Why one is Needed and How it might be Derived




НазваниеWhy one is Needed and How it might be Derived
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Summary

Our new universal religion, should one come to be, must be founded upon, and headed by, a purpose whose truth, simplicity, utility and appeal are unmistakable. It must be easy to understand, clear in intent, and suited to guide us all, collectively, to a better way of living. Should peace between nations be our sole desire, then our selection of purpose is much less critical--any that brings unification will serve. However, if we seek more, if we value a long and healthy future for our descendants and for Life, for centuries and millennia to come, then our selection of purpose becomes extremely critical. We must choose one consistent with and respectful of the reality thrust upon us by this universe, simply because we must formulate a guide to living in this universe, not to living in an afterlife. Thus, the behavioural creeds we author must be rationally constructed with this reality in mind. Our new religion must be founded upon what we know--rather than what we invent--about ourselves, our cosmos, our origins, and our future possibilities.

Only the meta-purpose we adopt must be an assumption, for the universe itself cannot be shown to be directed toward a purpose, and this actuality thus applies to all within. Once this single assumption is accepted, then only truth and logic must be used to deduce the behaviour required to attain our chosen endpoint--thus constructing exemplary commandments. Circumstances may be forcing us to repeat doctrinal steps originally taken many hundreds of years ago, however today we have a better grasp of reality, and can use confirmed facts in many places where our forefathers could only conjecture.

To become an influential factor in controlling exploitive excesses, our universal religion must become an incontrovertible part of everyone's mind--perhaps, eventually, the mind's most cherished Construct. A constant awareness that no act should harm Life's continued evolution may be all that is needed. It may be enough for every child and adult to know that this responsibility is everyone's responsibility, and that it pre-empts all other purposes and duties.370 Individual lives may come and go, but our hard-gained wisdom must continue. Our lives, and those of our ancestors, lose all meaning if our accumulated knowledge and understanding is not benefited from, built upon, and bequeathed forward.

"Multi-Year Targets" is a postscript to this chapter.


CONCLUSION TO PART FOUR


Rational practical behaviour is purpose directed:

religions exist so that moral behaviour may also be this way.


The world is in labour to produce a second renaissance. Like the first, this reconstruction results from a growth in knowledge and understanding about the real nature of life, the universe and ourselves. Unlike the first, this renaissance will grow very quickly, spread and fed by electronic media, sought and bought by the needs of a globalizing world. Unification of ideas, ideals, desires and, eventually, morality will inevitably force the development of a global religion of some kind.

Which course will humanity choose? Will we continue to view morality as an ordained given? Will we refuse to unify and continue to support a million or so different faiths, defend the need to have a multifaceted view of morality, carry on squabbling and never reach a collective agreement when international situations demand one? Or will we succumb to some new visionary who is revitalizing one of the old god-headed myths, and unite to create the needed global religion in this manner? Or will we choose to develop one that can be forward-looking and reality-based?

All we need to set out on this journey is a single meta-purpose to act as a beacon. Used to frame a universal purpose and an associated set of behaviours, we would have laid the foundation of a religion that would be rational and practical, moral and just, timeless and universal. Our descendents would then have the right to speak with confidence, proud of their beliefs and actions, certain about the behaviours they practiced, ready, willing and able to join, with heads held high, all the other great civilizations of the universe.

None of this will come to pass in the next few generations. But equally, none seems impossible to bring about, given the will and enduring effort of many who care.

Ah! If only we might return after death, to see what has come to pass. To see heaven on Earth--what an afterlife for us to witness, and what a legacy for us to bequeath!


Chapter Postscripts


Postscript to Chapter One: CONSCIOUSNESS AND CONSCIENCE


What is the "me" that makes one think in a manner that is peculiar to only oneself?

The total "me" is easy to imagine; it must be the accumulation of events and understandings that one has experienced during one's life, added to the genetically inherited abilities and aptitudes present in one's brain.371 As we have noted, molecular memories and the understandings they represent are stored as linked paths and networks of greater or lesser significance through everyone's brain--the whole constituting the "mind," just part of it forming the "me" concept.372 This collection, together with the biochemical activities and emissions of the cells of one's body, makes the "me" think and act the particular way that one does. As Descartes said, cogito, ergo sum ("I think, therefore, I am").

Second-level thinking, i.e., when animals analyze situations and recognize their implications, then act upon (or dismiss) what they have understood, may or may not involve consciousness of self. If the situation is totally independent of their own individuality (for example, for an antelope when a lion walks nearby) then an awareness of their own unique identity is not called for (only the need to include the knowledge of such things as their proximity to the lion, wind direction, etc., in their analysis). But, if, in order to correctly assess a situation, an animal needs to separate its identity from that of others (for example, when in a family or grooming group, where knowing one's social standing, and how others act and react toward one's presence and actions), then a degree of consciousness of self must be present.

The recognition of personal identity, a separate self or me would have occurred very early in the development of third-level thinking ability. Cassirer knew this when he stated, "it is language that makes his existence in a community possible; and only in society, in relation to a 'Thee,' can his subjectivity assert itself as a 'Me.' "373

Third-level thinking, using words and languages, provides the consciousness we are familiar with, where thoughts can be consciously directed and where moral questions are formulated. This is the detached self that can examine (with some difficulty) what is happening at the second level.

As we have discussed, everything we "know" is built, held and maintained as second-level constructs--developed by second-level thinking that builds neural networks which form and link the memories. These give us the mental images of objects, events and ideas that we carry in our mind's eye; they are our own Platonic cave-wall shadows. It is the mental construct of one's own body that one "sees" when experiencing an out-of-body sensation (that of looking down upon oneself). Out-of-body sensations occur as the conscious third level of thought is (semi-consciously) drawn by prevailing circumstances374 to picture mind images of one's body as though they were separate and distinct (i.e., disconnected) from the mental networks that denote self.

It was third-level thinking that made some early scientists postulate that there was an imp, or homunculus, directing mental traffic within the brain; the imp turns out to be the mind's second-level activities.

Consciousness, then, amounts to an awareness of the existence of an assemblage of thoughts and memories within the brain, and of the particular significance that these have to the possessor. The awareness occurs at the third level, and it is the presence of mental constructs that creates the sense of permanency to one's concept of self. Consciousness is aware of second-level activities, but their rapidity and subconscious independence make them hard to analyze. Second and third-level activities block ready access to first-level consciousness; training and practice aimed at decreasing third and second-level thinking activities (meditation, for instance) may occasionally allow first-level awareness to make itself known (as an experience, not as a detailed representation of the external environment).375

Research demonstrates that subconscious biochemical and electrical flows occur before we become consciously aware of them. (We should expect this because mental images must first form subconsciously to be recognized and analyzed for relative significance; only then can those of importance be selected and fed to our conscious third-level thinking where, finally, they may be put into words.) This is why the semi-consciousness we are occasionally aware of seems to have a life of its own. It does. Thoughts at the second level run their own course before we become aware of them. This effectively detaches them from our third-level thinking, and makes them seem to exist as an independent body of thought within our minds.376

Conscience is an entirely different issue. In essence, exercising one's conscience amounts to expressing one's concept of truth. This, therefore, represents both the highest and the most fundamental level of life's activities: the highest, because life survives by determining the true nature of its environment; the most fundamental, because life does this to most effectively exploit its resources in order to live. Unfortunately, the true nature of things is readily distorted; by one's sensors and one's understanding of signals received by them, and by the words and mental constructs we and others use. Truth, to the extent that it exists, is often costly to obtain; finding it requires openness to the widest possible range of experiences, facts and ideas, then a constant debate over their meaning, with oneself and with others.

Conscience is often associated with morality--knowing "right" from "wrong," and behaving accordingly. In that morality is always relative to its time and circumstances, it is a lesser concept than the concept of conscience. Most theologies recognize this, some going as far as saying that one's conscience is God-given and must be followed, even if it contradicts religious teachings.

Most biologists dismiss any discussion of an animal conscience. For example, Hauser, in Wild Minds, states categorically (page 253) that animals have no moral system. But I think that advanced animals may possess a conscience of some degree because they do seek to understand the true nature of their environment, and they can separate a knowledge of "self" from that of another. Animal altruistic behaviour, which has not infrequently been observed, may demonstrate the operation of a conscience and of animal morality.377


Postscript to Chapter Three: PURPOSE AND MEANING


There is an important difference between asking, "what is life's purpose?" and asking, "what is life's meaning?"

The first question is by far the most important, for we seek an answer that must be universally and permanently true. All of life, wherever it is and in whatever form it exists, is expected to be subsumed within the answer to the question about life's purpose. "To do God's will" might be the reply of many to this question, giving an answer that, they would claim, applies to all things and all creatures for all time. The point to note is that, although the chosen "life's purpose" might vary from one person to another, every choice selected must meet the criteria of universality and timelessness.

The second question, asking life's meaning, is clearly of less significance, because subjective and multiple answers are acceptable and even expected. Everyone is quite willing to accept different replies from the same person for we fully recognize that "life's meaning" can change from day to day. "Life's purpose" has no such freedom.

The answer to the question of life's purpose turns out to be the key that unlocks the puzzle of life's meaning. We can be sure of this, because whenever someone says that life has meaning for them, we always find that they are expressing a feeling that stems from acting to achieve one or more purposes they deem to be important.

Many do not recognize that they live their daily lives happily striving to attain a multitude of purposes. The desire to live comfortably, to provide for a family, to be without pain, to be emotionally satisfied, to enjoy life; all these and thousands of similar phrases are statements of purpose, all more or less distant from conscious thought, but all significant to our minds as they go about their task of making the decisions that guide our daily activities.

We sometimes consciously chose one or two purposes to have particular significance for us, and their achievement may then take primacy over others. Getting a degree, saving money to buy a house, or helping charitable organizations might be examples, and many of us spend much time and effort supporting the attainment of goals such as these. However, whether or not we recognize the fact, every one of our activities is directed toward the achievement of one purpose or another.

Of course, we often react to emotions and feelings as well. But these actions are taken to satisfy or alleviate the emotions or feelings that prompted them; thus acting to satisfy our emotions is also acting to achieve a purpose. The difference is that these are not purposes directed by conscious thoughts, they are responses to body chemicals. Thus, they are usually more primitive or animal-like in nature (although emotional responses to music probably pertain to relatively recent evolutionary developments).

The happy feeling that we are living a meaningful life, or that life possesses meaning for us, is a by-product of a mind that is doing its job well by directing its support system (the body) to meet a multitude of purposes. The feeling stems from the mind being able to work relatively stress-free, both consciously and subconsciously, because the tasks we perform, the thoughts we arrange, the decisions we make, are directed toward some worthwhile, i.e. purposeful, end.

It is pointless to directly seek the meaning of life. Feeling that life is meaningful is the normal state--a feeling of well-being, when the bloodstream is relatively free of stress-causing chemicals, because the mind is working efficiently and effectively, making purpose-directed decisions. Such a mind has no need to instruct the release of anxiety-causing chemicals.

There is no physical or biological requirement to feel that life has meaning. Living entities can eat, survive and reproduce, without any such feeling, as the daily lives of bacteria, plants and insects presumably affirm. In organisms capable of conscious thought, however, there is a definite requirement for such thought to be purpose-directed. Solving problems and making decisions rationally requires a desire to achieve some purpose--this systematizes conscious thought. Working rationally is the activity that makes the mind valuable to survival, thus ensuring its own survival.

People who lack valued purposes are susceptible to depression, when nothing seems worthwhile and life can feel meaningless. The cure is not to directly seek meaning, but to find a purpose worthy of being valued and sought, then use this purpose to make decisions and guide actions.


Postscript to Chapter Four: RATIONALITY IN SCIENCE AND RELIGION


Science and mathematics reign supreme in our understanding of the universe because, as has been elsewhere noted, each scientific fact and theory, each mathematical statement, has been exhaustively tested for inconsistencies and illogic before being given membership among the hierarchy of theories and facts that make up the totality of these disciplines. Our underlying belief in the universe's causality requires this rigour, as any discrepancy, until resolved, threatens to demolish our whole understanding of the cosmos.

The mark of a true scientist is that he or she willingly investigates discrepancies. The hallmarks of scientific method are that its findings are repeatable, measurable, and universal in implication and relationship, yet simple in concept once understood. Although humans have uncovered a great deal about the universe, we have much to learn, and the meticulousness of the scientific method is the only sound approach.

Most religions, in contrast, do not tolerate such a questioning attitude and, consequently, many have become less and less in tune with reality.378

Religions fail us when they ignore our need to be rational. Of course, anyone can hold any belief or statement to be true. There is no necessity (other than the mind's own operational need for rationality) to demand a logical relationship between subordinate statements and apex belief in religion. Each statement could be taken at face value, true and absolute in itself. Indeed, many people (particularly those who follow their religion's fundamental text conscientiously) seem able to accept most, and sometimes all, of their religion's statements as absolutes, and require no inter--connectivity between them. But this treats us all as though we were automaton, incapable of thought, simply being required to believe and to act as we are told.

(Preachers do not usually ignore the inter-relationships within their religion. In my limited experience, preachers spend much time attempting to show links between a belief in God and subordinate statements [such as the existence of Heaven and Hell], or between actions and consequences. Possibly this is because preachers are more rational than most of us, and have been drawn to religion because of the need to find an authority for the moral decisions their mental constructs require them to address. If this is even partially so, it is truly ironic to realize that it is the universe's very own rationality expressing itself within their minds that has induced them to become leaders in an arena where rationality has become subordinated to faith!)

As earlier stated, we can believe anything we choose. Our beliefs will cause us no harm, as long as they do not cause us to act in a way that reality will punish. Thus, we can believe, to use an extreme example, that the moon is made of green cheese, that the man-in-the-moon is our real father, and that we will all go to be with him after death. We can construct a subsystem of subordinate beliefs, all guiding us in our daily decision making, and all assuring us that we will be rewarded with an afterlife amid green cheese. And we can live more or less happily within this belief system and die content.

We can sustain these beliefs forever, provided we somehow filter and modify any incoming stimuli that fails to support them. For instance, we could believe in a cheesy moon as long as we did not spectrally analyze moon light, and we could continue to believe in moon heaven for as long as we did not physically visit the moon. Others could go, but they could not return to report its true nature and so challenge our beliefs, for it is clear that our green-cheese belief would become untenable after the return from a moon landing. (Of course, this is exactly why a belief in heaven or paradise can exist.)

All belief systems run the risk of unravelling when forced to confront reality. The only belief systems that survive close encounters with the real world are those that are based upon the rationality of the real world. The less our belief system agrees with reality, the more difficult following that belief becomes.379 We can enjoy our beliefs for as long as we like, but reality will compel us to revise such beliefs as soon as they create situations which threaten our existence.380

We stand at this juncture in our current religions. Many of our traditional beliefs have become less convincing. Reality keeps pulling at the tangled skein of religious thought, attempting to correct false assumptions and misunderstandings. More and more, we become obligated to ask if current religions really are the best source of guidance in contemporary issues. Moral decisions are in danger of becoming little more than political trade-offs at the parish level. Matters relating to population control or gene manipulation, for example, that need a global consensus if such decisions are ever to amount to anything of significance, cannot even be raised at the international level for fear of the religious conflict this would create. Surely a global civilization can never be established until conditions like these are corrected.


Postscripts to Chapter Five: CREATIVITY, FREE WILL, AND A REVELATION


1. Creativity

To be creative, our thoughts must stop following the well worn neural paths they are accustomed to travelling. Thus, we start the creative process when we (mentally) say "no." By saying "no" to any particular thought, we force our minds to conceive alternatives, to search for different neural routes among our existing store of memories, to look for new links. Let me provide a couple of examples.

Consider an artist who paints a picture that is appealing and sells well. He or she might churn out several paintings of like vein without thinking and live well. But, other than the first painting, this is being productive, not creative. To be creative, the artist must first say "no" to some aspect of his or her work. Some large or small part of it must not be produced by rote; it has to be produced as the result of a conscious effort to discover and present something new. A novel way of using titanium white, an insight into the nature of anything, a new way of presenting an emotional experience, a rational discovery, anything at all, as long as it produces an informing381 entity that is unique. The refusal to repeat what has been done before, because there must be a better way, is the act that initiates creativity.382

Alternatively, consider a manager, heading a division within a factory producing widgets. There are opportunities galore to be creative; all such a person need do is think, "No, there must be a better way of doing this," then work out what that might be. On the other hand, the manager may not be faulted for thinking little and creating nothing, being paid for his efforts, and going home knowing that he has done his job, content. (But, somehow, perhaps, feeling a little incomplete, for he has simply managed an operation, not led. To lead others one must first be creative.)

Everyone can be creative. And we all are, some of the time. We have all created many things, suggested a different approach, changed a routine, come up with a new thought, improved upon the past. Each time, in a moment prior to each occasion, we would have, in effect, said "no," and this would have stopped us from repeating what we may have done many times before.

Routine living, simply repeating with minor, externally induced, variations what has been done before, is not being creative. No improvements--no increases in life's quality--are produced, and life stagnates. It is the creative acts of millions who have lived before that has given us everything we have that animals do not.

When we refuse to allow our thoughts to follow their usual pathways, the search for new neural associations begins. Finding them completes the act of creativity; new links are made, new memories laid down, our mind's store of constructs enlarges, and our future abilities increase. Creativity adds to oneself as well as gives to others.

2. Free Will

Chapter One noted that we discover how the universe and its contents operate by examining the cause-and-effect relationships that tie events together. It was emphasized that nothing happens in isolation; every object and every event is linked through a chain of causality to everything that existed before and to everything that exists currently. Not one iota can change without being brought about by some prior event happening.

But, if no change can occur without being caused by some prior event, which itself must have had a prior cause, and so on and so on, backwards in time to the universe's beginning, then how can free will exist? How can any individual have any thought that hasn't been pre-programmed into the cause-and-effect network that exists throughout the universe?

Moreover, if free will does not exist, how can anyone be responsible for their actions? And if no one can be held accountable, then no one should be disciplined for anything they do.

This problem has agitated theologians and philosophers for centuries, and has never been satisfactorily resolved.

Intuitively we feel that we do have free will. We all think that we are free to make any decision we like, and most of us expect to be held accountable for the decisions we make and the actions we carry out as a result of those decisions. So there is some explaining to be done--where does causality give way to allow free will?

Possibly the answer is simple. It may be that causality does not apply to single particle events.383 What follows is an elaboration of what is meant by this statement, and some evidence supporting the premise.

We think of particles as discrete objects, having mass and able to move from place to place (factors that we can easily measure) because this is our direct experience of the (large and small) objects that we encounter everyday. However, if particles are small enough (about the size of an atom) scientists find that their true nature is not that simple.

One of the peculiarities we find, is that we can never know simultaneously the position and momentum384 of single particles such as an atom or an electron. This is because any time we try to measure either of these properties, the act of measuring one changes the other. For example, light photons reflecting from a particle that, once detected, should tell us the information we seek, actually give the particle a backward kick as they bounce off. This shifts the particle's position in an unknown way. It's a bit like trying to find out what a falling feather is doing by poking at it with a stick. Heisenberg developed the Uncertainty Principle as a description of this problem in 1927. (It precipitated much free-will discussion among scientists and philosophers at the time.)

Another unexpected feature of particle behaviour is that, if we send a beam of them (or even shoot them, one at a time) through two thin parallel slits to make an image on a screen, rather than the expected two lines appearing on the screen, we see several parallel lines of varying density (called an interference pattern). Moreover, these lines are being drawn by a succession of many single hits. Now, on our everyday scale, objects like bullets can't produce interference patterns. But waves can, so our explanation of such occurrences is that particles show "duality"; they move as if they were waves, but hit targets as if they were bullets.

Quantum mechanics helps physicists solve conundrums like these. This discipline has determined that energy exists as waves of interacting energy fields and that matter is actually bunched-up packets of waves (or photons). (You will remember that Einstein showed that matter and energy were different forms of the same thing, so quantum mechanics and the Theory of Relativity support each other's explanations.) Since waves are spread-out entities, the position of the particle they represent385 can only be calculated as a probability of being at any particular place. (For instance, a scientist might say, "If a photon were to hit this screen, it is 60% likely to hit at this spot.") This may be the first clue in resolving our free will enigma.

The existence and behaviour of "virtual particles" might be another clue that causality does not apply to particles. Myriads of virtual particles constantly flicker into and out of existence everywhere (obtaining the energy to do so from the "vacuum energy" of space, see Chapter Seven). They are called "virtual" because they cannot be directly detected. Their occurrence was predicted by Heisenberg, and they are found by looking for the real particles and antiparticles they create. (These created particles and antiparticles immediately destroy one another; it is the leftovers from this destruction that scientists observe.) The comings and goings of the unseen originating virtual particles are completely unpredictable from our point of view within the universe. Since the behaviour of these particles is unpredictable, the results they produce are also unpredictable. Causality seems not to come into play on very small events in our universe.

Observations such as these suggest that tiny particles,386 virtual or real, possess properties that are somewhat different from those exhibited when the same particles form large conglomerations. The observations suggest that, at the grassroots level, only probabilities exist. These probabilities build to become statistical certainties as the particle groupings becomes bigger. Once large enough, their behaviours exhibit the causality upon which the laws of physics depend, and that allows scientists to explain so much. In short, predictable causality is not possible (and absolute certainty does not exist) for events involving objects of small dimensions.387

So much for causality. Now, for free will.

Thinking, as we have noted, can actually be observed occurring in the brain. Imaging scans reveal that electrically charged ions travel along neural axons and prompt chemical transmissions across synapses to neighbouring neurons. But ions, we remember from our school science class, are atoms or tiny groups of atoms that have lost or gained electrons. That is, they are very small particles.

Now we have all we need to allow free will to exist. We exercise free will when we first say "no."388 (As stated in the postscript "Creativity," this is exactly what we do to start the creative process.) Subsequent, conscious, third-level thought, capped by a decision, completes the act. This process consciously overrules, or at least re-thinks, any decision that may have been made by prior thinking, including that done at the second-level subconscious in our mind.389 We are able to do this, because causality does not force small particles (particularly chemical neurotransmitters travelling between synaptic gaps) to trace previously determined paths.

There we have it! We possess free will because small particles are not causally constrained; they obey probability laws which only become certainties when large numbers are involved. We can say "no," and be responsible for creating an original decision.

(For what it's worth, we might note that we exhibit no free will at all when we just "go with the flow." All flexibility and freedom disappears when multiple entities merge, be they particles, photons, ions travelling along existing neural pathways, or mobs of people.)

3. A Revelation

I experienced a "revelation" (from simply thinking that an idea [see the Conclusion to Part Three and various chapters for details of this idea] could be true, to believing that it is true) three decades ago. Its sudden, totally unexpected arrival; its mental fireworks and fascinating light trails; its prolonged accompanying feelings of certainty, exultation and joy; and its ability to direct my actions even now, are all, I have come to realize, a matter of natural biochemistry. With the loss of its original wonder, and the expectation of never again experiencing its magic, comes a degree of sadness. But, it also brings the knowledge that something similar, something fully explainable and rational, must have happened to many people, many times in the past. Each one of history's prophets and mystics who claimed to have received divine intervention, with its accompanying brightness and light, surely experienced a similar phenomenon. Scientists, perceiving a sudden solution to a problem that had long occupied their thoughts, have reported similar happenings, sometimes adding that it was as though the universe had spoken to them. These feelings, as noted in Chapter Five, do not emanate from some external consciousness, some universal spirit; they come from the individual's own second-level subconscious mental activities.

Is it sad to say goodbye to the notion that these exotic experiences are proof that a higher Being exists, that some divine force is slowly but certainly bringing enlightenment to us? I don't hold so, for this imposes a dependency and subordination that harks back to the days when superstition and fear ruled the human mind. The idea of being manipulated by a god apportioning ideas in this manner is quite distasteful to me. I do not like to think that any god worthy of its title would do this to any of its creations.

Is it distressing to know that our thinking is not being supported or even directed by stimuli received from a god--to know that we are acting all alone? No; not at all. To the contrary, to know that life, starting from scratch and with absolutely no outside help, is actually on a journey towards comprehending the entire universe is far from troubling--it is magnificent. It is inspiring to think that any single one of us might add another piece to the elucidation of the puzzle. It is exhilarating to know that, as infinitesimal as humans may be on the grand scale of things, they are nevertheless slowly unravelling the nature of the universe, and, through the understanding this brings, gaining some measure of power over fragments of the cosmos itself.

To think that some distant descendant of ours might someday control all! None of the religions I have read about give life and living such an overwhelming sense of purpose and destiny to me. They may have done so, to some people at one time, and they may still do so, to other people today. But not to me. What makes my life meaningful to me is the thought that some of my actions might, through the later efforts of others, contribute morsels toward the eventual evolution of oB.


Postscripts to Chapter Seven: GÖDEL'S THEOREM, GENERAL SYSTEMS THEORY, AND THE CONSERVATION LAWS


1. Gödel's Theorem

Kurt Gödel, in a paper published in 1931, proved that any mathematical system that includes the natural numbers (1, 2, 3, and so on) contains questions whose answers can neither be proved nor disproved using the axioms to be found within that system. This is now known as Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. It implies that there are many mathematical truths that can never be proved, and, by extension, that any system will contain questions that cannot be answered from within that system. Since any meaningful questions that we might ask about the nature of any possible supersystem will inevitably involve use of the natural numbers, there are questions we will never be able to answer. Asking if our universe was "designed to meet some kind of purpose," is just one such question.

Another way of using Gödel's theorem to address why one is unable to understand everything from within a system, is as follows. A system is complete when all statements (or their negations) can be proved from within that system. Systems can be proved to be consistent, i.e. free from contradictions, but only by involving a larger frame of reference, which then requires an even larger system to prove its consistency, and so on. In short, we require information that is only available from outside of our universe to determine the accuracy of any answer to any question that can be raised within the universe. In other words, we can never know the answers to questions like, "does God exist?" or, "what is the universe's purpose in existing?" because we cannot obtain information about what exists beyond the boundaries of our universe.

In effect, Gödel is saying that we can never know anything fully and completely. Thus, even the very best of our scientific understanding is ultimately unverifiable.

Some might say that if this is true, then what is the point of doing anything. Why bother to develop a universal religion, for instance? The answer, of course, is that we need one just as much as we need an understanding of how things work, because both improve the quality of our lives. Time enough to stop doing our best after we are dead!

2. General Systems Theory

The basic concepts underlying General Systems Theory390 are simple, once the terms employed are recognized and their meaning understood. The theory's power stems from its generalizability, for all systems (whether living or non-living, small or large) demonstrate the same principles.

General Systems Theory can be summarized as follows.

A system is a processing complex of interrelated parts that acquires supplies and turns them into something else. Thus, a person can be called a system, for each individual takes in oxygen, nutrients and water, processes them, and turns out movement, growth, and bodily waste. A factory can be called a system, for it takes in raw materials and energy, carries out operations, and turns out manufactured goods and waste.

Physical and biological systems exist everywhere; they range in scale and form from primitive Archaean life to galactic clusters, and the same systems terminology applies to all.

No system within our universe is "closed." In other words, there is no system within the universe whose boundary is impermeable to everything. For example, the Earth receives and processes energy from the Sun; the Sun was formed from earlier Milky Way galactic dust, and radiates energy that interacts with the galaxy's particles; all galaxies exert gravitational pulls upon one another (so their motions are interdependent), and so on. An alternative way of expressing this property is to state that all systems are "open."

Thus, all systems (except, possibly, the universe itself) are subsystems of larger supersystems, and, in particular, the biological system is a subset of the physical system. In other words, life is a subsystem of the universe.

We cannot tell if our universe is a subsystem of a larger universe. If there is no linkage to anything external, if the universe is entirely self-contained, and neither takes in nor gives out any form of material, then it is closed. If our universe is somehow related to (i.e., exchanges information, energy and/or matter with) a larger Universe, then it is open.

Systems are dependent upon, and thus controlled by, their various supersystems. This fact becomes readily apparent when a system can no longer obtain needed resources from its environment (its supersystem) and shuts down. It is also demonstrated when a system's outputs are so excessive or aggravating that its supersystem (its environment) can accept no more, and the resulting back-pressure (a.k.a. feedback) shuts down the system's operations.

The criteria that determine what we can do, or what we are able to produce, are all to be found in the way our supersystems react to our behaviour. Our supersystems can reject (partially or fully) or accept (partially or fully) our outputs. (For example, a rejection by family, friends, employer or society can soon effect our welfare.) Conversely, supersystem acceptance creates the demand for more of the same output and thus encourages more of the same processing activity.

General Systems Theory terminology can be used to increase our understanding of the problem-solving and decision-making processes described in chapters two and three. Thus, the supersystem (earlier termed the environment) provides the criteria that determine the success or failure of its subsystems' behaviours. Physically existing supersystems exhibit and enforce many real criteria, and we make practical decisions successfully by knowing and respecting these. Similarly, mentally existing supersystems (i.e. major constructs) exhibit and enforce many abstract criteria, and we make moral decisions successfully by knowing and respecting these.

3. The Conservation Laws

As the Conservation Laws have been referred to several times in the text, it might be useful to say a little more about them.

Conservation Laws state that, amid all the changes that occur throughout the universe, certain quantities and qualities (for instance, the total amount of energy/mass, momentum, charge, spin, parity, etc.) are always conserved. The value of each (although not necessarily the form) after an interaction is always the same as the value of each before. These laws explain why, for instance, a perpetual motion machine cannot be built. (Interacting system-parts generate heat which is lost to the surrounding environment. Thus the machine loses energy and eventually stops.) Conservation laws explain why there is a property we call inertia. (We feel a force termed inertia when, for instance, we push an object to start it moving. Accelerating an object in this way changes its velocity, and this means we have added to its momentum. Since momentum must be conserved, it must be taken from somewhere; in this case from our hand and body, and, ultimately, from the Earth, reducing its spin (i.e., its angular momentum) a tiny fraction. The inertial force we feel is our body's reaction [Newton's Third Law of Motion] to the force that transfers momentum from the Earth to the object.)

The several Conservation Laws are likely to be sub-manifestations of one comprehensive law that we have not yet discovered. Superstring theory may soon be able to tell us more, not only about the Conservation Laws, but also about why certain physical constants are just right for our universe to exist and to create and nourish life. Superstring theory, in Witten and Townsend's M-theory version, can now account for the existence of the known forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear), showing that they may all be derivatives of minute vibrating strings 1035 meters or less in length, and existing in either 10- or 26-dimensional hyperspace. Superstring theory exercises the minds of many physicists and cosmologists (the first group, because it may be the elusive TOE/GUT [Theory Of Everything or Grand Unified Theory] long searched for, and cosmologists, because it predicts and allows for the existence of other universes.)

Some seemingly inexplicable phenomena (such as the behaviour of virtual particles, or the instantaneous transmission of quantum states, as well as time-travel and teleportation [both recently demonstrated to exist391]) might represent a window through which we may glean a little knowledge about the possible existence of any such super-universes.

Our universe may be just an adjunct of a larger Universe, with the larger Universe retaining ultimate control. Control by a super-Universe could be rigid, creating nothing more than a fully deterministic sub-universe if the connections between the two were entirely inflexible. However, this seems not to be the case. Wave/particle duality and the laws of conservation allow minuscule events unlimited freedom to act, as long as conglomerate activities obey the conservation constraints (see also the earlier discussion on free will).392

Alternatively, our universe's existence could be simply a manifestation of nothing, just as branches of mathematics can be created from definitions rather from actuality. All that is needed is for the whole to sum to zero, and that sum to be maintained regardless of how its parts manifest or become manipulated (a condition maintained by causality and described by the Conservation Laws).


Postscript to Chapter Eight: ORIGIN THEORY MODIFICATIONS


Theories related to life's creation and its evolution are still being proposed. In the 1960's Francis Crick, Leslie Orgel and Carl Woese independently proposed that RNA preceded proteins in evolution, and introduced the idea of an early "RNA world." In 1983, Thomas Cech and Sidney Altman found evidence that RNA can act as a catalyst, so supporting the RNA world theory.393

Current thinking posits that early RNA exchanges occurred laterally (within a commune of different cells), rather than generationally (from parents to offspring), as DNA now replicates. The former may have facilitated many primitive evolutionary developments, and has been found to occur in bacteria.

An alternative theory, put forward by Graham Cairns-Smith, suggests that an inorganic genetic system is likely to have existed before the RNA world, possibly one involving the irregular distribution of cations since found in clays.

Ideas and findings such as these may help us to replicate possible early life forms in the laboratory. That we will create life from scratch one day is not much doubted by any biologist (although some prefer that we never make the attempt). However, the methodology we use to succeed may not be the way that life started (on this planet or elsewhere in the universe), because there are likely to be many ways that life could begin. We will probably use water as its basic ingredient,394 and we already know the other elements and molecules from which Earthly life is constructed. However, it is not a matter of which ingredients to use, the problem is how to assemble these to form a self-contained processing system.

A web search for articles relating to the creation of life or the discovery of extraterrestrial life forms will yield many other interesting details. Chapter Ten adds a further note to this discussion of life's beginning.


Postscript to Chapter Fourteen: MULTI-YEAR TARGETS


Anything and everything is possible when fantasizing about the future. Everyone has their own views, and the great majority, we know, will turn out to be wrong. For what little they might be worth, here are some of my conjectures concerning the possible development of a universal religion.

* 25-year achievements: A suitable meta-purpose is envisioned, and its legal definition as a universal purpose is agreed upon. Public awareness programs are developed and initiated. Political, financial, and religious support is being sought. National and international groups are being formed. Media and public relations units are active. Possible administration, legal, accountability, and other organizational structures necessary for the continuance of the universal purpose project are being discussed.

* 50-year achievements: The universal purpose is used by 20% of the world's governments to guide their decision making in such areas as law, genetics, population, pollution, world aid, trade, and exploitation-control.

* 100-year achievements: The universal purpose has been adopted by 25% of the world's population, and varieties of a universal religion, headed by this purpose, are being used by them to make moral decisions in arenas where their personal religion provides no answers.

* 250-year achievements: Self-sustaining, off-world colonies have been built on several of the sun's planets or their moons and are supplying Earth with rare minerals; the continuation of any indigenous life forms found there is protected by the tenets of the (now commonly accepted) universal religion. Colony ships are on their way to several hospitable exoplanets.

* 500-year achievements: Information exchanges between humans and intelligent alien life are becoming common occurrences. The possible need to reformulate our meta-purpose, universal purpose and universal religion (and its moral codes) is debated in light of what we learn.

* 1000-year achievements: Interchanges between numerous other-world species are facilitated by the adoption of a universal meta-purpose that guides the manner by which life's continuing evolution is supported.

Clearly many other targets have to be met, if any of this is to come to pass. But, look back the same number of years into our past: what changes have humans wrought during that short span. Then look ahead. All might become reality--if we take courage and act upon our dreams.


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