I am not a Christian but I certainly am a creature of its culture and I think Judeo-Christian legal and moral codes are the greatest civilizing influences in the history of civilization. As much as I admire Christianity as a religion, I do not embrace Christian theology. My own views about God are cosmologically derived rather than theological. The main reason for this is set forth in this small essay.
My views are very speculative, to say the least. My weakness is that I don't trust authority and, so, I do my own thinking. For those of you out there who, also, like to do their own thinking, I will warn you: one lifetime is not enough, as I am learning, much to my chagrin.
Finally, if any of you are offended by what I write, I can only say that any offense given is unintended.
P.S. I have not seen the Ben Stein movie and have no opinion of it.
This post will be better digested if read in three parts.
With the release of Ben Stein's movie: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a debate has been re-opened about the theory of Intelligent Design. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the theory, most notably that it is just re-packaged Creationism. If you would be so good, please read this short introduction to I.D. from Canada's National Post here.
When I debate people on this subject, my very first question is: "Is there such a thing as Intelligent Design operating in the universe?"
My opponent invariably says "No." That's when I point out that all of us spend every day of our lives up to our noses in intelligent design: knives, forks, spoons, dishes, furniture, cars, buildings, computers, etc, etc, etc.
My opponent will then say, "Yes, but these designs are by human beings not nature."
This, really, is the heart of the problem: Our intelligence, which clearly exists in everyone, is, somehow, outside of nature. But,if our intelligence did not come from nature, then where did it come from? Is human nature outside of nature? It is readily admitted that our bodies are part of the evolutionary process. But our mind? Well, don't you know, it is part of our soul which is transcendent of nature.
Now, people don't come out and actually say this, but what else can one infer from their denial of the relevance of human intelligence to the debate? And if anti-I.D. people do allow that human intelligence is part of nature, they end up trying to stifle discussion of the evolutionary antecedents of human intelligence. You see, discussing the evolutionary antecedents of human intelligence might lead to all sorts of uncomfortable questions about whether, and what, other organisms might have intelligence? Or: Did intelligence begin with life or did it precede life or, indeed, did it precede Creation? Thorny questions here.
Let's begin our investigation with an examination of the unstated but implied claim that our intelligence is part of another order of existence: a supernatural world, if you will.
I have never accepted the idea of the supernatural, a place that is outside and above our natural world. I believe that God created the heavens and the Earth. This world, the natural world, is God's world. And if God created this world, the physical laws that govern it are His laws. Using His laws, I have investigated Him and the following is part of what I have concluded:
If there is a supernatural world we cannot know it, it cannot know us and we can't, in any way interact with it. This is so, for a couple of reasons.
1. Such an interaction would violate The Law of Conservation of Energy which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed and
2. that the total quantity of matter and energy available in the universe is a fixed amount and that there is never any more or any less of it at any time.
The existence of a supernatural world would violate of The Law of Conservation of Energy in both of the only ways possible:
1. If we acted on another world we would transfer energy to it: a loss.
2. If another world acted on us it would transfer energy to us: a gain.
Also, you might remember one of the axioms from geometry: things equal to the same thing are equal to each other. If the supernatural acted on us and we acted on it in a same way, we would be equals. Then the claim that a supernatural world exists becomes a distinction without a difference.
Furthermore, if there was an interaction between a supernatural world and ours, it would violate Aristotle's Law of Identity, which demonstrates why things can be known.
The Law of Identity says "A" is "A". It says this without qualification. "A" is "A" and is only "A", all of the time.Things cannot "be" and "not be" at the same time. This means that things have a specific identity and because they have a specific identity they can be known
In case #1: "A" would then become "A" minus "a". A change in identity.
In case #2: "A" would become "A" plus "a". A change in identity.
In practical terms: Any interaction between our "natural" world and a "supernatural" world would result in the total energy supply of the universe being in constant flux.
The result of this would be that the changing nature of "cause and effect" would render the universe unknowable and systemically unworkable. Conclusion: There is no supernatural world. Intelligence is of this world.
We talk of intelligence. What is it? How and when did it come about? One cannot talk of intelligence without talking about information. What we call intelligence is information processing: the gathering, storing, organizing, and retrieving of data. But it is more than that, isn't it?
Intelligence processes information for the purposes of understanding. Understanding is the registering and grading of "cause and effect" with a goal toward using this information to modify physical reactions. I should stop here and say that this is my own definition, so feel free to kick me around on this. I am always interested in improving the definition.
Life forms, clearly, are intelligent and they are material beings. Therefore, one thing we can say about intelligence is that it is, just like gravity, associated with matter. Matter, then, is necessary to the processing of information but, while
matter is associated with information, it cannot be information.
Since we only have matter and energy to work with, we can conclude that it is energy that is information. Energy, in various configurations, processes information but it needs matter to store information.
We will leave aside, for the moment, whether atoms can hold information, either completely or partially, or whether they need to part of a molecule, simple or complex. Any discussion of the various configuration of energy by way of amplitude or frequency modulation will, also, be left aside. These discussions, while of practical importance, are of no theoretical importance.
Einstein's equation E=MC2 states that matter and energy are interchangeable. But in the beginning, what was there? It couldn't have been all matter because matter would, then, lack the energy necessary to for action to occur.
Therefore, in the beginning, if there was any one "thing" it was energy. Energy - Einstein's "E" - was the Original Something. Energy cannot pass onto matter some attribute or characteristic, that wasn't, at least, latent within it. So, energy, itself, is the antecedent of intelligence. So it is at least possible for intelligence to have been operating since the beginning of Creation.
As an aside, one area of speculative inquiry is whether the primary purpose of living things is to exist as fully integrated, stable information bundles with their size, shape, and function being the protective shield of said information?
While the organism and its DNA evolve in tandem, one must precede the other. Guess which one? But what changes the DNA?
I have wondered for many years: Why do living things have to consume other living things in order to continue living? (I've written on this before and you can read the piece below)
June 28th, 2005
Prof. De Vany,
You say, “We are information.” I agree.
I first stumbled onto this notion years ago when I noticed that my fellow bodybuilders could not gain muscle by eating amino acids alone. If, in fact, this observation is true then it follows that one must consume protein peptides in order to construct muscle. If peptides are necessary to construct muscle tissue then it follows that our body lacks the know-how to construct these peptides. Put another way, our DNA lacks the information to construct certain kinds of its own tissue. By consuming certain peptides the body is, in fact, consuming information.
Living things, it occurred to me, are really information systems. When we kill and eat other living things we are really devouring information in order to restore information we have lost. How did we lose this information? I would speculate that when the body breaks down certain tissues during catabolism it is, in fact, losing the information contained in those tissues.
It follows that, when the body is unable to repair its information system and restore the system’s integrity through its own devices, it must go out and gather that information through predation or harvesting. Meat is not merely flesh composed of protein, fat and vital nutrients, it is really a “patch” to repair damaged software, so to speak.
We are much more than mere flesh and blood; we are nothing less than the material expression of our DNA with information being the glue that holds us together. Seen this way, living tissue is not so much formed matter as it is "informed matter".
I believe information theory is the key to unlocking many of life’s mysteries not the least of which is species creation.
Is it possible that the universe is one vast information system? Information processing: storing, retrieving and calculating, is the basis of intelligence. Is the universe intelligent? Gravity does not exist until matter is created. Is intelligence like this or does it precede matter? Energy precedes matter. Energy is dynamic; it pulses. Do these pulses constitute the building blocks of information which, in turn, constitute the building blocks of matter? Is matter really just pulsed energy, aka: information, made visible? Is the universe inherently intelligent or does it become intelligent. Do living things exist in order to gather information so as to construct ever larger information systems?
These questions and many others resist my best efforts. Questions are many; answers are few.
I will try to complete the third and final installment of this series in a week or so.