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.

The Eternal Now and Time Travel

This morning while taking a shower I began thinking about now.  Here I was, a naked 62 year old male, in a 1950s pink tile room, wondering what was going on concurrently in the rest of reality as I soaped up.  My wife would be just getting to work in her office in Birmingham.   1.3 light seconds away, events are happening on the Moon, several light minutes away Mars and the Sun are doing their thing, stuff is also happening around Alpha Centauri, four and half light years away, then 2,538,000 light years away the Andromeda galaxy is speeding towards our galaxy, and who knows how many billions of light years is the edge or the universe, or what’s beyond and how far it extends. 

Everywhere there is something happening, as I take my shower.  We’re all in an eternal now.

I try to imagine Einstein’s space-time concept and how it might affect things.  But to me, it seems logical to think there is a universal now that happens everywhere, even into adjacent universes in the multiverse, or even adjacent multiverses.  Could there ever be two nows?  Or multiple nows?  Isn’t death just losing touch with the now?  And didn’t the eternal now exist even before I existed?  Isn’t consciousness tuning into the now?

As as science fiction fan I love the concept of time travel, but isn’t time travel the attempt to go to another now?  If there is only one eternal now, then that will be impossible.  We see artifacts of the past, and anticipate the future, so we assume both places exist – but do they?  When we see the Andromeda galaxy in the sky, we’re seeing what it looked like 2,538,000 years ago.  It’s actually much closer.

Recently scientists created a computer simulation of the universe.  I wonder if it’s how it looks in the eternal now, or how we see through timed artifacts?  Everything we perceive about reality is time delayed.  We aren’t looking out our eyes, but at reprocessed information, so there’s a slight delay.  If I talk to my friend Connell in Miami, a thousand miles away, there’s a slight delay in the phone signals.  The eternal now is everywhere, but we experience it inside our heads, and all that input about reality is delayed.  The visual field I see in front of me as I type is a tiny fraction of a second late from the eternal now.

The theory of an all powerful, all knowing God is quite interesting to think about regarding the eternal now.  If God is not limited by the speed of light, God would see everything at once in the eternal now.  But would this deity also see the past and future all at once too?  Or does God inhabit the moment like everyone and everything else?  It’s hard for me to believe in God knowing how big reality is, especially if the eternal now has always existed, and will always continue to exist.  Infinity is such a mind-bashing number.

We often ask when did time start, and when does it end.  And we often imagine the beginning of space and matter.  But do we ever wonder about the origin of the eternal now?  If there was only one Big Bang moment, then that was the beginning of time, space and now, but it’s starting to look like there wasn’t just one Big Bang.  No matter how many universes there might be, won’t there only be just one eternal now?  Isn’t it the same now here as it is fifty-five universes over from ours?

I think we’re hung up on birth and death, beginnings and endings, because we have one of each, but maybe reality and the eternal now doesn’t.  As a kid I wondered who made God like other kids, and why wasn’t there nothing.  How could existence start at all.  My conclusion?  That non-existence nothing can’t exist.  That it’s impossible.  If it could, it would have, but since it didn’t, it can’t.  It hurts our heads to comprehend why non-existence isn’t so.  Logic tells us there should have been an origin.  Our minds can’t get beyond cause and effect.  We know nothing lasts forever, but maybe one thing does, the eternal now.

We spend our lives pursuing religion, philosophy and science trying to understand the origins of existence, but in the end the answer is always beyond our small brains to comprehend.  And even if we built an AI Mind the size of Jupiter, would it be large enough to know?  Even if God existed, would God know?  Would not a being that could comprehend all of reality have to ask:  Where did I come from?  How did I get here?  Doesn’t any being asking the ultimate ontological question end up with “It’s turtles all the way down!”

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The Hindu tell us to “Be Here Now” – but where else could we go?

JWH – 5/9/14

Time Reborn by Lee Smolin–Why Time Actually Exists

What is time?  Philosophically and scientifically, that’s a hard question to answer.  Can anyone even tell us how many books have been written about time?  Here are some of my questions: 

  • Is there one eternal now that exists everywhere, throughout all of reality, in this universe, and all the other universes of the multiverse? 
  • Is time just the 4th dimension?  Does the first three dimensions move through a fourth?
  • Does time actually exist, or is it just an illusion?
  • Why and how do we feel time?
  • What is the smallest unit of time? 
  • If something has been ticking since the Big Bang, what is that tick?
  • Is time mental or physical?
  • Will time stop if the average temperature of the universe reaches 0 degrees Kelvin?
  • Is time just change?  The motion of atoms, the turning of the Earth, our orbit around the sun, the unfolding of existence since the Big Bang?
  • Is the astronaut traveling near the speed of light, 300 hundred years ahead of us, time traveling?  How could two twins move into two different nows? 
  • Is the now of this space-time different from the now of another space-time universe somewhere else in the multiverse, or is there one universal now in all of reality? 
  • Are the past and future illusions? 
  • Is there a beginning or end of time? 
  • Is time travel possible? 
  • Are there beings that see all of time at once, as if we’re looking across a vast three dimensional space? 
  • Is there anything outside of time?
  • Do animals sense time?
  • Would time exist without us?
  • Is it possible to have two nows? 
  • If there is only now, does it matter what time it is?
  • If we didn’t measure time would we think it existed?

time reborn

Time Reborn by Lee Smolin, is a book about physics by a physicist who makes a scientific case for time to be real, and what that means philosophically and for physics.  If you are not a physicist, or a fan of popular science books, I’m not sure if I can recommend this book to you as fun reading.  It is hard to comprehend all the subtle implications involved with the physics of time.  However, if you have a philosophical bent, it might be worth considering.  Smolin is making a case that time exists, that it has a direction, and that reality is evolving. 

Classical physics always models the universe in mathematics, and quite often time either doesn’t exist, doesn’t matter, or the equations work regardless of the direction of time.  Ever since Einstein, scientists have searched for a grand unified theory of everything, hoping to find elegant equations that explained reality.  Smolin rejects this goal by making a case that the universe can’t completely be described in mathematics.

To the average person, with common sense, they will reply, “Duh!”  Isn’t it obvious that time exists.  Isn’t obvious that time has a direction.  Isn’t it obvious that mathematics can’t explain everything.  Our everyday reality is very far from Big Bang cosmology and quantum physics.  Physicists are trying to explain everything, and often it’s easy to ignore the immediate world.  When you’re number crunching complex equations to explain reality it’s easy to think time can be ignored, or even space.  But black box simulations of the universe aren’t modeling the real universe.

It’s hard to know exactly what Smolin is saying because he gives us so many possibilities to consider, but the epilogue suggests why he wrote the book, to make a philosophical statement.  What I got out of the book might not be what Smolin intended, but here’s how I read him.

Smolin wants us to accept time.  He wants us to reject the siren song of the timeless.  He warns us to be wary of timeless concepts of the universe, whether it’s religion, whether its a mathematical expression, whether it’s a simulation, or even Platonic ideals.  Mathematics can approximate some features of the universe, models can simulate some features, but ultimately, people like Max Tegmark and Juan Maldacena are wrong.  And reality is neither a creation of God or solipsistic dream.

If time is real, and the universe is evolving, either from the Big Bang, or earlier causes in the multiverse, and there is a universal now, with a past and a future.  Smolin doesn’t say it directly, but reality isn’t about us.  He’s against the anthropomorphic principle.  Realty would have existed without us.  We just accidently happened to evolve in a universe that is suitable for life – it wasn’t created for us.

Ultimately, there are limits to what science can see or detect, and to understand.  We can’t know why there is something rather than nothing.  We have a lot more we can learn about this universe, and we may even learn something about the multiverse, but the ultimate cause of existence is probably beyond physics.  To say that time exists does not mean we can prove time origin and end.

That’s the problem with humans.  Our religious and philosophical natures want timeless answers to the big ontological questions.  Physicists want timeless equations to explain everything.  The implication is, if time really exists, then timeless answers don’t.

Ever since I’ve finished this book I’ve tried to meditate on time.  To slow my thoughts and focus, hopefully to catch the ticking of time passing.  But I can’t.  All I can do is notice the slightest changes of things around me.  I feel if nothing moved, time would stop, but there’s always something moving.  We live in an eternal now. 

We have no recollection of events before our existence, nor will we be aware of things after we’re gone. 

We can only be here now.

JWH – 3/31/14

A Choice of Two Creation Stories: Cosmos v. The Book of Genesis

Although the new documentary series Cosmos is a science show, it can also be seen as a creation myth.  It tells how the universe was created and how people came about.  This puts it in direct competition with all other creation myths, such as The Book of GenesisCosmos represents the creation myth of 2014.  Trying to find a date for when the Book of Genesis was written is very hard.  We don’t know when or who wrote it, but there is great speculation, both by scholars and the faithful.  Unfortunately the faithful have come up with endless theories to when The Book of Genesis was written and by who.  Some of them are very creative, but they are all self-serving, in that they are meant to validate a particular view of religion.  Let’s just say The Book of Genesis was orally created thousands of years ago, before written language, before history, before science, before philosophy, before most every kind of systematic form of learning that we know today.

For-Cosmos

My point here, is we’re constantly creating stories to explain reality and our origins.  Three thousand years from now, the science of Cosmos will seem quaint – maybe as quaint as The Book of Genesis seems to most educated people today.  And maybe there will be a small segment of the population that clings to the ideas of Cosmos 2014 because it rationalizes some idea we treasure now but is rejected in the future.

Young Earth Creationism is the idea that reality has only existed for about 6,000 years and any suggestion that anything is older is a challenge to their theory.  Basically, these believers do everything possible to rationalize that The Book of Genesis is literally true, even though its full of internal inconsistencies.  They believe Moses wrote the first five books of The Bible around 1445 BC, even though Moses is a character that comes generations later.  They’ve even come up with an idea of how Moses could have done this, The Tablet Theory.

Cosmos is based on science, and science claims to be based on directly studying reality.  Because science is logical to most people, people with opposing creation myths like the young Earth creationists, now attempted to be scientific.  Sadly, their pseudo science is pathetic.  Both sides will reject the myth label, and insist their story is the actual explanation of how reality works.  That puts them into direct competition for the hearts and minds of citizens of the Earth.

Trying to understand how many Americans believe young Earth creationism is hard, but here is one study, “How many Americans actually believe the earth is only 6,000 years old?”  Tony Ortega estimates this is around 31 million.

The new Cosmos will be seen in 170 countries in 45 languages, but how many people will accept it as the best possible current creation story is hard to calculate.   Neil deGrasse Tyson is the new Moses of science, and he claims the universe is 13.8 billion years old, and instead of structuring his story around 6 days, uses an analogy of the 365 day calendar to picture how 13.8 billion years would unfold.  The image is our modern world since the Renaissance would fit into the very last second of that imaginary year is just bind blowing!  One year has  31,536,000 seconds, so this creation myth is quite complex. 

The Book of Genesis, a single chapter in one book, and is merely a few thousand words.  To understand those 13.8 billion years Cosmos covers you’ll need to read hundreds of books just to get the basic ideas how how things works, and thousands of books to get a fairly accurate picture.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t at least one scholarly book for each of those 31,536,000 representational seconds.  Maybe the faithful prefer The Bible for their explanation of reality because it’s requires reading only one book.

For most people, watching the whole series of Cosmos will only be educational in the vaguest sense.  Fundamentally, it will just be another creation story to accept or reject unless they study more science books to dig into the details.  I’ve often wondered just how many science books an average person had to read before they could claim they have a decent sense of scientific understanding.  To get some idea of the variety of science books available, read Gary’s Book Reviews at Audible.com.

Fans of the new Cosmos after finishing the series could read ten of the best popular science books on cosmology and still not understand much.  It’s a shame that K-12 schooling isn’t structured so children end up recreating the classic experiments of science.  Educating a scientific mind might be beyond reading books – it might require a series of AH HAH! moments of doing actual experiments.

Cosmos is a magnificent television show, but it’s only a beginning.  I’m sure the producers only expect it to inspire rather than teach.  It is Glenda telling Dorothy that the Yellow Brick Road exists, and viewers need to follow it to discover the real meaning of science.

The Great Books of Science

Encyclopedia Britannica has Great Books of the Western World – 60 volumes of the most influential writing in history.  This set was inspired by the 1909 idea of Harvard University and their Harvard Classics.  Which is also imagined in Harold Bloom’s Western Canon.  What we need now is The Great Books of Science series.  It doesn’t have to be an actual publication, but a constantly updated list of the best 100 books to read to understand science.  Science books get dated quickly, so the list needs to be constantly monitored and revised.  The editorial board needs to be scientists, or at least popular science writers of great experience.  Here are some attempts of coming up with such a list of science books.

As you can see, I didn’t find that many lists, so it’s a great project waiting to happen.  There’s many more lists of great science fiction books than science books, which is sad.  I love science fiction, but shouldn’t real science be more popular?

JWH – 3/13/14

Does the Multiverse Vindicate Fred Hoyle’s Steady State Universe?

The multiverse, which is a trending idea in science that currently has little or no validation, suggests that our universe is but one of many or even an infinite number of universes.  If there are an infinite number of universes, then we’re back to a steady state theory of everything, which is a theory Fred Hoyle revised to counter to the Big Bang Theory.  The Big Bang Theory explains just one universe, ours.

The idea of the multiverse comes in many flavors, and some of them have a steady state quality to them.  Does this vindicate Hoyle and Sir James Jeans?   I’m hesitant to even link to the Wikipedia page after reading Peter Woit’s “Multiverse Mania at Wikipedia” but follow the link and read it anyway, and then follow Woit’s link.  I’m also reminded of Farewell to Reality:  How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth by Jim Baggot, and his idea of fairy physics.

However, the idea of the multiverse is catching on.  Like string theory, its just so damn appealing, but it’s still much closer to ontological wishing than real science.  Last night the new Cosmos even mentioned the multiverse theory and had a beautiful animation to explain it.

I hope everyone on Earth got to see Cosmos last night, even though everything it said is old news, and very basic, and everyone should know anyway.  It’s a great to be reminded how fantastic our existence is, and we have many episodes to explore.  But there are people that don’t watch science shows like NOVAThe Universe or How the Universe Works, so it’s always nice to have another beautiful show about science.

I also hope that people also caught 60 Minutes where they scooped Fox on cosmological wow with their story on “ALMA:  Peering into the Universe’s Past.”  It was great to get so much cosmology in one night.

JWH – 3/10/14