truth itself transcends theoremhood, then it is quite possible that there is a process of “truth” that is directing our lives in a way not subject to human thought control.

“For my ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts….”


Pascal’s Wager

You’re probably familiar with this. Pascal, mathematician and philosopher, believed that it is best to behave as if there is a God, since if you do not believe, you stand to lose everything should you not believe in God, and you gain everything if you believe. The favorable odds, for Pascal, was to believe.

Richard Dawkins, in “The God Delusion” makes interesting arguments against Pascal’s conclusions.

1.Can you decide to believe something as a matter of policy? Hey, it “makes sense”?
If you happen to be Ayn Rand, or Ex-Android, it makes perfect sense not to believe in God. Any behavior on Ms Rand’s part, therefore, could not be based on actual belief, but on a statistical probability that it is best in the long run to believe there is a God and behave accordingly.

2.If God is all knowing(omniscient), he’s going to know whether or not you truly believe, or whether you’re “covering your ass”. He might not be happy if you truly do not believe.

3. What if you believe in the wrong God? After all, if we DO make a decision to believe in God, we’re assuming that the God we choose is THE God, the one that counts, but what if we’re wrong? Then we stand to lose everything by believing.

If we follow Pascal’s reasoning, therefore, we must conclude that we are choosing the correct God to believe in, and that God is not concerned with the reasons for our believing, and that we can arrive at correct conclusions as to how we should organize socially in obedience to God.

Think about it. Every choice we make must be based on assumptions that we cannot prove, and since the whole process is based on a statistical probability, we would tend to conclude that “God” is represented by the largest number of people who organize according to a certain process.

Basically, by following Pascal’s wager, we have based our entire faith on what is essentially a house of mirrors. “All these people can’t be wrong”.

But what if they are wrong? By believing, we still cover our bets. So what if there’s over 38,000 versions of Christianity? The important thing is to BELIEVE!

See what Eric Hoffer says about this in “The True Believer”:

“He who, like Pascal, finds precise reasons for the effectiveness of Christian doctrine has also found the reasons for the effectiveness of Communist, Nazi, and nationalist doctrine. However different the holy causes people die for, they perhaps die basically for the same thing”.

In other words, if belief is the only requirement and truth has no value, then it becomes possible to act in any fashion toward our neighbors, as long as we find justification in the rules that make us “special”.

And what makes us “special”? Those who believe as we do. What we have done is to multiply ignorance based on statistical probability.

Hoffer refers to this as “estrangement from the self” or renouncing the self. We find our truth in the number of those who behave and believe as we do, and we find our truth from our ability to “convert” others. As Hoffer writes:

“When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom–freedom to hate, bully lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse….The hatred and cruelty which have their source in selfishness are ineffectual things compared with the venom and ruthlessness born of selflessness.
“When we see the bloodshed, terror, and destruction born of such generous enthusiasms as the love of God, love of Christ, love of a nation, compassion for the oppressed and so on, we usually blame this shameful perversion on a cynical, power-hungry leadership. Actually, it is the unification set in motion by these enthusiasms, rather than the manipulations of a scheming leadership, that transmutes noble impulses into a reality of hatred and violence. The deindividualization which is a prerequisite for thorough integration and selfless dedication is also, to a considerable extent, a process of dehumanization. The torture chamber is a corporate institution”.

Pascal’s wager, by reducing everything to “covering your bets”, places emphasis on group survival and even the necessity to sacrifice oneself for the “greater good”, and with no proof that our sacrifice served any purpose other than a majority assumption based on ignorance.

The natural human tendency, when we believe in anything greater than ourselves, is to assume that that “greater” something must somehow be know by a process of organization, a process of thought that transcends us as individuals. If we believe our “salvation” lies in collective belief in Christianity, we will see it as our duty to either covert, condemn, or destroy those who believe otherwise. The same would follow for Naziism, Communism, or any form of nationalism.

The belief in truth actually demands what seems to be a contradiction to the normal process of reason. The belief in truth CANNOT be equivalent to “estrangement from self”, but actually the acceptance of the self, as an individual, as a moral agent, as a person with the right to challenge the majority.

I pointed out earlier that if you can perfectly define “God”, then that very definition can ultimately be programmed into a computer, so that there is no humanly definable difference between “God” and the computer we have programmed.

You might instantly object, “Of course there is a difference between God and a computer”. Here’s the problem: once you can define that difference, the difference itself can be programmed into the computer! But it is impossible to ever define all the differences between “God” and a computer, therefore, no computer can ever be the same as “God”.

If that is true, then we must conclude the same thing for any religion, government, or any concept of humankind that attempts to represent God! The more you attempt to define God within any human concept, the more differences you will discover among your own selves!

You will logically end up with over 38,000 versions of Christianity, and the number increases every day!

Here is the point: whether you believe in God or don;t believe in God, you are merely choosing a concept in which to believe, and whatever concept you believe, however sharp or accurate, will STILL end up in an even greater number of ideas.

Even Ayn Rand was not invulnerable. her philosophy has branched into similar but disagreeing philosophies, with the Murray Rothbard branch, the “beltway libertarian” branch, the anarchist branch, the Christian libertarian branch, etc..

We are left, therefore, with the same conclusions as in Romans 8:7, Matthew 10:34-38, and 2 Peter 2:19, and of course Matthew 24:23.

In the search for truth, or for God, assuming God is truth(and why would you choose a God who is not truth?), there is one, AND ONLY ONE, co

rrect choice you can ever make: be free from men. Follow no man, choose to accept all others as equal to you, and yourself as equal to all others.

Whether you believe in “God” or not, you have that one correct choice. All others are false.


Okay, Freedom and Law?

In my “Freedom” essay below, Byker Bob makes a thoughtful comment:
“…all we really know is that God is looking out for the long term spiritual good of all his children”.

Ex-Android, responds, and with sound logic(I’m not “picking” on either person, just trying to make a point):

Hah! And you don’t even ‘really know’ that. You believe–you don;t know. This is a common error among many theists”.

When I read Byker Bob’s statement, I think of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…”

Do we actually “know” that? If we do, it will not be according to any humanly devised system of thought or decisions, because that very statement leads into the very idea that in fact we CANNOT make such decisions for ourselves!

Even if we look at this statement from the viewpoint of Godel’s theorem, it is certainly possible to know something yourself, to actually understand that it is so, BUT once you attempt to define it within any process of organization or decisions leading to absolute truth or to God, it simple falls apart. It is certainly possible to know something for a fact, but not be able to prove it.

And because it is not subject to such proofs, it cannot be subject to the power and control of men. Do I know that there is a God? No, I don’t, but even if i did, if God was directly revealed to me, it would still give me no power over the lives and decisions of other human beings, and that is exactly what Paul tells us, following into the rest of chapter 8 and 9.

That was the basic logical flaw of John Calvin, who took Romans 8:29-30 and then decided that he himself, with no proof whatever, was God’s chosen, to establish rules over others. he had no such proof, and no man can claim such proof, as we know from our experience with HWA.

So, if “all things work together for the good”, then that “good” will not be the result of my attempts to rule or control others in God’s name, since as Paul points out, God already knows who will work in “His” name.

So, Ex-Android makes a valid point. We CANNOT know by any process of human “computation”, by any process of human reason, that there is a God, and that all things work together for good. If such things WERE subject to the power of human reason, we could cancel the rest of Romans chapter 8 and 9, and Ex-Android would, in fact, be wrong! But he’s not. In fact, he has just agreed with the conclusions of Paul in that regard.

Okay, if we can’t know these things, and if we can’t organize according to these things, what’s the purpose for it all, if there is a purpose?

If no human can claim to represent “absolute truth” either in the form of religion or government(and even Ayn Rand would agree on that point), then the “sacrifice of Christ” can only have one purpose: that because he died innocently, his example is one to us that we should not condemn others under human laws and human concepts!

Under U.S. Constitutional law, Fifth Amendment, no person is to be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. That is a protection from federal government. We see the same clause repeated as a protection from state governments in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Notice that the “due process” package deals with “persons”, not ‘the people” in regard to passing laws, but with protections of persons, individuals who are accused of breaking the law.

These protections are extended under the Fifth Amendment and include not only the right to re main silent and not to give evidence against himself, but protection from double jeopardy and the right to have just compensation for property taken.

Also, we see protections for persons under the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments.

But notice that these examples of due process protection of persons is included in Old Testament law!

Isaiah 54:17: No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn.
“This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord”.

This is the presumption of innocence, long established as part of “due process” protection.
It is part of the right of the individual not to incriminate himself before his accusers.
In other words, because there is no power of man to represent “absolute truth” or an absolute God, it is necessary for ALL collective powers of men to presume the innocence of the accused with God’s protection!

Further protection, under OT law, is given in Isaiah 50:8:

“He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me.
“Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me?”

Sound familiar? How about the Sixth Amendment?

“In ALL criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state….”

First, you can’t be forced to incriminate yourself. Why? Because God stands on the side of the accused, not the accuser! Look at every state Constitution of the U.S. Every single one of them recognize the sovereignty of God in some form! That’s due process of law!

The Bible is not about any person’s right to rule in the name of God, but about EVERY person’s right to live freely outside the condemnation of law!

Think about this: every attempt of every human has resulted in more and more confusion and uncertainty regarding the existence of God. But that is merely the logical result of Romans 8:7.

So what does that tell you about law? About all law, church or state? It tells you that no power, either church or state, has the right to convict or condemn you, without recognizing your right to face a legitimate accuser who can claim harm for your actions!

Since there exists no human power that can organize in God’s name, or in the power of the state to represent truth, there can be no person who can say truthfully to you, “Here is Christ. Come follow me”. And because all fifty US states recognize the sovereignty of God, they must bow to that same individual freedom which you possess!

In other words, the courts are bound by oath or affirmation, since all states recognize the sovereignty of God, to see to it that “all things work together for the good to those that love God”, whether they like it or not!

If you choose, as an individual, to live according to principles of truth and goodness, you have the right to expect the state to protect that choice!

Who is the example? Jesus. he died innocently, prosecuted and put to death, even
though he remained silent, even though there were no witnesses against him, even though he had harmed no one.

As Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas said: “But it(the state) has no right to compel the sovereign individual to surrender or impair his right of self defense….Mea culpa belongs to a man and his God. It is a plea that cannot be extracted from free men by human authority. To require it is to insist that the state is the superior of the individuals who compose it, instead of their instrument”.

THAT is the essence of Old and New testament law, as derived from the Bible itself! Why?
Because “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son….”

Was there a God? Did it happen? I can’t prove it did, and the law can’t prove it didn’t, and as long as the law recognizes the sovereignty of God, I have the right to declare myself free as long as I harm no other.