The Soul v. Evolved Consciousness

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, August 19, 2017

I keep trying to understand the core cause of our polarized political conflict that’s pushing us to destroy our current civilization. We have the knowledge and technology needed to solve our problems but we don’t apply them. We choose to viciously fight among ourselves instead. Self-interest is winning over group survival. Decade after decade I keep wondering why. I keep refining my theories, and the current one says this conflict originates in a divide between theology and philosophy.

Most people don’t think in terms of theology or philosophy, so how could cognitive tools be the cause of so much hatred? People act on beliefs without being aware of their beliefs or the origins of their actions. My current theory explores if we’re divided by a fundamental sense of self: either assuming we have an immortal soul or an evolving consciousness.

Because science cannot explain why we’re conscious animals the origins of consciousness remain open to interpretation from theology and philosophy. Of course, even when science can overwhelmingly explain such mechanisms as evolution, many people refuse to accept science because of their innate theology, even when they can’t explain that theology in words or logic. But where does theology come from? Why do some people process reality with a theological perspective and other people with a philosophical or scientific perspective?

Humans are not rational creatures. We are rationalizing animals. Our thoughts are not logical, but seek to reinforce our desires. The perfect lab animal for studying this irrationality of humanness is Donald Trump. From my perspective, humans are the product of billions of years of evolution and we’re currently at a paradigm shift of consciousness, where half of us perceive reality in the old paradigm and half in the new.

The old paradigm assumes God created us, giving us immortal souls with time in this existence being temporary because there’s a greater existence after death. The new paradigm is reality is constantly evolving. I use the word “reality” to mean everything. We used to say, “the universe” to mean everything, but it now appears our universe is part of a multiverse, and even that might not be everything. So, I call everything by the term “reality.” It includes all space, time, dimensions, and everything we’ve yet to discover or imagine.

Humans are bubbles of conscious self-awareness popping into this reality that eventual burst. I believe our consciousness minds evolved out of brain evolution, which evolved out of biology, and biology evolved out chemistry, and chemistry evolved out of physics, and physics evolved out of cosmology. Other people believe a superior being called God using the magical power of the Word created us.

It comes down to the soul v. evolved consciousness. Humans whose thoughts arise out of a belief foundation of the soul perceive reality differently from humans whose thoughts arise out of the belief we’re a product of evolution. I don’t think it’s a matter of conscious choice either. I’m guessing our unconscious minds work based on how each paradigm has wired our brains. Obviously, only one paradigm explains our true existence, but individuals live their lives perceiving reality from one or the other paradigm. That perceptual different makes all the cultural, social and political differences.

The people who act like they have souls want to shape reality based on their beliefs, and the people who act like they are evolved consciousnesses want to shape reality according to their beliefs. This causes our political/social/cultural divide. People with souls don’t care what happens to this planet, people with evolving consciousness think this planet is vital.

12 thoughts on “The Soul v. Evolved Consciousness”

  1. Very valid point. Google intergrative complexity especially the article from Huffington Post about why people are radicalized. It has to do with the way brains function….related to what you are saying.

  2. The downside of what clinical psychologist’s call full theory of mind (self awareness) is confusion. We are constantly having to reconcile outcomes in the real world with our perception of same. In our particular expanding universe, the real world is an endless stream of causality. Events which have already occurred (the past, or our experience) and that which has not happened (the future, or our imagination) The ‘present’ is an illusion created by our self awareness, as there is no basis in the physical world, as we know it. to account for this phenomenon. Essentially our brains are acting and behaving in the only way they know how. This is the same for the brains of all creatures. Our brains have evolved to interact with the environment and other humans in a manner that increases our chances for survival and opportunities for reproduction.

    Now for the confusing part…

    …as it turns out, self awareness has cursed us with the notion of free will. We have led ourselves unconsciously to believe that we are able to initiate independent action by just thinking about same. This notion is so pervasive that we accept, or believe this to be true without hesitation. The notion of free will is so intuitive to all humans that we pay no mind to the possibility that it is all part of the illusion created by our self awareness.
    If we consider for a moment that we have no free will and that we are acting and behaving in the only way our brains have evolved and learned to do so, then the confusion subsides. That doesn’t mean we will act or behave any differently (as we are already acting and behaving in the only way our brain can),…just that we know the future will unfold in the manner reflecting the nature of our dynamic universe. Nothing more nothing less. All our actions and behaviours are placed in the context of the natural progression of causality. Of course, the very idea that we might not be in control of what we think or do flies in the face of our deep tradition of folk phycology, not to mention our rich and deep legacy of self-determination which serves as the basis of our rights and freedoms, and on it goes… None of this disappears because we don’t have free will.
    The most impacted institution in the free will debate is the concept of justice founded on individual accountability, and the right to impose punishment in the name of ‘justice’ rehabilitation etc If there is no free will how can we impose punishment? Indeed. There are still bad brains that think and do bad things and therefore for all practical purposes, we need to separate those individuals from the mainstream as a condition of safety for both society and the individuals themselves. All well and good. However, if folks are acting and behaving in the only manner they can, then where is the pretense to punish?
    To summarize
    I would submit that the endless incongruity that seems to befuddle our world, in spite, of good intentions can be resolved in part with a clear admission of the physical nature of reality itself. In doing so we gain a true freedom to understand and accept each other for who we are. Although recognition of the inalienable rights of people is already present in most liberal democracies, and certainly the desired goal of many who do not currently enjoy same. That said, given the nature of human beings, it may not be possible to completely eradicate conflict which is embedded in our competitive nature. All in all, if you took a poll I’m sure the vast majority of humans would take the rich experience of living (good and bad) over an existence absent of any full awareness. The confusion inherent with our illusion of free will is a small price to pay.

    1. I agree that free will is an illusion, at least for the conscious mind. But I’m not sure if our whole cognitive system doesn’t adapt to new information and experiences. I like to think of consciousness in terms of what I call the box theory of awareness. Our minds, both conscious and unconscious are in a biological box with inputs from the external reality. Most of the data from the outside are processed unconsciously. And even what we think we perceive consciously is really a simulation, sort of like the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. That simulation seems real but is very deceptive. As we learn more about the external reality either consciously or unconsciously the simulation is updated. Over time the conscious mind becomes more aware of how the simulation works, and it feels like it has some power of free will. I’m guessing as the conscious mind becomes more sophisticated it influences the unconscious mind. So they feed back on each other. So, if we choose to learn more, which part of the mind is doing the choosing?

      1. I would suggest the brain is learning constantly as a fundamental process inherent to its existence, whether we are in a conscious, unconscious, or any semi-conscious state in between. Our awareness is merely a reflection of that process. To your point most of what our brain learns is not reflected in our awareness as the brain has the ability to focus on what’s important for survival. As we know there are times when the brain instinctively responds to danger in a way that is not dependent on our conscious awareness. These circumstances are a constant reminder that all of our actions and behaviours are the product of our brains’ functioning in the only way that it can.. An inheritance that forms the basis of our overwhelming success as a species. There is no choice in the process only the illusion of same.

        At some point in the not to distant future science will reveal the true nature of how our brain functions including the complex phenomena of ‘awareness’. Interestingly enough the American Bar Association has been preparing for this very eventuality for some time. Wherein individuals are found to not have agency and therefore no capacity to act independently of the causal processes of the universe. Noted American philosopher and cognitive scientist Jerry Foder was quoted in a response by Stephen J. Morse (who heads up the “Law and Neuroscience Project”) to George Fletcher book “Free will, personhood, and action” …quote: ” [I]f commonsense intentional psychology were really to collapse, that would be, beyond comparison, the greatest intellectual catastrophe in the history of our species; if we’re that wrong about the mind, then that’s the wrongest we’ve ever been about anything. The collapse of the supernatural, for example, didn’t compare . . . Nothing except, perhaps, our commonsense physics . . . comes as near our cognitive core as intentional explanation does. We’ll be in deep, deep trouble if we have to give it up . . . . But be of good cheer; everything is going to be all right.:…

        …when that day comes the real confusion begins

      2. That’s a great quote. I’m sure we’re wrong about the mind. I also think we’ll eventually discover the mechanisms of how the mind works. But I doubt most people will accept that knowledge even presented with significant proof and education. We are not rational creatures, but rationalizing beings that have the mental ability to twist seeing reality into anything they want.

        There has been significant proof that God doesn’t exist for centuries yet most people believe in God. And there are plenty of other similar examples. Scientific knowledge isn’t always convincing.

        Our challenge is to develop an educational system that gets everyone to accept reality for whatever it is, and not what we want it to be.

  3. Aw, gee, I hope that all of you are correct in your suppositions. I really, really do. However after 60+ years in our enlightened society I have come to a conclusion or two. First, there ain’t anything that you can see that is the true “reality.” Second, the people who are in charge of our “reality” have a vested interest in ensuring that said reality not only continues, but is dominant and successful. Everybody involved is a part of and a story-line in that reality. And of course everything else outside that said reality is not only bogus, but harmful (X-Files anyone?).

    No, I’m not an Alien Conspiracy theorist. I truly believe that if they Are Out There, they think of us as 1950’s soap/sosh-coms. AKA mere entertainment.

    However, we don’t have to be mere actors in somebody else’s play. Sure, it’s easy, and comfy, and we get paid very well to follow the script.

    And if I’m wrong, if that little fat Korean guy is willing to nuke 30% of the planet just to keep from having to feed and pay his people, then we fucked up a long time ago. Perhaps in the late 50’s when we sold our souls in a deal that divided the Korean Peninsula. And then again in Viet Nam.

    All the discussion about “free will” and other wishful thinking is not going to help us out of this mess. We are driven by ancient tropes that say we are right and those ancient enemies are wrong. It worked for the Anasazi right up until it didn’t. And they not only didn’t leave us many clues, but they disappeared into an amalgam of cultures who found enough livleyhood in the Rio Grande area to ensure that their people were neither conquered nor murdered – at least not right away.

    And then the Spanish showed up. And that changed everything, both for the conquerors and the conquered. At least we got some fine food based on green chiles and corn; and lets not forget beans and squash. It’s a good thing we didn’t follow up with the Aztec culture’s interest in ball games that end up in death to most of the participants.

    Oh, wait; we did. It’s called American Football, and they are every bit the sacrifices to our culture that the ring-ball players were in Old Mexico.

    And I pity the (“fools” )end result in our society if we truly believe that the ABA is the proper NGO Agency to determine just how we should behave and believe in our so-called advanced civilization.

    Or as one TV character said, “I pity the fool!” who chooses to try and beat the game.

    It really isn’t about the sophistication, education, and polemic instigation that our society needs to find it’s way. It’s about the moral imperatives, the belief that things done right, according to our societal beliefs that will make us what we can be.

    Or not.

    1. What we describe as morality is a desirable set of actions and behaviours on the part of our brains that enable individuals to socialize to our mutual benefit. As long as the individual brain senses a benefit to behaving in a particular way, it will continue to do so. Unfortunately there are so many independent variables in the mix that this homeostasis is a fragile truce at best. Invariably forces act to upset the balance. Liberal democracies have evolved to the extent that most social actors are satisfied with their lot or at least they can compete in a relatively equitable environment courtesy of the rule of law.

      The dear leader in North Korea is a vain glorious individual seeking recognition (we all do to a certain extent,…just another part of being human) As long as he can keep all of the other elites occupied in the mission to gain recognition for their version of state, the dance goes on,…otherwise his authority and ‘legitimacy’ will collapse, and internal jockeying for position begins anew,…and yes the peasants suffer as they do now

      The point is, we may lament the bad things that happen elsewhere or even in our own lives, however if we strive to understand human nature for what it is, then we gain a certain perspective in which to place all events in context. The danger comes from wishing things to be different than they are – in spite of our nature. This path can only lead to despair and nihilism.

    2. Jim, I believe, but cannot prove there is an objective external reality that is the same to all of us. The problem is we all see it differently, describe it differently, and give it different philosophical explanations. There is a concept called the “narrative fallacy” that explains how we mentally make up stories to explain whatever input our senses presents us. The example I always use is when we hear a noise outside our bedroom window that wakes us up in the middle of the night. Without going outside to discover the exact cause of the noise we’ll lay in bed and imagine all kinds of explanations. It’s a burglar or a raccoon, or a tree limb fell or wind knocked over something. Our minds can’t just go “I heard a noise.”

      We constantly apply this narrative fallacy to reality. Donald Trump explains his presidency one way and the other 7 billion people on this planet explain it in 7 billion other ways. What’s funny is most of the 7 billion people think that Trump is making up wildly crazy explanations and he never changes his mind.

      Science is the only cognitive tool that applies statistical analysis to observing reality. Science does see consistency in reality, and that consistency can be tested from subjective observer to subjective observer. Where science is inconsistent is where the data is inconsistent or where subjective observers analyze the data differently.

      Religion and philosophy are also cognitive tools that analyze reality but because they work from subjective ideals that almost always fail to describe reality consistency.

      1. Of course all of us perceive any given event differently, however small the difference. Individuals will agree even to disagree to maintain the peace which is the practical goal of all individuals. ‘Live to fight/compete another day’ always in our selfish best interest. In a social context Trump has become the scourge of most ‘reasonable’ thinking individuals because he acts and behaves in a manner outside of our collective expectations as to how a president should do so. To put it simply, one may argue whether this is good or bad, however in the end he’s probably not fit for public office. That’s a failure of the political system for those who are not persuaded by his style of behavior. In a parliamentary system of liberal democracy there can be no Trumps (no pun intended) because politicians are vetted by the party leadership first, before they are aloud to run in a given constituency. Some will say, well that’s undemocratic to have the leadership decide on who’s a viable candidate or not. In any case, the deal is done.

        Religion is a cultural artifact inherited through the familial and tribal evolution of human societies. It served as a balm to sooth the inherent fear of the unknown. In other words, one of the other detriments to our self awareness is the sensation of things and events for which there is no positive resolution. The brain cannot tolerate incomplete information for which a risk or flight response cannot resolve. So thankfully the brain has evolved a survival strategy we label as denial. This is the brain’s capacity to compartmentalize (which the brain is very good at) all inputs that cannot be resolved and that would otherwise take up too much scarce energy at the expense of more pressing responses to potential danger, opportunities for mating etc…Of course the most pressing matter to resolve once our evolution reached that point of self awareness was the knowledge of our own mortality. Religiosity (the most significant cultural example of denial) has evolved along side our experience over the ages to ‘resolve’ or neutralize this inevitability, even going so far as to supply an after life as a positive outcome towards our eternal survival, which is the goal of all life in the first place. Of course this conclusion begs the question: If one does not adhere to religious offering, how do we survive the knowledge of our certain death. Why denial of course…just another form of same. For example my particular brain seeks other explanations for our inevitable demise through the products of the scientific method. My comfort flows from the dissemination of facts through logical progression etc…In the end its just another form of denial which allows our brains to focus the the moment to moment business of survival. again which is the whole point in the first place.

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