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Gnomon
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:01 pm


MAN: A FORTUITOUS CONCOURSE OF ATOMS, OR A NECESSARY EMERGENCE?


In the same SKEPTIC magazine issue, Michael Shermer contributed another article in opposition to the "progressivist bias" of some interpretations of evolution. Shermer, editor and publisher of the magazine, is a long-time hero of mine for his scientific erudition and his philosophical balance. Nevertheless, I disagree with his conclusion that the inference of progression or directionality in evolution is a result of biased human reasoning. The article is titled, The Chain of Accidents and the Rule of Law, and sub-titled, The Role of Contingency and Necessity in the Evolution of Higher Intelligence. His analysis is similar to mine, in that it compares "the relative roles of chance and law". He asks, " . . . is our existence a necessity . . . or is our existence a contingency?"

Shermer notes that astronomers tend to be more optimistic toward the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, than biologists: " . . .astronomers traffic in the rule of nature's laws, which are repetitive, reliable, and necessary, whereas biologists traffic in the chain of accidents, which are quirky, chancy, and contingent." Yet I put those oppositions together in my theory of Intelligent Evolution, because evolution requires both rules and rule-breakers in order to produce novelty. For example, the rule 1 + 1 = 2 is true, but boring---no exceptions; The next flip of a coin though is unpredictable---each flip is an exception; Yet if you put rule and randomness together you get the reliable unpredictability that we call statistics: wherein as the number of coin flips increases, the probability of the outcome approaches 100% certainty. Another term for rational randomness is Fuzzy Logic.

Although astronomer Carl Sagan was a noted skeptic about many things, he supported the establishment of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program. Shermer indicates that Sagan was optimistic that Evolution offered a multitude of pathways to intelligence, not just the Homo Sapiens solution. Besides, " . . . an overall trend toward intelligence can be perceived in the fossil record". Biologist Steven Jay Gould was also a well-known skeptic, who viewed religion as simply a biological/sociological necessity for human culture. But he was pessimistic about the odds of evolutionary progress, "Was it Darwinian chance and selection alone . . . or did principles of self-organization mingle with chance and necessity?" Gould admitted that the progressive laws of self-organization could overcome the regressive tendency of contingency, but he still concluded that if you "re-wound the tape of evolution" homo sapiens was not predestined to emerge again from the random process.

I think both of those geniuses were correct in their own limited spheres. But they came along before the sciences of complexity and chaos and information began to reveal how chaotic contingency and orderly necessity could work together to produce even higher levels of organization. Simon Conway Morris, the author being refuted in these articles, saw how the principle of "evolutionary convergence" has produced the very "novelties and uniqueness" that scientists use to distinguish one species from another. The strict laws of nature put well-defined limits on the paths that contingency can follow in its random meanderings. So that "trend toward intelligence", can be explained as an almost inevitable result of evolution "guided" by internal principles in a general direction, if not toward a specific goal.

Ironically, Shemer seems to be impressed by the improbable (not to say, miraculous) uniqueness of the emergence of humans from a seemingly random process: "Homo Sapiens, however, is emphatically not an organism that does what its predecessors did, only a little better; it's something very---and potentially very dangerously---different. Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species". Like many other non-theists, Shermer concludes that, "a purpose-seeking animal will find itself as the purpose of nature". Yet if purpose can be inferred from the behavior of heuristic* evolution, and the apparent apex of that progression is humanity, then we may be forgiven for thinking that somehow blind evolution was searching for us---or something very like us.



*Heuristic: a trial and error search pattern guided by algorithms or parameters.
Wiki: << Perhaps the most fundamental heuristic is "trial and error", >>
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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:51 pm

That's absolutely fascinating, I'm really enjoying this stuff you're posting. Thanks
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:19 pm

Uriah wrote:
The folly of the Enlightenment is to assume that because we can wonder why, that there must be a reason.
I think you may be confusing reason with purpose here. I agree there is no evidence of purpose but I do see evidence of reasons why things are the way they are. Purpose implies intent reason (in this context not the act of contemplation) is just a matter of contingency. It may be purposeful or it may not.
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Uriah

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 13, 2008 9:58 pm

stretmediq wrote:
Uriah wrote:
The folly of the Enlightenment is to assume that because we can wonder why, that there must be a reason.
I think you may be confusing reason with purpose here. I agree there is no evidence of purpose but I do see evidence of reasons why things are the way they are. Purpose implies intent reason (in this context not the act of contemplation) is just a matter of contingency. It may be purposeful or it may not.

True enough, ambiguous word choice on my part.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sun Sep 14, 2008 1:54 am

Quote :
The folly of the Enlightenment is to assume that because we can wonder why, that there must be a reason.
... and your big logic gap, which I always mention of course, is to equally provocate (is this even a word?) is the reverse therefore true. Of course you can't prove that. The statement is not falsifiable. Therefore it has no meaning.

Can you prove that because there is enlightment, there is no reason????

Of course not!!!!!

Where does that leave us, my friend???

Other than me a few beers too many Brick Wall

But a good night had by all.

And good luckl to all those in the wake of Ike.

Cheers!
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:45 am

I'm not certain that it is a gap in logic to suggest that there being no universally acknowledged and innately understood purpose to the human endeavor most probably means there is no purpose other that which we give ourselves.

I also disagree with your assertion that there can be a "few beers too many", as I have spent the better part of my adult, and the entirety of my adolescent, life trying to determine that number to no avail. I can assure that there is such a thing as "too few beers", but never - never, good sir, have seen "too many beers".

lol
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:05 am

Quote :
I'm not certain that it is a gap in logic to suggest that there being no universally acknowledged and innately understood purpose to the human endeavor most probably means there is no purpose other that which we give ourselves.
I disagree with your logic.

But let's first isolate your points:
(worded in the positive)

There is no universially acknowleged and innately understood purpose to the human endeavour.

Therefore ....
That "probably means there is no purpose other that which we give ourselves.
I disagree with this logic.

One, if there was a purpose to human existence, a deist would believe that that purpose would exist no matter whether it was universally acknowledged by humans or not, since that reason could not emenate from humans and therefore would not be dependent upon humans.

In fact I would surmise that a deist interpretation would conclude that if there were a purpose to human existence that that reason would be in no way exclusive to humans and would exist before there was even humans and will exist after we are extinct, and that furthermore that reason would exist until the theoretical existence of sentient self aware beings would no longer be possible, presumably in some far off day when our local cluster has evolved into one supercluster, and has become an island universe, totally cut off from the rest of the universe, and when the last dying ember goes out, giving away prusumably to absolute zero.

Now hopefully by that day, the reason will have been clear to us all.

Or not!

Cheers!
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:28 am

Deist cosmology isn't necessarily logical, at least not any more logical than my own assertion.

As well, by ending your argument with the caveat that the reason may, or may never be clear to us all - well, that's essentially saying the same thing I did to begin with.

We have to make our own reason.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:14 am

Well, this should be an interesting experience - I can't recall ever attempting to play referee, but here goes...

Helium, I agree that we mere humans are neither the creators of, nor sufficiently intelligent to fully understand, the purpose for the universe. We, as deists are (hopefully) both intelligent enough and humble enough to recognize our limitations while continuing to trust that the Creator knows what It is doing.

However, I also - with as much humility as a genetically egotistical human being can muster - contend that we have evolved to this level so that we might ponder the question. And, being genetically related to the Creator (as all of creation must be) I also contend that we are also creators and as such, it is our responsibility to form a purpose for our own lives, to the best of our meager ability, in order to further the Creator's plan.

We would not be here if we were not an integral part of that plan, so we may as well do our best to assist in its development.

In other words, you're both right. cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:34 am

I believe the god in it's ultimate unmanifest (non)form transcends purpose. However, IMO, god consists of everything, including both the manifest and the unmanifest potential for everything. Therefore we (and everything else in the cosmos) are like neurons firing in the brain of god. We both collectively and individually create our own purpose.



I didn't really get much sleep last night so I hope that made sense. Wink Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:29 pm

[quote="Helium"]
Quote :
There is no universially acknowleged and innately understood purpose to the human endeavour.

Therefore ....
That "probably means there is no purpose other that which we give ourselves.
I disagree with this logic.

Probably the primary reason most scientists reject the idea of progression in evolution is because to admit progression implies direction, which implies that there is an end point, a target, a goal. And that in turn implies that the goal was preselected by a Creator or First Cause. To avoid that unscientific inference, they focus more on the aimless process of Evolution, and view the guiding laws of Nature as mere accidental by-products of random collisions of matter. But which came first, the matter or the laws?

My interpretation is somewhere in between Scientism and Creationism. As I noted above in the "Pointlessness" blurb, I have concluded that the axiomatic designer of the universe has deliberately created a "pointless" evolution. By that I mean the final end point is not precisely specified in advance. Instead, the universe, including intelligent inhabitants, was designed to seek-out its own ultimate goal.

In other words, the cosmos is partly pre-destined and partly free. By including Randomness as a key element of evolution, the Creator deliberately relinquished some control over the course of evolution. That same degree of pointlessness, allows humans to freely express their own wills, without contradicting the Will of G*d. Another way to look at the fore-ordination versus freewill question is to assume that the whole Will of G*d is more than the sum of our individual wills.

I must assume that the Creator of this meandering process must have had some over-riding "personal" purpose*** or long-range goal in mind. But by concealing He/r divine purpose behind a veil of randomness, S/he can have He/r cosmic Omega Point, and let us have our own little purposes too. Does that make sense?


***Obviously, divine purpose and human purpose are like opposite ends of a continuum. An ant appears to be purposeful in its frenetic scurrying about. Are we like tiny ants relative to the Cosmic scheme?


Last edited by Gnomon on Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:37 pm

Uriah wrote:
That's a great post, it gave me much to think about - I must say, I rather like your interpretation, I've been reading Heidegger lately, and what you are saying jibes with his take on things.

Ironically, Heidegger's key concept in Being and Time can be interpreted in two different, but inter-related ways. "Dasein" means "being there" in the sense of subjective awareness or personal experience. But I don't know if Heidegger ever gave any thought to another way of looking at the same existential concept. "Das Ein" in German could be loosely translated "The One", which could refer to the Deity who is the locus of objective awareness and universal experience. In other words, humans are sentient beings, while G*d is Being itself. And that is a key concept in my own worldview: Being/beings = two sides of the same coin.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:46 am

Well, as I read it Heidegger seems mainly focused on the individual's awareness simply of being, here and now, in this time, this moment.

A philosophical concept referred to as the "Specious Present". Heidegger is not so much worried with metaphysical possibilities about where we came from, why we are, what comes next, etc... He just tells us to experience this existence, to live it, to be involved in each moment. Much like a surfer takes to a wave, not concerned with the last wave, or what waves are to come - it's a very Zen idea, I suppose.

At least, that's just my interpretation so far. Heidegger is a pretty deep dude.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:40 am

I like this Heidegger quote...

If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself. ~Martin Heidegger

For much the same reason I love this Pink Floyd song...

Quote :
Time

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.

I think they're both wake-up calls that tell us all to get our collective heads out of our asses and enjoy life.

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:04 pm

Uriah wrote:
Well, as I read it Heidegger seems mainly focused on the individual's awareness simply of being, here and now, in this time, this moment.

Yes, Heidegger was an Existentialist, so he most likely did not believe in G*d or in progressive evolution. Existentialism was an appropriate response---for atheists and disillusioned theists---to the exigencies and uncertainties of the world circa WWI. If there is no hope for a better tomorrow, then you can either collapse in despair, or stoically make the best of a bad situation. "Dasein" is a way to make something from nothing.

However, for those who see signs of progress in evolution and in civilization, there is still room for hope. Unlike biblical Theists, Deists have no assurance of salvation from an imperfect Reality, but they can at least add a little optimism to their stoicism. What seemed like a dead-end at the beginning of the 20th century, now appears to be a road-to-somewhere at this point in the 21st century. Das Ein is a way to explore and enjoy the process of something new emerging from something old.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:03 pm

Well, I guess I'm an Atheist or Disillusioned Theist, though I don't know which - honestly. But I often feel that the Existentialist philosophical mindset agrees with my own. For I, too, am not concerned in the least with what happens after my death. It makes no sense to me to base one's life around such epic absurdities.


Either way, I still like to explore the different philosophies, because Existentialism, while being a methodology I cannot reasonable abandon at this point, I am open to the poosibility of their being a more collaborative and metaphysically inclusive philosophy out there. Maybe, in the purest of Existentialist sense, that is up to me to devise for myself.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:04 pm

What say you to this?

Process Teleology
An alternative and perhaps the most sophisticated form of Teleology is Process Teleology. This holds that creation or evolution is guided, not from an external deity, but from an inherent unfolding within the creature or object that is evolving. In a sense it combines the previous explanations in a single holistic, pantheistic, or panentheistic, explantion of the universe.

According to this position evolution is goal directed, and the cosmos is not aimless, but a dynamic movement towards greater self-unfoldment. The universe can even be understood as unfolding along a sequence of pre-defined stages, and entities evolve through specific archetypal modes or kingdoms, in which the ultimate stage can be referred to as "God". Divinity is therefore not an external creator, but a state to be achieved.

Several very interesting forms of alternative Process and Unified Science - e.g. the hypotheses of Arthur M. Young and Edward Haskell, are based on this kind of process Teleology. Similarily the evoluutionary philosophies of Theosophy, Teilhard de Chardin, and Sri Aurobindo.

From http://www.kheper.net/topics/cosmology/teleology.html
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:08 pm

I think something along those lines makes the most sense to me.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:04 pm

Uriah wrote:
What say you to this?

Process Teleology
An alternative and perhaps the most sophisticated form of Teleology is Process Teleology. This holds that creation or evolution is guided, not from an external deity, but from an inherent unfolding within the creature or object that is evolving. In a sense it combines the previous explanations in a single holistic, pantheistic, or panentheistic, explantion of the universe.

The definition of Process Teleology is similar to my understanding of how the world works---with one major exception. I have never been able to find a reasonable explanation for Big Bang Theory, or Darwinian Evolution, or generic Teleology* that does not include some kind of Prime Mover or First Cause. Also, due to my understanding of Information Theory, Systems Theory, and Memetic Theory, I can't get around the logical necessity for an intelligent designer of the "system" and the "process". Organized Systems don't just happen by chance, and Temporal Processes must have a beginning.

Of course, I have no evidence for the existence of that logically necessary Being, except the physical evidence of the Universe, and the metaphysical evidence of Existence itself. So, as one atheist on another forum put it, G*d is just a "place-holder" name for the invisible object of a logical conclusion. And I must agree with him; but I also point out that the history of Philosophy and Science is full of examples of names for concepts without empirical proof. The best current example is Dark Energy/Dark Matter: the necessary existence of the theoretical objects denoted by those metaphoric names has been proven by logical reasoning and by careful calculation; but at this point in time there is no empirical evidence to replace the place-holders with something real.

That's why I call myself a Deist instead of a Theist or Atheist or Agnostic. I believe that a designing deity is necessary, but I don't have faith in that abstract concept. So essentially, I am an existentialist with reason to hope for things to get better---not necessarily in my lifetime, but in G*d's time. I have no idea what will happen after my death, but I have no reason to fear death, or to feel hopeless about life.


PS---One way to look at the Deist Dilemma is to imagine John McCain in his Vietnamese prison cage. He had no reason to hope for his excruciating personal situation to improve beyond living hour-to-hour and day-to-day. But his "faith" in Truth, Justice, and the American Way gave him hope that things would turn-out for the best in the long run. Now I'm sure things didn't turn-out exactly as he hoped, but thirty years later that tiger cage is a tourist attraction for Americans in sandals and Bermuda shorts visiting a stable and prospering Vietnam. Deists have no guarantee of tomorrow, but trust in something larger than the self can give us a positive feeling about the teleological process that we are a small part of. END OF HOMILY.


*Here's an essay on the topic of the teleological process of natural and artificial evolution:
http://home.mindspring.com/~johne84570/SyntheticEvolution.pdf
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Thu Sep 18, 2008 7:40 pm

Since we got off on the side topic of Existentialism versus Deism, here's some more off-topic thoughts on that subject.




INCONSEQUENTIALIST DRAMA

In the Existentialist play WAITING FOR GODOT, as I remember it, there is no first or third act---no beginning or end---just a long, boring second act. The implied point of the play is that everyone talks about God---in the guise of a man called Godot---but God/Godot never shows up. So the characters eventually quit waiting and just get on with their lives.

For Atheists life must seem to be an interminable second act. People yak, yak, yak about God, even though we never actually see God in the present. The characters seem to dwell on the unseen first act, and yearn for the long-delayed third act. And yet, until God shows-up, they are stuck in the limbo of absurdity---neither fully here in the present, nor there in the promised future.

Why then, do reasonably intelligent people waste so much time and energy on something so inconsequential as a God who exists only in the Past or the Future, never in the Here and Now? To the Existentialist observers these people appear to be irrational, unfulfilled, and unrealized. Their loyalty to Godot is absurd. Yet there seems to be something about Godot/God---the idea of God---that is so compelling, that 2000 years is not too long to wait.

So what is it about God that keeps the actors in a state of eternal suspense? One clue may be the notable fact that, even when he is not present, God/Godot is still meaningful to the actors. He is so important that they are willing to wait almost forever for him to make an appearance. The idea of God is so tantalizing that they are content to wait---in anticipation---for him to satisfy their need---their curiosity. The unseen, but clearly implied, first act must have really been a doozy, to keep the actors, and the audience on the edge of their seats for so long. The question on everyone's mind is, how you gonna follow that?

From my objective-observer perspective in the balcony though, the play is not really about Godot at all. It's about what the actors do---or don't do---while they wait for Godot. I suspect that Godot is an avant garde author, who set the play in motion with a theme, scene, and characterization--The Creation---and then abruptly left the stage. Now, without a script, the flustered actors seem confused about what to do and say. Maybe, if they stall long enough, God will finally rush-in to wrap things up in the third act---the Resolution.

But perhaps the intention all along was for the actors to write the second act---to create an unfolding drama from their own interactions. Some playwrights will tell you that the beginning and the end are the hard parts of creation. But once they set the scene, introduce the characters, and establish their motivations (to be revealed in the third act) then the rest of the play almost writes itself. Yet it takes some talented actors to ad-lib their way through the whole second act. The less talented just get in the way.

So just because the true resolution of the play hasn't been made clear yet, don't jump to the conclusion that it is pointless. Only a poor playwright would spoil the drama by telegraphing the denoument too soon. Maybe the author himself doesn't know how it will turn out until the very end. And all along, God/Godot has been sitting in the audience watching with abated breath to see what happens next.

John Earwood, 03/31/07

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:20 am

Fascinating thread, lots of good points.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:31 am

From panendeism.com

Quote :
PanenDeism:
A "natural evolutionary theology". PanenDeism (emphasis mine) represents a brand new conception of the nature of God. It is a new, developing theology that combines some very old ideas about the nature of things with some very new ones. The implications for how we think about ourselves as Humans are enormous and life-changing. In short, PanenDeism offers a brand new way to think about "..what God must Be, in order to Be at all."

PanenDeism is defined as "The doctrine that all reality exists within Deity (God), which first set the laws of "Process Evolution" (see below) in motion, allowing It's Creation to self-evolve in varying degrees of complete freedom; a process that continues to this day."


Process Evolution: The ongoing, indirect process of Co-Creation by the Deity (Creator) and the thing evolving. Based on the ideas of the spiritual philosophy known in some circles as "Process Theology", (See the writings of Alan Anderson, Charles Hortshorne and A. N. Whitehead) Process Evolution combines ideas of Biblical Creationism with Natural Evolution. Process Evolution is posited to be a natural, co-creative process.

All action (acts of creation), on some level, involve the Deity (Creator), along with varying levels of complete freedom (known in traditional theology as "Free Will") that is always present in the actions of the creature. Process Evolution operates by a principle known in PanenDeism as "Divine Attraction." To better understand this principle, an "updated" understanding of the underlying nature of physical reality will be helpful.

All matter in the universe can be thought of as existing on higher or lower "levels of Being" (known in PanenDeism as "Evolutionary Strata"). The lower the level (subatomic particle, molecule, cell), the less amount of complete freedom available for self-creation. The higher the level (organism, lifeform, sentient being), the greater degree of creative freedom available. Inherent in all matter is an element of creation, or "spark of Divinity", that can actually be described as spiritual in nature. Until recently, it was thought that physical reality was composed of "solid matter." Quantum Physics teaches us that matter is now largely considered an antiquated concept. Physical reality is actually not "solid" at all. All matter is composed of energy; but not just energy- intelligent energy!

Whenever an action is required by an element of creation (from the subatomic particle to the sentient being), a "Divine" or "Ideal" choice of action is always offered and available from the Deity, either consciously or unconsciously, and is known in PanenDeism as "The Proleptic Urge."

Although all of Creation (from the level of subatomic particle, to organism, to sentient being) is naturally drawn towards this "Ideal action", varying levels of true freedom exist within all matter to either accept the natural urge of action (evolution), or to reject it and to choose another action. This varying level of Freedom is what introduces true novelty into natural evolution, and imperfection into the Human animal. The goal of a PanenDeistic Spirituality would be to learn to recognize this "Proleptic Urge" (known in Traditional Christianity as "that still, small voice within") so that we, as a species, can eventually learn to take conscious control of our collective Human evolutionary path.

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:54 pm

Aaron wrote:

Whenever an action is required by an element of creation (from the subatomic particle to the sentient being), a "Divine" or "Ideal" choice of action is always offered and available from the Deity, either consciously or unconsciously, and is known in PanenDeism as "The Proleptic Urge."

The "Proleptic Urge" is probably what Theologians have called the "Moral Sense or Faculty", and associated it with the immortal Soul. But recently, brain scientists have concluded that the fundamentals of morality, our "Moral Instincts", are hardwired into our brains by evolution of the mortal body. If so, then the Deity gives He/r moral instructions indirectly by way of natural processes, instead of directly through prophets. That idea is compatible with the concept of Progressive Evolution and gradual Emergence of divine Will.
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:11 pm

THE PROGRESSION OF EVOLUTION CONTINUES


In an interview with an Evolutionary Psychologist, the subject of "progress" in evolution came up. He said, "I agree with Steven Jay Gould to a certain point. It is incorrect to maintain that evolution is a continuous progressive process that culminates in humans". And I must agree with that humbling conclusion---at least in part because we haven't reached the culmination of evolution yet. So who knows what the ultimate Omega-point will be?

However, he went on to say, "Evolution has evolved greater complexity, without a doubt. Generally, speaking, evolution does not lead to lesser complexity over time." So with that observation in mind, I must conclude that there is a "direction" to evolution, after all. It may not be headed for modern humanity or even human intelligence as a final goal. But it is definitely headed away from Entropy---away from its simple beginnings, and toward greater complexity. Yet complexity alone is not a very high goal to set. Indeed, what many of us value most in this world is Organized Complexity : animals over rocks; scientific technology over stone-age axes; comfortable civilization over the "nasty, brutal, and short" life of less-organized cave men. Romantics may idealize their imaginary Edens of un-cultivated Nature, but Pragmatics have always tried to organize Nature to suit the pleasures of effete humans.

What lies in the opposite direction from Entropy and Randomness, then, is Order and Meaning. And Anti-Entropy is a central feature of Information as defined by Claude Shannon. So it appears that the moving "target" of Evolution may be higher and higher levels of In-form-ation. Which means that the universe is not just getting more complex, but more In-formed, more designed, more organized, more meaningful. And so far as we can see, the epitome of evolutionary "progression" is us. Humans are typically more complex, more in-formed, more organized, and more meaningful than any other "product" of the Blind Watchmaker who designed the clockwork Cosmos, then wound it up, and let it run. So we can be forgiven for feeling as-if Evolution has been heading toward us---homo sapiens---all the time.

And yet, from a higher perspective, the vector of Evolution appears to be pointing past us, into the unforeseeable future. So how can we tell where it is really going? Barring divine revelations, we can only guess by following the implied trajectory of Time's Arrow. The Target of Time may be The Omega Point, where all things terminate in an Anti-Big-Bang---the Eternal Return to the Beginning of Being. After that, there is no after, only Eternity. Who knows what celestial levels of organized complexity might emerge from the progression of evolution between Here and Eternity?
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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Fri Nov 14, 2008 6:32 pm

Interesting idea. I believe that information is fragile and that it has a co-dependent relationship with energy. So perhaps there will never be a single Omega-Point but instead a mountain range of Omega-Points with each one as important to the subject as the next but with all of them equally doomed/blessed with impermanence.

...If that makes any sense.

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PostSubject: Re: Progressive Evolution   Sat Nov 15, 2008 7:55 pm

Aaron wrote:
Interesting idea. I believe that information is fragile and that it has a co-dependent relationship with energy. So perhaps there will never be a single Omega-Point but instead a mountain range of Omega-Points with each one as important to the subject as the next but with all of them equally doomed/blessed with impermanence.

...If that makes any sense.

That makes a lot of sense, since energy (in my theory) is actually a dynamic form of generic information. Throughout the cosmos, energy levels go up and down in a trend-chart similar to a mountain range; as a dense star forms out of diffuse gravity & galactic dust, and then explodes as a supernova, only to start moving right back up the thermodynamic hill. But until recently, the local condensation and organization of Energy in the universe seemed to be fighting a losing thermodynamic battle with universal Entropy. So if it is ever to reach a single, bulls-eye, Omega Point, information/energy will have to be focused down to a very tight, narrow, laser-beam of Intention.

The only way I see for that to happen is for Culture to take over the job of Nature to direct the path of evolution. That third* stage of evolution has already begun, as the science of Memetics demonstrates that Cultural Evolution** is like a booster rocket, accelerating the rate of change, both positive and negative. You might describe the new situation as an Info-dynamic battle between randomizing Entropy and organizing Information.

Will evolution end on a fading tone of pointless dissolution, or on a high note of eternal Integration? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


* The first two stages were chemical and biological.

** Culture is not inherited though genes, it is acquired by learning from other human beings. In a sense, human genes have surrendered their primacy in human evolution to an entirely new, nonbiological or superorganic agent, culture.
---Theodosius Dobzhansky
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