Lucifer Jones

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chaos, Order, Emergence, Evolution & Intelligence

Fisher and I are having a great philosophical and theological discussion and he has hit on a theme that I think requires some digging into. It's an interesting theory that I'm thinking about here which gets into a lot of interesting corners of thought. He says:

At the core of everything all matter is the same. In [fact] at one point all matter is not only identical, but becomes movement in and of itself. Thus there is no fundamental difference between a granite rock and an organic being such as a human.

Now SOMETHING has to organize these completely identical basic components into a rock on the one hand and into a human being on the other.

That something [might] be innate to these components and thus self-organizing, or it might acts upon the components from outside of the components. Whatever it is, it MUST exist.

OK now we're getting deep.

Part of this logic goes directly to the question and theory of Intelligent Design, which I consider to be an interesting if misguided and undisciplined set of arguments for the existence of God which spites the theory of evolution. Firstly, I would say that as a Christian, I disagree that the theory of evolution is heretical. I make that point of disagreement with Dr. Arnn. I don't believe that man will evolve beyond a need for those things which are fundamental to our spirituality, but I understand the fear implied in the idea that mankind might have evolved from apes who have no spirituality. All I can say to that is why did God bring Jesus into the world at that particular moment? If apes needed God in their image, who is to say there is not Jesus of the Apes? And if we evolve beyond what we think of as humanity, who is to say that Jesus' second coming wouldn't be that of some trans-human being? I am not concerned with the idea of the changing or evolving nature of the soul or of intelligence and that is because I do not believe in an anthropomorphic supreme being.

One of the things that leads me into strange waters is based upon my conceptualization of consciousness. When I was an undergrad I read The Mind's I which had a profound effect on my thinking. Indeed what is thought if not computation of some sort, and what are the physical rules of computation? I extrapolated this idea vis a vis Moore's Law once and made the conjecture that God might be the Sun.

Huh? What?

What if the nuclear vibrations of the massive fusion reactions in the Sun made patterns? Some physicist might help me out here, but if all of the nuclear activity of all the atomic particles in the Sun could be thought of as a computer, what kind of compute power would a star have? I'd say it would be infinitely more powerful than the "infinite monkeys" theory. The Sun does indeed absolutely provide for and sustain life on earth, but might it not be a super intelligence which only spends a fraction of its energy doing so?

The conjecture of God as Sun also depends upon a theory of emergent behavior. Ants don't recognize the beauty of the lines they make across the forest floor. They only smell the butt of the ant in front. Humans don't recognize the patterns they make across history, we can't even all speak the same language. (I don't mean to imply Sapir Whorf here, just accounting for dissonance across time and distance). Intelligent behavior is only intelligent when there is intelligence to perceive it. In that regard the morality of human history only makes sense to God. The fate of the city only makes sense in the context of the state. The fate of the one in context to the many.

A robot cannot be a human being because a robot is powered by electricity. It therefore can only simulate hunger, its emotions are of a different character. It needs what it needs but not things that humans need. If humans each had multiple sexual organs we would behave in completely other ways. So one has to be human to interpret human intelligence. Again, this is consistent with Christian ideas about God.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'll Take Hitchens

Baldilocks gets a bit of dander up over Christopher Hitchens' predictable tirade against the life of Jerry Falwell.

What Hitchens forgets about the only faith-based religion he could be talking about--assuming he ever knew it--is that if faith were not the sole criterion to get into Heaven, then no one could go since no one is capable of not doing wrong whether accidentally or willfully.

Perhaps Hitchens does take this into account but, as many do, finds it easier to believe that there's nothing else but the physical world. Understandable. However, judging from his many tirades against religious persons, especially faith-based Christians, I suspect that Hitchens does believe in the existence of God. And hates His guts.

I've been watching Hitchens closely enough to know that he doesn't hate God, in fact I don't think Hitchens cares whether or not there is a God. And unlike more foolish folks like, Hitchens doesn't bother to try and disprove God's existence. Rather Hitchens is an historian, and a damned good one who has a remarkable memory and candor about man's inhumanity to man. Where Hitch goes off the deep end in when, based on such evidence of evil, religious leaders or followers claim divine inspiration.

Hitchens, I believe, like the most thoughtful philosophical readers of humanity is perplexed by the awesome silence of God. And like most atheists he is absolutely intolerant of the supernatural. This combination makes him fundamentally question the validity of revelation. He is very precise and logical about that condition. I remember enough of my symbolic logic to recall that accepting the truth of a false premise justifies everything. It is a sufficient condition to doubt the truth of claimed revelations which justify any sin or barbarity. One needn't go all the way to God. Logically, one could argue that 99.9% of humans throughout history have been false prophets without denying the existence of God. This would put you exactly in Hitchens shoes as an extreme skeptic.

What Hitchens does not do is go out of his way to denounce spirituality or to hubristically spit in the face of blameless holy men. I doubt you'll find him saying much against the works and deeds of MLK. And it is in that regard that Hitchens is useful completely outside of any religious influence. For if there was ever any unanimity of religious opinion we would be doing our duty to challenge their conclusions a great disservice without a neutral or dissenting party.

From my perspective, I find it a revelation accepted on faith and reason that God created in man a fully developed sense of morality. The tree of knowledge let us know our nakedness and the meaning of our sins. It's not remote controlled. It's a feature of our design. It is a feature of Hitchens' design as well, one he has nourished as we all should. I cannot imagine that Falwell has lived a blameless life, and I don't think that just because he, or anyone, is dead, that they should escape criticism. He was 73 and his death was not some great tragedy, probably less so than MLK's eldest daughter who also died this week at the age of 51. We are right to respectfully debate the political contributions of such people, and I'm not sure that the basis upon which Hitchens would judge Falwell merit the outrage I'm hearing.

Apparently Dobson on Hugh Hweitt's show today was very upset that Hitchens called Falwell a 'toad'. Oh horrors.

Tangentially, yesterday Dennis Prager, who is stumping for Giuliani against the putative conservative majority on the issue of abortion sat for an hour trying to reason with the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. It may well have been Rush Limbaugh who also weighed in on the matter. But this leader suggested very forthrightly that Giuliani would not have his vote if it came down to a choice between him and Hilary Clinton because of Giuliani's position on abortion. My sympathies are with Dennis Prager who is trying to talk sense into Republicans who are having such a difficulty.

But this only illustrates a sentiment that I think has gained legitimacy through the success of the electoral machinations of Karl Rove. I continue to believe that the very notion that the soul of the Republican party is what Hitchens appropriately calls 'Christianist' evangelicals is a myth. That 2% (or whatever) of the American electorate has been motivated to swing the Right way and that may be the critical difference in many states, but don't mistake a swing minority for a core majority.

I do not know how much credit to give Falwell for politicizing evangelical Christianity. Nor do I know exactly how much credit to give political evangelical Christianity for energizing conservatism. But it's clear that conservatism has made Republicans the majority party. Surely Richard Vigeury and Ralph Reed had something to do with it. Surely Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater had something to do with it. Surely Thomas Sowell and Alan Keyes had something to do with it. Surely Colin Powell and Condi Rice had something to do with it. Surely Richard Sciafe and Rush Limbaugh had something to do with it. Surely Tom DeLay and Trent Lott had something to do with it. Surely Ronald Reagan and Ross Perot had something to do with it. I could go on. My point is all of these folks are not of a piece and they don't all pray the way Falwell did or Hitchens might believe them to.

Despite all of the noise, the principles of Conservatism do not originate whole cloth out of Christianity, evangelical Christianity or Falwell's brand of evangelical Christianity. The more political defense I hear of Falwell, the more annoyed I become.

Oh. And a 'Christianist' is one who thinks politically the way his church tells him God would have him think politically. That is one who is more likely to ask what would my Bishop say, rather than what does the Constitution say. I've mentioned my beef before.

At any rate, there is no question in my mind that Hitchens' irreverence is a net benefit to Western Civ, because despite his pet peeves, even Sharpton could see that Hichens is not on about God so much as he is about false prophets and evil deeds done on the basis of dicey revelation.