Friday, December 10, 2010

The Nature of the Transcendent

The Tree of Life by Gustav Klimt

I would like to give a positive view of the transcendent nature of the universe and our position within it.

In the previous "Evolution IS Intelligent Design" and "Holy War against Science" postings I have defended evolution as the natural process by which sentient existence emerges and highlighted the tragic fallacies of the traditional view of God creating fixed life forms as a projection of human fantasies based on our own industrial technology, but this leaves us in a position of wondering what it is all about, what the universe is for, why we are conscious and what the meaning is in our mortal journey.

The answer to this is that the actual nature of existential cosmology is both profoundly more exciting and challenging than either a raw pessimistic materialistic account of blind forces and terrifying energies, or a God-created clockwork Eden doomed never to flower to new heights of its own would suggest, and it also places us in a much more personally responsible position, closer to the center of the cyclone as agents of this process. It is this emergent aspect of nature and consciousness which is the portal to the transcendent nature of the universe and its greatest challenge is that it is an ongoing process.

Perhaps we can make excuses for ourselves, in our phase of cultural emergence for bowing down before stones and worshiping jealous Gods of written commandments, as would small children in early childhood, depending on a father or mother figure to give us a sense of security and meaning, but now we are coming of age and beginning to witness the universe as it actually is, we need to come to terms of acceptance of what nature is and how it actually relates to our conscious existence.

Armenian Tree of Life Jerusalem

Here are a few pointers to this situation, which I will expand on in future blogs:

1. Life is Cosmological: The diversity of life, and with it sentient consciousness of 'brainy' organisms is an evolving consequence of cosmology. The complex chemical systems which spawned life and which gain increasing complexity and consciousness evolving over vast time scales, of the same order of magnitude as the universe itself, are not just blind accidents, but the interactive result of the symmetry-broken cosmic 'mandala' of the four forces of nature - gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces - in full and complete interaction as molecular matter in tissues irradiated photosynthetically on a planetary surface. The biota are the completest expression of the four forces interacting hierarchically and the brain is the most complex integrated condition of these processes.

2. Transcendence emerges from the Biota: The one place where we know sentient complexity and consciousness exists in the universe is in the biota, not in the skies, nor in the winds and storms nor in the heavens which are just the vacuum of outer space, nor the centers of stars, nor black holes or dark matter, all of which present only some of the fundamental forces of nature interacting in simpler forms. We thus cannot look for God in the heavens , which, along with angels and houris, are a projection of the mental realm of subjective consciousness, rather than actual physical reality. We thus need to learn to take full and complete personal responsibility for our existential condition and our actions, and their impacts on the planetary future, to ensure nature is sustained and the passage of the generations can fulfill their conscious destiny.

3. Transcendence and Sexuality: Sexuality is central to the way the cosmology of the universe works, as a symmetry-broken complementarity, from mind and body, through wave and particle, boson and fermion to female and male, both as sperm and ovum and as organismic woman and man. This extends to the strategic complementation of defection and cooperation in the Prisoners' Dilemma and is expressed in the Tantric origin in the complementation of subjective consciousness and the myriad phenomena of the physical universe. Sexuality is also central in our mortality, because it makes us all different and unique and is pivotal in enabling the capacity of complex life to exist and evolve, through the endless varieties of sexual recombination. Sex is the most altruistic invention of nature because it commits us to transmit only half our genetic heritage shared with the partner rather than reproducing ourselves parthenogenetically. Even animals which are capable of parthenogenesis still need sexuality to adapt to changing conditions. The result is organismic mortality, but evolving species immortality. Without sex, complex life could never have evolved, so we owe it our very existence.

4. Transcendence vs Moral Imperative: Because we know that the diversity of life and evolution depend on openly exploring available niches, from plant to animal, from herbivore to carnivore , parasite and disease, we cannot assume any cosmic conditions which violate this freedom of expression to the fullest. In particular, however much it is convenient for large societies to depend on moral forces for their internal cohesion and hence external dominance, the notion of a moral deity, or morality-based religion is a corruption of the natural order, except in so far as morality is itself an expression of social evolution to produce fair and compassionate, caring societies.

5. Transcendence is Open-Ended: The purpose of conscious life is itself an open-ended exploratory process, not limited by moral imperatives, the universe discovering itself, which our time in the mortal coil is here to play an integral part in, by ensuring we discover the nature of conscious existence as fully and deeply as possible, and strive to ensure the world is left a better more sustainable 'paradise' for future generations to continue to ponder and discover the nature of existence. We are already at a point that we can learn a great deal about the depths of conscious experience, cosmic consciousness if you like, but future generations will discover more and we owe it to them and to the entire web of life, to preserve the planet and life beyond if we move beyond the planet, so that the universe can fully discover what it is, and we who we are, during the paradisiacal phase of our becoming during the vast epochs of life on the cosmic 'equator' of the universe in space-time. There is no one-track apocalypse in the existential cosmos.

6. The Quantum Universe and 'Free Will': The quantum wave-particle complementarity of the universe also leaves it open to complex forms of entanglement, in which future and past states are coupled in a way which provides a loop hole for the conscious experience of 'free will' to become manifest in physical action. Our brains' dynamics are attuned to this entanglement in their sensitively chaotic parallel distributed processing representations of the world around us, giving rise also to an internal reality of dreams, memories, reflections, contemplations and psychtropic vigils. Consciousness and the physical universe are thus complements in the existential Tao.

7. Eternal and Immortal Relativity: Although our mortal existence is transient, in the envelope of relativistic space-time, all sentient beings form an integral part of the eternal matrix of conscious existence and even though we pass on, by giving to the diversity of conscious life during our incarnation we take our place among the immortal generations.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Evolution IS Intelligent Design

Evolution IS the Intelligent Designer. The DNA code is the physical manifestation
of open-ended evolutionary design as a heuristic genetic computational algorithm.

See also:
(1)  Holy War Against Science
(2)  Celebrating Immortality: A Manifesto
(3) The Future of Human Evolution
(4) Stripping God Naked: The Cosmology of Apocalypse

I have already written an extensive posting on the contradictions of intelligent design and the religious assault on science but having been plagued by an intelligent designer for the last week I thought it would be good to take some light relief in how others see this attack on the sanctity and creative potential of life, the scientific pursuit of knowledge, and of course, the integrity of education in the face of religious subversion.

So here goes for a mix of cartoon humour and a short statement of the tragic fallacy of intelligent design. But first let me point out the blatant deceit of the proponents. If you check the Wedge Document you will find that the ID movement has intentionally set out to pretend to be scientific and to disguise their strategic religious deceit in scientific scepticism about evolution pleading academic freedom. Here is a typical example: Jeffery Tomkins is a born again Christian becoming a scientist only to advance his religious agenda, and a flag member of the Institute for Creation Research, but you will find his genetics and evolution website Designed DNA is pretending to be pure science. You can only find he is a wolf in sheep's clothing by looking his name up independently on Google which takes you to the truth - strategic religious creationism. Anyone accessing the DNA site would think it is a genuine scientific resource which it isn't!

The tragedy of intelligent design is that it robs us of understanding the most important, complex, creative and exciting processes in the universe - life, consciousness and intelligence. All of these processes owe their complexity to their self-generating adaptive anticipation. They are not fixed by their design, they do not run down but upward into more complexity and consciousness. Were they designed they couldn't have become what they are and they would have no open-ended future either.

However there is one respect in which evolution is clearly and unambiguously its own intelligent designer. Anyone who looks anywhere in the universe to try to find out the designer of complex life has to come to the realization that the most complex and efficient computer known in the universe is the collective genomes of the biota on Earth.

This computer is functionally in the process of weaving evolutionary adaption through the modular architecture of genes, sexual recombination, mobile genetic elements in our genomes, horizontal transfer of genetic information between organisms and species, through the immense parallel computing capacity of its genetic algorithms and the fact that it is a parallel computer on a truly molecular level, which is open to heuristic adaption through occasional mutational change, the collective genome is precisely adapted to be the intelligent designer of evolution.

The fact that it doesn't have a central computational system like the brain in no way means it lacks the functional capacity to generate new and more complex forms of adaption. In fact a brain-like form of centrally organized designer is nowhere nearly as suited at solving the dispersed adaption problem of discovering new 'degrees of freedom' in ecological and environmental niches as the massively parallel distributed genome is.

To give a very rough idea of the computing power of the combined bacterial genome alone, taking into account bacterial soil densities (~10^9/g), effective surface area (~10^18 cm^2), genome sizes (~10^6), combined reproduction and mutation rates (~10^-3/s) gives a combined presentation rate of new combinations of up to 10^30 bits per second, roughly 10^13 times greater than the current fastest computer at 2 petaflops or about 10^17 bit ops per second. Corresponding rates for complex life forms would be much lower, at around 10^17 per second because they are fewer in total number and have lower reproduction rates, but they are still vying with the computation rates of the fastest supercomputer on earth.

Moreover they are physically manifest in the right place at the right time, unlike the hypothetical ephemeral external 'intelligent designer', which is nowhere in sight anywhere in the physical universe. The modular architecture of the genome combined with all its symbiotic mobile repetitive elements provides exactly the substrate to enable this open-ended process to generate life's complexity and we can see this in action in any of a host of studies of genetic sequence relationships in evolutionary trees, running from the dawn of life to the relationships between chimps, neanderthals and humans - the transition most abhorred by the religious.

(Left) Archaean genetic expansion around 3.3 billion years ago generated most critical genes common to life (David and Alm 2010)
(Right) Evidence of ubiquitous horizontal transfer of genes between bacterial species at different trigger levels (Dagan et. al. 2006).

The Tree of Life: Tangled Roots and Sexy ShootsTracing the genetic pathway from the first Eukaryotes to Homo sapiens
Chris King
26 July 2011 Genotype 1.1.7

About a week after first writing this blog, one particular evolutionary tree was published which gives a great deal of insight into this supercomputing process and confirms the idea actually happened surprisingly early on Earth. This shows that the major genes catalysing the central metabolic pathways emerged in a burst called the Archaean Expansion around 3.3 billion years ago - six times longer ago that the Cambrian radiation. It confirms the idea that genetic creativity occurred very rapidly supported by horizontal transfer of genes and that it essentialy solved the intractable protein folding problem of forming the 3-D conformations that make protein enzymes the potent catalysts they are.

Two views of the intelligent design proponent as degenerate evolution
BBC Article: Can religious teachings prove evolution to be true? July 2011 Attempts at 'scientific investigation' by intelligent design proponents to establish that God created each type of animal (e.g. cats) with only minor mutational change since, by looking at the fossil record, look like they are proving evolution to be true because of the large scale interconnectedness of dinosaur evolutionary fossil record.

We understand our brains are encoded by our DNA. We can't put a designer into the argument because it is not evolution taking place, but the genetic program of embryogenesis which, despite its complexity, is structurally stable, so that the vast majority of the time we develop into humans, rather than still-borns or mutant monsters. Nevertheless the brain is far from a fixed program. It develops dynamically during the growth of the fetus, through chaotic excitations of its neurosystems, starting from the retina and ending with the cortex, and the brain retains neural plasticity into adulthood, so that brain regions for seeing can become adapted for spatial hearing in blind people. It is clear the same genetic algorithms that can generate the brain of our offspring in nine months based on our own genetic codes, are also a mutable and adaptive process, fully capable of presenting new genetic combinations which can adapt to and take advantage of emerging niches.

Research in the cosmological basis of the conscious mind:

Evolution is not just a theory but how the cosmology of nature comes about

When coming to how replicative life emerged and the evolution of complex life, we are dealing with the most complex generative process in the universe. The emergence of life from the chemical soup is slowly becoming understood and is the final interactive result of cosmic symmetry-breaking in molecular complexity. It is thus as complex as the cosmological TOE, or physical theory of everything, to unravel.

Research in the cosmological foundations of biogenesis:
Biocosmology a Research overview of the cosmological origins of life

Three wise monkeys can't be wrong
Evolution looks simpler to understand (and criticize) being based on replication, mutation and selective advantage, and occurs over long time scales, but this doesn't mean it is just a theory, or an alternative to a religiously inspired shadow of an archaic God, in the form on an 'intelligent' designer making dead end products like we make machines.

Intelligent design is a product of human industrial design

It is the tragic fallacy of Christianity that it keeps trying to demolish the wonder and generative power of life's future by subjugating it to the feudal, jealous totalitarian designs of a Hebrew watchmaker from a time when only sundials existed.

Deceitful pretense that the agenda is not religion

A quid pro quo. If intelligent design is to be taught in school, evolution should be taught in church.

Fingers in the pie of religious contradiction. If God created the intelligent design - which God?
See: Intelligent design: Devilish or Divine?

I would take a position about intelligent design that it is like incest. It's a fundamental anti-life perversion of sexuality in the name of an Oedipus complex with a fantasized creator who we love because of our fear.

No it's not. People espousing this cause are committing a form of celestial incest subjugating
the exogamous nature of sexual evolution to an incestuous relationship with God the father.

Understanding the science is one thing but the maths is another!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cutting through the Enigma of Consciousness

The inner space of consciousness is sometimes able to perceive kaleidoscopic
'mindscapes', as if they are genuine perceptions of a 'world out there' (Andrew Ostin).How does the brain evoke these realities and what is their status,by comparison with the subjective experiences we have of the real world?

Chris King © 9-11-10

This article is an exploration of where discovery about the human understanding of consciousness might be headed and why looking for answers may require a completely novel approach to understanding reality, different from anything we have encountered so far.

Supporting Research Article: The Central Enigma of Consciousness

The Scientific Lesson for Subjective Consciousness
In scientific terms, subjective consciousness remains the one phenomenon for which the description of physical reality has at this point not even the beginning of an explanation for. Although we know our subjective experiences are somehow a product of our brain states, we really have no idea of how a bunch of neurons firing off electrical impulses can come to generate all our conscious perceptions, dreams, memories and reflections of the world around us with all their diverse attributes, each of which is as indescribably different as a kaleidoscopic pattern of colour or a living landscape is to a musical symphony or even a complex cacophony of natural sound.

However the lesson of the scientific revolution shows us some important potential features of the quest for understanding consciousness that may be key to making real progress. The scientific revolution didn't come easily, because nature revealed itself to work in subtle ways that violated the simplistic assumptions of traditional, and particularly religious thought. It turned out that the Earth was neither flat, nor the centre of the universe, which, rather than being an airy heaven, in which angels with feathery wings could dwell, has turned out to be a maelstrom of black-holes and galactic collisions, in which life can take a foothold only on the surfaces of small rocky planets around small sun-like stars.

Even more perturbing, all life, far from being created by God, like clockwork toys in his image, appears to have emerged spontaneously from the slime, in a de-novo chemical synthesis, followed by the hit-and-miss process of mutational evolution, with humanity gracing the planet in a tortuous sexually-procreative journey of successful mutation through fish, reptiles and monkeys, a scenario which remains to this day the bane and nemesis of religious fundamentalists.

To cap the bag, we now understand the universe to be created almost from nothing, in a symmetry-broken cosmic inflation, whose mathematical complexity defies our imagination and ingenuity, despite many valiant ongoing efforts. As well, fundamental physics has entered into the mysterious territories of quantum uncertainty and quantum entanglement, altering forever our classical notions of temporal causality and physical reality.

We need to learn from the lessons of science's attempts to discover the nature of the real world, which has challenged our best minds through the centuries, and open ourselves to the possibility that consciousness, as we know it, is at least as unfamiliar to our preconceived notions as the physical universe has proved to be.

The Existential Dilemma and its Traditional Approaches
Nevertheless, the nature of consciousness is an urgent question which plunges right into the crucible of our psyche, because it leads to the ultimate existential anxieties: "What happens to me when my physical body dies?" "Is there any meaning in life if there is no after life after death?" "Is there a God looking after our fate?" "Am I a tiny part of a cosmic mind?" "Is there anything out there that cares, or are we just ships passing in the night alone, despite our delusions of love and togetherness amid frank exploitation of one another and of the natural world?"

For all the apparent solidity of the physical and biological world description, we are and remain throughout our loves conscious sentient beings, and it is only through the conduit of subjective consciousness that we come to witness the physical universe at all. And it is the stream of our subjective conscious impressions of reality that are all we have and that in which all our dreams and hopes and fears are enmeshed, despite the world we consciously perceive around us.

Dreaming can evoke bizarre realities which, despite seeming to be physically
impossible, are palpably real (Oscar Dominguez "Memory of the Future" ).

This brings us rapidly back to the traditional answers to the existential dilemma, which present themselves most dominantly as religious beliefs. The monotheistic myth goes roughly as follows: "Yes there is a God - in fact the one true God of reality acting in history, unlike those other pagan idols, and who, despite being the creator of the entire universe, is also a moral deity who is 'jealous' of our fidelity to Him and might cast us into hell fire if we stray from unswerving belief in His power, majesty and commandments.

Despite the protestations of religious believers, this model of conscious existence is fatally flawed, because we now know that morality is a social manifestation, which takes root in a species as an evolutionary strategy which enhances inter-group dominance by reducing intra-social strife. In no way can any culturally-derived or revealed doctrine of moral causality be dominant over the reality of evolution and the wide variety of ecological niches evolution fills, from nutrient-giving plants through herbivores and carnivores to parasites and diseases.

The idea of a God which created nature and the entire universe stipulating any sort of moral imperative, let alone a final eschatology, is in complete contradiction to the open-ended indiscriminate mutational exploration and sheer creativity of the evolutionary paradigm, just as is the idea of a God creating the entire physical universe being in any way jealous of our fidelity is a contradiction in terms.

While the notion of a moral deity is a false projection of human cultural, sexual and social imperatives, the notion of a fall from paradise culminating in an apocalyptic awakening, amid heroic redemption, is a valid part of our collective emergence. The fall and awakening are to a considerable extent a real time description of our collective falling out, across the generations, from gatherer-hunter interdependence with nature, through the rise and fall of civilizations amid tumult and discord, to the present explosion of scientific knowledge (and technological and commercial exploitation of the planet) - a process of continuing culture-shock, arriving on the horizon at a greater understanding of our place in the universe.

Religious visions of heaven and hell are not real physical worlds, but projections of the mind realm.
They contain a confused and delimited mixture of real world impressions of people,
with mythical figures of paradise and monsters, with the heavenly host falling somewhere between.

By contrast, there is another major theme that comes out of Eastern mysticism that is considerably different. The idea goes as follows: In some sense, we, as conscious perceivers caught in the mortal coil of a physical body, are also in some sense manifestations of the cosmic mind, and if we enter into deep meditation we can learn to become one with the Atman, or the Buddha mind, or the Upanishadic 'Self' - the universal seed spark within all sentient beings. In some sense we than become avatars of the one cosmic 'Self', just as the Hindu Gods and Goddesses are in some sense archetypes of the existential condition.

This comes closer to being a valid exploration of the conscious condition and has some root insights, but like the monotheistic myth, it suffers from intractable contradictions, including the notion that nature is merely a delusory gross manifestation subservient to mind, in an overarching moral imperative which causes lustful humans to be reincarnated as animals and vice-versa, and the entire natural world becomes relegated to being merely a cyclical process to refine the (human) ego to the vacuous purpose of attaining oneness with the void and thus escaping eternal suffering. The is a mind dominant fallacy that fails to respect that the diversity of nature, far from being a mere illusion, generates the entire physical basis for our conscious existence.

The meditative quest for 'enlightenment' through becoming one with the cosmic "self' or void

It also introduces the notion of karma in everyday affairs, suggesting that you might end up suffering a nasty accident, or catching a disfiguring disease as a punishment for your egotistical bad actions. This again is a moral causality that clearly runs counter to the needs of life to survive uncluttered by a fantastic causality that runs counter to survival of the organism and the evolution of its genes even when expressed in predatorial and parasitic behavior - for carnivores to ruthlessly hunt and kill and even sometimes to torture their prey in honing their hunting prowess.

There are of course many other descriptions of sentient existence, spanning the creation myths of diverse cultures and the shamanistic and prophetic experiences of their various medicine men, diviners, seers, mystics and visionaries, each with their own stories to tell of the vision quest of conscious existence and its relationship with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the world at large.

At best, these become first person accounts of personal experiences and mental voyages, which take us into the territory of the sensitivity of consciousness to apparently supernatural, or paranormal influences, in which one might sense the death of a relative, encounter unpredictable coincidences of fate, or dream prophetic dreams which later appear to come true in real life. At worst they become distracting and delusional fantasies that gain all the features of superstitious beliefs, and cargo cult like mystification.

Where is the Consistency in the Visionary Theatre?
This leads to a basic question. If there is a collective conscious reality out there, shouldn't it be reflected in some way in our mental condition, in our inner meditation and reverie and in our prevailing collective beliefs? If there is 'life' out there in the conscious realm, why are our descriptions of it so idiosyncratic, conflicting and contradictory?

There are a host of reasons for this, some practical and biological, to do with brain function, and others to do with cultural imperatives. We need to take stock of all of these before coming to a synthesis of how we might approach the question of consciousness.

Some mental constructions, such as heaven and hell moral fantasies, are culturally derived from the strong influence major religions have as forces shaping the moral destiny of a culture, quite independently of, and in obvious contradiction to, their truth as a description of the transcendent. Both Deuteronomy and much of the Qur'an deals with unabashedly worldly moral and legal issues, in particular the desire of men to have reproductive control over their women folk and to set them in a partially subservient relationship, as well as driving the formation of powerful large societies of believers, who can gain dominance over perceived enemies and infidels.

Other mental phenomena arise as a reflection of the needs of brain function biologically to compensate for the pressures of daily life and its potential threats to existence and survival. Dreaming remains an enigmatic source of many prophetic and visionary experiences. The nature and rich hallucinogenic content of dreaming remains mysterious, despite extensive scientific investigation. Virtually all of us have had dreams whose richness and power appear every bit as real as waking life experiences, although often much more bizarre, and indeed the only way to subjectively distinguish dream and reality is often a tortuous set of reality checks, such as turning off the light switch and finding the room is still illuminated. Otherwise dreams can seem every bit as real as daily life.

Clearly sleep and the rich REM phases of dreaming have something to do with processing of waking events, either setting down long-term memories, or responding to existential crises which might affect our chances of future survival, but none of this explains the rich, unpredictable and completely bizarre experiential content of many dreams. Dreaming teaches us that almost anything that could be synthesized in the Cartesian theatre of consciousness can appear in dreams, from effortless levitation, to being sucked into the mouth of a giant medusa, or being lost on another galaxy or in another universe, with no clue as to how to find the way back to Ixtlan, or the real world we are familiar with.

Likewise, various drug and plant induced psychedelic states can manifest visions it would be impossible to experience in the physical world at large. These include kaleidoscopic synesthesias, as well as visionary scenes, sensations of going beyond one's bodily confines, as well as a feeling of conscious interplay with the natural world and its psychic subtleties.

Huichol nierika or cosmic portal through which the voyager
can pass during a peyote vision quest

Again these may be a function of altered brain dynamics, so that one becomes able to perceive in conscious form the dynamic modulations across the cortex induced by these agents, and some of the processes by which the senses are synthesized in consciousness. Thus cultures which use psychedelic species as sacrament tend to explain their existential cosmology in terms of visionary portals or doorways through which one is transported to another reality by the sacramental experience.

Similar considerations apply to a variety of forms of meditation and contemplation, which may also involve stopping the internal dialogue by mantras and/or involve complex visualizations of mandalas not dissimilar in kind to psychedelic kaleidoscopic visions.

These techniques also extend to sensory and/or physical deprivation and so called near death experiences in which people see their life flashing before their eyes, and may claim to meet a luminous entity which is at once themselves and at the same time the 'cosmic mind' meeting them. Again this may be real, but it may also be explained as the product of the extreme, yet living brain state the person was in. Likewise some people report journeys out of the body, which are probably a form of hypnagogic trance on the border of sleep, as they show similarities to levitating dreams, except that they appear to be in the real world environment of the observer, rather than a fantastic dream scene.

(Left) Brain activity associated with language and (right) local parallel processing of color and motion in vision.
Although brain scanning has made it possible to associate specific regions of the cortex with specific aspects of conscious
thought and experience, these are just correspondences between biological brain states and perceived conscious events.
We still have no idea how the brain actually generates subjective consciousness.

Subjective Consciousness and the Objective Brain
One of the ways science tries to explore consciousness is to do experiments eliciting certain brain states while a person is having their brain scanned, either electrically by EEG or MEG encephalograms or physiologically by fMRI or PET, which use magnetic resonance or radioactive scintillation imaging to picture changes in blood flow or nutrient consumption in specific areas. These tend to show what kinds of brain activity or activation are associated with certain kinds of conscious perception, thought or emotion. It can then become possible to see how changing brain activity parallels changes in conscious perception and it can lead to some general hypotheses about how the brain might generate conscious experiences.

For example the gamma frequency band of the EEG has been suggested to be the excitations the brain uses in active conscious processing and it has been suggested that those networks which rise and fall together 'in phase' constitute conscious processes when they tie together various regions of the cortex into a consistent global dynamical system, by contrast with local processing, which is believed to be unconscious or subconscious.

However these sorts of investigation leave unanswered how the brain makes these global excitations into the internal model of reality which we experience subjectively and identify with the real world around us, or indeed how or why subjective consciousness exists in addition to the computational capacity of the brain as a neuro-system. Because no simple chemical explanation seems to have the right existential status to deal with subjective experience, the problem may need to be solved by examining more exotic physics in the brain, such as quantum entanglement, which might lead to new forms of physical interaction which might solve the problem of existential subjectivity.

Subjective Consciousness as the Existential Complement of the Physical Universe
Critical to the investigation of consciousness is that it is existentially completely different from the objective physical world description, being experienced directly only by the subject, and not being subject to the same criteria of replicability a physical world experiment has. Also the observer cannot control their consciousness objectively in the same manner a physical experimentalist can their equipment, because any attempt to change consciousness carries the observer into a new conscious situation as well. In this respect the exploration of consciousness has similarities to quantum measurement. This renders all forms of introspection made as if we are looking at consciousness objectively, completely, or partially invalid.

It also means that attempts to imagine or model subjective consciousness, or the mental realm, based on objective concepts derived from the physical universe, are invalid because the fundamental properties of the subjective and objective realms are complementary, as opposed to identical, through the symmetry breaking between mind and body. While the physical universe is a process of wave-particle complementarity, in which particulate matter is divisible into real world objects, mind is 'indivisible' in the manner of a 'wave complement' in the sense that it remains the integral field of view embracing all perceivable phenomena, continuous, or discrete. Likewise it is participatory and private in a way which renders objective investigation inoperative.

The exploration of consciousness is thus not the same kind of process as that of the physical world. It is a journey, not a destination. It is a subject experiencing, not an object of investigation. Thus it is not appropriate to try to 'examine' consciousness in the manner of an observation of the real world, but rather exploring it is a 'trip', as the first LSD users, and the sacred mushroom shamaness Maria Sabina, alike have put it, which is where the vision quest of shamanism also takes its journey.

(Right) San painting of the healing or trance dance Lonyana Rock Kwazulu-Natal.
Shamanic trance dancing (centre) in which each participant can witness
the world beyond the real world goes back to the emergence of human culture.
(Left) San use of dagga or cannabis smoking from a hole in the ground.
Other ancient pygmy forest cultures utilize the hallucinogenic iboga plant.

One very positive feature of sacramental shamanism is that it is a visionary experience that can in principle be entered into by anyone in the first person, removing all the disconnections, confabulations and mystifications between the religious follower and the numinous mysterium tremendum that occur with religions governed by gurus, priests, bishops, ayatollahs and muftis, which, rather than being an exploration of the numinous, lead to corrupt religious hierarchies espousing doctrines calculated to preserve their own hegemony.

However, like the previous attempts to understand whether consciousness has any absolute collective nature, we need to remain cautious about the products of psychedelic vision, because these have also led to their fair share of frankly delusional and occasionally violent notions and no definitive conscious cosmology has emerged from many centuries of cultural use of hallucinogens. Nevertheless they are pivotal natural catalysts in the empirical exploration of subjective consciousness.

The Evolutionary Foundation of Subjective Consciousness
To better understand consciousness and the limitations on any speculative ideas of the cosmic conscious connection, we need to ponder how consciousness came about through evolution, and the evolution of the brain.

A likely explanation is that consciousness is an indirect manifestation of the chaotic excitations we see in the electroencephalogram and that it arose in evolution as an offshoot of chaotic excitability in single-celled eucaryotes, which would have provided a multi-sense organ, through the sensitivity to perturbations chaotic excitation provides. A chaotically excitable cell would thus become sensitive to all forms of quantum perturbation of the cell membrane including those of primitive vision, audition and olfaction, as well as electric fields in the medium.

The evolutionary idea of consciousness is that this excitability aided the organism in anticipating threats to its survival, as multi-celled organisms evolved from simple nerve nets, as in hydra, to central nervous systems. Notably many of the critical neurotransmitters involved in changes in consciousness in humans are spread widely across the metazoa down as far as the slime mold, and indeed have distinct psychotropic effects, for example on the web building behavior of spiders.

A critical aspect of this is the idea that such excitations aided anticipating future threats to survival suggesting consciousness is integrally coupled with the notion of free will, or intentional will, which forms another paradox about human activity and existence. All of us feel we have a basic autonomy of choice over our actions and indeed all the provisions of the law, as well as all moral and ethical precepts, revolve around the notion of personal accountability that we can understand the consequences of our actions and can exercise personal control over our affairs.

However this leads to the notion of free will, which appears to be in frank conflict with the idea that our behavior is purely and simply a product of our brain state and its neuro-chemistry and that the notion that we have any purely conscious control over our physical brain states is a delusion. However this need not be true if the brain itself uses exotic quantum physics involving uncertainty in generating consciousness and in the sensitive transitions from chaos to order that may accompany insight learning and decision-making.

Central to an accurate description of subjective consciousness in the universe is the fact that it is, so far as we know, exclusively a product and property of the living biota. In fact the brain forms the most complete interaction of the four fundamental forces of nature in global interaction. There is nowhere else in the universe, from black holes, to dark matter, or the center of stars, that we can plausibly expect to find the physical support for subjective consciousness that we find in the brain of humans, and by extrapolation those of other organisms which possess chaotically excitable brains.

This means that religions posing God as an external agent consciously interacting with humanity, in lieu of humanity's own direct interaction with existential consciousness through our brains, is a fundamental dislocation of reality, removing the direct responsibility we have in participating in consciousness decision-making in our own brains and in taking responsibility for the effects of our actions on the planet, transferring it instead to a physically unrealizable contrivance, in which we become trapped in a moral causality, at the same time passing personal responsibility for our critical decisions on to the will of God.

Even if God is posed as an entity beyond space-time and the universe, the reality is that it is consciousness itself which forms that natural complement to the physical world description. As Indian philosophy, the Tantric origin and Taoist cosmology put it, the cosmos is a complementarity between subjective and objective reality. Thus the conscious mind, which is the only veridical avenue we have to experience the world around us, may have a cosmological status complementary to the physical universe, despite being manifest in physical terms merely as the excitations of our fragile biological brains.

This symmetry-broken complementarity between the diverse natures of consciousness and matter - personified in the dance of Shiva as observer and Shakti as phenomena - is endlessly reflected in other symmetry-broken complementarities, between wave and particle and boson and fermion in physics, and female and male in biology, something we have termed the cosmology of sexual paradox.

While we are standing today, with the benefits of brain science, combined with traditional contemplative techniques, and a diverse array of psychotropic substances, at the threshold of a great exploration of consciousness, which may be the cosmological free lunch the universe is destined to achieve over space-time, we need to realize that many preconceived notions of the purpose of consciousness, or collective consciousness cannot coexist with life as we now know it to be.

For example, it is reasonable, however far-fetched it might seem, to imagine that consciousness might give us access to a form of super-causal quantum future-anticipation which might complement computational brain function to aid survival, but it is not reasonable to suggest that consciousness is there to make us subject to a moral conscience defying evolution's capacity to fill all viable niches, nor to engage in psychic materialism - subjecting conscious experience, by analogy, to constructions derived from the objective world, except in so far as these might be realized in brain function.

Consciousness Arises from the Survival of Natural Life
This brings us full circle to the ultimate questions and quest of conscious exploration. Why are we conscious? What is the meaning in conscious existence? Is there any connection out there with the cosmic mind or any other form of extra-corporeal dis-incarnate from of consciousness?

One thing that is essential to this exploration is that life is sufficient unto itself as it stands without needing either the notion of an after-life or some connection of cosmic consciousness to justify it. We got here because the life force is forthcoming of itself. Although people vary and some people experience depression, partly as a result of genetic variations in brain chemistry, we exist at all only because the web of life has kept an unbroken chain all the way from when the first cells emerged. Life is therefore ultimately productive of itself and is worthwhile simply because it is. The fact that sentient life is also capable of being conscious of itself is a bonus which gives us the capacity to wonder, but it is invalid to turn the tables on life by requiring an after life in heaven to justify the mortal coil.

The key to this is that we are not alone as conscious human beings. Although we have an evolutionary proclivity to procreate and reproduce our genes so that the generations of life continue, we all come to understand that our conscious existence is finite and bounded by our physical demise.

Nevertheless we don't possess our consciousness but are simply conscious of the world and of ourselves. This consciousness is in a fundamental sense a cosmological attribute which we manifest and which is manifest in each and every one of us in various ways due to individual difference but to a great extent consciousness is shared and in common.

This is reflected in the abundance of so-called 'mirror neurons' in the brain which ensure that we are able to consciously experience situations the way others experience them and even feel another's pain. It is also reflected in the oneness that comes from sexual relationship, which is life's antidote to the mortality of the sexual being, in the procreative process and the family.

Because we are mortal, caring is real, not just for the sexual beloved, offspring and kin, but for all mortal beings. Although some people may be violent, psychopathic or selfish, because we are all going to die one day and can't take our possessions with us, the reality of caring for others is what makes both the world, and our consciousness of it, real and worthwhile for each of us. We also leave behind us our humor, art, music and the products of our ingenuity and toil, so the more we contribute to the welfare of the world as a whole, to make it a richer and better experience for all, the better we will feel about life, death and mortality.

This leads us to another fallacy promulgated by traditional religions, which is that the real world is somehow just a flawed secondary realm and that the real existence that makes it all worthwhile is in the after-life. This in turn brings about a sense of futility that if we are going to eventually die, the whole material quest is meaningless dust to dust and ashes to ashes. This is a false description of reality because life is not made worthwhile only because it is eternal, since the web of life is immortal over the vast epochs the planetary environment remains hospitable to life and we each share resonance with conscious existence. We need to keep a perspective of consciousness as a process occurring in space-time, in which the universe is becoming aware of itself through us becoming aware of ourselves during our sentient existence.

Telling Stories Round the Camp Fire
Sentient life is an open-ended awareness whose reality is maintained through the future passage of the ensuing generations of conscious life, so we need to respect preserving the robust fecundity of the planet and its living diversity as a primary task in furthering this quest, in contrast to the linear scorched-Earth eschatologies of monotheistic religion, which risk planetary catastrophe.

Even if the earth is finally vaporized as the sun becomes a red giant and all life is extinguished the conscious quest in the all-embracing envelope of space-time was still the discovery process the universe was able to make to know itself in the alpha-to-omega of all reality space-time is.

In some of my more mystical moments on natural sacraments, I have experienced cosmic consciousness as the bundle of life, as if we as incarnate mortal beings are in eternal communion with all conscious life throughout the universe, from beginning to end, and that when we can for a moment escape the knot in the bundle which our individual survival and ego hold tight and loosen the fibers, we too become one with the cosmic mind.

However, rather than this becoming a description of consciousness, the way for us to move forward is to experience such potentialities for ourselves and keep the description process to personal anecdotes we tell, as conscious participants in the unfolding history of the universe, rather than setting it in stone, as some kind of objective description of how things are out there beyond our personal experience. This is the way people have told stories round the camp fire for the first 100,000 years of human emergence and it serves us well in the electronic age to keep the covenant with the ongoing flow of consciousness between us and among us all to celebrate it personally in our concourse together.

Two very different TOEs attempting to integrate the forces of nature illustrate the intrinsic complexity
of the cosmology of the physical universe. If cosmological attributes of subjective consciousness
are a basis of how the brain generates mind, they may have an even more complex basis.
This is not to suggest that the model would be like the physical TOE if it exists
but that it might have complementary attributes to it.

The Intrinsic Complexity of Consciousness and the Ultimate Theory of Everything
But there is another critical aspect to the nature of consciousness which is akin to the difficulty of discovering the theory of everything for the universe, and is so precisely because the conscious brain is the ultimate expression of the four forces of nature derived from the symmetry-breaking of the theory of everything. It requires all the forces acting in order of their symmetry-breaking energies to develop molecular matter, and their most complete complex interactive expression we know of is in the human brain.

If the brain uses exotic properties of physics, embracing quantum entanglement in brain states in generating subjective consciousness as part of anticipating future risks to survival, these would be the ultimate interactive structures generated by the symmetry-breaking of the forces of nature in the universe.

Understanding consciousness would then place it as the hard problem complementing the theory of everything, which would require at least as much ingenuity to resolve and therefore cannot be underestimated in the surprises we may find within it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Asia and World in 90 Days

Check out the two travel blogs which I am currently spending most of my time working on. They come with high resolution images, video clips and commentary.

Currently I'm in process of producing (so far to Lhasa):

Intrepid Asia in 90 Days with Flashbacks: A comprehensive photo and video blog of our intrepid journey in 2006 running from India, through Nepal, Tibet, China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

We have just completed:

A Chaotic Orbit of Planet Gaia in 90 Days: A photo blog of our journey this year starting from Chile and ending in Bali, spanning Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, the US, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Istanbul, Jordan, Jerusalem, Mumbai, and Bali.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jerusalem Millennium

You can find a very good flashback of the unique rites of passage we performed in Jerusalem in our world in 90 days photo blog posting: Jerusalem Millennium.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Cosmology of Sexual Paradox and the Fall

Fig 1: The mind-brain relationship remains the unfathomed abyss in the scientific description of reality.

This is the article that came out of our talk in Jerusalem, while on our 90-day orbit of the planet. It is an in-depth and wide ranging review supported by cosmological science and human cultural and genetic history with significant implications for religions and the future of humanity.

1: Sexual Paradox of Existence - Mind and Body

Our experiential universe remains poised on a paradox, so acute, that neither the scientific description of reality, nor the religious cosmologies of history have succeeded in revealing its inner nature.

From birth to death, the only avenue we possess to knowledge of the world around us is not through the physical universe and objective reality of the world at large, but through our subjective conscious experience. In all our experiences of the everyday world it is our private subjective consciousness which is doing the experiencing and this consciousness can take on many forms, spanning dream, memory, reflection, and hallucination.

And despite the fact that we all have physical brains, the relationship between brain states and conscious states remains the abyss in the scientific description of reality, for which there is as yet no convincing explanation. In a sense although many of us think of the physical world as the primary reality, our understanding and acceptance of the objective physical universe comes about only indirectly, through the consensual agreement of our subjective conscious experiences of the everyday world. Thus in a sense all we know is conscious experience.

Nevertheless, the scientific era has brought about a new understanding of the physical universe which has come about only through applying skeptical principles that a theory is never proven, but only gains validity when critical experimental attempts to disprove it fail, and applying stringent tests for refuting fantastic and incorrect theories, by careful examination of inconsistencies and replication of experimental results. The end product is our extraordinary scientific model, in which we have come to understand that the dynamics of physical processes and the future of life around us depend on microscopic forces and the generation of fundamental wave-particles that give rise, through their interaction, to the atoms and molecules which comprise the world around us and govern its reactions, structures and changes.

This has led to an explosion of scientific knowledge, which has literally overturned our preconceived religious notions of the universe and taken us to the brink of a cosmological description, which is penetrating beyond our wildest dreams, reaching back to the cosmic origin and weaving together the great cosmological events shaping the universe at large with the microscopic forces that makes us the molecular organisms we have discovered ourselves to be.

However this knowledge is and has always been gained indirectly through experiments which ultimately change our subjective conscious experiences, for example through witnessing the strips of dark and light chemicals that decode a DNA sequence, or the dark or light resonance bands in the hydrogen spectrum which can tell us the universe appears to be flying apart at close to the speed of light.

No one knows how the brain generates conscious states, which are our complete and only avenue to experiencing the physical world, or even if it is a meaningful question to ask, since brain states are objective molecular events and conscious experiences are entirely subjective and do not have the same existential status as physical events, being the ephemeral miasmas of dream, memory and reflection.

For the purposes of brain science it is convenient to think of the conscious mind as an internal model of reality constructed by the brain to carry out its central integrated decision-making tasks, but this begs the question of how it can generate extra-physical impressions, such as the incredibly detailed experiences sometimes accompanied by vivid dreams or the kaleidoscopic landscapes of psychedelic reverie, where alternative realities, as real and palpable as waking experiences of the world around us, are invoked in similar detail.

Indeed Indian philosophy sought to reverse this relationship between the physical and the mental, considering material forms as grosser than the finer mental ones, so that mind could not be described in terms of physical forms and structures. On the other hand, we all know that if we are hit on the head or cut our wrists, we may lose consciousness or may even expire, so the primacy of the physical world cannot be taken in doubt, even though it is experienced indirectly through our subjective consciousness.

We thus end up in a paradox, because neither the physical, nor the mental world description on its own can adequately describe our existential cosmology. Moreover they are complementary to one another, evoking together the complete dynamics of conscious existence in the physical world, and they are symmetry-broken in the sense that their properties are qualitatively different from one another in such a way as to comprise a complementary whole from their fundamental differences. This is the state of symmetry-broken complementation leading to paradox, we refer to as sexual paradox.

Fig 2: Sexual paradox in physical cosmology: Top-right Wave-particle complementarity. Top-left symmetry-breaking of the forces of nature, invoking boson-fermion or matter-radiation complementarity. Bottom left: Cosmic evolution is a reflection of this symmetry-breaking. Bottom right: Despite the idea of super-symmetry between bosons and fermions, the pivotal group E8 believed to be at the core of the cosmic design shows symmetry-breaking between its bosonic and fermionic roots.

2: Sexual Paradox in Physical Cosmology

The quantum universe consists entirely of wave-particles - that is quantum entities display both the properties of a traveling wave and a moving particle - sometimes manifesting as one, and at others as the other, but never both in the same situation. For example, in a double slit interference experiment, as in the top right hand of fig 2, photons are released in localized particulate units from excited atoms, but then radiate as waves through the apparatus before reappearing as particles with bands of statistical density following the wave amplitude, when they are reabsorbed by the detector.

The wave and particle aspects are both complementary and symmetry-broken topologically in the sense that the wave and particle aspects form discrete and continuous descriptions of the quantum dynamics. They are also robustly sexually paradoxical. Any description attempting to derive from one aspect only, implicitly carries the other aspect within it. For example in quantum field theory, although the fields are described as an infinite collection of interacting particles acting as force carriers, the particles are still transmitted according to a wave propagator function .

There are also a further series of complementarities emerging from quantum reality. Wave-particles come in two types: The bosons, such as the electromagnetic photon, which have integer spin, and mediate forces and exists as radiation because they are able to infinitely superimpose, as in lasers. By contrast, the half-integer spin fermions can only enter the same wave function in magnetically complementary pairs of opposite spin, thus forming incompressable matter.

The standard model of particle physics involves a highly symmetry-broken divergence between both the four fundamental forces of nature and its bosons and fermions. In particular the bosons and fermions occupy very different classes, although both respect the internal symmetries of the forces. The complementary and opposite positive and negative energetics of the bosonic and fermionic components has led to the idea that nature must be super-symmetric - i.e. that for each boson, there should be a corresponding fermion partner so the positive and negative energies almost perfectly cancel, except that this symmetry is broken by one or other of the partners gaining a very high mass so they would only appear at high energies e.g. in the LHC.

However super-symmetry may also be discretely broken in a way which might mean the overall contributions of the bosons and fermions cancel, but there are different numbers and arrangements of each. The group E8, which is central to many super and string theories attempting to unify gravity with the other forces, carries within it a discrete symmetry breaking, which nevertheless generates the entire 240 dimensional root system for E8 from an asymmetric distribution of 112 'bosonic' root vectors with integral components and 128 'fermionic' ones (with half integer coordinates), as in the lower right of fig 2.

Complementing this is a cosmological description of the origin of the universe derived from it, in which an early rapid inflation, caused by the high negative-energy of the symmetrical state of the forces, traversed into a shower of hot fundamental particles with attractive gravity, as the symmetry-breaking occurred, knitting the evolution of the universe as a whole into the same process. We thus end up with a gigantic universe whose kinetic energy of expansion is just balancing its gravitational potential energy, leaving it on the edge between expanding forever and ending in a big crunch. A more subtle symmetry-breaking is being searched for, e.g. in the weak force, which can help explain the preponderance of matter over anti-matter which is essential for a material universe to exist without annihilating itself back into pure radiation.

There are further manifestations sexual paradox in the partially conflicting assumptions of relativity and quantum theory in their treatment of space and time.

Fig 3: Biological tissues (right) display a fractal architecture on ascending scales from the molecule to the organism in a manner reminiscent of the Mandelbrot set (left). This may be more than a mere analogy. Symmetry-breaking results in symmetry-broken structures - atoms - in which positive nuclei are orbited by negatively charged electrons. The resulting interaction between the electromagnetic force and the electron's charge distribution is highly non-linear resulting in chemical bonding. These non-linearities are not resolved by covalent or ionic bonding, giving rise to a chain of cooperative weak-bonding effects, which enable the action of large protein enzymes (lysozyme with substrate centre) and the formation of supra-molecular complexes and cell organelles. The architecture of tissues is thus a consequence of the symmetry-breaking of the fundamental forces.

These symmetry-breakings are essential for conscious life to exist, because the asymmetric arrangement of matter results in a complete symmetry-breaking of electromagnetic charge with respect to the nuclear forces, which is subject to highly non-linear energetics as a result in the effects of distributed charge on wave orbitals, resulting in the chemical bond. It thus gives rise not only to atoms, but molecules, and molecular complexes. The non-linear nature of chemical bonding means the forces are never fully resolved at any stage and display a spectrum of cooperative weak bonding effects. These are able to generate the fractal molecular structures of biology from cell organelles to whole tissues, and ultimately to the conscious brain, making it a final interactive result of cosmic symmetry-breaking.

Fig 4: Human sexual symmetry-breaking at the single celled level (top left) and organismic level (top right).
Symmetry-broken prisoners dilemma matrix (bottom left) and cusp catastrophe (bottom right).

3: Strategic Sexual Paradox and Human Evolution

If we come back for a moment to the biological realm, at a single celled-level we are profoundly symmetry-broken. The fertilization of an ovum by one of a multitude of sperm is reminiscent of the wave particle complementarity of fig 1, and this may reflect more than a mere analogy and represent a deeper quantum complementarity in biology. Sperms have evolved to become little more than motile particulate DNA with almost all their organelles digested to avid cytoplasmic warfare. By contrast ova, while also containing a full complement of DNA are solely responsible for cytoplasmic inheritance and the continuity of the cytoplasm itself and have evolved to make a split second wave excitation-triggered fast reaction to discriminate the statistical rain of prodding sperms into a single wave-particle fertilization event at least reminiscent of reduction of the wave packet.

Here we are talking only about binary fusion sex, but there are other forms of pan-sexuality and sexual paradox in the biological realm, from bacteria and viruses, up through fungi, which demonstrate the versatility and universality of the principle, running back to the source of life itself. Bacteria and viral elements share an ecosystemic relationship, where viruses and extra-chromosomal plasmids act as sexual agents, promoting active conjugation and the exchange of genetic material through viral transfer, even between different species of bacteria. Fungi also have forms of conjugation sex, which can permit up to 22 different sexual strains, instead of the mere 2 of fusion sex. The gene which precipitated fusion sexuality may also have been an autonomous 'jumping gene' which, unlike the two sexual partners, who can contribute only half their DNA to their offspring, managed to contribute its entire genome, to cause sexual determination, just as mitochondrial genomes continue to do in the maternal line.

The Prisoners' Dilemma is a famous strategic paradox in game theory which arises, when two agents are caught in a situation where they can both gain a moderate benefit from cooperating but because of the high payoffs for successful defection, each is tempted into betraying the other, resulting in both receiving a negative outcome when both spill the beans implicating one another. The classic situation is two prisoners who are tempted to betray one another to get off a serious charge, but it also applies to situations from nuclear confrontation to evolutionary competition, and in particular the polarized reproductive strategies of the two sexes of a species, neither of which can escape the other, but each of which is evolving to take advantage wherever possible. When modeled dynamically, the Prisoners' Dilemma results in unstable dynamics on a cusp between cooperation and outright defection, as shown in the lower right of fig 4.

In all higher animal species, each is also running an evolutionary Red Queen race (running while standing still), just as occurs between parasites and their prey, because, while one sex is evolving to pursue a strategy to replicate their own genes as effectively as possible, given the sexual prisoner's dilemma of sharing half your genes, the other sex is doing the same, leading in many species, from fruit flies to sea urchins, to outright genetic warfare, where the male may literally try to poison the female to cause her to be able to bear only his current offspring, or to strategically break through the egg's defenses, with compensating reactions from the female in each case.

The reproductive strategies of female and male organisms are also as significantly symmetry-broken as sperm and ovum. From the moment the two gametes became polarized to avoid cytoplasmic gene warfare, the investments of the female organism became fundamentally different from the male because the larger size and smaller number of her eggs causes the female to have a much higher reproductive investment per offspring then the male. In live-bearing mammals, whose females get pregnant and lactate and thus have a huge parenting investment in a small number of offspring, this difference is at a peak.

Time lapse video of pregnancy shows just how symmetry-broken the human sexes are.

In all animals, because of the higher investment of the female in reproductive parenting and the greater investment of males in fertilizing as many females as possible, females tend to be choosy and try to select males with the best genes. Female reproductive choice is thus paramount in humans as it is in all mammalian species, although given our strong pair bonding, mutual mate choice is also a major player.

In mammals the XY form of chromosome-based sexuality results in XY males with unique expression of a single X, while XX females collapse one or other of their two X's in all somatic cells including the brain, to avoid poisoning the non-sex cell lines, resulting in a chimera of brain X-expression, just as in a (female) tortoise-shell cat's patchy coat. Partly due to their unique X expression, male have a much higher variation in natural intelligence. This puts mammalian females in the best position to select males with good X genes, many of which figure in brain development, as well as good genes on the other chromosomes.

In humans, mammalian sexual polarization has reached a further climax, due to the massive and risky nature of human pregnancy and the long term parenting required for human development. Thus, despite our lip service to being culturally defined by a common intellectual endowment, the reproductive strategies of the two human sexes are maximally polarized, by comparison with just about all animal species.

This state of sexual polarization may explain both the evolution of human super-intelligence and the emergence of human culture, art and intellectual discovery. The unstable dynamic of the cusp on which the polarized prisoner's game of sexual paradox occurs, is where reproductive choice has its most powerful effect. The Red Queen race of mutual mate selection, biased by female reproductive choice may have put Homo sapiens in a position where choosy females favouring good hunting, art and music, story-telling, and supportive and resourceful parenting in their men folk, repeatedly selected for the best genes for emergent super-intelligence, the female generations retaining the same genes in a way which may have promoted their own astuteness of choice, leading to a runaway peacock's tail of intelligence and social complexity.

Fig 5: Top-left Male (left) and female (right) language areas show differing degrees of lateralization. Bottom-right: Difference in stroke locations causing aphasia (language loss) in men and women. Top-right: Differences in gray and white matter utilization indicative of different cortical couplings. Bottom-right: Differences in amygdala expression when faced with a fearful scene suggesting male targeted and female context-related focus.

There is also evidence for sexual symmetry-breaking in brain function. Men tend to have superior targeting and mental rotation and females better recognition by landmark. Female humans also tend to have less lateralized speech areas, more connections between the hemispheres and greater natural capacity for early language acquisition and may have originated human speech through common gathering, following the grape-vine of gossip about sexual relationships essential for reproductive success, and 'mother-talk' with their infants, while men spent more time in silent vigil, hunting. Brain lateralization has a deep evolutionary basis in distinguishing predator and prey strategies, is driven by testosterone and correlates with greater male involvement in hunting for sexual favours.

These considerations eliminate from human emergence both 'Flintstones' man the hunter scenarios where men secure women by clubbing and abduction, and patriarchally enforced marriage choices under threat of dire penalties for adultery. These by contrast inhibit the evolution of super-intelligence, because the male sex, which should be subject to primary selection, is preventing evolution taking place, by repressing female reproductive choice. There is a deep reason for this - paternity uncertainty. Men do not produce live young, as women do, and thus, in addition to their heightened sense of mortality from not bearing live young, they fear the offspring of a female partner may be another man's child, so they are liable to attempt wholesale defection against female reproductive choice through gaining control of institutions of culture, society and religion.

Fig 6: Several religious creation cosmologies involve sexual paradox, including (a) Tantra (top left), where the universe is a coitus of mind and body that has become fragmented into the plethora of phenomenal existence, the Tao (lower left) where nature is the complementation of creative yang and receptive yin and 'the way that can be told is not the countless way', the 'Elohim of Genesis 1 creating humanity 'male and female in our likeness' (modern rendering centre). However the Eden creation story (right) begins a tragic defection, setting a lone God in conflict with the primal human pair over their presumed sexual transgression, leading to the fall from paradise.

4: Sexual Paradox and its Breakdown in the Religious Imperative

Several of the key religious creation cosmologies agree with the sexually paradoxical origin we have seen in the first two sections.

The Tantric origin conceives the cosmos as a deep coitus between Shiva as the observing cosmic mind and Shakti as the integrated material universe. As the coitus disengages, and the experience fragments into maya, or illusion, this cosmic consciousness becomes divided into separate conscious beings observing the plethora of phenomena of the world around us.

The Tao is likewise a cosmology of nature, in which two inter-dependent principles receptive yin and creative yang lie at the source of all phenomena and any attempt at fully explaining it lies in paradox because in Lao Tsu's own words 'the way that can be told is not the countless way'.

The 'Elhoistic origin ('Elohim is the [male] plural of God) in Genesis 1 is also sexual in archetype, since Adam and Eve are made male and female 'in our likeness' implying the godhead is a sexual dyad in partnership, as in polytheistic religions, from Sumeria to Hinduism, as it is in the creation stories of many ethnic peoples.

Fig 6b: The Fall from Eden like the Tantric origin begins in a state of sexually paradoxical union.

In the 'Yahwistic' origin in Eden of Genesis 2 also begins with a sexually paradoxical union, as Adam and Eve are separated from one flesh, which Jewish folklore suggests was a kind of Janus with both female and male attributes.

This is similar to the soul mates presented by Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, according to which humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them - a kind of reverse Tantric origin undoing the Fall.

The Red Thread of Fate legend of China and Japan that tells that the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of men and women who are destined to be soul mates and will one day marry each other. The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break.

However in Eden there is now an emerging tragic sexual breakdown in the cosmology. The now lone God YHVH patriarchally makes Eve out of the rib of Adam, subjugating Chawa, the Mother of All Living, to a secondary existence. YHVH then curses humanity and throws them out of paradise, ostensibly for eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, which Eve mistook for the wisdom of the Tree of Life. However we can see from the fig leaves, that this is actually because of their sexual transgression in the act of carnal knowledge, for which both are cursed with mortality, with the woman henceforth doomed to the pain of childbirth, and obedience to her husband, just as the man is doomed to obedience to God by the sweat of his brow.

There a fundamental change in God's nature from beneficent creator in partnership to a jealous moral deity and wishful lover of the bride Israel, who curses the people if they stray from worshiping Him and Him alone, despite the fact that in Proverbs, Hochmah or Wisdom declares she was with Him from everlasting before his works of old - i.e. in the very cosmic origin.

The role of the moral deity has several functions which can also be though of in social evolutionary terms. By making everyone obliged to worship an unseen God who is claimed to be able to see into our very souls, it strongly encourages moral action towards one's co-religionists, discourages internal defection within a society and enables a society to become robust and dominant in the face of external competitors, leading to large conservative societies which convert or annihilate their competitors. While religious cultures have certainly acted to impose such processes, they may also arise from a genetic component which is reinforced reproductively by the imposed cultural constraints.

The societal role is coupled with a more insidious and frankly diabolical role, in repressing female reproductive choice, because religions, particularly monotheistic religions of the 'one God' have also set in place patriarchal marriage laws and dire punishments, such as stoning for adultery, which are generally aimed at punishing women for their perceived transgression, in exercising any degree of autonomous reproductive, or partner choice, in the face of imposed patriarchal laws. In several major religions these imperatives are also designed to encourage demographic expansion of the religious following by unmitigated reproduction.

Contrary to the claim that, unlike the false pagan idols, the abstract God of creation acting in history is the one 'true' God, we shall see shortly that this idea is neither new, nor a 'superior' development.

Fig 7: Sabbatical creation of Genesis 1 (centre) surrounded by Christian (above) and Muslim (below) views of the supernatural demonstrate that these are products of the mental realm sharing affinities with imagination, dreaming, prophetic vision and hallucination, rather than being descriptions of any form of objective physical reality.

Religious descriptions of the greater cosmos including heaven and hell share features which clearly place them in the mainstream of conscious mind constructs, rather than physical world descriptions. While the sabbatical creation can be forgiven for its flat Earth cosmology with the 'Elohim placing stars in the dome of the heavens, and evoking the plants before the sun and moon, later descriptions of paradise, heaven and hell in Christian and Muslim theology have much closer affinities with the dream time and visionary imagination than any model of reality consistent with the physical world.

Both show compensatory attempts to resolve sexual contradictions in their imposed beliefs. The Christian heaven is permeated by sexless angels, as a reflection of the belief that the carnal sin would be undone in eternal life, who instead sport large feathered wings, which lost all meaning when Galileo demonstrated the Earth orbits round the Sun and we discovered the upper atmosphere converges towards the lifeless vacuum of space and would provide no lift for such airy appendages. By contrast the Muslim paradise is packed with seventy-two black eyed houris made virginal every morning for the insatiable sexual pleasure of men, again violating the procreative essence of sexual existence, and the equally biological nature of women. Both in turn look to a hellish day of judgment when the final cookie crumbles and the moral deity exerts his terrible final accounting, launching the moral imperative from social evolution to fully fledged cosmological catastrophe and with it promoting one evangelical path or another as the final rulers of the planet and its people.

These extremes of apocalyptic utopia amid violence and tumult, demographic inflation, and the frank repression of female reproductive choice, present a significant risk to the future of humanity and the fecundity of planet Earth. They represent a fundamental break down of sexual paradox, to form a fascist rule of order in frank contempt of the sustainable continuity of life. It is essential for the world to address the fascist utopian aims of world religions to engender a world where ecosystemic survival and the continued survival and evolution of the human race will be fostered instead of end-of-day conflict.

Many features of Western society from economic short term boom and bust, winner take all venture capital exploitation, rape of the planet in tragedy of the commons type resource exploitation, and the vast differences in wealth between the rich and the poor all appear to derive from the types of gain and advantage of spermatogenic reproductive strategy, risking mortality to achieve disproportionate competitive fortune, in the absence of any countervailing long-term out-front female reproductive investment strategy that protects successive generations of offspring and the ecosystems in which they have to survive.

To see how this situation may have arisen and to help us gain a more sustainable long-term solution to the problem, we need to look deeper into human evolution over the last 150,000 years and the emergence of human culture and religion from the smaller social groupings of ancient gatherer-hunters.

Fig 8: (a-c) Three evolutionary trees of the root of the mitochondrial evolutionary tree of humanity
which is the basis for the "Out of Africa" evolutionary Eve hypothesis (d).

5: Human Evolutionary Origins, Sexual Paradox and the Religious Quest

One way of testing the idea of human cultural explosion through sexual paradox in reproductive choice is to examine the history, cultural practices and genetics of some of our most ancient gatherer-hunter populations, whose social patterns have changed little over tens of thousands of years. Good candidates for such investigation are the !Kung-San Bushmen of the Kalahari and some of the Pygmy peoples of the Congo Basin, both of whom have an ancient presence close to our African origins and a genetic footprint and history that places them close to the root of human cultural origins.

By a variety of measures, the !Kung appear very close to the root of our evolutionary tree. Mitochondrial measures which first advanced the Out of Africa hypothesis genetically, consistently show the !Kung-San as closer than any other group to the common root of the African Eve. Further refinements of the mitochondrial tree have exposed an ancient division in !Kung mitochondrial evolution involving a deep split separating Khoisan mitochondrial inheritance from other groups, including those migrating out of Africa, and a deep division between two Khoisan types L0k and L0d going back 140,000 years, suggesting a separation of some 100,000 years, possibly caused by long term drought in Africa. This is thus consistent with a continuing !Kung presence in Africa going back up to 150,000 years.

Fig 9: Human divergence trees calculated by single nucleotide polymorphisms top left , bottom right.
The remainder are trees for haplotypes and copy number variation between populations.
San are very close to the common root.

Other genetic measures, including autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms, haplotypes and copy number between populations also put the !Kung very close to our evolutionary root. Male inherited Y-chromosome studies show a more complicated picture with some evidence for cross breeding with an Adam genome deriving from the Ethiopian region, consistent with human migration in which migrating males take local wives.

Given these genetic measures and the long lived, slowly changing, demographically static nature of the !Kung way of life, which has preserved the high mitochondrial diversity of the !Kung female population, it is pertinent to examine the patterns of !Kung socio-sexual interaction, and their cultural and religious traditions to see how they reflect on our vastly more recent cultural developments from the time of the Sumerians on.

Fig 10: Nisa in old age

When the gods gave people sex, they gave us a wonderful thing.
Sex is food: just as people cannot survive without eating,
hunger for sex can cause people to die!

Kung saying - Nisa.

Fig 11: Fulton cave drawing 1000 BC celebrating the first menstrual rite, Drakensberg Mountains, Natal

Paradoxically at the end of a long period of patriarchal repression of women's rights and choices in major civilizations over the last 4,000 years, !Kung women have been noted to have retained a similar degree of reproductive choice to modern Western women, although there is some physical abuse by their men folk and the male elders try to exert a degree of influence over marriage and sexual relationships by endeavouring to define culture and set rules about marital disputes. Although they follow a nominally patrilineal inheritance, it is recognized that women will traditionally go to the maternal household to assist with their first birth. The personal accounts and experiences of a !Kung woman pursuing her various sexual relationships in !Kung society are eloquently recorded in the book 'NISA' by Marjorie Shostak.

As an indication of the ancient influence of women over sexual favours, southern Bushmen women last century were reputed to refuse sex unless given meat, forcing the men to end up becoming arrested for rustling cattle.

Fig 12: Modern Eland ceremony celebrating a girl's menarche.

The !Kung retain respect for menarche as a sacred process of immense ’spiritual’ power, rather than being ‘unclean’, celebrated in the Eland ceremony, whose records go back as far a Fulton's Cave 1000 BC, in which the woman is conceived as being so powerful that if a young warrior sets eyes on her he may be magically put off his hunting prowess.

!Kung religion embraces abstract deities with consorts which belie the claim that the notion of an abstract creator God acting in history is a new and superior development, or any evidence that such a God is thus real and absolute or part of a destined progression from native ignorance to religious enlightenment. They embrace their deities metaphysically in contrast to the compulsive, superstitious rule and fear-based worship of modern world religions, such as Christianity and Islam.

Bushmen believe in the existence of two gods: a greater god manifesting the creative force and a lesser god invoking the malevolent forces of uncertainty and misfortune, each with a shadowy consort.
They have many names, but the !Kung Bushmen most commonly call them Gao!na and //Gauwa. The Bushmen do not see these as a good and bad god. When a missionary inquired into a Bushman's ideas of good and bad he was told it was 'good' to sleep with another man's wife, but 'bad' if he slept with yours.

Gao!na, the !Kung Great God, using one of his seven divine names, created himself: "I am Hishe. I am unknown, a stranger.
No one can command me.
I am a bad thing. I follow my own path.”

Then he created a Lesser God who lives in the western sky where the sun sets; and after this two wives for himself and for the Lesser God. Gao!na, tallest of the Bushmen, was in his earthly existence a great magician and trickster with supernatural powers, capable of assuming the form of an animal, a stone or anything else he wished, and who changed people into animals and brought the dead back to life.

Their creation story reads poetically along very similar lines to the Sabbatical creation of Genesis ...

But as the Great God who lives beside a huge tree in the eastern sky, he is the source and custodian of all things. He created the earth with holes in it where water could collect and water, the sky and rain both the gentle 'female' rain and the fierce 'male' rain thunder and lightning, the sun, moon, stars and wind. He created all the plants that grow on the earth. He created the animals and painted their individual colours and markings, and gave them all names. Then came human beings, and he put life into them; and gave to them all the weapons and implements they now have, and he implanted in them the knowledge of how to take all these things for themselves.

Thus their hunting and gathering way of life was ordained from the very beginning and Gao!na ordained that when they died they should become spirits, //Gerais, who would live in the sky with him and serve him. He set the pattern of life for all things, each in accordance with its own rules.

The !Kung also practice mystical union with the unknown in ancient trance dancing rites which are also recorded on rock drawings and currently consume cannabis in a manner similar to Indian sadhus. They thus carry both a tradition of abstract religion with a sophisticated philosophical streak as well as a mystical shamanic tradition of direct contact with the ineffable. There is thus no evidence that modern world religions constitute a progression from primitive beliefs and more of an implication that such aspects of religious experience and practice may have a genetic component.

Fig 13: Modern !Kung family.

The picture of human sexual relationships conveyed by !Kung society strongly suggests that human cultural emergence did indeed arise from a social climate in which each sex retained sufficient autonomy over reproductive choice, so that each had to run while standing still resulting in the evolution of super-intelligence from a state of sexual paradox.

This is also supported by deeper evolutionary traits in Homo sapiens, indicative of evolution driven by female reproductive choice, including a lunar coupled sexual cycle involving menstruation, rather than declared estrus, concealed ovulation depriving males of any easy opportunity to know when a female is fertile, pronounced ecstatic female orgasm and the loss of a bony penis in men requiring male sex to demonstrate a genuine indicator of genetic fitness.

Archaeological evidence from southern Africa also points to an early cultural emergence up to 150,000 years ago and to cultural patterns consistent with both jewelery and make-up consistent with women being free and able to make themselves beautiful and attractive to the opposite sex. While there is no evidence how these were used or by which or either sex, the use of ochre is consistent with the need for women to appear nubile and healthy and is associated also with the menstruation.

The prominent appearance of both beads and ochre contrasts completely with the repression of women's adornment in conservative burqa and niqab clad Muslim societies, where any attempt by a woman to ornament her beauty is regarded as punishable by whipping or arrest.

This implies that such religious sexual repression, which has also been shared to varying extents by other patriarchal religions as well as Islam, is a modern aberration caused by male defection against a more ancient pattern of female reproductive choice to which we are indebted for the evolutionary emergence of human super-intelligence, culture art, music and good husbanding and parenting, and must needs respect and preserve into the future for our species to survive and prosper.

Fig 14: Ancient beads and marked ochre. Left: Ostrich shell beads Yoilangalani river Serengeti National Park (c 40,000 - 110,000)
Centre: Scored ochre block. Blombos (c 77,000). Ochre use dating back to 164,000 years has been found at Pinnacle Point in South Africa. Right: Pea-sized Nassarius kraussianus shells pierced and showing wear from leather thongs. Blombos cave (c 75,000).

The discovery of carvings on a snake-shaped rock along with 70,000-year-old spearheads nearby has also dramatically pushed back the earliest evidence for ritual behavior that could be called religion. The finding comes from a cave in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana, a mecca of sorts for the local San people, who call it the Mountain of the Gods. The 6m rock bears a striking resemblance to a snake, including a mouth-like gash at the end. Hundreds of small notches are covered the rock. Entrants to the cave apparently made these markings to enhance the snake illusion by creating the impression of scales and movement. Snakes feature prominently in the traditions and the mythology of the San, sometimes called the Bushmen.

Fig 15: Tsodilo Hills Cave