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!