Archive | April, 2012

The Universe as Puppet Theatre

30 Apr

In my last blog I explained my theory for what the universe is, what God is, and why all of it exists. In summary, the basis of the universe is the three laws of Aristotelian logic. One law in particular, the Law of the Excluded Middle, requires that every possible proposition be decided. The determinacy of every possible proposition is equivalent to the existence of a universal choice function. I labeled this choice function, appropriately, as God.

However, an inevitable consequence of this particular model of the universe is that everything is part of the choice function, a part of God. The question, then, is how could God create something that is not God and not under the strict control of God’s will.

Suppose we think of God as a space. In at least some sense, almost everything is a space. For example, we refer to the connection between the world’s computers as cyberspace. We typically think of a space as having dimensions. According to a prevailing theory of the known universe, M-Theory, the universe has at least eleven dimensions. If God is a space and he has more dimensions than the known universe, then God may have at least twelve dimensions. How can a space that is effectively everything, and in control of everything, create something that is not part of itself and not under its direct control?

Suppose we think of God as a space and we visualize this space as a piece of paper. If we cut a piece of paper in half and place the two halves together, something remarkable appears. There is a new thing created that is neither the piece of paper on one side of the cut nor the piece of paper on the other side of the cut. The new thing that is created is a one-lower-dimensional space, the cut between them.

This is not merely a property of two-dimensional spaces like paper. It is a property of higher dimensional spaces as well. Suppose we have a fluid separated into two different fluids. Once again, the result is a one-lower-dimensional space. In this illustration, two fluids are depicted. One is oil and the other is water. Of course, oil and water do not mix, so they remain separate and create a one-lower-dimensional space.

(Note: In order for this process to work in a strict mathematical sense, God would need to be a metric space and the separated parts would need to be relatively closed disjoint sets. Since God is, in some sense, his own creator, this does not appear to be an unreasonable specification. This still leaves the problem of what happens to the metric when the two parts are separated. Keep in mind that this is a model and not a rigorous proof.)

This second example raises an obvious question about separating spaces in this way. What keeps them apart? In the case of the paper, they are kept apart by a broken chemical bond. In the case of the oil and water, they are kept apart by cohesion and different weights. In every case, there has to be something that holds them apart.

A model, which I will be proposing very shortly, that goes further to illustrate the process, might be the separation of water into its two constituent elements oxygen and hydrogen. When water is separated into these elements, it forms two gasses that have different weights. If the gasses are separated in a tank, the hydrogen will move to the top and the oxygen will move to the bottom. The separation will not be as clean and complete as the separation of oil and water, but the essential idea is the same.

Suppose the universal choice function, God, created a one-lower-dimensional space by separating into two different substances in a manner analogous to the separation of water into oxygen and hydrogen. This brings to mind the concepts in various philosophies of God having a dual nature. Of course, these different natures are often thought of as good versus evil, but that is not the only interpretation. There is also the concepts of Yin and Yang. If we allow the possibility of three different spaces, there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some echo of how our universe came to be is represented in these multi-nature concepts. My point, however, is that the separation might be maintained by having parts that are somehow antagonistic to each other.

If God created a one-lower-dimensional space in this manner, he would have succeeded only in creating a one-lower-dimensional god. The space would be occupied with a choice function similar to the original but, somehow, more limited. Of course, this notion brings to mind the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge. Here again, we may be seeing some echo of the early universe.

In order to limit the possibilities for this one-lower-dimensional space, God may have twisted and folded it and added in some other peculiarities. It can be observed that the eleven dimensions of known space described in M-Theory are twisted and folded in this manner. Specifically, they are twisted and folded into what are called Calabi–Yau Manifolds. Of course, any modification of the one-lower-dimensional space would have to be made while effectively remaining outside of it. The actual twists and folds would have to be implemented in the surrounding spaces.

By moderating the limitations he placed on this space, God could have automatically instilled a particularly useful quality: randomness. It is well understood in quantum mechanics that the motion of particles incorporates a certain randomness. An electron can be visualized as popping in and out of real space at random locations around an atomic nucleus.

Suppose God wanted to have a way of influencing the course of this one-lower-dimensional space without leaving any trace of interference. What better way than to have a random quality that could be tweaked just a bit here and there to change the outcome. It is well established in the science of dynamical systems that small changes in initial conditions can cause dramatic long-term effects. An omniscient and omnipotent God could easily make very slight statistically nonexistent alterations that would completely change the outcome.

There would be another less obvious advantage to incorporating randomness into this space. It would be possible for extra-spatial structures of various sorts to exert an influence. There is one structure, in particular, that is of interest. As I previously stated, if this space was properly structured, choice functions on the level of a one-lower-dimensional god could not form. However, simpler and much more limited choice functions might form to resolve some very limited indeterminacies.  These structures might include human consciousness.

We can think of the more or less determinate aspect of this space as being endowed with what we consider ordinary physics. Within the ordinary physics of this space, logical structures might form along the lines of intelligent biological entities: the brains of living creatures. These structures might be expected to take advantage of any and all resources available to them in order to evolve quickly into the most effective logical structures possible. One resource available to them would be the randomness of quantum mechanics and the aforementioned accompanying properties. These biological structures might evolve loose ends in their logical structures in order to take advantage of this randomness. The randomness of quantum mechanics, combined with the ability for limited choice functions to form, could be expected to complete these structures. This kind of “completion” could explain the human experience of consciousness.

You can now, perhaps, see why I titled this entry “The Universe as Puppet Theatre.” While the universe is, in many respects, independent of God, he has incorporated into it a method of influencing the outcome. In a sense, God is a great puppeteer who pulls some, but not all, of the strings that direct the universe along a specified path. Since the universe would be a one-lower-dimensional space formed between spaces of God, he would effectively be everywhere at all times. He would be equally in contact with every point of our space.

You may also note that I have adopted the convention of referring to God with the pronoun “he”. This is not because I consider God to be entirely masculine. In fact, the two parts of God that I describe as existing in separation might very well be masculine and feminine. It is compelling to think that our universe might be a one-lower-dimensional space that exists in constant contact with and is sandwiched between entirely masculine and entirely feminine entities. The use of the pronoun “he” is merely a grammatical convention. I do not find the constant use of “he or she” or deference to the pronoun “she” to be particularly enlightened or beneficial. Our culture should be past the point of deliberately crippling our language in order to make some group of people feel more secure in their identities. I may discuss this topic in more detail in a later blog.

In a future entry, I will explain how the completing structures I have alluded to might actually work and how they could interact with biological brains without revealing their existence and influence in any traceable manner.

A Theory of God and Everything

17 Apr

I happened upon this theory while reading a book by Stephen Wolfram called A New Kind of Science.

In A New Kind of Science Wolfram describes numerous observations about something called cellular automata. He uses his observations about cellular automata to put forward a theory about order in the universe.

Cellular automata are cells represented on a computer that evolve according to some simple rule. These cells are typically represented by colored squares. An example of a cellular automaton is rule 110. In this rule, a cell can be either black or white. The color of every cell is determined by the color of the cells diagonally above to the left, directly above, and diagonally above to the right. For example, if the cell diagonally above to the left is black, the cell directly above is white, and the cell diagonally above to the right is white, then the color of the dependent cell is white.

The complete set of rules is shown here:

When rule 110 is started with one black square and all the rest white, it produces this result:

On a larger scale, it produces this result:

It can be proven that rule 110 is what is called “Turing complete”. In other words, if rule 110 were begun with the proper settings, it could be used to solve any problem that can be solved by a computer. Theoretically, this means that if rule 110 were started with the correct initial setting on a large enough board it could represent any logical structure including our entire universe. Stephen Wolfram argues that our universe could be nothing more than the implementation of a rule as simple as rule 110.

While contemplating this concept, I realized a couple of obvious problems. First of all, in order for rule 110 to run at all, it must be supported by a complicated computing device. However, there are other more subtle problems. Who or what sets the initial conditions for the rule? Also, what forces the cells to continue to follow a particular rule and not decide to switch midway and follow some other rule? On a computer, a person sets the default state for a rule and the program forces the cells to follow it; but what about the universe? What is the universe’s default state and what forces the universe to keep following the same rule?

Then, I had this epiphany. What if the universe had no default state and there was nothing to make it follow any rule? It occurred to me that this model for the “beginning” of the universe was the only default state that could stand on its own without assuming some other supporting structure.

What would happen?

I then realized there may be something that is true regardless of the existence or order of anything. The obvious candidate was the three laws of Aristotelian logic:

  1. A proposition that is true is true. A proposition that is false is false.
  2. A proposition that is true is not false. A proposition that is false is not true.
  3. A proposition must be either true or false. (the law of the excluded middle)

The last law, the law of the excluded middle, has a surprising consequence. To say that there are no undecided propositions is equivalent to saying that every possible proposition must be decided. But if there is nothing to decide them, what happens?

In mathematics, there is something called a choice function. Many proofs depend on the existence of a choice function that is capable of choosing one element from every set. The existence of such a function is referred to as the “Axiom of Choice”. What I propose is that this function does not merely exist in the theoretical sense, but that it actually exists.

If we think of all the possibilities for how the universe could be structured as the domain set of a choice function, and the actual universe as the range, then there must exist a choice function that maps the first set into the latter.

To summarize, the law of the excluded middle says that every proposition is either true or false. However this implies, in turn, that every proposition is decided. The determinacy of every proposition implies the existence of a choice function that is capable of deciding. Hence, the law of the excluded middle is equivalent to the existence of a universal choice function.

Suppose there were more than one candidate for the choice function that is capable of performing this mapping? This would demand the existence of yet another choice function that is capable of choosing between every possible candidate. However, what if there was more than one choice function capable of choosing among possible candidates? We are led into an iterative process that generates a hierarchy of possible choice functions. This hierarchy of choice functions forms a lattice for which there must be a unique maximal element. In other words, there must be a supreme function that is master of all other choice functions with no other choice function that is master of it.

What characteristics does this supreme choice function have?

Part of the domain of this function must include every possible quality that we observe in the universe. The domain may contain other qualities, but everything we observe must be included. In order to choose, the function must have some characteristic that is roughly equivalent to “preference”. Since the function is capable of choosing qualities such as intelligence and consciousness, it makes sense that the function has something that is roughly equivalent to an “understanding” of intelligence and consciousness. If the function is capable of understanding these concepts, it might also be assumed to possess them. The function is omnipotent by definition.

Of course, this is the classical definition of God. There is no point in calling the choice function anything else. Hence, the law of the excluded middle is equivalent to the classical definition of God.

It must be observed at this point that this is not a religious insight. It is merely an application of Aristotelian logic to a basic problem. The inevitable outcome, the existence of a universal choice function, is just the result of following Aristotelian logic to its conclusion. As to the naming of this choice function, calling it anything but what it obviously is would be petty.

Many modern philosophers assume that the universe is physical and that the basis of the universe must be physics. Implicit in this model is the assumption that the universe is driven by cause and effect. However, these philosophers are never able to get around an obvious problem. What is it that supports their physics? What is it that generates their rule and forces the universe to follow it?

What I propose is that the basis of the universe is not physics, but logic. The universe is not driven by cause and effect. It is driven by propositions and their implied consequences. The universe is driven by truth.

Now, as to what exactly the aforementioned choice function has chosen and how it intends to follow up on those choices is another matter. All you have to do is look around and you will have a pretty good idea what has already been implemented. However, I plan to take this idea for how the universe was constructed and incorporate it into a complete explanation of what the universe is, how it works, and where it is headed.

What Is Consciousness and Why Does It Matter

9 Apr

I discovered consciousness on my own many years ago. Prior to that, I do not recall hearing or reading any discussion of the subject. I would not have tuned into it if I had.

I was thinking about death and asked a fateful question. What is it about me that changes when I die?

After asking that question, I realized the answer was not nearly as simple as I had automatically assumed. I thought about the difference between a living person and a dead one. All the same atoms are there. All the same molecules are there. The atoms and molecules are merely interacting in a different way. Large clusters of molecules, cells, stop exchanging molecules that contain bound up energy. Cells specific to the brain, neurons, stop communicating with each other.

Then something struck me.

When neurons die, they stop communicating with each other. However, even when they are alive, they do not communicate with each other instantaneously. Neurons communicate with each other only as quickly as electrical signals can propagate down their axons. The entire chain of communication is not even electronic. When the signals get to the ends of axons, they change form. They are replaced by the motion of molecules called neurotransmitters that travel across gaps called synaptic clefts. Not only do neurons not communicate with each other instantaneously, they communicate with each other through a relatively slow mechanical process.

Then, I looked all around me and realized how unified my experience was and how that experience differed from the neurons in my brain. Where did this unified experience take place? Did it take place on the terminals of axons or did it take place on the dendrites that received the neurotransmitters? How could I have anything like a unified experience when my brain was so obviously a lot of separate parts?

As I reflected on this, I realized the experience I was having was the real me. I closed my eyes and realized that who and what I really was still existed even though I was not looking at anything. I realized, further, that this experience would persist even if I had no external sensations at all. There was something inside of me, my “self”, that was experiencing my existence.

This discovery astonished me. I had been accustomed to thinking of my brain and my body as mere physical objects like rocks, chairs, automobiles or radios. Indeed, my body and brain were physical objects. However, I realized that there was something contained inside of my body, probably inside of my brain, that was not, and had never been, like the physical world I perceived around me. I thought I had discovered the soul.

I explained this observation to several friends. Some of them immediately caught on and some of them never seemed to get what I was saying. The ones who caught on had an experience similar to my own. They believed, as I did, that they were perceiving their own soul. I explained this observation to an English professor I was taking a class from and was surprised to learn that she was familiar with the concept.

Later, I read a quote attributed to the mathematician and philosopher René Descartes. Descartes had made the observation that while the brain seems to be infinitely divisible the mind seems to be unified.

Eventually, as I investigated further, I came across the term “consciousness”, and learned this was the name philosophers and psychologists assigned to the experience I had discovered. It occurred to me why so few people seemed to have recognized the nature of this phenomenon. The problem was the name itself. We are so used to describing a person who is awake and aware as “conscious” that most of us never make the distinction when the term is used in the more philosophical sense.

Once I had a name for this phenomenon, it was easy to find books and essays that discussed it. I found several theories. There were the theories that I came to refer to as the “pile it higher and deeper” theories. These were the theories by thinkers such as Douglas Hofstadter, the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. These people believed consciousness was the result of ever-increasing complexity. They supposed that out of the complexity of the brain consciousness somehow “emerged”. To me these theories seemed like saying that if you made an object out of lead, and made it complicated enough, it would somehow turn into gold.

I read an entire book by Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes had a theory about when and how consciousness came about, but no real explanation of what it was.

Eventually, I ran across a book on a bookstore shelf by Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained. It surprised me that someone thought they had found an explanation. I started to read Dennett’s book, but decided he was completely missing the point. He seemed to be conflating the way the brain processes information with the actual experience of consciousness. More recently, I watched a video by Dennett that explains the basics of his theory. Dennett uses what amounts to magic tricks to show how the brain’s way of processing information  creates the “illusion” of consciousness. What I realized, however, is that Dennett’s explanation is, itself, a kind of magic trick. It obscures consciousness by redirecting the listener’s attention away from it. I immediately understood why many philosophers refer to his theory as “consciousness explained away”.

Over the years, it has been disturbing to learn that Dennett has a large following, especially in the scientific community. However, I have a theory for why his ideas exist and why they have received such easy acceptance.

Dennett is part of a movement in philosophy called “materialism”. Materialists attempt to explain the entire universe, including the human experience of the universe, in terms of mechanical processes. To a materialist, the universe is a giant machine that has no meaning or purpose, but that merely exists in time and space. Consequently, materialists are atheists.

However, that may be putting the horse before the carriage. In my opinion it is atheism that precedes materialism. It is people who embrace the non-existence of God or other divine phenomena who become materialists.

Materialists hope to indoctrinate all of humanity into their belief system, but there is one thing that stands between them and their ultimate goal. That one thing is consciousness. As long as there are people who are aware of consciousness and its nature, there will be people who believe that there is more to life and the universe than mere mechanical processes.

I have often speculated on the true nature of materialism. It seems at times that materialists are inhabited by some sort of evil that drives them to reject the otherworldly nature of consciousness. More often, it seems that they merely see consciousness as an obstacle to their political goals. Materialists tend to believe in social agendas that include replacing what some refer to as natural law with invented systems of their own. The most obvious example of this kind of invented system is socialism. I have noticed a strong overlapping of socialism and materialism.

Materialism is dangerous. The moment that materialists gain the upper hand in the philosophical community will be the moment that belief in meaning, purpose, and especially divine purpose, will be transferred to the realm of abnormal psychology. People who believe in God will no longer be viewed as exercising a right. They will be considered sick and in need of help—possibly hospitalization. I think you can see where I am going with this.

Clearly, consciousness negates materialism. However, the negation of materialism is not the only reason why consciousness is important. It is also important because it demands an expanded view of the universe. One cannot recognize the nature and power of consciousness without also recognizing its implications for how the universe is structured. Either consciousness is inherent to the universe or it is supported by the universe. Either way, the universe is a much more compelling structure than it would be if consciousness did not exist.

Consciousness seems to be distinct from the physical universe. However, despite this distinction, it somehow communicates with the physical universe. Somehow, through the brain, consciousness is able to get word out to the physical universe that it exists; and somehow, through the brain, the events of the physical universe are able to get back to consciousness. Somehow, the brain is where the rubber of consciousness meets the road of the physical universe. I have a theory about this connection that I will explain in a later blog.

The important thing to realize at this point is this. Consciousness is real, it is the visible component of whom and what we really are, and no one, especially Daniel Dennett, has come close to explaining it or explaining it away.