The Origins of Self

Comments or Questions?

Leave a review at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

or email me at:

sbrewer@bptc.co.uk


Dr. Steve Brewer: Process Philosophy and Scientific Publications

His letters published in the popular magazine "Philosophy Now" and "New Scentist" provide a process philosophy perspective to various topical areas of philosophy and evolutionary science.

You can also find Steve actively participating in various facebook discussion groups related to consciousness, evolution and religion.


Science

Evolution of Creationism

Arrogance and ‘denial of the obvious’ are the reasons for the rise in scepticism about evolution and of anti-science creationism noted by Toni Vogel Carey in That Mystery of Mysteries (Issue 105 p 18). The arrogance comes from scientists not recognizing the dangers of reducing humanity to pure mechanism. The 'denial of the obvious' comes from their claim that because we are machines, consciousness is superfluous and our own experiences (the only thing we can be sure about) must be an illusion or epiphenomenon. By reducing people to unfeeling machines, science has alienated itself from people who know from their own experiences that this is just wrong. It is also a dangerous fallacy because it opens the way to the sociopath’s claim that the ‘other’ is just a machine and since you cannot be cruel to a machine, you can treat other people as your like. You can easily imagine the disastrous consequences of this line of reasoning.

Before making arrogant claims that a simplistic physicalism can account for all of human experience, physicists should remember the words of Newton who compared himself to a boy “diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me”. The inability of physicalism to explain the origins of consciousness has caused biologists, myself included, to turn to philosophers such as A.N. Whitehead. His ‘philosophy of organism’ demonstrates the advantages of adding an experiential component to each physical event. From this standpoint, the Darwinian process causes the co-evolution of embodied minds leading inevitably to the full levels of consciousness seen in advanced organisms.

Published: April/May 2015 http://philosophynow.org/issues/107/Letters

Subjective Time

As Raymond Tallis discusses in ‘Draining the River and Quivering the Arrow (Issue 95), in order to measure the flow of time we need something not caught up in that flow. The paradox is that to measure time, we need a device outside of time itself. Clocks are our attempt to achieve this, and they work using cyclical processes (the cycle of the planets, mechanical movements of pendulums, or the oscillations of atoms) whose repetitions are largely unaffected by the everyday flux of events.

If we now consider our subjective experience of time, we also need a component of our being unchanged by the flux of events processed by our minds. I only perceive the flow of time because I am not part of it. Or, what T.S. Eliot describes as “the still point of the turning world” is the essential rock of psychological stability about which the flux of events ebb and flow. This timeless being is not of course eternal, since eventually we are overwhelmed by the flux. However, while it is present, we have this stable timeless (and using similar arguments, spaceless) entity I call myself.

When the passage of time is derived from this perspective, the philosophical errors causing the issues described by Tallis are exposed. They have occurred because we have misplaced the actual source of time to an object called a clock, when the real source is me. Clock time now takes its subservient place as a projection of our interior timeless state onto the temporal world. The practical advantage of clocks is we can all coordinate our actions for our mutual benefit. The philosophical error occurs when we try to derive our subjective experience of time from what that is merely a socially useful projection of that experience.

Published July/August 2013 http://philosophynow.org/issues/97/Letters

See also the dialogue "A Waste of My Time"

Epiphenomenalism

Norman Bacrac (Epiphenomenalism Explained) bases his argument on two axioms [Axiom 1. Every conscious state is determined by a simultaneous brain state. Axiom 2. Every brain state evolves solely in accordance with physical law].  My problem is that Axiom 2 --- is irrelevant to the argument being by definition a negation of conscious mind. Mr. Bacrac points out that ‘since the time of Galileo, no physics text book has needed to include consciousness in the equations it expounds’. The reason for this of course is that since then physics has confined itself to finding those elements that exist independently of mind. Therefore, the physical law referred to in Axiom 2 has already eliminated consciousness from its world-view (See Tallis in Wonderland, issue 81 for an excellent discussion of this topic).  When he then inappropriately applies these physical laws to discover the origins of consciousness in the workings of the brain he must by definition find no hint of a linkage. He then recovers consciousness as some strange floating epiphenomenon with no function whatsoever.  Physical laws do indeed add great value to our understanding of the brain mechanisms, but by definition, they can add no value to our understanding of consciousness, therefore, all his subsequent arguments about consciousness are baseless.

Published: March/April 2011 http://philosophynow.org/issues/83/Letters

Is Ethics a Science?

The problems identified in the article  Is Ethics a Science?’(Massimo Pigliucci Issue 55) disappear if the title is changed to ‘Is Ethics an Objective Science?’

What is commonly referred to as natural science is better described by the term ‘objective science’. Using medicinal science as an example, the scientist is the subject who turns other subjects into ‘it-objects’ for experimentation according to the rules and training of his craft under the prevailing ethical standards. A desired result might be a drug-object to treat a diseased organ-object according to an understood mechanism of action. It is interesting to note that according to this description, psychoanalysis can be viewed as an attempt to construct an alternative ‘subjective medical science’. Conversely, an ‘objective ethical science’ would make no sense, since the basis of ethics is to recognize the other as a ‘thou’, not an ‘it’. According to this scheme, ethics could be classified as a ‘subjective science’. But in any case, it is clearly distinguished from the objective sciences, and indeed provides the boundaries for their operation.

Published: September/October 2006 https://philosophynow.org/issues/113/Letters


Ethics

Is Morality Objective?

Morality has both subjective and objective components. The objective component is provided by the laws of Game Theory. The subjective element is the strategy selected by a player attempting to maximise their personal reward.

Game theory describes the competitive or collaborative strategies that a rational agent can use to maximise their benefit in any situation. (In this context, a rational agent is someone capable of thinking about then acting in their own best interest.) Often, cooperation provides the optimum outcome for all interacting parties, but at any time an agent might break the contract in an attempt to increase their own rewards. Such an action might have short term benefits, but it has been shown that in a series of interaction games, such a cheat will lose out because the others will soon refuse further cooperation. There are, therefore, substantial individual and group advantages to keeping such a contract. This ‘reciprocal altruism’, where the group rewards collaboration and punishes the cheat, is modelled by the ‘tit-for-tat’ strategy in Game Theory.

I would argue with the Mathematical Platonists that abstract mathematical ideas are mind-independent entities. Like any other object, they can be discovered and verified by anyone with the right equipment – in this case a skill in mathematics. Therefore, the outcome of our moral behaviour, subject to the laws of relationships determined by the mathematical objects of Game Theory, in this sense are objective. However, the strategies are subjectively chosen by agents acting in what they perceive to be their own best interest. Their choices may or may not coincide with supporting the social order.

Human civilization is highly dependent on the operation of Game Theory’s reciprocal altruism. A society’s moral codes are attempts to ensure that individuals choose the collaborative strategy over many ‘plays’, that is, social interactions. Although the moral rules encapsulated by the Golden Rule (‘Do unto others…’) and Law of Retaliation (‘an eye for an eye’) are simple, in practice they can become very complex. Human agents are playing many parallel games in an ever-changing social and physical environment, with no guarantee of group success. To retain social cohesion, the moral code may incorporate many complex taboos or ritualistic actions, lack of compliance with which can be used as an explanation of the group’s failures. An agent, however, is always free to challenge the code by choosing the antisocial strategy. In such cases the agent will find themselves in peril of retribution in the form of tribal or civil law.

Published in Philosophy Now August/Septembr 2016 https://philosophynow.org/issues/115/Is_Morality_Objective

See also the dialogue "Morality Games"

The Determined Will  

Ching-Hung’s article “Free Will is an Illusion but Freedom Isn’t” and Natasha Gilbert’s “The New Argument about Freedom” (Issue 112) both show the impossibility of finding the reality of our freedom in the deterministic laws of physics. Our will is indeed determined, not by abstract physical laws, but by our real subjective desire. This desire is to enjoy a good life and death. Freedom lies in our ability to choose those actions most likely to achieve this goal. Of course we resent any coercion preventing this from happening and passionately attempt to overcome it by any means possible! The delusion is thinking that the soulless abstractions of Physics are more real than the passionate wilful beings who created it. Physics is a powerful tool created to satisfy our desires to keep warm, have a good meal, to travel at speed as well as to destroy our enemies. It is, however, a purely theoretical system derived from abstractions based on dispassionate observations of the world. What should be obvious is this process of abstraction means the wilful passions of its creators are removed and so cannot be recovered. Therefore Physics has nothing to say on the issue of its creator’s freedom or the moral consequences of their actions. I think this simple conclusion can be derived from both of these articles and provides another example of physicalism’s total failure to explain the reality of our being.

Published April/May 2016 https://philosophynow.org/issues/113/Letters

See also the dialogue "The Purpose of Life: Eating to Live or Living to Eat?"

Did Hitler Have a Choice?

The only conclusion I can reach after reading Ching-Hung Woo’s article ‘Einstein’s Morality’ (Issue 109, is that Einstein’s deterministic understanding of the world and his moral views were entirely contradictory. The concept that reality consists of detached observers and indifferent objects would certainly lead to the situation that Hitler was unable to act other than he did. However, it then makes no sense to argue, as we are told Einstein did, that we should be free from coercion. After all, in his purely deterministic universe, both coercer and the coerced have no choice in the matter, so how can they be free of it? The solution to this contradiction is to see how observer and the observed are in an iterative relationship. Here, the present state-of-affairs is the result of not just mindless physical events but also choices made by mindful living organisms and those of fully conscious beings. Although our conscious choices are constrained, we are still free to choose how to use this found present to further our personal aims. Therefore for good or evil, our choices update the present state-of-affairs which becomes the basis of the next set of choices by ourselves and others. The cycle then becomes a truly creative process. When the observer and observed are bought into this relationship the actions of Hitler and all of us determine the present state-of-affairs. Therefore all our choices have a moral dimension.

Submitted August 2015 not published

Enhanced Reactions

The article  Enhancing Human Lifespan (Issue 91) is wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start! First let’s examine Dr Foddy’s thesis that our mentality makes us misspend resources on fixing diseases instead of preventing them in the first place. At first glance the 4.0% of the British NHS budget spent on disease prevention seems to support this contention; but to bring this into perspective, they only spend twice this amount (8.3% of their budget) on drugs. But in fact, most of the spending on disease prevention occurs outside the NHS. For example, consumers in the UK spend £8 billon/year for clean water, uncontaminated by sewage. This complex and expensive task has long been recognized as one of the most important disease prevention activities ever undertaken. When you add to that money spent on keeping the environment clean (the Clean Air Act, waste disposal) and the resources spent on accident prevention, then you begin to see the real scale of expenditure to keep the public from needing rescuing from both disease and injury.

Next, consider the so-called ‘political opposition’ Dr Foddy cites to using statins to prevent heart disease. Unlike the public health measures mentioned above, major ethical issues arise when a powerful drug with life-threatening side-effects is used on a healthy population. Then there is the problem that although statins lower cholesterol levels, there is only circumstantial evidence linking high cholesterol levels with heart disease. So contrary to the article’s implication that the ‘political opposition’ is unreasonable, we find a valid basis for an ethical and scientific debate about the pros and cons of using this drug for disease prevention.

Then Dr Foddy asserts that by rescuing people from disease we extend their lives, but only in a state of increased infirmity. Surely he has seen the substantial research work pointing to a contrary effect called the ‘compression of morbidity’. This means that people are living longer yet spending less time in poor health, not more. So the current powerful combination of disease prevention and rescue from disease increases both life span and quality of life.

Finally, we have an apparently serious discussion of a ludicrous solution to his unsubstantiated thesis: that we can trick the gullible health care system into treating death by redefining it as a disease. Given that the author is from the ‘Institute for Science and Ethics’ I find this suggestion an insult to the intelligence and professionalism of all those concerned will the advancement of medical science.

Published: September/October 2012 http://philosophynow.org/issues/92/Letters

Why Should I be Good

I am good only so long that it is in my self-interest to be so. I am indifferent or actively bad when I see no advantage in being good. As I’ve grown older and more deviously selfish, I realize that it is to my advantage that others are good. Empathy instructs me that this means that I should try to ensure that the others also have their self-interests met. Otherwise they might be bad, which may, heaven forbid, inconvenience me. Therefore to increase the good in the world and hence our mutual happiness, readers should join me in encouraging people to be ever more selfish and Machiavellian. In this way they will more quickly see why it is in their own interest to care for their neighbours, then their country, and finally the whole world.

Published: September/October 2007 http://philosophynow.org/issues/63/Why_Should_I_Be_Good

See also the dialogue "Morality Games" and "Under the Power of a Monster"


Language

How does language work?

Biophysics can describe the mechanics of language in terms of signal processing, but what it cannot explain is its power to convey emotional states. The physical description starts with the concept that all entities are patterns of energy that interact to change each other’s energy patterns. Therefore, a stable entity must be able to regenerate its own pattern of energy after such an interaction. Living systems achieve regeneration by actively harvesting and processing energy patterns of entities selected from the local environment. These are its inputs, and the outputs are its actions on the world determined towards system preservation and reproduction. The operation of evolutionary processes means that for advanced animals the response is highly complex requiring suitable receptors, signal processing, data storage, attenuation and modulation. The brain has evolved to do just this and its mechanics are being be revealed by neuroscience.

Human spoken language is just another input of patterned sound energy to be processed with outputs aimed at reproduction and survival. As you can see, our physical interpretation has explained it all, while missing out everything important! It fails to answer the fact that I experience these language-energy-patterns emotionally: fear, hate, love, lust, language can make me feel it. There is a solution, and that is to add the metaphysical postulate of ‘panpsychism’ to the pantheon of mathematical postulates and axioms already used by biophysics. By embracing this postulate, we can transform these sterile patterns of energy into tiny blips of experience each with a particular form and intensity. These experiences originate as outputs from other entities and all simple entities with the ability to interact with these feelings form a network of primitive emotional communication. Life, through the operation of natural selection has evolved to harvest, combine, suppress and amplify trillions of tiny feelings to produce powerfully rich emotions. These emotions result in actions aimed at increasing pleasurable emotions and decrease painful ones so that animals really do struggle to survive. At its most basic level, language is a method for encoding and transmitting these emotions within social groups. The advanced state of human language reflects the improved survival of individuals linked by highly developed social feeling-transmission networks. In conclusion, if bioscience could bring itself to adopt the postulate of panpsychism, it could also explain language’s ability to transmit powerful emotional experiences.

Submitted March 2012: Not published

See also the dialogue "How Words Make Us Angry"

Not Bewitched

First I wish to congratulate you on choosing such a range of enlightening articles about the works of Wittgenstein. The problems I have with his work (or at least my understanding of it), were crystallized by the article Bewitched ( Brandon Absher Issue 59. Rather than seeing slogans as a dangerous use of language, I see sloganising as an example of the way we all use language, most of the time: to transmit our subjective feelings and establish our empathetic relations with others. (Bewitching people by action at a distance?) Leaders and politicians have always used slogans (or ‘war cries’), and in Greek times this was seen as part of the rhetorical skills any educated person should possess. I would agree that a logician such as Wittgenstein has nothing to say about this, and therefore, in this case, should indeed be silent.

However, there is a use of metaphysical language where both logic and philosophy play an essential role, and it is one which actually protects us from the ravages of bewitchment by language. We have created some extremely powerful ‘metaphysical objects’ that, like real objects, can be pointed at, named, and then used as part of logical argument. I’m talking about the written law. By pointing to the written law, lawyers make coherent and logical arguments which can justify or condemn actions. For the President of the USA these laws are grounded in the written constitution, and many can thank this document (very much inspired by the philosopher John Locke) for protecting them from the follies of politics based only on rhetoric or indisputable revelation. So I also disagree with Wittgenstein’s Tractatus 7.1 (unless one takes it as a call to the contemplative life), that the philosopher has nothing to say beyond the physical world. It is the philosopher who creates, questions and provides the logical basis for the interpretation of these most powerful metaphysical objects, some of which at least, attempt to protect us from being bewitched by the language of our feelings.

Published March/April 2007 http://philosophynow.org/issues/60/Letters

The Myth Of The Myth

In ‘The Dragon Memes, Culture and Evolution (Issue 72) Daria Sugorakova attempts to use Dawkins’ writings to understand this mythological beast.We are told that the Dragon concept is a survival machine whose only purpose is to replicate its memes. As Dawkins now confesses, genes, and presumably memes, themselves are not actually selfish: that’s just a very misleading metaphor. However, the beast emerging from the genes contained in theWestern European dragon’s egg most certainly is selfish. It destroys communities in order to hoard their hard-won wealth for itself, then sits in the deepest recesses guarding its treasure. The heroic quest of the dragon slayer is to seek out its dark and dangerous lair, destroy the dragon, and release its wealth back into the world. So if you want to understand the dragon, a good place to start is Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.When you understand the real purpose of the Dragon myth, you may be surprised just how real and close to reality it is!

Published May/June 2009 http://philosophynow.org/issues/73/Letters


Evolution and Consciousness

Panexperientialsm and Panpsychism

DEAR EDITOR: As a means to understand consciousness, I believe that panexperientialism (a term coined by the Whiteheadian David Ray Griffin) is to be preferred to panpsychism (Philip Goff, PN Issue 121 p6) and has the advantage of being entirely consistent with the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness (Hedda Hassel Morch, PN Issue 121 p 12). In panexperientialism, a fleeting experience is generated whenever physical systems exchange energy-information (for both are equivalent). How this might happen can be understood by considering the simplest stable atomic system, the hydrogen atom. In its lowest energy state, it consists of a positively charged proton orbited by a single negatively charged electron (more accurately described as an “orbital”). In essence, we have a system of highly unstable sub-atomic particles forming a dynamic yet self-contained physical system with no consciousness. When, however, this system interacts with an externally sourced ultraviolet photon (specifically with an energy of 10.2eV) the electron jumps to a higher energy orbital and chemists describe the system as being “in an excited state”. From the information perspective, the system has responded to a specific input of datum which for the panexperientialist is a fleeting experience of something outside itself.

Consciousness is a result of the evolutionary process when organisms are selected that are able to integrate, attenuate or amplify trillions of such datum along with their corresponding drops of experience. As a result, the organism experiences the build-up of powerful emotional states. Being rich in information (and therefore energy), these emotions produce actions (the release of this pent-up energy) which as required by evolution, must be directed towards the organism’s survival and reproduction. In this way, the process of evolution ensures that such simple physical experiences become sophisticated presentations of the world. Panexperientialism can, therefore, easily explain how the mental and physical can be unified to produce the embodied mind.

Edited version published December/January 2018 https://philosophynow.org/issues/123/Letters

See also the dialogue "Small Minds Think Alike"

Consciousness isn’t all about you

In the article Consciousness isn’t all about you, you know ’ (Issue 3034, 15 August 2015 pp26-27) we see problem caused by the prevalent view that the self is a detached observing homunculus somehow generated by the unconscious. But when you truly accept that minds are embodied then there are no unconscious processes. Instead, my conscious states are how my body feels as it encounters the world and acts on it. We can now see how the counter-intuitive argument that consciousness is disconnected from our actions is an artefact caused by the dissection of mind from the body. These authors would do well to learn from Wordsworth: “Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; our meddling intellect, misshapes the beauteous forms of things:—we murder to dissect.” Pulished letters section 19Sept 2015

Published 19 September 2015 https://www.newscientist.com/letter/mg22730391-000-the-roots-of-consciousness-2/

See also the essay Conscious Events

What is life?

Life is the embodiment of selfishness! Life is selfish because it is for-itself. It is for-itself in two ways; it is for its own survival and for its own reproduction. This desire is entirely embodied in an adaptive autocatalytic chemical system forming life’s embodied chemical mind. Anything that is not ‘itself’ is the ‘other’, and a collection of ‘others’ constitute its environment. It must destructively use the ‘other’ to satisfy its reproductive desire, but on achieving this, it produces an additional ‘other’ but now one that also embodies this aim and the means to satisfy this aim. Therefore, by satisfying its desire, it makes its own satisfaction ever more difficult to achieve. A partial solution to this dilemma is for the genetically related entities to form a cooperating society. Therefore, both cooperation and competition can satisfy life’s selfishness.

The underlying mechanism of emergent evolution is the iteration of an embodied desire with an every more complex competitive and social environment. Over vast numbers of iterations, this evolutionary process forces some life forms along a pathway that solves the desire for survival and reproduction by developing ever more complex and adaptable minds. These advanced minds can collect and process vast inputs of data that are handled by ‘projecting’ the derived output back onto its environmental source. They achieve this by supplementing their underlying cellular embodied chemical minds with a specialist organ able to rapidly process electrical signals (although these are still based on chemistry) that we call its brain. However advanced it might be, it is still driven by the same basic needs for survival and reproduction and therefore enjoys this world for-itself and does everything it can to enhance this enjoyment. This creative process, however, leads the organism towards an increasingly aesthetic experience of the world. This is why for us, the world we experience is both rich and beautiful, and why we struggle to maintain this experience while passing on this world to our offspring.

Note: this description of life removes the issue about how the inanimate can ever give rise to the animate by giving ‘desire’ ontological priority over the evolutionary process. This is because without this drive, purely physical processes cannot provide a satisfactory explanation for the evolution of our emotionally driven minds and consciousness.

Published March/April 2014 hhttp://philosophynow.org/issues/101/What_Is_Life

See also the dialogue "Small Minds Think Alike"

Purpose Meaning & Darwinism

DEAR EDITOR: As a biochemist I fully support Mary Midgley’s arguments that life must have a purpose (in ‘Purpose, Meaning & Darwinism’, Issue 71). I believe that an animal must ‘care’ for its own survival if natural selection is to cause more complex organisms to evolve. An organism that cares for its life really struggles for survival and makes use of any small genetic advantages it has gained through chance. Note though that for objective science, it does not matter whether the organism actually cares, but only that it acts as if it cares. The problem for Darwin and evolutionary scientists is that for organisms to fully act even as if they care, they need some form of mind, and this is associated with brains and neurons. Since single- celled organisms have no brains, it is arguable that they cannot have minds. Therefore evolutionary scientists have produced a theory that denies even the appearance that simpler organisms care for their own life, and which is instead based entirely on a series of highly unlikely events. The process philosophy of A. N.Whitehead provides an escape from this problem. He argues that the fundamental reality of the universe is based on processes (see his Process and Reality). By treating all inputs to processes as data, and all processes as data processing systems, then some form of ‘mentality’ is always associated with the entire system. Using this approach we see that the complex biochemical systems used by a cell to assess its outer environment and to adjust its inner state can be described as an incredibly sophisticated chemical computer: its computations just happen to be based on DNA protein-chemical interactions acting in negative and positive feedback loops, rather than on neuronal networks in brains.What can be agreed on is that this complex biochemical computational ‘mind’ is always acting to retain the cell’s viability. As a philosopher, I would agree withWhitehead that negative and positive feedback loops are indeed the basis of a subjective self, but as a scientist, I now see the necessary cellular-level process that behaves as if it is struggling for survival. The ‘struggle for survival’ of this embodied chemical ‘mind’ drives the earliest stages of evolution towards collaboration with other cells. This has resulted in the evolution of our form of consciousness based on electrical circuits between neurons. By thus helping us to see how we can introduce ‘mind’ into even the most simple of living bodies, Whitehead’s Process Philosophy strengthens evolutionary theory while opening up the possibility for understanding the origins of selfhood and the universality of purpose.

Published: March/April 2009 http://philosophynow.org/issues/72/Letters

See also the dialogue "Small Minds Think Alike"

Science, Psychology & Supernature

In reply to Professor Rickman [argument that psychology is not a science because it does not share a scientific method with physics in Is psychology a Science Issue 74], I say that until we recognise that subjective aims and purposes are as important as biochemistry, we are never going to understand the evolution and development of consciousness. I suggest that we start by realizing that what we think of as an isolated ‘embodied mind’ is actually a dynamic ‘mindful body’ exchanging and processing data with its local environment. Fortunately, medical science ignores the mind-body separation. By combining the insights of psychology to make behavioural models, medicinal chemists have developed medicines to improve the subjective state of mentally ill patients.We can also directly change the mental state to alleviate physical illness using placebo treatments. It is also possible to consciously alter one’s own subjective state by using meditation, the bodily effects of which can be seen by brain imaging technology. Scientists brought up on purely reductionist philosophy derived from the physical sciences must grasp the need to incorporate subjective aims and purposes if they are to fully understand the functioning of our ‘mindful bodies’.

For me, good science only emerges from an investigator who studies the world with an open mind free from dogma. If he/she maintains this openness, there will come a moment of sudden insight when a collection of data and partially-formed ideas become understood in one simple hypothesis. I like Popper because he reminds us that however clever a hypothesis or theory is, it is never an unassailable truth. By understanding this, we can ensure that a theory (including Darwin’s) never becomes a dogma, but is always open to improvements, or even disproof, by new insights or data. Creationism and ID theories are maintained in the face of a great mass of contradictory data merely because they support a narrow religious dogma. As such they are not scientific.

Published November/December 2009 http://philosophynow.org/issues/76/Letters


God and the World

God Postulate

 It is interesting to consider why Raymond Tallis will never be able to logically disprove the existence of God (Taking Issue with the God Issue; Issue 101), just as those theist he refers to in Issue 99 (The God Issue) can never prove God’s existence. This is because God is actually a metaphysical postulate used by the theist to explain fully their experience of the world. As a result, the theist must always find God within all manifestations of the world. On the other hand, an atheist such a Tallis has constructed an explanation of the world that actively denies this postulate. Therefore, Tallis must never find God within his experienced world. The nature of theoretical systems means that without using tautological arguments, neither of these camps can prove nor disprove this postulate from within their derived systems of thought. Since both systems are able to satisfy their respective advocate’s experiences of the world, we need an alternative test to evaluate the merits of these two systems. One method is to consider the scope of their application. The God Postulate has the advantage that human life is seen as emerging from God’s creative plan, which consequently is given meaning and purpose. In contrast, the scope of the atheistic theory is limited, providing no ultimate source, reason or purpose for our creation. To my mind, these limitations mean that the atheist version of our place in reality is always going to be inferior to the theist’s vision.

Published May/June 2014 http://philosophynow.org/issues/102/Letters

See also the essay "The Designer Universe"

The God Issue 

 The quote attributed to Heisenberg “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you” is well illustrated by Marina Gerner’s article on consciousness (What Did Mary Know? Marina Gerner issue 99). First, it is only because of our conscious experiences of the world that science can explain anything, including why H2O feels ‘wet’ and why energetic molecules feel hot. If qualia such as wetness and hotness were pure inventions or even illusions generated by brain activity, then we would have the Kantian separation of the phenomenal from the noumenal world with science only able to describe the world generated by our minds. Therefore, for physicalism to claim that science can describe all reality, this must include all the qualia that emerge due to the complex physical processes occurring in the brains of advanced animals. The ‘big picture’ then shows the universe to have evolved by the progressive emergence of increasingly complex forms of energy-matter. By tracing this process back to its origins, we arrive at a single creative act involving the massive outpouring of energy known as the ‘big bang’. The consequent structuring and ordering of this energy produces physical bodies of increasing complexity including a limited number able to produce conscious experiences. Now, these complex states cannot emerge from nothing because this would introduce a series of mysterious steps. Instead, latent forms of energy-matter must become actualized during the creative process. Therefore, within its derivative forms this initial state must contain the potential not just to actualize the structure of fundamental particles but to also produce life, our brains and its world of experiences (whether real or imaginary). How can this be possible? Just as Heisenberg suggested, at the bottom of the glass of science we still have an extraordinary and inexplicable mystery. It points to a vast intelligence embodied into the very foundations of the universe that expresses itself in its own creation and those of its creatures. Perhaps here, in the richness and beauty of our experiences is Gods kingdom, you just have to recognize it!

Submitted December 2013 not Published


 

 

 

 

 

 

Origins of Self

10 Chapters, 160 pages, 36,000 words

Download a free pdf version of *The Origins of Self.

You can also order a printed copy or Kindle version of from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

*Note: This free open access version of "The Origins of Self" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License