Posts Tagged ‘religion’

On Evolution

21 March 2020

Sitting at home a lot during these days of self-quarantine, I resort to the computer for something to do. I use Mozilla Firefox as my browser. And Firefox uses an app called Pocket. This is a feed of “popular” articles that a user can mark for “saving” or later review. Of course, cloud apps don’t actually save anything to the client device (the computer you own and work with) but keep everything on the server (a network of computers that you don’t own, but store all data available on a network – in this case the Internet). Although I believe Pocket provides some sort of local save feature.

At every logon, the featured articles in my Pocket feed change a bit. They include quite a wide range of writing, but mostly those offered by traditional publications that once had hard copy versions, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, New Yorker magazine, The Atlantic magazine, Harvard Business Review, and so on.

Newer content sources also appear. Quartz is a business-oriented news service. Wired is a technology-oriented magazine that has a hard copy version. Vice is a younger-adult-oriented media provider. Vox is a left-leaning provider of “exploratory journalism.” Mental Floss is another example of many newer media companies that are now online-only. The Conversation is an academically-oriented site. I may also see posts form NPR, Citylab, Aeon (an Australian educational charity) and many others.

Though there is a lot of variety provided by all these organizations and all the people who write for them, there is a tendency – certainly in the topics I follow – to not challenge too heavily the Status Quo.

Though I challenge the Status Quo for ostensibly rational reasons (that it isn’t working that well and has become exclusionary) I admit that I may harbor a more irrational bent for challenging our desire for a stable belief system.

Be that as it may, certainly one concept that has moved solidly into the position of a stable belief system, at least in the realm of academia, is Evolution. Some would argue that Evolution is one approach to the larger problems of “Origin Science.” Yet this concept has not yet received broad academic support, although there is some movement in that direction, such as the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH).

Which came first?

Without getting into all the sociopolitical ooze that accompanied science as it drove itself into the twentieth century, “modern” science seems to formally reject any idea that ideas, or a desire to create, could have actually preceded form, or the results of creation.

This was a significant divergence from the concept of Prime Mover expounded by Aristotle, and the willingness of many earlier scientists to believe in something like God. Further, the new concept contained a sort of logical riddle: How could creation ever happen, if what was created (the physical universe, for example) also created the desire to create (life, for example)? It makes more sense that the desire to create would come first, and then the creation would follow.

Eastern religious ideas began to enter the West with the colonization of India and other such areas starting in the mid-1700s. It is theorized that certain power groups in the West were concerned about the “soft” ideas of the East and sought to counter them. However that may be, we find in Darwin a desire to explain biology in terms of physical causes only, and in his half-cousin Galton, a desire to breed mankind into “better” forms (Eugenics).

What the West had on its side was that the physical was obvious, measurable, and thus knowable, while spiritual things were seen as intuitive, impossible to measure, and thus impossible to gain any certainty about. To this day many scientists, both in the East and the West, believe this basic premise either explicitly or implicitly and are only comfortable with concepts of physical causation. That does not, however, mean that “spiritual causation,” as one might call it, has not been investigated, demonstrated, and in fact found – in many ways – to be as measurable and as knowable as other forms of causation.

Ramifications of the doctrine of the Prime Mover

For Aristotle (according to what I have read about him so far), the main thing that the idea of a Prime Mover allowed into the picture was God. But in more general terms, what the concept allows into the picture is Spirit.

The simplest concept of spirit is indeed the concept of a Prime Mover. More colloquially, we could see this as a being who got something started, then sat back to watch what would happen. This being might then wander off to put its attention on something else, yet the system it had put in motion could continue to operate.

As we can measure the “age” of the entire physical universe by various methods and theories, another ramification of this concept is that Prime Mover, God, or Spirit, has existed for a LONG time, and might, for all we know, still exist. This gives some people what I might call the “Santa Claus problem.”

He sees you when you’re sleeping;

He knows when you’re awake.

He knows when you’ve been bad or good,

So be good for goodness sake!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

There are plenty of people in the world (and it seems in the West in particular) who don’t want anybody to know when they’ve been bad or good!

And this is one theory why concepts of Spirit, immortality, past life memory and similar things have been discouraged or invalidated in the West.

Secular attempts to re-establish the concept

There have been a significant number of individuals and groups who have sought to preserve spiritual concepts as religious beliefs. Far fewer have made attempts to secularize these concepts.

Hubbard’s own efforts along this line began with a secular intention. It was not until 1954 that the church was established, years after his initial breakthroughs had been communicated and applied.

However, broadly speaking, academic interest in “spiritual” phenomena has existed for a long time, and has resulted in a significant – if not broadly accepted – amount of work in the field. I always like to point out the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia School of Medicine as an example of this. They have documented thousands of cases of past life recall.

Another development has been the attempt to make Intelligent Design an academically acceptable research discipline. So far, per Wikipedia, this has failed. The concept attracted, and was started by, so many religious people that secularists think of it as just another attempt to re-inject religious doctrine into the classroom. For these people, it seems, Intelligent Design means Prime Mover means God. This concatenation of essentially unrelated ideas has spoiled the movement.

Evolution as an information problem

I have seen arguments that run something like this:

At every instance of procreation (or cell division in simpler organisms), there is a chance for the genetic information in the cells (or the sex cells in higher organisms) to vary from that contained in the parent cell or cells. This can result in an offspring (or daughter cell) containing different genetic material than the parent. If this offspring lives to reproduce, that genetic variation survives. If it does not live to reproduce, that genetic variation does not survive. This limits the information passed forward in time to: Yes or No, did that variation allow that organism to survive to reproduce? Thus, any other information that the organism might acquire over the course of its lifetime is meaningless from the point of view of genetic information.

This means, for example, that a person who procreates from the age of 20 to 30 can forward no useful genetic information gained after the age of 30. And that if that person had died before the age of 20, he would have forwarded no genetic information at all.

Of course, most scientists in the field believe that experiential information does not encode and so cannot be forwarded. Yet at the same time they believe that genes broadly determine not only physical appearance, but general behaviors and abilities as well. How does all that data ever get into the genes, if the only datum available is survival to procreation?

Cell differentiation is another problem, but this one has been researched into the ground. They’ve got it all figured out how, in advanced organisms, a single cell pair relying on just one copy of its genetic code eventually turns into an organism with eyes, legs, a liver, etc.

How did all this information get into the genome? Researchers don’t seem too worried about that question.

A solution to the information problem

What is the difference between a living cell or organism and a dead one? All most scientists can tell us is that something made the cell or organism unable to function, and that was that.

Well, causes of death are usually so diverse and so obvious that this explanation is difficult to argue against. We have a few “freak” cases (an accelerating phenomenon in modern hospitals) where people die and then mysteriously revive. Their own stories of what happened are discounted. But they almost universally validate the concept of the Prime Mover.

Whether people report that they were “called back” or simply decided that they really didn’t want to die just then, we see the whole concept of Spirit assert itself as a reality of (at least) human existence. And this gives us a solution to the problem of too little information to ever really successfully evolve.

To fill this role, Spirit must have some sort of mental capability, or “somatic memory” of its own, distinct from mere genetic codes. And the research finds that it does. Spirit, in fact, seems to have a lot of really interesting capabilities. It fits the requirements for a Prime Mover. It can bring physicality into existence without itself ever being physical. And so it can add something to a living organism that makes it alive, that gives it a purpose, and motion. In theory Spirit exists above the level of genetics, and probably created genetics. In sober reality Spirit helps us to do things that could never be encoded into our genes, but can easily be remembered or recreated. It can also make profoundly stupid mistakes, act crazy, and pretend to be dead. Without Spirit, real evolution would have never been possible, and the future would be a total dead end. With Spirit, we possibly have another chance.

What does Spirit have to do with it?

7 April 2019

With this post, I introduce a new category on this blog: Spirit.

Most people who I meet outside of my church have little or no concept of spirit beyond something like “team spirit” and similar senses. Or they may think of it as a substitute term for the soul of religious or psychological texts.

Indeed, any dictionary reflects these various meanings. Mine gives as the second definition, “the thinking, motivating, feeling part of man, often as distinguished from the body.” And the third definition, “life, will, consciousness, thought, etc., regarded as separate from matter.” It is taken from a Latin word meaning “breath.” Thus, when a body stops breathing, you may say that its spirit has left it.

Reading this, one may be tempted to ask, “Well, fine. But what difference does it make?”

In the posts I assign to this category, I will invite the reader to consider the possibility that it does, indeed, make a big difference!

In my youth I, likewise, did not see the point. Yet I, in my youth, made a simple yet perhaps quite profound observation: That a huge majority of the population of earth follow some religion. If religious concepts – including the concept of spirit – have no relevance today, why do most people still think they do?

Religious experience

One reason many people still “believe” is that many people still have “religious” experiences. These are experiences which – for lack of a better definition – are not explained by science or similar rational thinking processes. Thus, while a sudden thunderstorm may have seemed like some heavenly mandate in years long past, climatologists now understand most, if not all, weather phenomena.

While this category still encompasses a quite wide range of experiences, there are a few that are persistent, unmistakable, and if anything, better documented now than they were in the not-too-distant past. One is the experience of death (body death), obviously followed by a return of life in all documented cases. Another is the experience of being outside one’s body, whether or not clinical death occurred. Then there is the distant relative to these, past life recall.

We are not talking about anecdotal evidence here; these are carefully documented cases studied by medical doctors and similar clinical researchers. The point is, “science” is aware that these phenomena, in particular, are real. It is only that scientists, for the most part, reject a spiritual explanation for them. Religious people, on the other hand, have much less back-off in this regard, though they may display some amazing biases of their own.

The question of consciousness

While “consciousness” can be variously described, it is – most obviously – the thing or quality that leaves a body when it dies. Furthermore, in man it is the part of us that is capable of remembering and interpreting experiences, as well as inventing experiences that never happened, dreaming, and hoping for, wishing for, or working for future experiences that haven’t happened yet.

Consciousness has, as have many subjects of this kind, been approached from two main angles. The philosophic approach seeks to devise high-level explanations that will encompass – or at least shed light on – the various unexplained phenomena. And the scientific approach (typified by psychology) seeks to understand these phenomena at a more practical level, like: What can you do if someone has an experience that continues to bother them? It should be noted that “psychology” is based on the Greek psyche, from whence Latin gave us the word spirit.

The point most often made by people who think the subject of consciousness is important is that we won’t solve some of the most fundamental problems of human existence, like insanity, crime and war, until we get consciousness right. And I agree with them about that.

Having a working understanding of life

If we can get the question of consciousness answered correctly – at least for the psychologists, if not for the philosophers – it would open the door to a lot of handlings on this planet that currently seem basically impossible.

Look at all the effort that has been put into ending war, crime and insanity on this planet. Yet they all still exist, and in more threatening forms, it seems, than ever before.

Beyond that, the mystery of the origins of biological life, and of Mankind in particular, continues to elude us. And we have yet quite to figure out exactly what is holding this universe together; a problem in theoretical physics that remains unsolved.

If we had such an understanding firmly in place, how hard would it be to mend a broken marriage, a broken heart, or perhaps even a broken planet?

These articles are not being written to tell you what I think. They are being written to invite you to LOOK. The most workable set of answers – if not the only relatively complete set – that I know of has already been arrived at. Your introduction to these answers is found here: scientology.tv

I urge you to take a look!

ARC in the universe

Artwork created by CSI, 2018.