Tag Archives: metaphysics

Bets, Anyone?

I have no doubt that I’m conscious (at least, most of the time). An attempt to deny consciousness is in itself proof of its existence. Reality is real. That’s why we have a word for it. Speculation that physical reality and consciousness are illusions is sophomoric and tedious.

When a plant draws water up against the force of gravity, that is an event that unequivocally distinguishes life from inanimate matter. Life profoundly differs from rocks, stars, and galaxies- – -notwithstanding the fact that stardust is the matter that makes life possible. Only life is simultaneously imbedded in matter and consciousness. Unlike inanimate matter, a blade of grass is not passive to gravity. Life is a band of existence in the universe that includes will.

When a stone (inanimate) and a man (animate) roll down a hill, the stone does so in absolute conformity with ‘the laws of physics,’ the man (as long as he is conscious) engages in willful activity to keep himself from injury or death. Will is a concept applicable only to the animate world.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution maintains that survival is primarily dependent on chance. In that context, the erratic nature of our biosphere determines which species shall survive and which shall not. His theory implicitly describes a pattern of life that mirrors the passive state of inanimate matter, i.e., life as deterministic.

On the other hand, Darwin’s predecessor, Lamarck, posited that the evolution of a species is driven by the use or disuse of limbs and organs in response to its environment. That process eventually leads to a new species (acquired characteristics). His theory explicitly describes a pattern of life that is generated by will.

The difference between these two evolutionary theories is profound. One theory subsumes evolution as primarily a function of chance; the other, of purpose.

Of course there are several less celebrated evolutionary theories of life, whether based on chance or purpose. Basically, these are variations of the two principal theories mentioned above. For example, although it significantly strains credibility, there is a theory that suggests life is a process through which the universe is trying to ‘understand itself.’ It maintains that the fundamental agents driving life are genomes. Are we therefore vehicles through which the universe is seeking to know itself? I think not.

The now traditional standard model of the Big Bang traces the evolution of the universe beginning at 10-43 seconds when physics and time as we know them began. The stages of its evolution are described in time frames beginning with billionths of a second to billions of years, the current stage being the era in which atoms have linked to form complex molecules and living matter.

Cosmologists tell us that we are in a ‘habitable zone’ of the universe. The criteria for those zones obviously include an extremely thin margin of temperature somewhere between infinite heat and absolute zero. We are told that somewhere within that margin, matter is cool enough for atomic linkage that transforms inanimate matter to animate matter.

I have a problem with that. The universe is 13.7 billion years old. At its birth, matter and antimatter have a titanic battle. Matter remains standing as the universe inflates. Gravity instantly splits from the three other forces that, in turn, interact with each other and gravity. Matter is inanimate through billions of years of star and galaxy formation that is equally inanimate. Suddenly (in terms of billions of years) the inanimate becomes animate ‘because it’s cool enough for it to do so.’ Gravity, the strong force, and radiation remain inanimate. I hesitate to include the electromagnetic force as totally inanimate.

I’m not a cosmologists. My mathematical ability is equivalent to that of a brilliant three-year-old, and my physics is elementary. But I recognize that there must be good reason for cosmologists to focus on quantum gravity for profound revelations about the universe. I also am not a fan of fantastic cosmological theories like parallel universes and the like. But I think my metaphysical speculations about the four forces of the universe may have some relevance.

For decades, cosmologists have sought the ultimate description of the universe by focusing on quantum gravity. My bet is on electromagnetism. I think of gravity as the skeleton of the universe; electromagnetism as its soul. If I were a cosmologist, there is where I’d look for answers to the origin of life. Neurologists investigate the brain and nervous system a posterior, i.e., now that the brain has evolved from the first instant of life itself. Biologists and physicists examine the brain and nervous system from their perspective. Philosophers as well as scientists investigate the epistemological aspects of the brain and nervous system. And so on. I wonder what the a priori creation of will, a function of electromagnetism, would reveal about the universe.

Am I anthropocentric? Of course I am. Like you, my synapses are all I’ve got to understand the universe and me. I don’t speculate on far out theories. But I know that thought is exclusive to living organisms. Exactly what is it that dances through our brains and from one brain to another, even in the form of mental telepathy (which I know exists). What is it that makes us love, laugh, create art, study stars, and split atoms? Does all this exist only because the right temperature transformed matter to life?

I doubt it. 

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