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					                              Summary of What I Believe

Preliminaries

   1. All religions (and many philosophies) try to answer two key questions: (1) what is
      really out there, in all of what exists, “in this world and beyond?”; and (2) what
      should we do about it?
      Comment: classical materialism is the belief that everything we see is simply
      part of the evolution of matter and energy in the world as we see it with naïve
      eyes – a world of atoms and well-known forcefields. “What you see (with your
      eyeballs) is what you get.” If we agree with classical materialism, we can still talk
      about a “world of ideas which really do exist in the plane of ideas.” We can even
      say, “God exists, where God is defined as the laws of physics, the fellowship of
      my friends, a big computer, an equation or a shoebox.” But to be clear and to be
      honest, people who believe in classical materialism should come out and so say –
      as many do.
      Additional comment: Mathematicians, especially, like to ask: “What about
      the possibility that many different universes really exist, which do not
      communicate with each other, so that we do not know they are there?” In my view,
      that’s basically like existing “in the plane of ideas.” For all practical purposes, for
      us they do not exist, except as ideas. But if we start to talk about parallel universes
      that can communicate with each other, it isn’t exactly classical materialism.

   2. I do not expect any reasonable person to agree immediately with views that have
      resulted from a lifetime of asking questions, learning difficult mathematics and
      accepting surprises!! The rest of my web page discusses some of the reasons why
      I believe what I do – but long as the web page is, it is very far from being
      complete. Sorry, folks. Please be tolerant, and consider that there might be some
      chance that these heresies are in fact the truth.

   3. Most religions pretend that they know exactly what is really out there. In essence,
      that pretense is a lie. It is a very typical and common human kind of lie, which
      results from all kinds of social forces, ranging from peer group pressure, to self-
      delusion, to limited imagination, to fear of complexity, to the financial incentive
      to pretend one knows more than one does, to the belief that group loyalty is more
      important than truth, to payments of all kinds from people who want to control the
      minds of other people. A rational and honest person must learn to live with
      uncertainty, and learn to think in terms of probabilities. Oftentimes, the best and
      most complete knowledge available to all of humanity takes the form of
      probabilities, which we must be prepared to adjust over time as we learn more.

What is really out there

   1. With 50% probability, I believe that everything which exists can be understood as
      patterns which emerge in a physical universe very similar to what Einstein
      proposed. In Einstein’s view, the only thing which really exists is a set of force
   fields in flux, inhabiting a space-time continuum made up of three dimensions of
   space and one dimension of time. That’s all.
   Comment: Einstein went further, to say that all of this flux is governed by a
   single equation, a “Lagrangian,” from which we can deduce the dynamical law
   which governs each one of these force fields, in a deterministic way. He said that
   “God does not play dice with the universe.” With 50% probability, I believe that
   Einstein was right on this point – except that there probably are some “dice” out
   there. On my physics web page, I explain this in more detail. In technical terms, I
   argue that we can understand everything we have ever seen in physics as the
   outcome of “classical” partial differential equations across space-time, with a
   time-symmetric white noise term added. With well over 90% probability, I
   believe that fundamental physics today is “lost in space,” and will not make
   serious progress until it learns to “return to reality” and implement Einstein’s
   vision.

2. Paradoxical as it may seem, I do not believe in classical materialism. Until the
   spring of 1967, when I was nineteen years old, I did believe in classical
   materialism with over 99% probability. In 1967, I lowered it to 50%. Now it is
   less than 1% for me. It amuses me that my wife says I am a distant cousin of
   Niels Bohr, from the same part of Germany – an area where many people believe
   in mathematics but also have good personal reason not to believe in classical
   materialism.

3. Religious people have often spoken about “the soul,” “Gaia,” the “noosphere,”
   “the force,” “qi,” “charisma,” the “Brahman”, and “God the Father.” As I see it,
   all of these things are quite real and quite “solid,” and important to the reality of
   human life – even though their nature and dynamics are radically different from
   what most religions have told us.

4. With 50% probability, I believe that Einstein was basically right, and that the
   “soul” can be explained as follows:

       4A. We do not fully understand all the laws of physics yet.

       4B. The laws of physics lead to the emergence of many forms of life – not
       only the DNA-and-atoms kind of life we are most familiar with, but forms of
       life based on force fields which we do not understand yet, and perhaps even
       other forms of life as well.

       4C. We humans are a symbiotic form of life – basically a one-to-many
       symbiosis of a planet-wide “esoteric” life form with our individual mundane
       bodies and brains made of atoms. Those who have become somewhat
       conscious of this symbiosis have occasionally referred to the esoteric life-form
       or its intelligence as “Gaia,” as “noosphere,” as “Brahman,” as “the
       communion of states,” as “the true vine,” as “the collective unconscious,” as
       “omega” or “pi” or whatever – but these are all just second-hand images of the
same underlying physical reality. Henceforth I will define “pi” to be the entire
esoteric entity, “body” included. I will define the “noosphere” to be the
nervous system or “brain” of pi.

4D. No mind or intelligence which really exists can be infallible. Mind as we
know it must have purpose, and must be capable of learning. Mind “as we do
not know it” is basically an empty abstraction without meaning, and at best a
placeholder for an unknown theory. “Pi” itself is not only fallible, but is also
an immature organism, as Teilhard de Chardin has discussed. In biology,
immature organisms do not exist unless they are supported at least sometimes,
to some degree, by more mature organisms somewhere else. The term “God
the Father” refers to such, though of course it does not convey the full
complex reality. At our present level of growth and evolution, it would be
somewhat silly to speculate very much about issues like gender and
mechanisms of reproduction for such entities, since the details of the physics
are so far from our present knowledge. (However, see my book chapter on
self-organization for some ideas.)

4E. The “individual soul” is basically just a module or local region within the
noosphere. Perhaps it is like a neuron within the larger brain. Perhaps it
simply spills its contents into the larger “matrix” of the noosphere at certain
times of termination. Because it would be wasteful for nature to throw out the
information contained in the special connections which exist within such a
module, we would expect it to persist sometimes, so long as it remains useful.
However, as with brains and artificial intelligence systems, we would expect
“garbage collection” routines to exist. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses,
Rumi, Isaac Newton and Einstein have all been unusually useful modules, of
course, in the mind of humanity.
Warning: if you store all your data on RAM, and not on the hard drive, you
may lose it all.

4F. The noosphere is essentially just a large “neural network,” governed by
the universal mathematics of neural networks and intelligent systems. Thus
these are the mathematics which rule our souls, and the noosphere as a whole.
These mathematics are described in scientific terms in my web page on Mind,
and in human subjective terms in my comments on world religions. For an
individual neuron, there are two kinds of input/output signal exchanged with
the rest of the system: (1) information such as ideas, images, words, and goals;
and (2) feedback signals which govern the inner adaptation and survival of
every neuron and the system as a whole. The “qi” or “the force” or “psychic
energy” or “spiritual energy” or the “Tao” (ancient definition) or “charisma”
or “mana” are all just second-hand images of these feedback signals.
Comment: in mathematical terms, these feedback signals are basically just
scaled ordered derivatives. My neural network pioneer award from IEEE was
given for two discoveries, one of them the discovery of the chain rule for
       ordered derivatives, sometimes called “backpropagation.” That is the main
       equation which governs these flows of information.
       Additional comment: “Psychokinetic” effects are no problem to explain in
       this theory, though there are several varieties.

       4G. I see no really reliable evidence, in the laboratory or in human subjective
       experience, which cannot be reconciled with this theory. For example, there
       are those who would claim that alleged miracles could not be explained within
       the confines of this model – but different religions claim different miracles,
       with evidence of similar quality, and it is quite clear that one cannot accept all
       these arguments in their dogmatic forms, since they contradict each other in
       any case! The dogmatism is easily explained by typical human sociology.
       Another example: in Daoism, there is some discussion of “changes in the
       future” which could be explained as the outcome of changing images in the
       noosphere, in cases where sociology is not enough to explain what is going on.

       4H. If you believe in classical materialism, you know that that theory is not
       quite enough by itself to tell you everything you need to know as a human in
       this world. The same is true of this theory as well. Even knowing the
       Lagrangian would not be enough to tell you what patterns emerge in the
       universe which it governs. “As above, so below,” as the neoPlatonists and
       Pythagoreans say.

5. With 50% probability, I believe that the greater cosmos is stranger than
      anything we have any hope of knowing at present. Maybe the true laws
      of physics will even be as weird as superstring theory proposes, but I really
      doubt that, since there is no empirical evidence to support that particular
      theory, and because the theory is motivated by mathematical difficulties
      which can be solved more easily in other ways. But maybe the cosmos could
      be like quantum loop gravity, or like a “giant mind” (albeit not mind as we
      know it!), or like another world which has created our universe as a simulation,
      or a “digital universe,” or maybe it could have eight dimensions and sixteen
      pointer fields. We do need to keep an open mind here… but be careful not to
      go too far out on a limb on any one these possibilities, without having a plan
      for how to test these various possibilities empirically. There is a book called
      “What Dreams May Come” and a movie “The Matrix” and a possibility of
      something intermediate between the two in spirit… who knows? They do both
      resonate with something real in human experience, but it is very unclear what
      reality, if any, underlies that resonance… other than the natural workings of pi.

6. What of the possibility that “experience is not governed by mathematical laws in
   the end?” This is one of those questions we need to scrutinize very carefully
   before we even attempt to answer it. What does the question mean? In essence,
   any intelligible laws to describe the greater reality would be “mathematical;” that
   merely means “well-defined, objectively.” Maybe we will never be able to fully
   understand how the greater cosmos really works – but I see no basis, in any level
       of human experience, for giving up just yet. It is certainly part of our nature to try,
       for as long there is hope for greater progress…and there certainly is such hope, in
       all of what we experience today. Of course, that does not necessarily imply that
       humans will live up to that hope or opportunity. In nature, species come and
       species go, and there is no guarantee at all that the human species or even pi itself
       will survive the difficult challenges which now lie ahead of us.

What Should We Do About It?

No matter what your beliefs about what exists – it still leaves open the question of what
to do about it. In classical materialism, you still get to decide whether you want to adopt a
Confucian lifestyle and ethics, whether you want to be a Marxist, whether you want to be
a British utilitarian or a French existentialist, or try to follow some path of nature. The
situation is exactly the same with the “standard model of the soul,’ except that the politics
are more complicated and the uncertainties a lot more confusing to handle (especially at
first).

Many of the formal ethical philosophies in the world today are intellectual constructs
divorced from real human feelings, neurotic efforts by intellectuals to shield themselves
from unpleasant or embarrassing realities which they do not understand, or codes of rules
developed by one social class in order to manipulate and weaken another social class.
(Any church school which discourages people from truly understanding people in other
parts of the world is almost automatically in the third category. If our noosphere does
succeed in growing and surviving, then such schools and the people who support them
will all end up in the garbage collectors, sooner or later.)

In my “why space?” book chapter, and my page on rationality, I try to explain why I
advocate the path of “sanity” or “sapience,” and what that path entails. In many ways,
it is just a matter of following nature, the same kind of thing that Aristotle called
following “telos”, that Confucius called “integrity,” and that Von Neumann called
“utility.” (OK, these are three images of the same “objective” reality… You understand
them both only if you understand how they can be the same.) However, the utility
function which comes to each of us is essentially a sum of two terms: (1) a mundane
set of terms, which comes from pain receptors, from signals of body chemistry,
and from signals assessing the well-being of other people; and (2) feedback signals from
the noosphere. The path of sapience is to learn how to feel these feelings of “good” and
“bad,” and to learn how to understand where they come from, and to learn how to act
upon them and plan for the… future… This natural state was once called “the Alchemical
marriage.”

It is interesting that a major part of the human brain, the cerebellum system, responds
to a sum of pain signals which are too fast for the upper brain plus feedback signals from
the upper brain. Maybe it has to find a kind of Alchemical marriage of its own. But the
cerebellum does not express itself in words, and does not spend time being lost in the
space of possible words and verbal beliefs. Our upper brain is slower but more powerful,
and it has the potential to learn much more… when it makes the right choices, pursues
growth and survives to adulthood.

				
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posted:11/27/2011
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