Thursday, January 04, 2007

More Brilliance From the EDGE

I have done a little more reading from the Edge, the self-described meeting place of the "most interesting minds" in the world. As some of you will recall from an earlier posting, the Edge is asking the brilliantly interesting among us to describe what they are scientifically optimistic about:

In one essay, which I hope is true, Roger Highfield, science editor at the Daily Telegraph, writes, "I am quietly optimistic that in the wake of years of hype over the practical significance of gene discoveries, fusion power, magic bullets, superconductivity, gene therapy, cures for ageing, and embryonic stem cells, the public will become more pessimistic about the practical benefits of discoveries made in the lab and more appreciative of what science is really about--basic curiosity, rationality and the never-ending dialogue between ideas and experiments." Don't count on it. The Science-Industrial Complex is spending tens of millions in propaganda annually to ensure that never happens because it would mean the end of blank checks, of both the financial and ethical kinds.

And get this one! Rudy Rucker, a mathematician, promotes the Gaia theory of the earth and all things existing as conscious beings. Science will discover "subdimensions," he predicts, allowing telepathy among all (Creation? Evolved?)things: "This universal telepathy will not be limited to humans; it will extend to animals, plants, and even ordinary objects. Via the subdimensions you'll be able to see every object in the world. Conversely, every object in the world will be in some limited sense conscious, in that it will be aware of all the other objects in the world." Okaaay. If that happens I assume there will be a vegetarian PETA because carrots will be deemed sentient.

But in a blow to the transhumanists who need computers to upload into: "Machines will fade away and, in particular, digital computers will be no more. The emerging interactions of Earth's telepathically communicating beings will become a real and knowable Gaian mind. And then we will become aware of the other higher minds in our cosmos." Sounds like an episode of Star Trek.


At January 04, 2007 , Blogger said...

I try to stay away from the edge of commenting on the EDGE. Surely they're publishing *some* of these essays tongue-in-cheek.

However, Heinlein dealt with grokking and feeling like dinner - or not. And Spider Robinson and Kurzweil have explored the concept of passing the singularity point of universal sentience.

At January 04, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

No, it's not tongue in cheek. The Edge asks the best minds their opinions and then eventually publishes them in book form.

At January 04, 2007 , Blogger said...

(Wesley, I need this self-delusion.)

At January 04, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

I feel your pain.

At January 04, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...

Wesley et al:

"And get this one! Rudy Rucker, a mathematician, promotes the Gaia theory of the earth and all things existing as conscious beings."

I take exception to your attitude. I'm a conservative, a Republican, and a Judeo-Catholic. I'm also a firm believer in pan-experientalism (and before anybody mistakes that for "pantheism," I do NOT belive that Nature is God or vice versa - my belief is that God is separate, but that everything He created has a mind of some kind).

I eat meat, I have killed rabbits for food, and I have poured ant killer on fire ant mounds. I don't believe that any of this is evil. I believe in human exceptionalism.

But I believe what my Bible tells me when it says that all of nature priases God. I belive that people can see ghosts, or else what happened when Jesus was talking to Elijah and Moses? And I belive in universal telepathy - that is basically the key to precognition, ESP, all that good stuff.

Does this mean that if a Hydrogen atom has pre-consciousness that it is on par with a human being? Absolutely not. A human being is exceptional because God made us that way. The human soul is different from an atomic proto-consciousness because it's a blending of the consciousness of the body with a living spirit. Creation builds upon creation. The exceptionalism of the human being comes from having both physical and spiritual life. I believe there are animals in heaven, but they're waiting for their human masters, sitting at the foot of the table, rather than at the Right Hand of the Father.

Now I don't really care if you don't buy into my thinking because it doesn't hurt me at all if you don't, and I am quiet happy to know you exactly as you are; I have no desire to change your religious opinion, else we wouldn't have these spirited discussions.

But you've basically lumped a perfectly logical theory of consciousness in the category of stupidity. On what grounds? Have you read the theories of Stuart Hameroff and Roger Pennrose, or of Christen de Quincey? Do you understand pan-psychicism?

It's a legitimate theory for a number of reasons:

First, it explains how consciousness arises from "lifeless" matter by explaining that nothing is lifeless. If it were then getting living things would require a miracle from God, which no materialist would believe (which is why pure materialism is a Catch-22).

Second, it's compatable with the knowledge that human beings are spiritual creatures. The majority of all humans believe in some kind of Supreme Being or Beings. Hell, we're hardwired for religious experiences - the right temporal lobe does some nifty things when stimulated with electricity, including inducing OBEs and visions of God. I've said it before, I can't see that being an evolutionary or sexual selection advantage, so this gives good reason for it: to connect to all proto-conscious existence.

Third, you get a full-on explanation of both ID and Evolution that works well, without damaging either side, and which means we can put aside meaningless arguments about "created versus accidental," and concentrate on actually LEARNING stuff about early life and how it grew up.

Finally, the vast majority of people in the United States who sing priases of Human Exceptionalism are Christians (not to knock other religions - we just outnumber Hindus, Muslims, Jews and pro-exceptionalism atheists). Most of these Christians believe in a Second World, or the New Heavns and New Earth, which will come about after the Millennium, and that's described as humanity and nature being reborn, living eternally, living in harmony, without the need to kill or harm, and with people able to share their thoughts with others directly.

The theory Rucker proposes is one that expands on human exceptionalism, emphasising our role as stewards of the earth (because we may not be the only conscious physical beings, but we are the only moral physical beings), and encouraging us to accept all humans as having intrinsic value just for being human.

I wish I could tell you more about Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and the religions of the First Nations Peoples, because all of those also find Rucker's theory in harmony with their philosophies, but alas, I cannot speak for my brothers and sisters since I don't have the depth of knowledge to do so.

All I can say, Wesley, is that what may seem silly to you actually has a basis in what you believe, and I suggest before you bash Rucker's thinking any further, you get a copy of RADICAL NATURE by Dr. Christen de Quincey, and look up Hammeroff and Penrose and read their theories, and don't start making fun until you have a deeper level of understanding of the theory.

But I like you anyway. ;-)

At January 04, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Well, Tabs. IF these things are true, they are not scientific, which was the question. There is no evidence for earth being a living being, an organism. There is no evidence that a rock can perceive. I do think animals may be telepathic. But there is a basis for it. If I am going to take my dog to the vet, he seems to know and resists when he ususally is happy to go to the car. the same was true of my late cats. They would head for cover when I went looking for them.

Be that as it may, I once saw a great cartoon that your comment brought to mind. Two big rocks, living beings, are on a hill. But they are in geological time. So they can't perceive those of us in what we consider normal time. During the cartoon, a small bucolic hamlet below the hill becomes a town, and then a city, and then a metropolis. The city rises and falls in super fast time. First people walk by, then they ride horses, then carriages and then cars whiz by, and the rocks are oblivious. They never notice us because their preception is of the ages, while we are like the grass that blooms, and then is gone.

At January 05, 2007 , Blogger T E Fine said...


"Well, Tabs. IF these things are true, they are not scientific, which was the question."

Evan Harris Walker's book THE PHGYSICS OF CONSCIOUSNESS addresses the concept of universal consciousness from a scientific perspective, as does Goswami's PHYSICS OF THE SOUL. Both of these scientists base their theories on sound science, which, as we both agree, cannot tell us anything except facts.

I re-read my response and realized only after it was posted that it sounded horribly nasty, and I'm sorry. I got spirited, but I never intended to sound rude - that was me not thinking out the best way to phrase things. I wasn't trying to make anyone mad, just express as much information as possible about something I see as perfectly sound scientific thinking, but I got carried away. Mea culpa, and I really do beg your pardon, Wesley.


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