Roger Eugene Hill
The life, career, scientific and spiritual insights of a physicist plus a few excursions into Complexity Science and Art.
REH
--
With Louise. Tent Rocks,
New Mexico. Dec 2016.




















REFLECTIONS

I am a physicist - the kind of scientist that is fascinated by and takes great delight in what can be seen when the physical world is closely and carefully observed with the light of reason. I am a small piece in a network of human activity that stretches back to the beginnings of our history. Over the centuries a method of observing nature has evolved within the network that is based on the interplay of deductive and inductive reasoning. It uses the cycle of observation, analysis and prediction to produce an ever expanding helix of knowledge. The energy that drives that expansion is the fascination with knowledge and the delight of discovery that springs from the very core of us who are fortunate enough to be a part of that activity. In the chapters that follow I will present a way of looking at things that reflect that fascination and delight. I thank you for your visit to the site and invite you to read on in the hopes that, in spite of the effort involved, we may connect and that you will be fascinated and delighted by what emerges.

Zero

This Reflection deals with the concept of complementarity, the zero point energy of the vacuum and the role of uncertainty in existence. It is presented first as some observations derived from modern physics concerning the nature of the material world and then as some personal ideas about the metaphysical implications of these observations.

Physics

The following ideas are summaries taken from an overview of modern physics that I have included on a separate page.

     • Quantum mechanics resolves the paradox of the duality of the wave-particle nature of light with the concept of complementarity. Photons and waves are complementary aspects of a single reality we call light. When we observers interact with the “real” world we can sometimes only see complementary aspects of reality. The most likely reason for this is that uncertainty is built into the very core of the material world.

   • The uncertainty principle is not simply the result of measurement, it is essential to the creation of the energy of the stars and of most of the energy on the earth through the process called quantum tunneling. Without the operation of the uncertainty principle the sun would have never shone and we would not exist.

  • The virtual zero-point energy of the electromagnetic field that arises from the uncertainty principle has observable effects in the real world. Zero-point energy may be involved in some of the most fundamental aspects of the material world.

 • Spacetime is not just a mental construct - it is an integral part of the material world. It is an observed fact that spacetime is not an absolute - it is defined relative to material bodies and it is curved by the presence of material bodies.

 • (DRAFT) Observations tell us that our universe and the spacetime that it defines began in an event called the Big Bang that took place 13.7±0.13 billion years ago. Spacetime is now expanding according to the laws of General Relativity and will continue to do so forever. At the instant of the Big Bang all of spacetime and the energy in the universe was concentrated in a tiny point called a singularity. The laws of General Relativity predict the existence of the singularity but break down "inside" the singularity (since it doesn't admit there is an "inside".) The beginning of the expansion of the singularity into the universe was governed by a period of extreme conditions called the inflationary epoch until conditions were such that the laws of General Relativity took over. The detailed physics of inflation is not yet understood but it is assumed that quantum fluctuations (zero-point energy) played a dominant role during the inflationary period of the universe.

 • (DRAFT) Observations in atomic, nuclear and particle physics have led to the unification of the quantum field theories for the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force into a single theory known as the Standard Model. The holy grail of modern physics is to unify the gravitational force with the Standard Model into a new Grand Unified Theory. It is clear that this means developing a quantum theory of gravity. There is a natural length scale at which the quantum and gravitational worlds come together in our universe based on the values of Planck's constant, the speed of light and the universal gravitational constant ( a number that comes into play in all gravitational interactions.) This length scale is called the Planck length and is of the order of 10-35 meters. As the inflationary period of the universe's expansion began at or passed through these length scales all forces were unified and it is this period that a quantum theory of gravity must describe. A key question, however, is what prevents the enormous gravitational virtual energy densities existing at the Planck length throughout our universe from wreaking havoc within our universe? (These gravitational virtual energy densities are 10122 times higher than the real matter/energy densities observed in our universe!) There is a barrier between the virtual zero-point energy and the real world but tunneling through that barrier occurs under certain conditions to allow the effects observed above. (Technical note: I don't personally yet understand how such a barrier might come into play at the vertices of the Feynman diagrams that are used to describe how forces occur through the exchange of virtual particles. But one might speculate that the various coupling constants involved reflect the probability for the tunneling.)

• (DRAFT) The fine-tuning of the conditions required for stable ordinary matter to emerge from the Big Bang, for the expansion of the universe to endure long enough for our solar system to emerge, for life to exist on earth long enough for us to evolve are so incredibly improbable that it is reasonable to scientifically assert that our existence qualifies as a miracle.

Metaphysics

The metaphysical reflections in Zero have to do with the origins of things and are presented in the form of three different cosmologies. We begin by speculating about what exists outside of the bubble of spacetime that began in the Big Bang and that is defined and shaped by the matter in our observable universe. Whatever exists outside of our spacetime I am going to call Spirit. The first cosmology arises from assuming that the Big Bang (our spacetime) emerged from the zero-point energy of a limitless quantum vacuum. The operative principle in this cosmology is the uncertainty principle so I'm going to call this cosmology: Spirit as Uncertainty. It is the cosmology of complete randomness. The second cosmology speculates that the Big Bang is the result of an act of creation.  I'm going to call it: Spirit as Certainty. This is the cosmology of religion. It is fundamentally dualistic in its outlook and the purpose of creation is considered to be a mystery - beyond human awareness. The theologies accompanying this cosmology attempt to explain the relationship of humans to an omniscient, omnipresent Being who personally wills everything that happens. The third cosmology is an extension of the second that I call Spirit as Awareness. This is the cosmology of spirituality. Its outlook is one of unity and the purpose of creation is identified as being related to the existence of awareness. Our connection to Spirit is through our awareness and it is equally open to all of us. It is we who are responsible for what happens in our lives. It is up to us to use our reason to cooperatively protect life from the random violence of the material world including that of human beings refusing any connection to Spirit and acting from their animal natures alone. The third cosmology does not deny the second: it completes it. The spiritual cosmology is one of unity and equality where each of us can choose to connect with the One Spirit and consciously participate in the great work of evolution to bring forth greater awareness/love in the universe.

Spirit as Uncertainty

One way to explain the highly improbable conditions that allow for our existence on earth is to assume a multiverse Cosmos where there are an infinite number of other “universes”. These universes are thought to arise, as did our own Big Bang universe, from random fluctuations permitted by the uncertainty principle in the zero-point energy field of a limitless quantum vacuum. I think this idea is getting way out in front of observational cosmology and requires a leap of faith that quantum physics, derived from observation in our universe, is applicable to a virtual world existing "before" the Big Bang. But it is an interesting idea and may provide some with an alternative to faith in the existence of a creator.

In this Cosmos, everything that can possibly exist does exist in the infinity of universes. In this cosmology the existence of sentient life in our observable universe, requiring a set of such highly improbable ("finely tuned") conditions, is just a random event. We are here as a consequence of the fact that in a sea of infinite possibilities an event with a probability approaching the miraculous zero does have a finite possibility of happening. This is what is sometimes referred to as the "strong anthropic principle". A Cosmos where everything that can exist does exist and the zero-point energy field exists simply because it can exist, is a playful if not chaotic Cosmos. It is the Cosmos where imagination is everything and the artist or mathematician can take great delight in knowing that anything imaginable is certain to exist – somewhere in some bubble of spacetime.

I ask myself, though, as a member of the anthropic community, does this square with what I see when I examine my own existence as a micro-observer? Can all the important events in my life be completely explained by randomness? When I try to observe my anthropic community with as much objectivity as possible, do I see only complete randomness at work? If randomness explains everything you see then you have had the good fortune of finding a consistent way of looking at things. But please remember that this idea of an infinity of universes rising from the vacuum as a result of random quantum fluctuations permitted by the uncertainty principle is highly speculative and is not based on scientific observation. It may even be an unobservable proposition. You may also want to consider the observation that some of your fellow micro-observers report seeing something else besides randomness at work in the world. I am one of them –- and I hope to reflect that in the chapters that follow.

Spirit as Certainty

I recognize that the vast majority of my fellow micro-observers have highly cherished ways of looking at things that ignore the role of uncertainty in the natural world. This view of the world starts with the premise that the Big Bang was an act of creation by a perfect, complete and omniscient being who is the Observer of all that happens in the material world of our spacetime. The role of observer is very important to us. Our own knowledge of the material world flows from the trinity of observer-observation-nature. It is natural that we are fascinated with the observer element of this trinity and treasure the delight we as micro-observers find in the mirror of contemplation. But this focus on the certainty of our own reflections ignores the disunity and division within the human community that proceeds naturally from the inability to prove the completeness (truth) of an image constructed from a collection of micro-images, especially, mirror images. There is no agreement within our community about the "truth" of our image of the creator or the purpose of our existence. We turn to "religious authorities" who we believe have somehow been able to span what we see as the fundamental duality between creator and creation to define these for us.

When you observe the world as it exists on planet earth you can find great delight but you can also find unspeakable horror. All of this horror comes from division within our human community. Collections of micro-observers are struggling to protect and defend the certainty of their vision without any way to prove the truth of it. In this struggle people who speak, look or think differently from their own collective are branded as heretics, infidels, inferior races, or dangerous dissidents and are murdered, raped or imprisoned without hesitation. It is sad but also hopeful to realize that the cosmology-of-certainty gives rise to all this horror not because it's wrong but because it's incomplete. A complete cosmology that reflects the nature of our spacetime must include uncertainty as well as certainty. The incomplete image of the truth seen in our separate mirrors becomes completed in the hologram of universal truth of which we are all a part.

Spirit as Awareness

This cosmology begins with the assertions that our universe began with an act of creation, that the creator has a purpose, and that that purpose is reflected in the nature of the created universe. The physical aspects of the cosmology must reflect the fact that everything you see around you -- the mountain ranges, clouds, ocean, forests, the buildings, the computer in front of you, the food that you eat, the air that you breathe, all the molecules in your body -- everything began as one thing. Some modern cosmologists call this one thing the inflaton particle -- some of the ancients called it simply the cosmic egg. That oneness and the creative principle that drove the inflationary epoch of the universe and fine tuned the conditions that produced the universe as we see it is still present in everything that now exists -- including you.

The oneness of everything is beginning to assert itself in the observations of modern physics: field theories that tell us that one particle is in principle effected by all the other particles in the universe; Mach's conjecture that local inertial mass is affected by all the other masses in the universe; experiments in quantum entanglement that show that particles that appear to us to be separate actually behave as if they are one thing. I believe that future advancements of the physical aspects of this cosmology will reflect the unity of all things ever more clearly. This of course will include the unification of Quantum Physics and General Relativity that will explain the physics of the early inflationary epoch. [Technical speculation: I wonder if a typical Grand Unified Theory capability would be to calculate the effect of a quantum process such as the alpha decay of a uranium nucleus on the curvature of the local (quantized) spacetime.]

The creative principle that fine tuned the initial conditions of the inflationary epoch is present as the universe continues to expand and life continues to evolve in everything that exists. It is this principle that is the subject of all scientific study. It is what Einstein and Hawkings (used to) refer to as the "Mind of God". Of course, if we define God as everything that exists outside of our spacetime we can never know the Mind of God; we can only know the creative principle as it applies to our own created world. Our study of the creative principle proceeds through the trinity of observer-observation-nature. This process is driven by awareness and its product is ever greater awareness. I believe this is because the creative principle is awareness itself.

A clue to the meaning and purpose of our existence is the fact that our world contains uncertainty as well as certainty. Because this means there is a built-in direction caused by the arrow between uncertainty and certainty: Uncertainty-->Certainty. Like entropy, certainty in a closed system can never decrease. If certainty were to become uncertainty then it was never truly certain. Our purpose, as it is for all self-aware micro-observers that exist throughout the universe, is to use our awareness to bring certainty out of uncertainty thereby increasing awareness and perfecting creation.

The Principle of the Micro-Observer

If our purpose is to use the creative principle of awareness within us to increase awareness and perfect creation then it is reasonable to assume that the purpose of creation is to produce us. This could be called the ultimate anthropic principle except there is no reason to restrict it to human beings -- it would apply to all self-aware beings throughout the universe. The creative principle that sustains our existence as biological beings manifests itself in great and wondrous diversity. But the awareness that drives our process as micro-observers in the trinity of observer-observation-nature is one with the Observer that created the world. Though we are each only small pieces of the Observer, we contain the pattern of the Whole within our own awareness. I believe that is because Awareness is a hologram.


(I realize that it would be more scholarly to develop these essays as finished products complete with annotations and references. But right now I am forming connections that have provided me with valuable feedback. So, please bear with me and continue to look in from time to time as a clearer picture of this way of looking at things emerges.)

 September 4, 2009, September 27, 2009


One

Physics

A hologram is a recorded pattern created by the interference of a beam of light
Pattern
  A pattern
with a portion of that same beam that has been diverted and reflected off of an object.
Image
        An image
When the pattern is illuminated with the same light used to create it, an image of the object emerges. The pattern contained in each small piece of the hologram can be illuminated to recreate the entire object but the resolution of the image decreases with the size of the piece. That is, the smaller the piece the fuzzier the picture. The pattern for all of the whole is contained in each small piece but the image becomes clearer and clearer as the pieces are joined into larger and larger fragments. (Though holography is a human invention, I think we're learning that some very important holograms [encoded patterns] actually exist in nature - DNA [life forms], the brain [memory], spacetime [matter/energy].)


A Spirtual Metaphor

We are all small pieces of a spiritual hologram. Each of us contains an encoded pattern of the universal truth. The image of that truth becomes clearer as we become connected to larger pieces of the hologram. The connections are established through awareness. The connections are awareness. But love and awareness are equivalent in the same way that matter and energy are equivalent: by becoming fully aware of another being (willing to connect) you will love them; by fully loving another being you will become aware of them. So, the connections are also love. (Love is a much overworked word that sometimes seems demeaned by a certain mawkishness. I use the word love here in the sense of the creation of a meaningful union - of becoming one with the other.)

The spiritual purpose of our existence is to help build the hologram. Our purpose is to establish connections in love and awareness that enable the vision of the universal truth to emerge in ever greater beauty and clarity when it is illuminated with the light that created it. Our purpose is to help the universe become aware of itself, to help the universe become one with itself. The universal truth is that the hologram of which we are all a small part, the light that created it, and the observer viewing the emerging image are all, in some ineffable and mysterious way, ONE. The One that Buddha refused to name, or the One that Lao Tzu called the Tao but refused to talk about, or The One that many people refer to simply as God (or Adonai, or Allah, or Brahman).

The theologically inclined might be perturbed by the notion that a complete observer can somehow be one with an emerging image, that Being and Becoming are somehow one. As a scientist I can't really help you there. Mystery is, after all, at the heart of your study. I suspect you can go back to the Vedic traditions and reflect on the notions of creation and destruction as complementary aspects of a single divinity. But we in physics are struggling with a similar problem brought to us by experiments in the quantum physics of entangled states - material states that are observed to interact as if they are in each other's immediate locality even though they are separated by very large distances.  I suspect that we are going to wind up realizing that oneness and separateness are complementary aspects of a single reality in the same way that waves and photons are complementary aspects of light. It pretty much all depends on how you look at it (what measurements you make).

I said that the hologram is a spiritual hologram but, as we are also material beings, the connections of love/awareness have physical aspects. Therefore the hologram has a material aspect as well. You, reading these words on your computer screen, are the proof of that. The connection of awareness that we have just established exists because of the www - a world wide web of optical fibers, copper wires and exquisitely constructed electronics. What a fantastic thing we have created! (It was foreshadowed by the work of physicists at CERN at about the same time as I was working there on an experiment on time-reversal invariance. (Does time have an arrow at the scale of quantum physics?)) But the morality of the hologram must become the ethics of the internet: focus the light on anything that inhibits or impedes awareness/love until it is transformed. The physical aspects of our connections in love are obvious to us all. And, because of our animal natures, they often lead to complicated situations. But if our connections include the spiritual aspects and keep alive the full dynamics (positive feedback) of love/awareness, they can lead to great material happiness. When you make a love/awareness connection with another human being you are connected to all their network of love/awareness connections and therefore become part of a larger piece of the hologram and experience a clearer image of the universal truth. Witnessing the universal truth emerging more clearly from communion with your lover is one of the greatest experiences humans can know.

But it's important to remember that because the hologram is spiritual you can equally make love/awareness connections in the spiritual realm - a realm that is completely outside of spacetime. (Can a scientist believe in a spiritual realm? As a scientist I can only function within the framework of spacetime. I have absolutely nothing scientific to say about the existence of anything outside of spacetime.) This means that you can make love/awareness connections with any spirit that has ever been or will ever be a part of the hologram.
 
From the beginnings of human history and in all corners of the world there have emerged enlightened beings. They have been called shamans, prophets, sadhus, saints, mystics, bodhisattvas, and much more. They are enlightened because they have opened themselves to connections in love/awareness with a very large part of the hologram so that the image of the universal truth (God) that is revealed when they are viewed with the light that created them (love) is brilliantly clear. You can realize this clear image yourself by connecting in love/awareness with the large part of the hologram connected to the spirit of any of these beings. Many people have given witness to how their "eyes have been opened" by becoming connected in love/awareness with Jesus, or the Prophet, or Gautama Buddha, or the Lord, or those we refer to simply as Master (Maharaj-ji) or Father (Babaji). But it is important for the future of humanity that we all realize and realize soon that these beings are all reflecting the same single universal truth of oneness. They may all be physically expressing it in the language, idioms and symbols of their own cultures and times but it is derived from the same pattern encoded in all of us - each and every little piece of the same hologram.

There is much to learn about spiritual connections. How much depends on my sending love/awareness outward looking for connections and how much depends on spirits extending their love to me trying to integrate me into larger fragments of the hologram? Are the connections passive (permanent) or active (volatile), requiring some kind of continued spiritual action (ritual) on my part?  But I do know that as material beings we have free will and we can refuse connections either spiritual or material. It is against our very nature and the purpose of our existence to refuse all love/awareness connections. It's also a very dangerous way to live. The light will still shine on you but the image of the universal truth that you project will be so fuzzy as to be unintelligible, maybe even unobservable. That could be a physicist's definition of hell.

I said that the spiritual purpose of our existence is to help build the hologram. I believe that is also the purpose of human evolution. The French scientist/priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said the purpose of evolution was to create a noösphere - a protective membrane of awareness that would surround the earth. That metaphor was appropriate for his time (1881-1955) and his field (paleontology/biology) and I believe he was right. The physical aspects of the hologram do look a lot like the noösphere. Evolution is moving us in the direction of greater material awareness and the internet is clearly a prototype of the noösphere. But the hologram is more - much more. I believe the purpose of the hologram will eventually lead to the evolution of societies that reflect its morality: "evil" is that which inhibits or impedes awareness/love. If the day could ever come when all human beings are connected in love/awareness and can clearly realize the universal truth of oneness, the reign of the Spirit will truly have arrived on the earth. It may have already arrived on other planets in our universe. And the day may also come when we can connect in love/awareness with them and the encoded image of universal truth of oneness will be revealed in ever more beauty and glory.


Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 19, 2009
rev. September 4, 2009

 
By the way, the physics of the hologram is such that the image encoded in the hologram will be revealed to you only if you view it with the same light that was used to create it. If you use some other light, you will see only diffraction noise and it will appear to you as complete gibberish.

Like this->
Noise


Two

This reflection deals with duality and the paradoxes of "either/or".


Physics

The Correspondence Principle

The observations on which modern physics are based do not invalidate the observations of classical physics. They only complete them and extend them. The knowledge that flows from the cycle of observation-analysis-prediction-observation always includes that which precedes it. Modern physics incorporates the correspondence principle which states that the modern and classical descriptions of nature become one at some limit of the range of applicability called the classical or correspondence limit. The equations of motion of special relativity become the classical (Newton’s) equations of motion when the velocities are much less than the velocity of light. The equations of general relativity become the equations of classical gravitational theory in the limit of weak gravitational forces and quantum mechanics becomes classical mechanics at length scales much larger than the DeBroglie wavelength of the matter in motion. Nevertheless, quantum mechanics experiments have revealed several paradoxes that challenge the classical view of reality itself.

The Paradox of the Double-Slit Experiment

The first of these is the famous Young double-slit experiment that demonstrates the wave nature of light. It was first performed by Thomas Young in 1801 and caused quite a stir in the classical world since Newton had postulated that light was made up of particles; but, that’s another story. The experiment consists of illuminating a plate that has two slits cut in it with a beam of monochromatic light and observing the patterns of light formed on a detector plate located on the side opposite the light source. The two apertures act as two independent sources of highly correlated (coherent) light. The pattern observed on the detector plate by Young and the many people who have repeated this experiment is a series of maxima and minima in light intensity. This is called an interference pattern because it is created by the peaks and troughs of the two separate waves interfering with each other to enhance or cancel each other in the combined wave. It is this experiment combined with those on the photo-electric effect that led to the conundrum of the wave particle-particle duality of light that Bohr addressed with the principle of complementarity that I discussed in On Zero. But modern versions of this experiment have been done where the slits are illuminated with beams of particles (photons, electrons, etc.) that guarantee that only one particle at a time arrives at the slits. The particles are emitted one at a time by the source, pass through only one or other of the slits and are detected at the detector plate as single particles. The thing that our classical minds finds incredible is that the particles arriving at the detector plate form an interference pattern. Each single particle has interfered with itself! What began and ended its journey as one thing somehow became separate and was in two places at once. Complementarity says this happens because putting the plate with the apertures in the beam causes the wave nature of the particles to manifest itself (waves are in many places at once.)

It offers no explanation of how this happens. It only acknowledges that it does and provides the means of precisely calculating the details of the interference pattern, as well as the emission and detection of the particles. It is perhaps the impossibility of explaining this kind of behavior with our current state of knowledge that gave rise to the famous slogan: “Shut up and calculate!” or Richard Feynman’s claim that “No one understands quantum mechanics.”

The Paradox of Entangled States

The second great paradox is the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox that deals with what are now called entangled states. It is possible to prepare sets of particles, say A and B, that have correlated properties: for example, a pair of photons with polarizations that are at right angles to each other; or, an electron-positron pair with opposite spins. Since these are quantum states they are subject to the uncertainty principle and they therefore do not exist in a definite state of polarization or spin: both A and B exist (mathematically, in Hilbert space) in what is known as a superposition of possible states. All quantum mechanics can tell us is the probability of finding a particle, say, A, in a particular state of polarization or spin if we set up an experiment to measure it. But because of the underlying correlation, the probabilities for A and B are entangled. Carrying out a measurement of A’s polarization in some arbitrarily chosen direction immediately forces B to be polarized at right angles to A no matter where B is located in space. This is what Einstein complained about, calling this “spooky action at a distance” and led EPR to conclude that quantum mechanics is an incomplete theory. Modern experiments have proven the existence of such entangled states time and again. The experiments have been done where B is located far enough away from A that information about the outcome of A could not be communicated at the speed of light from A to B in time to influence the state of B. This violates the conditions of Special Relativity that say that nothing (not even information) can travel faster than light. So, if we don’t abandon Special Relativity (an experimentally verified theory) we are faced with an apparent experimental violation of (local) causality: the effect has preceded the cause.

Complementarity May Be the Connection.

Throughout my career I have been amazed at the ingenuity of theoreticians at explaining away inconvenient experimental findings. But I can’t imagine doing science in our entropy ordered bubble of spacetime without the aid of the principle of causality. So, I prefer to think that the weak logical link in explaining the quantum entanglement experiments is the insistence that A and B are separate. Perhaps what these experiments do is to make manifest the oneness of A and B. This would make these experiments the logical reverse of the double-slit experiments where the apertures somehow caused the one photon to manifest itself as two separate sources of interference without ever losing its oneness. The entanglement experiments somehow cause the separate states A and B to manifest themselves in the real world (not Hilbert space) as one state without ever losing their separateness. The paradox of the double-slit experiment is “resolved” or, at least accommodated, by the complementarity principle applied to waves and particles. The EPR paradox may be similarly “resolved” by complementarity applied, perhaps, to the very notions of separateness and oneness. This would make separateness and oneness complementary aspects of a single reality that manifest themselves depending on what measurements are being made (how you look at it).

Metaphysics

Separatism

Dualism comes naturally to us: perhaps because of our bipedal bodies or bicameral brains. But, for whatever reason, we seem firmly attached to our dualistic views of the world. The separatism that that engenders has been of pragmatic value to us during our biological evolution. It has enabled us to rise to the top of the earth’s biological food chain and to create cultural institutions that control, at least to some degree, the violence of our animal natures. The view that we are separate from each other and from the material world has been and continues to be useful but it is an incomplete view of reality. Our vision of ourselves needs to be completed so that the purposes of evolution and the Creator can be realized. This completion will bridge the divisions that inhibit the love/awareness that is within us. It will come about by developing the realization of how and why we are at one with the natural world, with each other and with the Creator.


Oneness with the Natural World

Modern science has revealed to us that all the diversity in the material world we see around us has evolved from a single object. The Creator carefully formed (“fine tuned”) that object with the initial conditions and the creative principles that have guided that evolution from the inflationary epoch of the Big Bang to the present. I believe that the Creator’s purpose and the workings of the creative principles have to do with the evolution of self-aware biological beings capable of the awareness of the Self that is the image and likeness of the Creator.

  Birth
Our biological evolution has taken place on the surface of a planet under conditions that are often described as “hostile”: collisions with astronomical objects; volcanic eruptions; earthquakes; etc. But the scientific story of how the conditions for life were created on Earth might give you a different perspective. Collisions of astronomical objects or shock-waves with the clouds of matter surrounding the sun in the early days of the solar system imparted angular momentum (spin) to the clouds. As these clouds coalesced into the planets the angular momentum caused the planets to rotate. The heat from the decay of radioactive elements in the body of the Earth created a molten metallic core. The rotation of the Earth causes this molten metallic core to generate a magnetic field that surrounds the Earth. This magnetic field protects the Earth from the streams of charged particles that emanate from the sun (the “solar wind”).
  Atmosphere
This allows the atmosphere of the Earth to exist because the gases in the atmosphere would otherwise be blown away by the solar wind (as has happened to Mars). Most of the gases of our atmosphere (including carbon dioxide and water vapor) were “outgassed” from the interior of the Earth through volcanic activity powered, again, by radioactive decay. When the Earth cooled sufficiently the water vapor condensed into the oceans. Because water has the very unusual property that its solid form is lighter than its liquid form (ice floats) the oceans remained liquid long enough for life to begin its explosive evolution. To this day, quantum tunneling maintains the rate of radioactive decay deep beneath your feet that sustains the heat of the core that maintains the Earth’s magnetic field. And this protects the atmosphere -- the beautiful blue membrane that provides us with the breath of life and protects all life within it from the lethal effects of solar and cosmic radiation.

There are of course threats to life that exist inside the protection of the atmosphere. Some of the energy from the same radioactive decay that is responsible for the creation and protection of the atmosphere makes its way to the surface of the Earth in the form of devastatingly destructive earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. In our grief at the loss of life we ask: how can the Creator allow such “evil” things to happen?

These awful events are natural consequences of the same creative principles that are responsible for life on Earth. How could the Creator suspend the radioactive decay that is responsible for maintaining the protection of the atmosphere itself? As the self-aware biological beings on this planet it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to understand these creative principles and how they operate. The Creator has given us volcanologists, seismologists, geophysicists, oceanographers, architects, emergency planners, first responders, doctors, nurses and many others who devote and even risk their lives to trying to understand, predict and mitigate the consequences of these events. In the midst of such an awful event I can see myself praying to the Creator for a miraculous intervention. But in the face of such eventualities I prefer to think of these people as agents of the Creator and support them in all of their efforts to protect life. In the grand scheme of things it is perhaps the threats to life that have been the driving force for the evolution of intelligence as a biological faculty.

I know there are those of you who believe that our nature is basically perhaps even genetically selfish or that altruism is a hoax to gain power. But I think there are many examples where cooperation with nature and/or each other have been driving forces in our evolution. The source of energy and the regulation of metabolism within each of the tens of trillions of our cells are mitochondria which have their own genome and are more closely related to bacteria than to us. A less vital but still important symbiosis is with the hundreds of trillions of microorganisms within our bodies that help us digest our food. Cooperation with each other improved our efficiency as hunters but the cooperation of nature permitted the development of agriculture. Microbes condition the soil, insects and birds assist with pollination and bacteria help produce some of our favorite foods like bread, cheese and wine. The separatist vision of the world must be completed with knowledge derived from the science of ecology and the development of a holistic understanding of our relationship with our planet.

Oneness with Each Other

We are, of course, intelligent beings and that is a faculty we share with many other species of life on this and, probably, other planets. Most of us are willing to kill other intelligent life for food or even for “sport”. But we hold human life to be sacred and have raised great restrictions and penalties against the taking of human life (with certain unfortunate exceptions). Why? It doesn’t seem to be a biological imperative: many species kill and even eat their own kind. I think it’s because we all recognize that the self-aware intellect within us does not come to us from biology alone: there is something unique on our planet about human beings.

As far as we know, we are the only species on the planet capable of abstract thought and of developing symbols to objectify and communicate that thought. We are aware of place and the passage of time and know (or can learn) exactly where we exist in spacetime. This self-awareness is accompanied by an appetite for the good, the true and the beautiful that, to my mind, transcends biology and our animal nature. I believe this self-aware part of our being is immaterial and therefore exists outside of spacetime. This part of us therefore shares its existence with Spirit (all that exists outside of spacetime). If Spirit is Awareness, then our self-awareness shares its existence with the universal Awareness that is the Creator of the material world.

Is the Creator awareness itself? In the Summa Theologica (I,Q.16) Saint Thomas Aquinas writes:
     “ ---The true is that towards which the intellect tends. ---
      ---Truth is the equation of thought and thing. --- (art. 1, resp.)
      --- He Himself [the Creator] is His own existence and act of
           understanding
[emphasis mine]. Whence it follows that not
           only is truth in Him, but that He is truth itself ---“ (art. 5, resp.)
If I may define awareness as the act of understanding producing the equation of thought and thing, St. Thomas’ reasoning also implies that the Creator is awareness itself. The awareness in every self-aware being in creation is derived from the same source, the Creator, and is the reason for the unity of all such beings.

This is, of course, not a new idea: it is espoused in some of our oldest and most sacred texts. The ancient Vedic scriptures teach us that we all contain within us a Universal Self (the Atman) and try to wake us up to the realization that the Atman is Brahman (God). Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. The ancient Greeks' guiding principle for mankind was to "Know Thyself". In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel quoted the Lord as saying: "I will pour forth of my Spirit upon all flesh." The most sacred words in Christianity are, referring to Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word -- and the Word was God--and the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us-- “. Jesus Himself said (John:14): “I and the Father are one.” ; and, “I am in My Father and you in Me and I in you.”; and, “the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him or knows Him, but you know him for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The infusion of the divine into the ordinary human is epitomized by the Pentecost where the Holy Spirit descends into a collection of disciples (Acts 2). Saint Peter clearly intended to universalize this event by prefacing his description of it with the quote from Joel given above. Continuing with Christian theology, Charles Williams’ concept of coinherence is based on the idea that the three divine Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, coinhere in each other as innate components of the one Creator. Williams held “that the unity of mankind consists in the analogical coinherence of men with each other.” So, the vision that all self-aware beings are unified by the common source of our self-aware intellects has been around since the beginning of our history. But it has had a very uneasy coexistence with the separatist view of the world that has dominated the evolution of our cultural, political, and even some of our religious institutions. The unified vision has been relegated to beings beyond the reach of ordinary humans while the separatist vision considers itself to be the only “realistic” way to deal with the problems of ordinary human life. Unfortunately, the “Us versus Them” mentality that separatism has engendered now threatens the quality if not the very existence of human life.

I believe the basic problem in the coexistence of the unified and separatist visions has been the classical mentality that only understands the logic of “either/or”. When confronted with the experimental evidence that light is a particle confined to one location at a time and with other experimental evidence that light is a wave spread over many locations at one time, the classical mind is baffled. It is extremely reluctant to give up its belief that it’s got to be one or the other. But quantum mechanics tells us, essentially, to “get over it” and advances the principle of complementarity that says if you do a measurement of light’s particle nature, it will manifest itself as particles; if you do a measurement of its wave properties, it will manifest itself as a wave. To mimic Keats, that is all you know on earth and all you need to know. Particles and waves are complementary aspects of a single reality we call light. If, in our classical obsession, we try to delve deeper into this reality we find only uncertainty (indeterminism). I believe the unified and separatist visions of mankind represent complementary aspects of human life. Each needs the other to complete and extend our understanding of ourselves.

But the unified vision of the world itself needs completion. We need to recognize that our unity is based not only on the classical recognition that the self-awareness of every human being is derived from the one Creator, but also a new understanding that all of us as individuals share an important and common purpose. And that is to cooperatively increase the totality of awareness/love in the world and thereby participate in the perfection of creation.

The Creator endowed the inflaton particle with the initial conditions and creative principles (laws) that caused the universe to evolve into all the diversity we observe today. Those creative principles produced a world where uncertainty is at the heart of nature. A collection of Radium 226 nuclei in the rocks of some planet will decay by emission of alpha particles due to the operation of the uncertainty principle. We can predict that half of the collection will decay within 1600 ± 7 years but there is no way to predict when an individual nucleus will decay. When it comes to the actions of us self-aware biological beings there is a similar uncertainty in play in the form of our free will. Even collectively our actions appear unpredictable. I believe that the uncertainty in our actions that our free will represents comes to us from the material aspects of our being: emotions, appetites, etc. It is not reasonable to believe that a Creator who is Awareness/Love itself would will for things like the Crusades, Inquisitions, World Wars, the Holocaust, Genocides, and Jihad that destroy self-aware beings to be part of human history. Those things come about by our free will acceptance of the “Us versus Them” mentality fostered through fear or greed by those whose identity, wealth and political power are defined by this mentality.

It is logical to assume that the immaterial Creator can only influence human actions in order to perfect creation through the immaterial aspect of mankind that we share with the Creator: creative self-awareness. It is our sacred duty to cooperate with the purpose of human evolution and connect in awareness/love with one another to complete the separatist vision with a unified vision of mankind and transform “Us versus Them” into “We are One”: to make real the eagle's promise of  "E Pluribus Unum".

Oneness with the Creator

The tendency to view Spirit/matter as a duality leads to a separatist vision that not only are we separate from the world and from each other but from the Creator as well. But many have viewed the human as a part of creation that is both Spirit and matter (by St. Thomas Aquinas, for example). This view of the human foreshadows the complementarity of modern physics. Is your essence spiritual or biological? We know from our own experience that it’s not either/or – we are somehow both. Complementarity tells you that whether you manifest your reality as a spiritual being or as a material being depends in a non-trivial way on how you are measured.

As I discussed above, I believe our self-awareness is an immaterial part of our individuality that we share with the Creator and that we are cooperating with the Creator to perfect creation. So we are also, in that sense, one with the Creator. We do not manifest this oneness by being part of a colorless collective but by exercising our free wills and individual creativity to connect with our awareness of Self and manifest the Creator in the wondrous diversity reflected in the truth of our individual lives.

In terms of the spiritual hologram discussed in the Reflection On One, the universal truth (the Creator) is encoded in the pattern of our individual self-awareness. When we use our free will to connect in awareness/love with our Self, we each creatively manifest a limited image of the Creator (the truth). When we connect in awareness/love with other self-aware beings, the vision of the universal truth of oneness emerges in ever more clarity and beauty.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
October 31, 2009,
November 15, 2009


The Noösphere and You

Physical

The Network

Our spiritual purpose to connect in love/awareness with other self-aware beings is exactly reflected in our material purpose as human beings to cooperate with evolution in the development of the noösphere. This network of thought contains all of human culture, all of its knowledge and all of its wisdom (as well as its folly). Our cooperation consists of doing what we can to increase the content, connectedness, accessibility and inclusiveness of this network for the benefit of all mankind.

The technology required for the development of the network is evolving at an incredible rate. If we take as the beginning of this process the development of written language by the Sumerians in 3400 BCE and scale all of this process until 2009 as if it had incurred in one year, we would find the following milestones on our calendar:

Milestone Scaled Date Human Population (millions)
First written language Jan 1 10
Printing press Nov 23 380
Telegraph Dec 20 1164
Telephone Dec 22 1349
Radio Dec 24 1589
Television Dec 26 2080
Transistor Dec 27 2412
Telstar satellite Dec 28 3136
Cell phone 10:42 AM Dec 29 4250
Internet 3:34 PM Dec 29 4512
Google 5:31 PM Dec 30 6000
Wikipedia 10:23 PM Dec 30 6175
2050* 5:50 AM Jan 3 9200
* Demographic data show that there has been a dramatic reduction in world wide fertility rates over the last 30 years or so. This drop is accompanied by increases in living standards (per capita GDP), and access to education by the female population. The UN forecasts that because of this drop the population of the world could stabilize at about 9.2 billion people by 2050 (The Economist, October 31, 2009)

Telecom
Global telecommunications and the internet are the fabrics out of which the physical aspects of the noösphere are constructed. As you can see from the calendar they have only just arrived in human history. But in this short time we have already seen examples of the many benefits that global networking can bring to humanity.
  Swarm
Groups like the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN) in Canada have used the internet for the early detection of viral infections which led to the early response that prevented a global SARS pandemic. Such work is continuing by groups working with Google.org. Global communications have made it much harder for dictators and other repressive regimes to hide their crimes from world view.The network has also facilitated the globalization of trade that will hopefully and eventually lift much of the world out of poverty to the benefit of all of us.
  CO2


Global resource mapping and environmental monitoring has led to better understanding of human-caused impacts on the environment and will play a vital role in mitigating the adverse impacts. It is important for everyone to realize what is obvious to the scientific community: things like viruses, atmospheric reflectivity (albedo), and the health of the oceans and forests are not national or even regional problems. They are global issues affecting every human being on the planet and they require global cooperation in dealing with them. The global network that supports that cooperation is the noösphere which is nothing less than the collective consciousness of mankind.

Our participation in this great work of evolution involves not only supporting the development of the technology of the network but also a commitment as individuals to use it wisely and responsibly. We can participate in diseminating the good, the true and the beautiful for the benefit of mankind and turn our backs on attempts to spread lies, hatred, division and the obscene. We must resist censorship and all other attempts at institutional control of the network. We must insist that access to the network as free individuals is a basic human right. To that end we must do all that we can to support the spread of literacy and low cost technology required to access the network (such as the Compassion Beyond Borders and the One Laptop per Child projects).

What Cooperation Can Bring

There are a number of developing global crises crying out for attention. In addition to global warming, two of the most serious ones are: the need for generating enough clean electricity to meet the needs of the world population growing both in numbers and living standards; and, meeting the needs of that population for fresh clean water. As these needs intensify in the coming decades, access to energy and water resources could become sources of armed conflict and serious threats to global security. There is a long-term technological fix to these critical problems that could be most efficiently achieved through global cooperation and that makes use of a truly global resource – the oceans.

The surface of the earth is 75% water. The technologies for desalinating and distributing water are well understood. But they require tremendous quantities of electricity. The network already contains the scientific knowledge of how matter is transmuted into energy in all the stars of the universe including our own sun. That knowledge tells us that the fusion of the isotopes of hydrogen contained in a gallon of water would produce the energy equivalent of almost 300 gallons of gasoline. If controlled fusion could be achieved, the oceans could supply mankind with an almost unlimited supply of clean electricity and fresh water without producing any atmospheric pollution or complex waste.

Controlling fusion is an incredibly difficult technical problem. How do you contain the hydrogen isotopes under conditions that will enhance the quantum tunneling leading to fusion and extract the energy from the fusion region without destroying the containment system? Work on this question began more than 50 years ago and several projects exploring the possibilities of using magnetic (ITER) or gravitational fields to confine the fusion region are currently underway. The ITER project is an international project, located in the south of France, that at the time of its inception involved the collaboration of countries representing half of the world’s population. It is an important project that deserves more support than it is now experiencing (the US suspended its financial participation in ITER in January, 2008). But considering what is at stake here, a globally supported all-out effort (in the style of the Manhattan Project) to generate electricity from controlled fusion is an entirely reasonable enterprise. The network could be a critical component of that effort bringing the combined "miraculous inventiveness" of mankind to bear on the problem. It’s not hard to imagine a breakthrough coming from the inspiration or genius of a young man or woman somewhere in Asia, Africa or Latin America educated through and connected to the network. A young mind that only a generation before could have been completely consumed by the struggle for physical survival but is now wondering, for example, if Casimir forces could be used to enhance quantum tunneling through the Coulomb barrier.

I find it fascinating that the oceans that gave birth to life on earth might someday provide the means for mankind to enter a new age of material prosperity while living in harmony with the earth's environment. “Think green!” is a reasonable exhortation to develop short term alternatives and remedies for all the damage caused by our mindless reliance on the 19th century technology of coal based power. (We can only hope that the anti-nuclear-power movement has learned a lesson and will be more technically informed and comprehesive in scope when carrying out future risk/benefit analyses.) But for the long term health of our species and our planet we may need to learn to “Think blue!”

Density


Spiritual

Throughout the history of the earth a number of hominid species have gone extinct. Homo neanderthalensis survived on the earth for more than 300,000 years before the last survivors died out in the caves near Gibraltar some 24,000 years ago. They were an intelligent species having tool making capabilities and socialization skills (as do chimpanzees). But were they self-aware? Were they capable of awareness of the universal Self – of the coinherence of the Creator within them? I can only speculate that they were not - that they were firmly embedded in the biosphere as magnificent hunting animals at the top of their food chain, but they lacked the awareness and creative intellect that would have enabled them to cope with the effects of climate change. It is a fact, though, that they went extinct in their caves - at an evolutionary dead end.

Could the same thing happen to our own species of Homo sapiens sapiens? Perhaps. If we cooperate with evolution and connect with one another in love/awareness to complete the construction of the physical noösphere we will do more than survive. We will have created the conditions for a new species of human beings and made possible a golden age on earth. But, we have a choice. Just as indeterminism is at the quantum core of the material world, free will is at the heart of human nature. If we choose to turn away from love/awareness and from unity with each other, we will go extinct, shivering in fear in caves of selfishness and greed. But if we succeed in connecting with each other in love/awareness in the network of the noösphere, recognizing that at every diverse node in the network is an equal human being - man, woman or child - whose love/awareness is derived from the same universal Spirit as you, we will have achieved an evolutionary breakthrough. The noösphere provides the universal Spirit with the material means for perfecting creation and bringing about the reign of Spirit on earth. It provides the means for mankind to evolve to a new level of awareness and become, what could be named, Homo sapiens spiritualis.

WAVES
Love One Another.
And one day waves of trust
will surge through the noösphere
that will sweep away all weapons of mass destruction.

Love One Another.
And one day waves of understanding
will surge through the noösphere:
-that a bond for building unity among mankind is that
we all love our children;
-that every child born on the earth has rights to protection, nourishment, medical care, a healthy environment, literacy and access to the noösphere.

Love One Another.
And one day waves of compassion
will surge through the noösphere
that will lead mankind to work together to make those rights a reality for all.

Love One Another.
And one day waves of wisdom
will surge through the noösphere
allowing mankind to find ways to share the resources needed for this work without conflict and without damaging the earth.

Love One Another.
And one day waves of activity and enterprise
will surge through the noösphere
that can use the talents and energy of every human being to help bring about and sustain this better world.
Every life will be recognized as precious.
All will prosper.

Love One Another.
And we will bring about the reign of the Spirit on earth.
That, or the caves.
It's our choice.

Hubble
Center
      The Galactic Center


This better world could be the world of Homo sapiens spiritualis - a species of mankind whose evolutionary destiny may be in the stars and whose purpose is entangled with the spreading of love/awareness throughout the universe.
In a few days we celebrate the birth of a great spiritual leader who showed us that the divine and the human can coinhere, who told us to look for the reign of God within ourselves, and who taught us that the only law is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
December 18, 2009

The Biosphere

Physical

Introduction

The elementary particle of life present in all living things on Earth is the cell: an entity that can move, reproduce, and process information. The moment that the first living cell emerged in the soup of organic molecules in the oceans of our planet about 3.7 billion years ago marks the beginning of the biosphere and of an evolutionary process that produced you and me.

In trying to understand how that moment came about and how the process unfolded I find that my favorite word has become “emergence”. My guide to the world of Complexity Science that explores the phenomena of emergence and, particularly, how it applies to biology has been Melanie Mitchell (Complexity: A Guided Tour, Oxford University Press USA, 2009). I have found interesting the insights and information Bruce H. Lipton has brought back from his early years of observing cells in his microscope (The Biology of Belief, Hay House, 2008). I have been greatly inspired by the paleo-biologist and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man, Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 2008, first published in 1959). I have been intrigued by Nancey Murphy, a neuroscientist and Christian theologian, in her discussions of human nature and how our higher capacities emerge from our neurobiological complexity (Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?, Cambridge University Press, 2006). In this essay I will describe what I have learned about cells and the biological processes that lead to you and me and how it all began, with the guidance of these people. I will also indulge in some metaphysical speculation on the interactions of Spirit and Matter.

The world of single cell

One of the aspects of the material world that has continually fascinated me is the scalability and continuity of it all: how the laws that describe it work over enormous scales in size. We have seen  scientific confirmation of what was inscribed on the alchemists' Emerald Tablet: “As Above, so Below.” The unity of it all is fascinating and delightful almost beyond words. So we begin with the simplest and most universal terrestrial life form – the cell. The notion of scalability and continuity implies that there is much to be learned about life on our scale by understanding life at the cellular scale and much to be learned about the stages of biological evolution by exploring how it all got started.

From my point of view, the most interesting thing to recognize about the single cell is that it displays rudimentary intelligence: it has the ability to learn and deal with new situations (cf. Webster's dictionary). Bruce Lipton reports: "When I was cloning human endothelial cells, they retreated from toxins I introduced into the culture dish --- they also gravitated to nutrients--". He goes on to make a strong case that the seat of that intelligence is in the structure that, literally, defines the cell - the membrane.

The role and functioning of the membrane

The cellular membrane is a thin bi-layer of lipids and proteins that forms the boundary of the cell. This boundary encloses and protects the delicate interior world of the protoplasm from the potentially hostile external environment and regulates the interaction between the two. This regulation takes place through the action of receptor protein molecules imbedded in the membrane. Receptor proteins facing the outside of the membrane respond to signals in the environment and trigger some change in the protoplasm. Receptor proteins facing the inside of the membrane respond to signals produced in the protoplasm and release signals into the environment. In the simplest cells, these signals are chemical signals in the form of molecules that match (in the manner of lock and key) the shape and electric charge distribution of the receptor molecules. This kind of chemical signaling is the progenitor of the sense of smell in multi-cellular organisms. The details of how this signaling mechanism works are fascinating and are the subject of a field of specialization in molecular biology called signal transduction. You can learn more about the details here and here (consult the bibliographies in these three links for more in-depth information). Basically what happens is that the activation or blocking of the receptor proteins opens, closes, or changes the shape of channels through the membrane that regulate the interchange of specific molecules and ions between the protoplasm and the external environment.

As cells evolved, but before forming multi-cellular organisms, some of them became sensitive to other elements in their environment, most importantly, to light. The light sensitive paddles on the membranes of these cells are the progenitors of our sense of sight and they made possible the most important biological evolutionary step of all time – photosynthesis. As the protoplasm and external environments became more complex the membrane separating them became more complex through the addition of more and more imbedded receptor proteins. At some point the single cell membrane would simply run out of space. This may explain the appearance of the first multi-cellular organisms in the oceans of the planet about 700 million years ago. Cells joined up to cooperatively share the burden of signal transduction and enhance the probability of cell survival through cell specialization and networking. The membranes of multi-celled organisms became sensitive to additional environmental factors like the electrical potential difference across the membrane (voltage gated channels). Advanced organisms have specialized cells whose membranes are sensitive to mechanical forces (involved in the senses of touch and hearing), portions of the spectrum of electromagnetic waves outside the visible (e.g., infrared detectors in animals), and probably many others yet to be discovered (e.g., the earth's magnetic field?).

The physics of the membrane


From a physics point of view the membrane is a nano-scale electromechanical device. The electrical structure is like that of a gated semiconductor (except the channels conduct molecules and ions rather than electrons and holes.) The gating (the configuration of the channels) is controlled by the potential difference across the membrane which is, typically, 0.07 to 0.08 Volts. This potential difference can be altered by chemical activity in the protoplasm or the presence of electrical charges (molecules and ions) or electromagnetic radiation in the environment. Logically, the membrane behaves as a Programmable Logic Device: a particular set of electrical signals on one side of the membrane produces a particular output of signals on the other side. The question becomes: how is the membrane programmed? My guess is that it programs itself through a feedback mechanism operating between the environment and the protoplasm. (We'll return to this later.)

The mechanical aspect of the membrane arises from the nano-scale forces produced by the electric fields in the membrane. These forces cause the channel shapes to change and can cause convulsions in the membrane that lead to cellular motion. I say nano-scale since the membrane is typically only 7 to 8 nanometers (nm) thick and the channels can constrict to be the size of individual ions. (A human hair is about 100,000 nm thick.) The membranes are flexible but it is estimated that they will rupture if they are subjected to strains of only a few percent. As nanotechnology develops, a fruitful symbiosis is likely to develop between the physics underlying nanotechnology and cellular biology. An example of this can already be seen in the recent establishment of the Engineering Oncology Center at John Hopkins University.

Electric potential differences of 0.07 to 0.08 Volts across a distance of only 7 or 8 nm produce electric fields greater than 100,000 Volts/cm. This is a large field: in dry air it would produce a spark about 1.3 inches long. The lipid bi-layers act as electrical insulators between the protoplasm and the environment (except, of course, for conduction through the channels). It is estimated that the membrane would completely break down in fields above about 250,000 Volts/cm (a 0.2 Volt potential difference across the membrane).

[Technical note: There is concern in some communities (Santa Fe being one of them) about the harmful effects on health of man-made sources of electromagnetic fields. It’s therefore interesting to compare the natural electric fields in cellular membranes of about 100,000 V/cm with the fields from man-made sources. The static magnetic field of the earth to which all of our cells are exposed varies from 25 to 65 microTesla (equator to poles). The World Health Organization has estimated that the average power-frequency electric fields in the home from sources like power lines, appliances, etc. are a less than 1 V/cm (a few tens of V/m) and the magnetic fields are about 0.07 microTesla in Europe and 0.11 microTesla in North America. High frequency sources are more complicated but, for example, for frequencies in the 1 to 2 GHz range and power densities of 1 mW/m2, the electric fields are about 0.006 V/cm and the magnetic fields (free-space) are about 2 microTesla. These power densities occur at 50 m (164 feet) from a cell phone tower operating at 50 W per channel in the GHz range. The US Federal Communications Commission has set the limit for radiation from a mobile phone at 10 W/m2. This produces electric fields in the region of the antenna that are on the order of 1,000 times less than the natural electric fields in the cellular membranes but magnetic fields that are of the order of 10's of milliTesla which is 100's of times larger than the earth's magnetic field. These fields fall of rapidly (with the square of the distance) as you move away from the antenna. The US Food and Drug Administration has set a limit on the power density of radiation leaking from (used) microwave ovens to 50 W/m2 at distances greater than 5 cm from any point on the oven. So, in principle, the electromagnetic field your head experiences from leaving a cell phone antenna right next to it during transmission is roughly the same as from leaving your head about 11 cm (4.4 inches) from a microwave oven while it is running.]

The protoplasm - the seat of memory and source of energy.


The ability of the cell to remember, adapt and reproduce derives from the workings of the protoplasm: the tiny world of water, minerals and organic macro-molecules surrounded by the membrane. The first cells were only 1 to 10 microns in size (a human hair is about 100 microns thick) so they can only be observed in a microscope (observing the membrane requires an electron microscope).

(TO BE CONTINUED.)
[Some of the facts and ideas to be covered in the remainder of this essay:
 -biology emerges from chemistry as a new state of being with its own laws that cannot be reduced to the laws of chemistry and physics -- reductionist thinking is useful but it has limits;
- intelligence and community emerge from biology and self-awareness emerges from intelligence;
 -the first 3 billion years of the biosphere's existence consisted principally of single cell cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) busy working to produce all of the free oxygen in the atmosphere, thus changing the mineral nature of the Earth and making it possible for air breathing life forms to evolve;
-the evolution of multi-cell organisms involved a great deal of symbiosis and cooperation;
- successful evolutionary strategies involve a balance between random exploration for new knowledge (innovation) and purposeful (focused) exploitation of existing knowledge (conservation);
 - Complexity Science can help us understand how cooperation can emerge in a community as self-organizing behavior without the need for a central control or leader;
 - evolutionary adaptation is made possible through the self-replicating molecules of DNA and RNA contained within the cell's protoplasm;
- the "Central Dogma" of classical biology, developed over 50 years ago, is that the information encoded in DNA is implemented in a linear process that starts with a particular gene in the DNA being transcribed into a piece of messenger RNA that is then translated into the synthesis of a specific protein (or small number of proteins) related to a specific cell function;
- Modern biology has discovered that the complexity of living systems is "largely due to networks of genes rather than the sum of independent effects of individual genes". And the growing field of epigenetics has discovered that "there are heritable changes to the function of genes that occur without any changes to the gene's DNA sequence" (Melanie Mitchell). The DNA we inherit is not our destiny and the speed with which evolutionary changes can occur would have come as a big surprise to Charles Darwin but probably not to his predecessor, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.]

(TO BE CONTINUED.)

Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 14, 2010



IN CONCLUSION


A Question?


Given what science has learned about how the material world began, is evolving and how it works; and, given my thirst for the good, the true and the beautiful (and the good definitely includes peace, freedom and justice); and, using my own reason:
How do I make sense of the universe?

A
physical cosmology based on pure randomness does not make sense to me. Our universe and the spacetime it defines had a beginning in the Big Bang. It has not existed forever. For this extremely improbable universe to result from a random event there would have to be an infinity of other universes. We cannot observe that: our science stops at the edge of our own spacetime.

The evolution of our material universe has evolved in an interplay of randomness and determinism (laws). Evolutionary developmental biology observes that biological evolution cannot be explained by random genetic mutations alone: it, too, has evolved in an interplay of randomness and purposefulness. What we observe in our own universe cannot be explained as pure randomness. It makes sense to me to believe that the Big Bang was an act of purposeful creation.

A psychological cosmology based on reductionist thinking that tries to explain self-awareness as a purely biological phenomenon does not make sense to me. I believe that just as biology emerges from chemistry and brings life into existence, self-awareness emerges from intelligence and brings into spacetime an interplay of spirit and matter. Many advances in biological evolution leading to the emergence of greater complexity and capability have involved a symbiosis. The interplay of spirit and matter may also be some form of symbiosis. A psychology that treats self-awareness as an emergent property and takes into account the interplay of the spiritual and the biological makes sense to me.

A spiritual cosmology that divorces the spiritual and the biological does not make sense to me. A holistic and wholesome spirituality will take into account the interplay of spirit and matter that is the essence of our life in spacetime. The spacetime universe makes sense to me as a cooperative enterprise leading to the emergence of greater awareness. The realm of Spirit outside of spacetime is the realm of the Creator. It is only reasonable to speculate that that realm is a realm of pure Awareness and, since I believe that love and awareness are equivalent, that it is a realm of pure Love.

When it comes to our existence in the realm of Spirit, a spiritual cosmology that includes concepts like eternal damnation is not reasonable to me. Eternal loneliness and isolation? Possibly. Eternal punishment at the hands of a cruel being? No. I believe we are created as free, equal and responsible beings: each of us created in the image of the Creator. We will pass beyond spacetime into the eternity that we have prepared - no more and no less.  It makes sense to me that how much awareness/love we will experience in eternity depends entirely on how much we will have grown in love/awareness while being in spacetime.

A social cosmology that says that one of us should rule (even spiritually) over another doesn't make sense to me; nor, does one that says we should hate anyone. Free, equal and responsible beings will cooperate to bring about increasing awareness and a society that satisfies our universal thirst for the Spirit - the source of all that's good, true and beautiful. We will strive to Love One Another. That is a social cosmology worthy of our Creator - the Spirit within each of us.

A worldly cosmology that includes activities that lead to the destruction or even the impoverishment of human life doesn't make sense to me. It has taken billions of years of material evolution to bring about conditions for the emergence of self-aware beings on this planet capable of a relationship in love/awareness with the Creator. The physical environment and web of life leading to and sustaining such beings must be protected. Activities that cooperate with nature to promote and sustain the well being of all humanity make sense to me.

The discrepancy between the actual world and the vision presented here is painfully obvious. Some will be inclined to write off this vision as hopelessly naïve. But I believe that radical hope is warranted because human evolution is an ongoing process now taking place in the realm of our consciousness. If our universe is the result of an act of purposeful creation, then it makes sense that evolution has a purpose. And the life threatening mess that most of the world finds itself in today cannot be in harmony with that purpose. The transformation of the world will come about when we transform our consciousnesses to become aware of the purpose of our evolution and use our individual free will to cooperate with that purpose.

How long could that take? Epigenetics has shown that environmental pressures can produce heritable changes in a species’ appearance and structure (morphology) that persist for many generations (perhaps permanently). So, physical evolutionary changes can occur very quickly. An evolution in consciousness can happen in an instant. Basically, it can happen as soon as we become willing to look at things differently. At its core, it is a change of our story: what we tell ourselves and our children about who we are and why we’re here.

How can our vision change? It is my belief that if we use whatever eyes we have developed to see the Spirit within us, we will find who we are and why we’re here. For those that believe in evil spirits and fear that an inward journey can lead them into temptation, remember what Christ told us: “By their fruits you will know them”. If on your journey you find greater love and compassion for yourself and all other beings, you have found the Spirit. If you find elitism, separatism, dualism, division, hatred or intolerance, you have not: I suggest you keep looking. Of course, as is true for any vision, we cannot see in the dark.

Let There Be Light


The universe is not an accident. Our consciousness (self-awareness) is not an accident of the universe: it is related to the purpose of the universe. The noösphere is the network (sum total) of all consciousness that we are connected to and the spiritual hologram we are constructing consists of the connections in love/awareness between us, the nodes of the noösphere. We emerged from the material world as animals with lusts and appetites but spirited with free will and love/awareness and endowed with the possibility of Grace. We know our world can be a better place - worthy of the very best that is within us, the Spirit. It is our evolutionary purpose to make it so. If we use our free will to cooperate in a balance of innovation and conservation we can create a world worthy of the Spirit. There is no need to fear change. All the wisdom and knowledge we need to change the world can be found in the noösphere. All the love/awareness we need to direct our efforts toward the Creator's purpose can be found in the hologram.

The higher you are in consciousness the closer you are to the purpose and meaning of the universe. The highest consciousness is Grace - the ability to see the Creator in everything that exists; including you and me. The purpose of the universe is the growth of Grace so that the universe fills with awareness/love of the Creator and the hologram projects in wondrous clarity the universal truth of Oneness encoded within it: that, in some mysterious way, Grace, the hologram and the Creator all coinhere as One. (This is not pantheism - the idea that equates the Creator with all that exists. The whole is larger than the sum of its parts because of the network of relationships between the parts.) You can use your free will while within the universe to develop Grace through your own relationship with the Creator or through connections in love/awareness with compassionate beings who enlighten your connection with their own Grace.

Our connections in love/awareness exist outside of spacetime. The network of our individual relationships together with our relationship with the Creator is our individual soul. It exists because our body exists but it is not confined to our body. Being outside of spacetime it is of the Spirit but it is not the Spirit. When our bodies return to the earth our possibility to develop Grace ends and our individual souls become the network of connections in love/awareness that we have formed with other beings and with the Creator while in our bodies.

If I have developed Grace and my vision is clear then my individual soul will be bathed in the Creator's love/awareness as well as that of my "loved ones" in the undying realm of Spirit. I will see clearly the truth of Oneness and my individuality will expand to include all the connections of love/awareness in the entire hologram. Emerging into Oneness, the truth of my being will be encoded in every individual soul.

But if I have not developed true Grace, when I pass into the realm of Being my soul will be only the connections in love/awareness with the other beings in my network. I, for one, am blessed with loving and wise souls in my network and I could happily enjoy the spiritual treasure of that love/awareness. But the sad thing, then, would be that my connections would be limited to a small piece of the hologram and I would not be able to see the glorious image of the One encoded in the hologram. That requires Grace - the light with which all is created.

My young niece, after reading the above, asked me if I could give her an example of the workings of Grace. I thought of John Newton (1725-1807) who lead a life, in his own words, "as an infidel and libertine", working as a seaman. He was a troublesome and profane sailor and was even imprisoned for a time on a slave plantation in Sierra Leone. He worked for awhile on slave ships and eventually became the captain of one of them.

He underwent a complete spiritual transformation that he attributed to his relationship with the Creator and his connection in love/awareness to Christ. He married the woman he loved, became an Anglican minister and worked with others for the rest of his life to abolish slavery. Largely as a result of their efforts, the British Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, the year of his death. John Newton commemorated his transformation by writing the words to Amazing Grace, the folk hymn that moves so many of us and that, in my opinion, transcends religion:
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

I pray that my own Grace is real and my vision is clear, and that true Grace will spread throughout the noösphere and transform the human race into what we are meant to be.
 
Om Mani Padme Hum
Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram
Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad  (Shekhinah Echad)
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven
Sami' Allahu Liman Hamida (Sakina)
Mitakuye Oyas'in

Santa Fe, New Mexico
August 5, 2010      



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