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 Post subject: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 10:28 pm 
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A variety of newly emerging insights suggest a path to still-deeper understanding, raising the significance of Jaynes’ message.

One such insight comes from recent findings relating to some of our 26 constants of nature. It seems that certain constants must be so extremely precise in order to support life that their occurrence by chance is most improbable, suggesting that they were ‘chosen’. To explain this problem in defense of materialism, science proposes the existence of the multiverse; virtually countless universes based on random constants, and that life exists simply because this universe just happened to have the right constants. But the existence of the multiverse is an assumption with neither objective proof nor explanation for why anything exists at all.

A second fact that seems relevant is that the prospect of an objective Theory Of Everything seems to be vanishing, as no single theory defining the entire creation event seems to emerge. As Hawking and Mlodinow put it in their book “The Grand Design” there are various theories that are in agreement where they overlap, but no single theory is complete, and they add that ‘there may be no sense in trying to define reality.’ A potential explanation for this may be that neither time nor space are fundamental; that, instead, they are emergent properties in the same way that chemical properties reduce to physical, etc. But emergent from what? How or in what sense might the reduction path extend deeper than physics?

We have a clue from the work Stuart Kauffman who explains so well in his book “Reinventing the Sacred” that the universe is self-organizing, from the supposed Big Bang all the way through to the existence of the reader of this page – all emergent, reflecting virtually boundless creative potential without need of supernatural intervention.

But creativity is generally considered a subjective quality, suggesting that natural laws are merely emergent expressions of a deeper, perhaps even subjective, natural order. But if time and space are not fundamental, then the existence of cosmic process surely implies subjective direction, i.e. purpose that must reasonably become comprehensible to us through reduction beyond physics.

To search for a subjective quality underlying the creation event, we assume an interface between a deeper subjective imperative and its initial objective expression, (Big Bang, etc.) It is precisely here that we identify the essential subjective constraint. Before there can be any expression of energy whatsoever through any of the forces of creation, there exists the subjective constraint of symmetry (Noether's theorem) that objective science recognizes as the entire body of conservation law. By definition, the symmetry constraint pre-exists any – and constrains all -- objective expression of natural force.

But symmetry is a particular expression of a deeper, more general, more inclusive quality, in the same way that laws of chemistry are particulars of the deeper, more general and inclusive laws of physics. Specifically, symmetry reduces into the deeper, more inclusive subjective quality of aesthetics – with countless implications for subjective values and constructive direction of human choice.

But why do we know this? Why should any life-form be aware of aesthetics? We know about aesthetics because our neural faculties, naturally selected over the ages, include not only our analytic and synthetic faculties so useful to our science and objective means, but no less evolved, and naturally selected, are our aesthetic sensitivities and related emotions of joy and love that define ‘ends’; i.e. give direction to our more creative and sustaining choices.

In other words we are not simply the most highly evolved species on the planet, but we are quite literally the first life-forms on the planet capable of recognizing our own role as integral agents of the larger cosmic creative process. (Not biological accidents lost amid the cogs and levers of the cosmic machine.) Not only do our analytic faculties give us virtually boundless objective means, but our still-evolving sensitivities to aesthetic values have the potential to give our choices increasingly constructive and sustaining direction relevant to every conceivable system, including personal, social, civil, and even environmental (biosphere and climate as well).

Historic background to this most critical emergence in the whole history of life on our planet is exactly what Jaynes has given us. He describes the surprisingly recent emergence of modern subjective conscious mind in the West from out of a lower animal consciousness. The ‘bicameral mind’ had begun to use language in what history has called the Golden Age (apparently a very constructive period) guided essentially by the hallucinated voices of the leaders. Ending that age was the crisis of the Dorian invasions presumably altering the gene pool sufficiently for the emergence of modern subjective conscious mind.

But as Jaynes explains, the emergence of subjective conscious mind would manifest in a unique duality – on the one hand there emerged the objective studies of science (objective means), while on the other was the emergence of the several monotheistic religions, a nostalgia for the heard voices of the ‘gods,’ now fallen silent, identifying essential subjective ends. No less telling is the underlying constructive imperative shared by the several religions – the Golden Rule – a symmetry principle if ever there was one. This suggests the essential harmonies of aesthetics for the direction of constructive choice in all levels to effect creative and sustainable social organization. Presumably it was a value brought forward from the preceding guileless Golden Age before the emergence of modern subjective conscious mind with its objectivity, science, and capacity for doubt, deception, etc.

Was it a coincidence that this extended and very complex evolutionary transformation into modern subjective conscious mind should give awareness of both ends and means – the Theology and the Science – to the life form that would become the integral agent of the larger cosmic creative process? Rather than coincidence, it appears that what Jaynes has described is nothing less than an inevitable major event in the evolution of life anywhere in the universe – the prospect of sustainable social organization with boundless creative potential where civilization itself would be transformed into an integral agency of the boundless cosmic creative process.

In turn, this suggests a meaningful model of the implied ‘big picture.’ As a ‘first approximation,’ we might model the larger creative cosmic process as "The work of the eternal Subject on a journey from eternal sameness into eternal novelty, where novelty is not possible without the perceptions of the subject agent being constrained by the imposed limits of time and space amid the endless wonders and challenges of the boundless contrived theater of the physical."

It would seem to be time for deeper thought into essential aesthetics not only as applied to personal, social, and civil order but no less to guide us in the harmonies essential to a sustainable relationship to the biosphere and climate, etc. now suffering severe abuse. Apart from addressing immediate and meaningful issues of species survival, it would also encourage the science and technology relevant to the challenge of adapting life to other planetary environments, and vice-versa.

Survival of our species – and of most others on the planet – may well depend on such, if it is not already too late. If we can recognize and manage the challenges in harmony with the deeper natural order there is no limit to the potential of our species. Moreover, it is reasonable to suppose that evolution would ultimately carry any highly evolved species in this universe along the same direction to the same constructive conclusions.

But we still have far to go because most people do not realize the full implications of the emergence Jaynes describes, and we still have major interests working at cross purposes in most destructive ways.


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 3:46 pm 
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Let me see if I have understood enough to summarize.

Science in our means, our bottom-up approach; building a model of reality (whether in futility or no) in mathematics.

Aesthetics is our end, looking at it from the top-down. But what would you say is our method for research here? Wouldn't you call works like the bible, like the spiritualities, like philosophy, and indeed all non-scientific thought, attempts at this? Clearly there are problems there, rooted in the fluidity of semantics and the changeable nature of concepts. How would you go about this "deeper thought into essential aesthetics"; which, I agree, seems fundamental.


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 5:04 pm 
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Hi Rollo, right on. A ‘science of aesthetics’ almost seems a contradiction, and searching the web for it is not very rewarding. Theoretically, it includes all of the works as you state. In search of insight I recently obtained a copy of Jeffrey Wattles “The Golden Rule” (Oxford U. Press, 1996) attracted by the publisher’s statement:

“In an age plagued by selfishness, materialism, and violence, ethicists feel impelled to find a universal system of values. To arrive at such a "rule" requires that they struggle with a series of seemingly irreconcilable questions. First, are universal values possible in a pluralistic world, and how does one do justice to both human equality and to individual and cultural differences? How is one to understand the interface between religious moral teachings and the ethics of secular humanism? Finally, can such a system integrate moral intuition and moral reason? In the first scholarly book in English on the golden rule since the seventeenth century, Jeffrey Wattles demonstrates how a clear understanding of the psychological, philosophical, and religious ramifications of the rule can form the synthesis needed to solve these dilemmas.

“The golden rule, "do to others as you would have others do to you," is widely assumed to have a single meaning, shared by virtually all the world's religions. It strikes the average person as intuitively true, though most modern philosophers reject it or recast it in more rational form. Wattles surveys the history of the golden rule and its spectrum of meanings in diverse contexts, ranging from Confucius to Plato and Aristotle, from classical Jewish literature to the New Testament. He also considers medieval, Reformation, and modern theological and philosophical responses and objections to the rule, as well as how some early twentieth-century American leaders have tried to use the rule. Wattles draws these diverse interpretation into a synthesis that responds, at the psychological, philosophical, and religious levels, to the challenges to moral living in any given culture. Emotionally, the rules counsels consideration for others feelings by asking that "you place yourself in their shoes." Intellectually, it activates moral thinking about what is fair. At the same time, it retains a spiritual appeal as "the principle of the practice of the family of God.

“Demonstrating how, despite its contentious history, this age-old ethical principle continues to be relevant in dealing with contemporary issues; The Golden Rule should interest students and scholars working in religious studies, philosophy and ethics, and psychology, as well as anyone looking for an alternative to postmodern cynicism and alienation.”

Haven’t read it yet but hopeful that it will answer some questions.


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:24 pm 
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What do you think of this idea -- does it represent something like what you are looking for, with a science of the aesthetic?

http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_sci ... right.html


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 3:28 pm 
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Yes, Sam seems to have the point on science essential to shaping human values, vs. the extremes of fanatical religious views, but it was the early emergent monotheistic religions that agreed upon the Golden Rule and its variants that gave a vehicle, if primitive, for the search and recognition of moral values – while science preached materialism.

But now materialism is failing in science (no objective TOE seems possible). Hopefully materialism will be replaced by discovery and analysis of the deeper aesthetic qualities of Natural Order underlying creation. This will provide essential direction for sustainable organization of complex systems such as civilization, biosphere, adapting life to other planets, etc. This will provide a challenge of infinite depth for science and humanity as the integral agency of the larger cosmic creative process, and replacing religious fanaticism with insights into the essential subjective qualities of creative Natural Order.
Joe


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:34 am 
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Indeed, fanaticism works both ways, but I don't believe in bad science -- even if Sam is biased, his results should show the truth if there is truth to find.

Thinking about a science of aesthetics over the past few weeks has been interesting -- I never considered it before, but certainly there are some universals that seem to permeate art and the universe. The need for novelty, for instance, is a clear example. In human art, as in (shall we say) the art that is the universe, novelty seems a most intrinsic factor, and essential in driving the evolution of the medium. The intrinsic role that consciousness plays in this is also interesting -- the ability to critique art (a practice that starts with the individual, criticizing their own creation) has clearly pushed its innovation.

Indeed, a science of the aesthetic may not be as far-fetched as it at first seems. And the idea that much of human art is influenced by the same guiding factors that shape the very universe is very exciting. This would tie in very much with psychology of course (ideas such as Jung's collective unconscious might be easily explained) and help provide insights into a field that we are struggling with.


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 Post subject: Re: JAYNES -- 2011
PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:11 pm 
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Right on all counts. Our ‘agency’ status seems to imply some accessible orderly path back to the whole through the deepest introspection. In turn, that implies meaningful metaphors relating all relevant experience and perceptions; what might manifest as a kind of resonance; perhaps flashes of insight, stronger as search goes deeper and ideas shared. Wonder if growing electronic connectivity serving the shared longings of the oppressed will ultimately defeat the world’s various tyrannies, to assure a democratic world?


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:52 pm 
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The inference drawn from the continuing failure of billions invested in defining a TOE is that physical reality is not fundamental. Indeed the very concept of the Big Bang implies that time and space are emergent properties. Not surprisingly, Physicist Stephen Hawking notes that while the several physical theories on Creation (TOEs) agree where they overlap, no one theory explains all, and he opines that “It may not make sense to talk of what reality is.”
Indeed the Big Bang assumes some state of energy prior to physical expression, a state indistinguishable from willful intent, a subjective quality invoked here because 1, there is no longer any substantial objective argument to refute it, and 2, the natural creative cosmic process has resulted in the emergence of the integral essential subjective creative agent, the good reader, who has learned to recognize and exploit the objective qualities of the physical as a means to additional potentially boundless creativity throughout cosmos.
In other words, the objective world of time and space is a coherent contrived illusion; the expression of a more fundamental reality. In the above, we have already explored the significance of the symmetry constraint expressed through the physical as conservation law, as well as the significance of the more fundamental and inclusive quality of aesthetics so evident in the beauty of nature as well as in the creative expression of the subject agent, whose aesthetic sensitivities have evolved over the eons. This would seem to indicate that the deeper reality is subjective, mindlike; cosmos and its emergent subjective agent its constructive and purposeful means; its aesthetic values of creative expression its intent.
While the materialist will never stop searching for an objective TOE, the creativity of mind seems the more fundamental reality. Some suggest that God does not exist because He would never allow such suffering of innocents as actually happens. On the other hand, could it be that our passing simply lifts the constraints of time and space from our perceptions? Are we all part of the One?
JSJohnson


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:50 am 
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Just finished reading “Decoding Reality, the Universe as Quantum Information” (Oxford, 2010) by Vlatko Vedral who ends with a quote from the Tao Te Ching:

"The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
The two spring from the same source but differ in name;
This appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery."

Vederal’s conclusion that mystery remains in spite of all objective analysis appears consistent with Hawking’s conclusion that “it may not make sense to talk of what reality actually is.” What both seem to allow is the possibility that reality has a deeper meaning than objectivity, in that there is no objective explanation of the origin of the objective world, multiverse or not . One plausible alternative is that process (the objective world) implies contrived means to fundamental subjective ends. We already know that every expression of energy obeys the constraint of symmetry which we interpret as conservation law (and as Jaynes shows, the early monotheistic religions interpret as the essential symmetry of the Golden Rule). Reduction (the hierarchic structure that relates all natural order) implies that symmetry is a particular expression of the more general and inclusive constraint of aesthetics. Our evolved aesthetic sense seems to imply nothing less than that we are the integral subjective agency of the larger cosmic creativity; implying an eternal Subject.

JSJohnson


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 6:41 am 
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All this beating around the bush and never quite stating your meaning outright, what's it for? Are you trying to return us to the concept of God, with this notion of the eternal Subject? Why? Why does that concept have any more relevance here than it ever had?

I have found that there actually exists an approximation of a definition for the word 'God'. It is simply the largest concept that an agent has at a time. Normally it is defined by the civilization or dogmatic context that a person thinks in, but scholars are more than capable of redefining it in their own terms. We are forever pushing God further and further away from us, but it seems the further away it gets, the more we want to keep a hold on the idea.

But there is a bad side to the concept of God. It fits in where we cannot bring ourselves to probe further. It is a surrender to the challenge -- the likely infinite challenge -- of learning and exploration. When we reach God, wherever we may find it, we seem to feel comfortable stopping -- or rather, the other way round, when we can go no further we plop down our flag and say 'Here is God.'

There is most likely a substrate of existence upon whose shoulders our objective, observable universe is set. But you are obfuscating what is likely a very very simple set of instructions with this talk of the 'larger cosmic creativity' and the 'eternal Subject'. Is this one thing not very clear; things get simpler and more basic as we go down? Why, then, would we emerge from a universe that we know is predicated upon a very simple set of instruction and find something so infinitely more complex? Why would we find anything grand down there? Surely if you want to look for a pantheistic being, a sort of agent for whom we are all working, you will have to look further up the chain of complexity, at the things this integral creative agent will evolve into.

If God is there, it did not underwrite the universe. The universe is that thing from which it is emerging. And the rules that govern the universe, that will allow this complexity to evolve, emerged from nothing. That is the simplest of progressions that we see so self-evident in this reality. From nothing to something. Perhaps there is an eternal Subject -- but it started off as nothing, and it is growing and developing as we speak.


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:38 pm 
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Hi Rollo. I guess what has happened to my perceptions over the years is that “nothing” or “no thing” came to convey the absence of objective expression which presumably began with the big bang. But the “something out of nothing” implied by the big bang suggested spectacular evidence for the more fundamental reality of an underlying subjectivity (realm or being) implied by ‘choice’ of the very improbable constants of nature essential to sustaining life, where such choice implies ‘design’ and a subjective realm underlying all objective expression.

But more recently it has been suggested that our big bang is perhaps nothing other than the emergent effect of a black hole collapse in another dimension, isolated from our own, but under no less objective direction. If this is the case then, while our universe may have begun a finite time ago, Cosmos as a whole has indefinite age as far as we can tell. It may still be emergent from a more fundamental subjective realm, but I have added nothing to that argument.

What remains of my argument, if anything, is the idea that the arrow of reductionism points to symmetry and (presumably) to more general and inclusive aesthetic qualities (Golden Rule, etc.) that tend to motivate our more creative and sustaining choices.

As you say, “Perhaps there is an eternal Subject -- but it started off as nothing, and it is growing and developing as we speak.”

Yes, the reduction argument implies an underlying set of values that indeed are ‘no-thing,’ but which seem to influence the more constructive choices of the physical agent, as such values are intuited through experience and given expression. It is not surprising that there are particularly sensitive people who seem to have intuited aspects of the whole as the several religions. Unfortunately, some versions, if not all, have been corrupted or abused to some extent by limited insight or for political expedience, but the essential model is developing as we speak. Even atheists (such as author Stuart Kauffman: “At Home in the Universe” and “Reinventing the Sacred”) find divinity in the order of nature.

“Divine choice” is explained away by the “multiverse argument” except that there is no possible contact with another universe to prove it exists – much less (and here’s a question no one seems to have addressed, much less proven) that the properties of other universes are indeed random rather than likewise chosen.)

If Creation and the emergent subject agent represent choice and purpose, my personal question is whether the product is valued to the point of being conserved?
Joe


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:36 pm 
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I’ve very much enjoyed running into this site, and will quickly get to reactions to this thread. I need to preface that I’ve not read Jaynes in many years, but read his book very hard at the time. I never followed the line of philosophy--not Jayne's, phiosophy in general-- once it came to linguistic analysis (excepting when it delved into epistemology), and I find this grand meander of epistemology and cosmology great fun.

A couple of points to the point. “ . . .an approximation of a definition for the word 'God'. It is simply the largest concept that an agent has at a time.” Christian apologists used to call that the argument for God’s existence from definition. It’s fallen into disfavor, but the arguments from design, and from prime cause are still alive and kicking. The actual definition was “That being greater than which no other can be conceived,” or close to that. (Rollo, I realize you weren’t making the argument.) The elucidation of the definition led to the proof. Perfection demanded existence, therefore, God exits.

An argument from design, whether that design be the simplest subset, or the grandest of the imponderables is still an argument from design. A clock, a planetary model, the ubiquitous path of a light particle, all are products of creative belief. None really prove the existence of anything beyond themselves.

Your congenial case for a stubborn “something” that won’t go away is a compelling one because it offers hope. Scratch an existentialist and find a lapsed ninilist (Not you JS). The Buddha had a way to look way up/down at the subjective aesthetic in action, and as the ping-pong ball of his awareness between he and it sped to a blur, he found the answer, but it involved the relinquishing of subjective consciousness, so that’s a no go, no God involved though—yes, little gods.

Is the product valued to the point of being conserved. In my humble opinion, no. Though I do seem intellectually hogtied to the proposition of the conservation of energy, so perhaps we do return to a sort of Zen pool.

Which brings me to my own quite mundane grinding axe, and back to the problem of the future of consciousness. The idea that we can all, as Allen Ginsberg put it in “Howl”, put our “queer shoulders” to the wheel and make a go of it, is good politics, but in no way an imperative of an aesthetically inclined modern subjective consciousness. A historically transmogrified chanting of the Golden Rule won’t do it either, no matter how hard you squint at the past.

The suggestion that modern communications will allow the globally disenfranchised to throw off tyranny is where I’ll weigh in, lightly--because I’ll admit it’s all I can do to keep up with a lot of the threads on this board. Marshall McLuhan had the same thought about TV when it started. We'll see how the freed peoples of the Middle East fare, now that they've gotten a taste for the Everlasting Gobstopper.
On the contrary, the growing avalanche of ready information will eventually subsume consciousness. Fears of AI taking over are better founded than ever, they're just misunderstood. We are Tweeting our “selves” into oblivion. But, maybe this is the future of consciousness. I won’t detail my observations, because I know it sounds crazy. Thanks for the conversation.

Ponce


Last edited by PonceDeLeon on Sat Aug 27, 2011 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Sat Aug 27, 2011 11:24 am 
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Ponce, thanks for the input. “. . . the growing avalanche of ready information will eventually subsume consciousness. Fears of AI taking over are better founded than ever, they're just misunderstood. We are Tweeting our “selves” into oblivion. But, maybe this is the future of consciousness. I won’t detail my observations, because I know it sounds crazy.”

I’ve been reading of experiments in the direction of supplementing neural structures and processes internally with both hard and software, and wondering how much further from the farm it will lead us. Perhaps the impending solar instability will return any survivors to that earlier organic harmony.

Joe


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:36 am 
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What Jaynes seems to describe is nothing less than a most critical point in all of Creation: the onset of a transformation that has the potential for humankind to realize its place in the deepest structure of reality.
Where Jaynes’ arguments seem to describe the evolutionary emergence of the modern subjective conscious mind including insights into the Golden Rule (GR) as a guide to sustainable creativity of our species, and whereas the GR appears as a particular expression of the same subjective quality of symmetry underlying the universal conservation laws of nature in the physical, I argue that this indicates we are evolving into the integral Subject Agency of the larger cosmic creativity, the eternal Subject on a path away from sameness into novelty, where novelty is not possible except as the perceptions of the Subject Agent are constrained by contrived limits of time and space in a wondrous cosmos of limitless challenge and possibility.
In other words, what we call Creation appears to be an objective means to a subjective end. And the question of the relation of the subjective to the objective in the structure of natural order has escaped science until recently discovered in the demonstrated quantum-physical effects of ‘nonlocality’ relating to human consciousness. See the book “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel, M.D. (Harper-Collins, 2010) where he relates decades of investigations into numerous ‘Near Death Experiences’ (NDE’s) of increasing numbers of patients who have survived clinical death to report similar and very positive ‘out of body’ experiences. This would suggest that it is the physical that emerges from out of consciousness, not the reverse; that the physical is no more than the contrived objective means to the subjective purpose, and where consciousness is eternal, without beginning or end. Moreover, more recent experiments in quantum physics seem to identify supporting theory for the nonlocal properties of such information exchange; i.e. consciousness, all independent of time and space, literally transcending the physical.
One way to look at the larger picture without delusion is to admit of consciousness as the deeper reality and the physical as the emergent objective means to a subjective end. Consciousness shared within the constraints of the physical is a contrived plurality – us – but sharing singular purpose (creative novelty, etc.) from the deeper perspective of the fundamental unity.
Our evolved neural faculties enable science to deduce from conservation laws that a basic principle of natural order is symmetry (Noether’s Theorem), and that symmetry in turn is a particular of the deeper, more inclusive qualities of aesthetics – to which or evolved neural sensibilities naturally respond with love and constructive choices. There are many ways to talk about God, too many of which are fabricated, exploited by despots, tyrants, etc. down through history. But the essence of species survival is to love thy neighbor as thyself; Golden Rule, etc. Call it God or call it what it is: our search for principles essential to species survival, but that’s what spirituality is all about. Quite literally we are of the higher consciousness invested as ‘our countless selves’ into the constraints of the physical resulting in the illusions of time and space which allow us the experience of plurality, novelty, challenge, hope, adventure and endlessly on; but all with the innate sense of the aesthetic giving most constructive direction to choices by the maturing life force (us) amid the infinite possibilities of a boundless cosmos.


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 Post subject: Re: Jaynes - Newly Emerging Insights
PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:42 pm 
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Or to put it anther way. . .

The sheer enormity of the volume and similarity of reported NDEs from many different sources implying that consciousness survives death of the body will presumably eventually survive any argument.(1) In turn, given the rapidly spreading individual communications technology, this must ultimately draw attention of the whole world back to a review of the basic assumptions of our sciences, and of life and society generally, promising global and potentially very positive sociological development.

Jaynes describes a crucial epoch in human development when neural faculties had evolved beyond the simple senses to include effective analytic processes that would reveal the order of relationships between physical processes; a discipline that would sustain the emergence of our sciences. When the apple dropped on our head, gravity got our attention, along with the rest of classical physics, and science generally. In time, we would find more physical principles underlying chemistry as well, and the two sciences taken together gave us a start in the analysis of biological organization. The path from physics through chemistry and into biology was a path of increasing system complexity, with each new level of complexity sustained by the underlying laws of the simpler systems as described by ‘reductionism.’ But forward from the simplest biological systems there emerged the phenomena of ‘choice,’ a subjective input that would guide the emergence of still more complex material and social systems that compose our evolving and still troubled civilization. But if deterministic laws governed objective system complexities, what would govern/guide sustainable subjective choice? What have we missed?

Two views on the nature of our existence are possible. The materialist view is that life is a random and meaningless accident. The other view is that the creative cosmic process is unitary and coherent; that the sciences simply represent objective means while the efficacy of choice implies the existence of fundamental subjective ends. But where to look for such guidance? The materialist will assume that science has already determined the full pattern of natural order except for a few remaining details at the highest energy levels. But they are looking in the wrong direction.

What science already understands about natural order are the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology. Not incidental is the structural principle that connects these three bodies of natural law – the hierarchy implied by ‘reductionism.’ What relates the three bodies of law is the fact that they connect three levels of emergent system complexity, where physical laws support chemical laws and systems, while chemical (and physical) laws support biological systems – up to the point where choices tend to emerge to create still more complex systems having both objective and subjective qualities. Scientists generally hold the materialist perspective that this reductive hierarchy bottoms out at the floor of physics. But it does not. The hierarchic structure extends indefinitely deeper into the more fundamental subjective realm, as follows. What we find underlying all of the natural laws of physics describing the four forces of nature is the constraint of symmetry. (Simply stated: “For every continuous symmetry of the laws of physics, there must exist a conservation law. And for every conservation law there must exist a continuous symmetry” – Noether’s theorem).

In this sense, the constraint of symmetry underlies the floor of physics to which the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics all ‘reduce.’ But while natural law does end there, natural order does not. It turns out that the hierarchic structure implied by reductionism continues deeper; simply transforms at the floor of physics from objective qualities of natural laws (objective means) to the subjective qualities of symmetry and its deeper more inclusive abstracts (subjective ends). In other words, symmetry is but a particular of the more fundamental and inclusive qualities of aesthetics. And we all know how our emotional response to aesthetic considerations can affect our choices, generally in constructive ways. It simply marks a transition down from the realm of objective means into the realm of subjective ends manifest through choice – the creative agency being the eternal consciousness of the good reader.

The reason we know these things is because of our unique neural faculties naturally selected over eons – that our analytic and synthetic faculties supporting our sciences (objective means), as well as our aesthetic sensitivities guiding our more constructive choices (subjective ends) – make us literally “the essential integral creative agents of the larger cosmic creative process.” We are very definitely at home in our universe – not “biological accidents” as materialists preach. The challenge is to recognize both our implicit social responsibility and our boundless cosmic opportunity, and to organize our resources and talents in the most constructive way to sustain life here, as well as to explore and populate the rest of the universe as best we can before our local resources deplete. This applies no less to individuals as to societies, given the rapidly accumulating evidence of NDEs that eternal consciousness will ever remind us of the choices we make in the here and now.

(1) See: “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel, M.D. (Harper-Collins, 2010) and http://www.pimvanlommel.nl/?Films_BDE_youtube_EN.

Comments most welcome.

JSJohnson (Joe)


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Gods, Voices and the Bicameral Mind               Julian Jaynes Collection               Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness               The Minds of the Bible               Abstracts from the 2013 Julian Jaynes Society Conference on Consciousness and Bicameral Studies



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