Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


What about Fossil Fuel?

Think about it.

There is considerable risk to the consumption of fossil fuels since it has been well established that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, a major threat to civilization on Earth. The fossil fuels in the ground that have not been extracted represent a asset on the books of major fossil fuel corporations. Even in a declining demand in the United States, there is a rush via fracking and other extraction methods to get as much as is possible right now. This poses a problem. What do you do with it?

The current effort is to send these fossil fuels over seas to support growing economies there. There is also considerable push back from citizens because of the real likely outcome that burning all these reserves can contribute to increased CO2 and exacerbate the climate problems we face.

One way to put a cap on the speed of this effort and reduce the climate impact is to prohibit the export of fossil fuels from the United States. If there were such a prohibition, then only the fossil fuels needed to meet demand in the United States would be extracted because there is no good way to store the vast amounts current efforts portend. This would have the additional benefit of extending into the indefinite future the benefits of fossil fuels which are used for purposes other than burning in generators and automobiles. If in addition, there was a growth in the use of alternative ways to generate electricity with wind and solar the US demand for fossil fuels would continue to decrease.

There are advantages to the United States. First, we could become totally independent of foreign sources. Second, it would extend the potential long term value of this source of primary wealth. It also postpones the impact of excessive CO2 in the world climate system.

So, I say: Prohibit the exportation of fossil fuels from the United States.


The Case Against GMO

Why are the corporations so against GMO labeling?

The answer to this question is subtle. It begins with why GMO crops are created in the first place. As it turns out to nobody’s surprise it is economic, not for the benefit of the consumer. If farm products can be produced that lower the cost of production by modifying the nature of the produce itself, in theory and practice it ought to be done. That is the basis of GMO.

For an example, consider Monsanto’s Round Up ready GMO crops. Using these mono-culture GMO seeds a farmer can apply the Round Up herbicide to reduce the weeds and as a result increase the yield per acre. The GMO crops have been engineered so that they are not killed by the herbicide while the weeds are. What is worth pointing out is that this GMO is designed to make money for Monsanto and the farmer. However, the GMO is not made in a way that the consumer gains any direct benefit.

This economic agenda does not seem to include making the product more healthy for the population as a whole. It does not make the nutritional value greater. In fact, one has to question whether the food produced through the application of toxic chemicals is in fact safe. There are historical experiences that should inform us, like the use of DDT.

So, if the only value is economic, mega-corporations naturally oppose any calling attention to the GMO process. Labeling would certainly do that. So, the corporations go all out to oppose labeling because, if we all knew where GMO was being employed for which there was no health benefit and no money savings benefit for the consumer, we might become more aware and less inclined to use GMO products. GMO benefits the corporations, but not the consumers.

Every technology ever developed had unintended consequences, some good, many bad.  For example, in the case of Roundup Ready Crops, we see a number of instances.  Increased resistance of weeds to Round Up which will require a more toxic application.  We also see GMO crops “infecting” non GMO crops indicating we are not in control of the outcomes of GMO.  It has resulted in suing farmers who through no fault of theirs, find GMO products in their fields with the effect of driving some non-GMO producers out of business and us out of choice in the market.  Labeling is an honest way to help us track what is going on and give us choices in our food purchasing.

Religious Mythology

Posted: March 17, 2014 in Philosophy, psychology, Religion, Science
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How I Interpret the Christian Message

When I understand it as Mythology

 I am sure that some would find it a fundamental mystery how someone could claim to be Christian, to participate and support a local Christian congregation and its work while believing that most of its tenets were founded on mythological stories. Some I am sure will be threatened by the ideas that follow and quit reading sensing that to do so will somehow participate in a heresy. So be it.

I understand the search for meaning, for an answer to the question “Why do humans exist?” has existed as long as written records have been recorded and probably long before, beginning when all knowledge was conveyed in oral form. Written history offers many attempts to answer the meaning of life and an explanation for those out of the ordinary natural happenings, good and bad. We call most of these explanations in our history myths. However, today’s answers we tend to accept as enlightened understandings of truth. In my view, today’s explanations are and will become to be seen in the future as simply a progression of mythological explanations to answer the question.

Yet, buried in progress of myth building are “truths” about the nature of what it means to be human, to long for understanding, to search for truth, and to understand what being human has become over the ages. What we have become and will continue to become is formed in part by the myths and cultures that embody them. I choose to look at all as myth laced with the wisdom of many searching minds. I see the Christian traditions as staggered attempts to understand humanness in relationship to some thing, place, or “person” which Alcohol Anonymous calls a higher power. To me, the higher power is simply the collective knowledge and wisdom of the human race which can be beneficial to humanity or detrimental to human existence.

So how do I participate in Christian worship and practices that I believe are mythological? I do so by interpreting the practices as having useful current day analogs in which I can find solace. Let me take a fundamental Christian belief in the death and resurrection of the one called Jesus or Jesus the Christ. The myth to me is that there was in fact a human resurrection. Furthermore, that this death was in some way a sacrifice of one human/god/person and that by virtue of this sacrifice somehow it will or did save me from an eternal consequence. It has an interesting analog. I am, the physical and thinking individual I am, a result from a dying and resurrection process. For me to be here today, a massive explosion occurred some 13 plus billion years ago as the best minds of the day believe to be true. In that time, numerous stars have formed and then died seeding the existence of other stars and star systems. Our solar system, its sun and planets are the result of this process of death and resurrection. I am therefore a part of this death and resurrection process that will continue for a few more billions of years. So, when we celebrate the mythological resurrection of a historical figure, I understand that indeed, it was necessary for my existence and worthy of my personal reverence and appreciation that whole star systems had to be sacrificed for me to exist. I understand that as a part of the creative process of the universe, the universe has created not just stars and planets, but a replicable form called life that has developed the capacity to understand and revere this universe and its creative, saving cycle of death and resurrection and to carry forward in time the memory as a collective action of many like myself.

And, in this personal process of re-interpreting the mythological stories of my inherited faith story, I take pleasure in participating in the myths and stories of the struggles of may people who came before me in search of the security of “knowing” the “truth.” I too find truth in myths that make life joyful and rich.


There was a community that was very religious.  Someone, a long, long time ago wrote about God.  They all believed this writing was holy and to be believed to the word as long as they ignored certain words of warning.  It was a very comforting faith because no matter how difficult things were today, this book of writings about God promised that there was life after death and all you had to do to have that extended life was to utter certain words, with sincerity and passion.  And when you had done that, you could go your way, do your thing, ignore those who had not uttered the words, make serious purposeful mistakes, be forgiven, over and over, rape the land, pollute the sky, poison the oceans, and be forgiven, assured that there was an infinite future, a wonderful reward that would last forever.

Now if you did not utter the words with sincerity and passion, fully meaning what you said, it did not count.  You would be destined to live forever in a kind of hell along with all those who did not utter the magic words.  But, if you meant it, truly, you were safe and secure knowing that all the others who had done so would be with you in this great place of reward after you died.

One day, somebody who did not believe in magic said there was a problem in the world.  They had observed that by raping the earth, polluting the sky, poisoning the oceans, and oh yes, burning up some goo that the earth had been incubating for thousands, and thousands of years in a little more than a hundred years, the natural world was protesting.  But the faithful did not worry because their future was safe and secure, even after they died, forever.  They even believed that the earth would end but they would get their reward.  Their writings told them to multiply and subdue the earth, so they did.  They were inventive and used the goo to grow more food, build great engines, and populate the earth.  No problem if this was not sustainable.  They had a promise.   They would be going to the great reward and those who did not believe in magic would be left behind in their hell on earth.

Over the years, many of the believers died.  Nobody ever heard from them again.  Even so, those still alive believed they would see their deceased friends in the future in a great place of reward.  Meanwhile, the rape, pollution, and poisoning continued.  Then, one day, it did get warmer, the polar caps did melt, the oceans did rise, storms became severe and frequent, fires were common, water, oddly enough, became scarce.  The great experiment called homo sapiens was called to account.  God, as it turned out, was part of nature itself.  Judgement was administered.  The experiment ended.  This time, there was no boat to board to save a few for the future reclamation of the earth.  Believer and non-believer alike were gone.  Their friends, if they were enjoying their great reward, did not care.  They got theirs.  They just assumed the rest went to hell.

Belief like this is not enough, maybe not even the correct way to live!


Heaven or Hell?

I was just beginning to read the book, “Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril” and an interesting parallel occurred to me. The human being, as best we know, is the only species that can contemplate its own death. We despair when events like Columbine and now Aurora are presented in every media outlet. As I grow older and notice that there are many people my age and younger are dieing every day, I think about my own demise and wonder about the legacy I will leave behind. It causes me to invest a bit more time and attention to my grandson. It also activates me in my volunteer work with community organizing and study about the impact humans are having on the planet.

In reading Moral Ground essays which outline the dire indications of a planet in peril, it occurred to me that contemplating death is more than personal. Many minds are now contemplating the extinction of not just their own persons, but the extinction of the human race as we head toward a cataclysmic crash of the planets systems. The dinosaurs did not see their extinction coming, or so it seems. But while we think of ourselves as the exception to almost everything on the planet, we have been blessed or cursed with the ability to imagine a future. And that future, as a logical extension of what is happening today, is one of extinction– not just of individual species of which we take little notice, but of our own human species.

This lead to an idea or thought experiment. Suppose for a moment that on planet earth, we happen to be living in the afterlife of some other existence. That is, we were living someplace else and then, from where ever that was, we died and now, our spirits were sent here on planet earth for our after life. The question comes up– are we living in Heaven or Hell?


The most important value shared by all of mankind is GROWTH.

Consider that as humans, we are dependent on growing up.  Growth is considered to be a positive, even essential aspect of life.  We look around and we see growth positively valued everywhere we look.  We want our gardens to grow.  We want our children to grow up.  We want to grow our own abilities, to learn, to be able to be more proficient, more successful.  Growth is one of the values we all share in common.  It is part of the environment in which we live, so much so, the values associated with growth go unnoticed, unobserved.

Growth is good!  Who does not want their net worth to grow?  We all look forward to the day that our financial obligations are smaller than all the assets in property and money that we claim ownership of.  We abhor the idea of negative financial growth lest we find we are bankrupt.  To increase the opportunity to grow financially while limiting the risks we have to endure, we form associations with others, limited partnerships, corporations.  We invest assets in these corporations expecting a return, not only in dividends from the profit of the company, but also, we hope, in the increasing, growing value of the company and hence our stock investment.  We are counting on economic values to grow.  Our expectations of gain as well as the expectations of gain of those managing the companies imply there will be growth; growth in profits, growth in asset value.  The whole of our economy, in our nation, in other nations, in the world as a whole, are dependent on growth.  Hence, growth in consumers, growth in population is desired.  It leads to additional needs for food, housing, clothing, entertainment, information, health care, transportation, etc., etc., etc.

In the United States, the economic need for constant, continual financial growth is running out of places to grow.  Hence, we see an effort to devalue governmental services in favor of commercial enterprises.  Private prisons help the financial markets grow.  Private schools allow for profit, for financial growth in a previously non-profit segment of society.  Parks, roads, utilities, transportation, police, fire station services, health care, military services, to name a few– all of these are game for creating new growth for the financial sectors of society.  And since growth is good, even when prompted by greed, a pernicious form of growth, why not make all activities of life “grow-able.”

There is a problem with the supposedly good value of growth.  It is not sustainable?  It is a simple fact that the resources of this planet though enormous, are limited.  Growth forever is not sustainable.  The problem is the short term existence of any single individual to mostly less than a hundred years.  Growth is probably sustainable during that brief horizon today, probably during the next few generations, but not indefinitely.  The problem with growth is how culturally embedded and revered growth is, how acceptable as a fundamental principle of goodness it is for most people.  Yes, some people see the problem of growth in limited areas, but not generally as a whole.

Unfortunately I don’t have a solution except to call attention to what seems to be generally invisible.  We live in a “growth is good” milieu much as a fish lives in water, unaware of the universe that surrounds it– it just is.  To be able to advocate for a sustainable world, we first must come to terms with the fact that the growth value must be recognized and ways to sustain the world explored before we pass some tipping point.  WE must learn in what ways growth is positive and in what ways it exhausts the resources of our planet.  We must come to terms with externalities of specific acts of growth as well as its benefits. If we don’t come to terms with this problem of the growth value, mother nature will take care of it for us or our progeny or our lack of progeny.

See also The Earth has a Cancer


What Does God Want?

In the Christian tradition in which I was raised, there is frequent reference to God’s will. What does God want for the human race? Throughout the Hebrew and Christian scriptural cannon, we read of prophets who proclaimed God’s dissatisfaction with ‘His’ people who strayed from his covenant, his will for them. Today, we approach what the world should be by reference to God’s commandments and his revealed will. Unfortunately, we speak to a world what does not share our view of God, much less place value in “God’s Will” for us.

It is instructive to consider what Gods Will is in areas that this question is not usually asked. For example, what is God’s Will with regard to the population of the world? Is God happy at our world population approaching 9 billion? Is God sad that we have allowed uncontrolled growth of human kind? Or, is God pleased to see so many people made in his image? Is the more the merrier in this regard? If 9 billion is good, is 50 billion better? Maybe God is not pleased to see human kind expand to the point that many suffer from lack of basic needs?

What is God’s Will with regard to space exploration? Does God want the human race to be limited to the earth or would God prefer we travel to the far reaches of the universe, mastering other planets, mining the asteroids, plundering other living species so that God’s people can expand and master the whole of the reachable universe? Is this God’s solution to a growing population, an accepted need for continual growth? Or, since God accepts the death of individual humans, is God equally OK with the death of the human race, seeing it as just a natural outcome of birth, and life, something we see in all of God’s nature?

What is God’s will with regard to eggs? Is it acceptable to God that as humans we eat the eggs of other species, preventing them from being fertilized, preventing them from becoming new life? Is it God’s Will that all eggs created by nature be fertilized and give rise to a new birth, human or non-human alike? Does God prefer that all human families birth as many children as a woman has eggs or a man has sperm? Does God judge celibacy as fundamentally sinful, denying the opportunity for a human being with a soul from existing? Does God see this as equivalent to murder?

What is God’s Will with regard to medical technology? Was God more pleased when we allowed natural death to occur or is God more pleased to see us extend life as far as possible using enormous resources to extend life a few days, months or years, even when that life lacks quality and even if it results in great poverty for others and at great cost to society as a whole? What does God think about mammograms, CT machines, MRI machines, acupuncture, miracle medicines that make some people rich and others poor?

The point of these questions for me is this. To base our decisions on what we perceive to be God’s Will does not solve the fundamental problems we collectively share in the world today. In the past, when there was so much of nature that remained a mystery, it was useful to have a concept of God’s Will to guide us. Yet, fundamentally, what historically was called God’s Will was in fact a collection of understandings of what it meant to live in relationship with other people, what served the common good, how to live out a life with harmony, love, wholesome pleasure. And, I suggest this is precisely how we should be approaching the problems and issues of the day. It seems archaic to base the “should be’s” on the external reference to a God which is becoming more and more distant to more and more of the people alive today.

The best reasons for what is right and what is wrong is how it impacts the common good, maintains or builds equity and fairness, avoids unnecessary suffering, relies on what can best be demonstrated to be true. If there is a God, it is surely God’s desire for a sustainable future, one beyond our own limited existence, a sacrificial living for the good of all and of those not yet alive. And this is complex enough that we don’t need to draw on our inadequate understanding of the “God’s Will.”

Cecil Denney


The Ultimate Machine

The Brain as a Machine Created by Evolution

By Cecil Denney

This essay necessarily deals with a complex topic. If, as is proposed, man is little more than a biological machine, then how does one explain the ability to enter into an analysis of this perplexing situation? First of all, it has to be acknowledged that use of the term “machine” may evoke too rigid a mental image to be the best description of the concept being explored. There is no perfect example to serve as a perfect analogy. Machine seems to imply automaton like behavior, but if an automaton, then the human experience is far from the image drawn.

To begin with, the brain, the neural network that produces the feeling of consciousness, of self direction, of free will, is a most exquisite mechanism. Operated by chemical and electrical activity; organized into a variety of members dedicated to specific functional activities, it is extraordinary. Yet, it is ordinary in so much as it is carefully replicated in design in millions of operational systems in the world. Even though the design is replicated, the result of this design occurs in such variety of networks that no two are likely to exist that are physically equivalent. One brain which contemplates the complexity of the construct of brains is yet incapable of fully communicating to another brain the exact physical experience of a given thought.

One has to marvel at how inputs and outputs of the brain permit the rest of the brain’s support systems, the body, to function. One has to marvel at the symbiotic relationship between brain, body, and the millions of co-hosts of bacteria that make up the human experience. We are, individually, communities of such complexity of interrelated co-dependencies, that it is unlikely human brains will ever fully grasp the full spectrum of the communities. Although each community-individual is similar to other community-individuals, yet no two are likely alike.

The brain receives “signals” from its host support system, the body. Five inputs are commonly understood, eyes, ears, taste, smell, and touch. But, it also receives signals from its own internal operation. There is also noise in the inputs, both external inputs and internal ones. The brain is per-conditioned to organize inputs and will not necessarily distinguish between clean and noisy inputs. If the noise is too great, one experiences hallucinations; visual, auditory, taste, smell or touch phantom signals as a result of trying to interpret and integrate the noise into its highly organized structure. Dreams reflect this effort to integrate random firings of brain signals during sleep.

The most complex experience of the brain’s function is the experience of consciousness. The machine, the complex neural network, experiences a feedback mechanism in which the feedback becomes integrated as new sensory information creating a looping structure. It integrates the feedback along with current sensory information to create the illusion of consciousness. This system, however, contains a number of flaws due to the basic physical structure and limitations of the “machine” itself. This allows us to experience and be “aware” of visual illusions. It also contains limitations on how the looping attends to various sensory inputs, focusing on some and totally ignoring others. This is the bread and butter of a magicians trade, taking advantage of the brain’s inability to maintain attention to multiple points of focus simultaneously. The hypnotist can in effect place the brain in such a tight feedback loop that it is attentive only to actions suggested by the hypnotist.

The brain is a “meaning” machine. In its symbiotic relationship with its host, it is driven to insure continuation of mutual support, survival. To do this, it must assign values to external events that can support or hinder survival. This is a process of attaching “meaning” to experiences, ones that support survival and those which threaten survival and those which seem to have no value one way or the other. Every brain must develop its own “meaning bank”. We are not taught, but we do learn. From a very early age, we seek the “why’s” of existence. We are intrigued, as infants, by novelty and learn through all senses. The brain attempts to organize all experiences and sensations. It is assigning meaning to its inputs, Our brains are DNA wired to do this. It is highly practically oriented, ignoring some and incorporating other experiences. This practical orientation we call “meaning.”

Here we have a biological system with the capacity to process limited sensory input from its environment, make an approximate record of the experiences and then incorporate the recorded experiences as if they were additional sensory input sources building even more complex records. The system as a whole over time builds a model of experiences and memories in a process we call learning by experience. Furthermore, the building of the model also takes place in a feedback loop that the system experiences a state we call consciousness being little more than the amalgamation or current sensory input and internal feedback from “learned” experience, models of what is perceived as an external reality. With the ability to attach symbolic forms to certain models or memories, we can then manipulate the symbols to create new and novel combinations which in turn create new and novel models.

The ability to symbolize a mental model into what we call a word and then to utter that word as an external sensory input to a disconnected brain (another person), we can create an exchange of approximate model recall. The model recall process having been processed as a symbol requires the recall of a memory experience which in most cases does not exactly match between two brains having not shared the exact same sequence of external sensory events from the exact same physical location at the exact same time. Hence, the passing of symbols between two brains may share symbols, but not exactly the same “meaning” being derived from unique model experiences.

With sophistication, symbol passing can approximate closer and closer common understandings between two or more brains through a process of specialization of symbol meaning. This specialization is common in areas of science where precision of meaning is necessary to derive practical outcomes that can be shared among many distinct brains.

Even more curious is the meaning behind that which is symbolized by the term “logic.” In this domain, multiple brains agree on how symbols can be reliably manipulated so that novel outcomes can be produced through the manipulation of symbols alone and then accepted as new reliable input. So, the rules of logic can be adopted by the biological systems as a way to manipulate symbols that represent defined external realities in order to provide reliable conclusions, ones that can be replicated by multiple brains that have agreed to the rules of manipulation. The brains then draw conclusions about the probable truth of certain symbolically formulated combinations.

In all cases, there is a symbolic root, a root below which there is only a neural network that has formed in the brain and about which there is nothing to say except “look at that network.” Like a string of DNA which codes for a specific amino acid, we can point to it, but not necessarily explain why it happens. Or, if we do offer an explanation, we just invoke a new more descriptive root cause to which the question “why” can still be applied till eventually we just get to “because that is the way external reality seems to be.”

This raises the question “What is true?” or “What is the nature of Truth?” At some point, if it all yields to “that is just the way it is”, then we end up with what is commonly referred to as “belief.” That is, what is true is just what is true regardless of the brain’s interpretation. The question of interest is whether or not the brain can ascertain what is true. Is the extent of the brain’s reliance on what sensory information it can manage sufficient to reveal what is true? More likely, it will determine what is useful to survival, true or not. In this regard, then, the brain relies not only on sensory information but constructs of neural networks it contains to arrive at conclusions about reality. This is where belief enters the picture.

Belief is itself based on both conscious and unconscious models constructed in the learning process by the brain. It is composed of direct experience and other-brain induced experience, what we were told using the symbolic nature of language which we have asserted is imperfect in communicating equivalent meaning. Belief is unsubstantiated and unsubstantiatable symbolic or emotional memory of or model of some idea (neural network). Belief is experienced as assumed truth. In some cases, that assumption can be tested against an external reality. In some cases it can not.

There is a bias toward belief firmly reinforced by experience whether that experience be direct sensory information or indirect via symbolic manipulation from symbolic sensory input, language, what we have been told is true. This bias helps the brain build models around these symbolically represented models which we might call concepts or ideas. The bias has to do with survival in that it requires less real physical energy consumption for the brain to work from internal models than to build such models in the first place. In the same sense, it conserves energy to maintain or hold onto a model versus questioning the model or even changing the model. Therefore, once a belief is settled into a model neural network, it has a bias for maintenance versus questioning or change.

This bias can be observed in all areas of human existence. Even scientists who have chosen to struggle with a methodology that allows for the introduction of revision and change based on experimental evidence have a tendency to resist changes to their world models. Some change only in the presence of overwhelming evidence that their closely held scientific beliefs are questionable. For the non scientist, in domains where beliefs are not built on proof or fully sensory input, beliefs can be more tightly held. Belief’s not based on the methodology that permits free questioning of beliefs can be created and maintained by symbolic input from other grains, influence by culture, influence by groups to which a brain feels an attachment. These beliefs can be held firmly over time only so long as affiliation with other brains remains in tact, but once that affiliation is broken, there is an opening for belief revision. However, there is a tendency for one brain having broken one affiliation, to seek a new affiliation that continues to reinforce the brain’s belief systems. Since virtually every affiliation, made up of unique brains with unique experiences is itself unique, when a brain changes affiliations, it is also likely to find some of its beliefs challenged and faced with reevaluation. That is to say, changes in the environment, whether it be through association with other brains or with external sensory reality, can force a dissonance that leads to changes in belief.

All brains suffer from a structural affect to create the illusion of consciousness and free will. More likely, the environment in which brains develop are so sensory rich and complex that an individual brain can not experience inputs as only illusions. As this essay is written, even the author writes it with the illusion of being creative, free thinking, conscious so as to be observing itself. It is virtually impossible to avoid the illusion because it flows from the structure of the brain itself.

Because we can observe our environment, and because we can construct changes to it, we have the illusion of individual creativeness. However, this illusion is nothing less than the artifact of the complexity of multi-brain interactions forcing changes in models held by the brain. This complex web of interaction naturally, because of defects in reasoning and defects in interpreting sensory input, arrive at incorrect but creative conclusions to the input, both external and internal. Feedback loops similar to those contained in the structure of the brain itself exist in multi-brain environments. They create the concept of the whole being greater than the parts individually which is true because of the creative aspect of inter-brain interactions in large complex exchanges of symbolic sensory sharing. This sharing creates a kind of change that appears to be intentional, intelligent, non-automaton, creativeness. Unfortunately, it is a simple artifact of the interaction of a bunch of neural-network machines.

What about the illusion of “wants”? That is, the brain-body symbiosis is motivated or is activated to physical motion or symbolic written or spoken actions to declarations of future expectations by the experience called “stress.” The stress can be physical or mental, but it has the effect of causing action until the stress is removed, either by stress relieving neural-network action or by physically experiencing a counteracting action that reduces or removes the cause of the stress. This illusion of wanting something then is nothing more than environmental changes or neural-network activity consistent with the overall brain neural-network.

So what of love, hope, beauty, goodness, wonder-of-nature? What of honesty, integrity, faithfulness, loyalty? What of all these abstract concepts? Given that the brain is a electrical-chemical soupy neural-network these abstractions are structured networks of electrical and chemical reactions stimulated from internal and external sensory experiences. There is little more to say. They are real in the sense of experience while simultaneously being simply illusions, artifacts of the overall structure of the brain.

One might conclude from this exposition that the author is cynical, depressed, discouraged, or simply paralyzed into a discouraging fetal position, ready to exit this sense of reality. On the contrary, it is a hopeful understanding of sentient life in that it can be improved upon. It seems possible that artificial, that is to say not occurring today in nature, forms might be generated by this illusion of consciousness and creativeness to themselves experience consciousness and creativeness. Today, we refer to them as robots. It seems likely these will evolve to represent the next stage in the evolutionary process. Although today we perceive of robots as becoming the servants of human kind, they will most likely become superior. One day, there may no longer be a need for human forms and these evolving entities with consciousness and creativeness will perceive themselves as having evolved from nature, being created by nature, their predecessors, humans. Who knows? Certainly, it is not within the capacity of the current human system to know how or when this transformation will occur, but it will not take more than 10,000 years, a mere blip in the history of earth.

cecilden@gmail.com


Please read the first part of this two part blog.  Star Dust

First a couple of facts (as opposed to beliefs).  No one can prove there is a GOD.  It is also true that no one can prove there is NOT a GOD.  Yes, I know there are those who claim to have “experienced” the presence of what they BELIEVE (with all their hearts) was God.  They can cite the difference in their lives as evidence of the experience, but they can’t give you the experience they had.  Unfortunately, we are all isolated creatures, capable of communication, but that communication, at its very best, can only communicate an approximate facsimile of the experience, not proof.  Enough of that, my position should be clear.

Yet, I have the experience of God every day. When I think about the implication of being star dust (see Star Dust blog) I see there is some underlying force of nature that allows, indeed fosters the creation of elements that in all their richness have the capacity to form into organized structures.  Obviously they organize into stars.  We have learned that exploding stars broadcast higher level elements.  We have learned that these tend to “gravitate” toward each other and under the influence of greater and greater collections, form planets.  We have come to understand that if these planets are just the right distance from the galaxy center and just the right distance from a supporting star, and rotate just the right amount, they are capable of collecting liquid water.  When there is liquid water, we have learned elements can collect in the presence of solar and planet heat, form collections capable of replicating themselves with the ultimate outcome of becoming what we call living systems, interdependent on the environment that supported their development.

I call this a Life Force, a fundamental structure, created in the big bang which has resulted in living systems that can exchange information, learn, grow, and come to understand, at least at some primitive level, the very system that created them.  So, to me, I see this Life Force as the embodiment of what people call God.  I have found, in my own spiritual practices with people in a liberal protestant setting, that I can share in worship understanding what some people see as an external reality they call their God by mentally substituting my understanding of this grand, magnificent Life Force.  As I pray, I understand that I seek to complement, not work against this Life Force.  I feel morally responsible to sustain the capabilities of this planet.  I celebrate the scientific discoveries that inform our understanding of our place in the universe all the way down to my own family dynamics.  When I see a beautiful sunset or peaceful lake, or snow on the tree branches, I can celebrate the fact that I have been given the chance to experience this Life Force personally.

And I also can feel anger and even rage when I see actions that through ignorance or selfishness lead to thwarting this Life Force in the here and now.  I get frustrated when people ignore this Life Force and seek their own personal pleasure and gain at the expense of others.  In other words, my moral capacity is not diminished by this understanding and the fact that this Life Force has a cycle that will one day deny my ability to participate.  It is the kingdom of god here and now that we are all given by this undeserved gift of life.  How will be respond?  Will we resist or conspire to support the Life Force for all of life’s creation and creatures?

Star Dust

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Philosophy, Science
Tags: , , ,

Life as star dust

We are all star dust.  If you accept our current scientific understanding about the origin of the universe, then you accept the concept of the Big Bang, that event that took place some 13 plus billion years ago in an enormous creative explosion that began the universe.  During the approximately first 9 billion years, during the great expansion of the universe, some of the matter that was created began to coalesce into stars that burned and whose gravity attracted more matter and more matter so that in some cases, these stars became so big they exploded in great super nova propelling throughout their region of space not just hydrogen and helium, but heavier metals like carbon, nitrogen, iron,  and all the other elements.  As these were constrained by gravity, they too began to coalesce into asteroids and planets and be captured by other stars.  In some cases, as stars coalesced together, they became great “attractors” of other stars whose vectors placed them in great spiral orbits about a central point which became a black hole that did not explode.

The energy that made all this possible in addition to the creative process itself was based on fusion within the stars that created cosmic radiation.  Too close to the central black hole and the radiation was very powerful.  All stars and their planets were bathed with this intense radiation.  Further out, planets that orbited stars were not bombarded by this heavy radiation from the center of the galaxy, but they might be from the star or double star they orbited.  But, if they were the right distance from their star and the galaxy center, the radiation was acceptable and the planet was warmed so that hydrogen and oxygen could combine into a liquid form, water.

In this just right place, the earth was formed about 4 billion years ago.  As it cooled and the oceans formed, another mysterious event took place.  Some of the chemical elements formed together and over time, they acquired a structure that supported a replication of the structure.  Eventually, these replicating chemical structures took on a form we call “life” and eventually “human life” as we understand it today.

This is the chain as we understand it today from the birth of the universe to the evolution of life as we know it on this particular collection of star dust floating just the right distance from a star we call our sun which is just at the right distance from the galaxy center.

So here we are, particles of star dust originally particles from the big bang, products of the creative forces that began with the Big Bang.  From dust we came and back to dust we will go.

So where is “God” in all this?  Next I will address how I have come to understand what that means to me.