The Brain Evolved to Affect Movement

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It is no secret that the greater the extent that young children ‘play’ in a diverse educational environment, the greater their dexterity of mind and body. If a young child is deprived of this sensory experience, then the psychological and physical growth of that child is adversely affected. This suggests that positive sensory stimulation experienced in the environment, generates a healthy and robust inner psychological world, that is fully adapted to ‘survive’ in the evolutionary environment. This will obviously produce different stratagems for survival that are distinct and relevant for different historical epochs. A child during the Stone Age, for example, had to use play as a means of learning a range of survival behaviours in a potentially dangerous environment. A child from an affluent middle class background living in the 21st century, by way of comparison, has to develop learning strategies within ‘safe’ playing environments. Although generally speaking, the child in the latter example is not in danger, the blatant (and fear-orientated) need to survive, is replaced with the enjoyable requirement to learn ‘new’ tasks, for which the child receives positive reinforcement from both parents and teachers. According to neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, the brain has evolved simply to move the body through the evolutionary environment in a manner that efficiently enhances the chances of survival of the entire living organism. This suggests that the agencies of ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ are not the primary reasons the brain evolved, but are by-products designed to augment and facilitate ever greater and more useful movement strategies in the external world. Viewing the brain as being primarily a ‘thinking’ device, is then understood to be an inverted interpretation of reality. From a strictly evolutionary perspective, the brain moved the body first, before the mind was developed that was able to generate ‘thought’ about the movement. The confusion arises when the thinking process is fully developed and functional, and appears to exist in parallel to movement (as if the two systems are not inherently connected). The average human – until receiving a modern education – is unaware that movement preceded thought, and so mistakes the true order of evolutionary events. Within modern human societies, where many of the day to day survival needs for the population have been more or less removed, physical movement strategies to evade dangerous animals and traverse difficult environments are not obviously needed as much, and so thought appears to be more prominent, giving the false impression that its function is primary. Of course, as movement is good for the health of the brain, many people voluntarily take-up various exercise regimes to replicate the exertion of past times, with some people joining the military as a means to produce a self-fulfilling sense of ‘danger’, ‘urgency’ and ‘survival’ against the odds.

 

The Oldest Light in the Universe and the Origins of Matter

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here Did the First Light in the Universe Come From? Astrophysicists Now Know

This is a photograph showing the first light ever-present in the universe, taken by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planck Space Telescope in 2013. It is believed to show light from when the universe was just 370,000 years. In other words, this photograph presents the universe as it looked from the year zero to round 370,000 – 380,000 years old. This is a significant find, as the universe today is thought to be around 13.78 billion years old. This is essentially a photograph of what is called the ‘Cosmic Microwave Background’ (CMB), or to what is more commonly referred to as ‘background radiation’, which can be detected everywhere – including on earth. This is the residue of the ‘Big Bang’ that brought everything into being, the processes of which, eventually led to the formulation of planet earth (around 4.9 billion years ago), and through evolutionary processes, the emergence of all life (humans in their current evolutionary manifestation, are around 200,000 years old). One point that must be remembered is that light is older than matter, and that the dark patches in this photograph demonstrate areas where light is slowing down, and beginning to form matter – the physical stuff of the universe. Light is an electro-magnetic wave that travels through the vacuum of space, and which does not require any other medium to do so (the existence of dark matter and dark energy is known, because such entitles or ‘fields’ exercise an ‘attracting’ or ‘repulsing’ force respectively upon light as it travels through the apparently ’empty’ space). The following documentary conveys the ‘science’ of light, and humanity’s quest to study and understand its nature, covering operations with the naked eye, theoretical assumptions, telescopes, microscopes and mathematical equations, etc. British Professor Al-Khalili explains precisely how the physical universe emerged, and the scientific processes behind this emergence. When the early universe of hot, dense plasma ‘cooled’ and condensed, atoms were formed and trapped light energy released.

The Internal Model of Perception

Inner science is a non-religious investigation of the science of perception. It has to be ‘non-religious’ because it follows the ‘no hypothesis’ methodology associated with modern scientific enquiry. This approach is not in itself a judgement against religion, or the religious mind-set. On the contrary, it is the acknowledgement that religious methodology follows the ‘yes hypothesis’ and is the exact opposite of the scientific mind-set. Theology presents an already ‘complete’ vision of the universe, where it is assumed that theism is correct (and self-evident), and that all humanity has to do – from generation to generation – is simply to study this body of theological knowledge, conform to its strictures, and apply those strictures to everyday life. There is no questioning of the root validity of theistic thinking, and no comprehension that it has been a human mind that has ‘assumed’ theological thinking into being. This is because all theology is believed to have originated not from the human mind that first conceived it, but has rather ‘manifested’ from the divine-will of a primarily ‘unseen’ theistic entity. If people find comfort in this type of thinking, that is their right – just as it is an equal right (I would hope) not to find solace in such an approach to understanding reality. From a scientific position, it seems a matter of where one places their conscious awareness – whereas from a religious position, it is a matter of ‘belief’ or ‘non-belief’, ‘theism’ or ‘atheism’, etc.

The above programme is not religious, but entirely scientific in nature (exploring the ‘internal model’ narrative). It investigates the human brain, the human mind, perception and reality. It does this from the study of reality in the form of organic and inorganic matter. The brain is an isolated organ that exists in the skull, which is entirely cut-off from the outside world. It does not directly sense anything in and of itself, and possesses no ability to sense any stimulus in and of itself. The brain communicates with the outside world through bioelectrical impulses that are received from the senses which mediate with the external world. However, all the sensed data, regardless of its nature, be it sight, noise, smell or touch, etc, arrives at the different filtering parts of the brain in exactly the same format – namely that of bio-electrical impulses. In a process that is still not entirely understood, the brain converts these impulses into what might be called the recognisable and tangible senses. All this data serves to form an all-round image of the outer world – an outer world that the brain never directly perceives – but which is assumed to exist in the manner through which it is perceived. This situation is historical and directly related to the requirements of human survival as manifest in evolutionary development. Human beings perceive exactly as much of the physical environment that they need to survive, and nothing more. This would suggest that despite a working model of the external world that all human beings share, we cannot be exactly sure what the external world is really like in all its aspects. We may assume that the external world exists independent of the mind that perceives it, simply because the human brain from which the mind emerges, is itself composed of a material substance. Human perception constructs an image of the outer world that is functional for human survival, but which is probably incomplete in its ability to ‘sense’.

Although a working reality is generated in the human mind by the human brain, this does not mean that the outer world is an illusion that is generated from within the mind. Internal perception should not be conflated with the processes of ‘creating’ the world that is being ‘perceived’. The world exists independently of the brain and mind that perceives it, and remains unchanged in its deepest aspects by the act of general human perception. Here, a distinction must be drawn between general human ‘perception’ (which is instantaneous), and ‘observation’ (which is deliberate and in the case of science, governed by strict laws of conduct). This is despite the fact that a ‘vision’ of the outer world is generated within the brain and mind, and that it is difficult to ascertain the exact accuracy of this construction. This is probably the original meaning behind the Yogacara School of Buddhism which has been generally misconstrued as assuming that all that exists, is the inner world of ideas. The inner world of ideas definitely exists, but it is a product of a physical body that interfaces with an independently existing external environment. This is important research, but my personal opinion is that there must be a correlation between inner perception and the outer world that is sensed, and that the traps of ‘idealism’ ‘psychologism’ must be avoided to retain scientific objectivity. I suspect that human perception of the environment is ‘correct’ and ‘accurate’ – even though it might be incomplete. This is because it is unlikely humanity would have survived if its perception of the material universe was fatally flawed.

 

ZSL – London Zoo (23.9.2017)

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ZSL London Zoo

We travelled up the Northern Line Tube and alighted at Camden Town. We walked about 20 minutes down Camden High Street and crossed the Regent’s Canal (near Regent’s Park), before finding the entrance to the Zoo. Gee and myself probably visited London Zoo around 13 years ago – but this was the first time that our daughters (Mei-An 5 and Kai-Lin 1) had visited. (My mother tells me she visited with her school from Oxford – in the late 1950’s – at a time when visitors could still ride on elephants around the compound!). The letters ‘ZSL’ stand for ‘Zoological Society London ‘ – the official body that founded the Zoo in 1828 and which is responsible for its continued administration, maintenance and development. Surprisingly, London Zoo has never received any government support, and so has to charge an admittance fee to visitors, although certain supermarkets are offering tickets in exchanges for shopping points accrued upon loyalty cards. Elephants and Rhinos are no longer at this north-west London site – but now live at ZSL Whipsnade (in Bedfordshire) which has far more space for them to roam. Nevertheless, London Zoo is still sizeable and offers all kinds of interesting creatures to marvel at. This visit was part of our ongoing policy of empowering our children through education and positive learning experiences.

 

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The Buddha’s Material Mind

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‘The Pali word “chitta” may be translated into the English word “mind”, subject to the proviso that the latter be not understood in the sense of something non-material which is it is usually taken to mean. For “chitta”, according to both the Hindu and Buddhist ways of thinking, is not non-material, but belongs to the side of matter, however rarefied it may be.’

Nikunja Vihari Banerjee, The Dhammapada (Page 95)

Within the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha defines reality as a combination, integration or entanglement of physical environment and mind in all its defined aspects. Notice that the Buddha defines reality as ‘matter’ prior to explaining the different aspects of the developed human mind that interacts (via the senses) with that environment. This ‘bundle’ of reality is usually translated as the ‘five aggregates’ and is always presented in the following manner:

  1. Matter – including living forms (rupa)
  2. Sensations – feelings about the external world received via the senses  (vedana)
  3. Perceptions (samjna)
  4. Thought formations (sankhara)
  5. Consciousness (vijnana)

An ‘aggregate’ is an English translation for the Pali term ‘kkhandha’, which literally means a ‘heap’, ‘gathering’, or ‘collection’ of something that is used in the Buddhist sense to define a distinct category. Matter (rupa), for instance, is used to explain the entire material realm – which includes the living body and its senses. The aggregate of matter is comprised of the four great elements (i.e. solidity, fluidity, heat and motion) and their derivatives, etc, and interestingly is said by the Buddha to include certain types of thoughts, ideas, or conceptions which exist as mind-objects (dharmayatana). This demonstrates straight away that the Buddha considered matter the basis of reality, and the mind to be an important aspect of this material realm. The aggregate of sensation includes all physical and psychological sensations – which may be defined as ‘pleasant’, ‘painful’, or ‘neutral’. The Buddha defined six senses which include the eye (visible sensations), ear (audible sensations), nose (smell sensations), tongue (taste sensations), body (sensing tangible objects), and mind (which senses thoughts, ideas and conceptions). The aggregate of perception distinguishes between physical and psychological stimulus, and identifies the differing material and psychological objects perceived through the six senses. The aggregate of thought formation represents the generation of volitional (or ‘willed’ thought – which is conditioned by the aggregates of matter, sensation and perception prior to its arising. However, as the Buddha does not posit a spirit, consciousness or mind that exists in opposition to the world of matter, the Pali term ‘sankhara’ also refers to anything in existence that is conditioned – including all psychological and physical events – as the five aggregates are used to define the entirety of conditioned existence. The aggregate of consciousness does not recognise an object, it represents only the presence of the awareness of an object. For instance, visual consciousness arises when the eye encounters an object which is blue in colour – but the visual consciousness (which underlies all ability to see with the eyes)  remains ‘unaware’ of the object of or its colour. It is only through the aggregate of perception that the object and its colour are recognised. Seeing does not mean ‘recognising’ and it is the same within Buddhist thinking for the other five senses.

The Buddha recognises ‘six’ senses because he views the mind as a ‘sense-organ’ which perceives ‘thought’ (and presumably emotion). In the contemporary West, however, although five senses are common, there are a number of extant theories advocating a higher number – including more than the Buddha’s six – with neurologists identifying as many as nine, and others as many as twenty-one!  I think the telling point is that the Buddha identifies the mind as being part of the physical body – what might today be termed the brain-mind nexus – and does not at any point state that the mind, as either consciousness or spirit, stands in opposition to a physical world. The Buddha quite clearly identifies the mind as materially derived, whilst also identifying its psychological (or ‘thought-producing’) aspect. In other words, the Buddha appears to be stating that in the natural state, a human mind cannot exist without a human body. All this is stated within the aggregate of matter – from which arise the other four aggregates. Even the Buddha’s use of ‘consciousness’ (vijnana) does not correlate in anyway with modern, Western notions of the term that are ‘idealistic’ in origination, and seem to take on a meaning that combines what the Buddha would refer to as ‘thought formations’ (fourth aggregates), with a notion of an eternal religious ‘soul’ (or ‘atma’) – an idea the Buddha thoroughly rejected. The Buddha perceived an impersonal and integrated world of mind and body that did not contain any notion of an assumed Brahmanic ‘atma’ – or ‘divine spark’. Therefore, for the Buddha, ‘consciousness’ only exists as long as a sense organ is in contact with a sense object – when this sensory contact is broken – the particular form of consciousness in question (i.e. eye or ear, etc) ceases to function. Of course, with a sensory impairment, such as blindness, eye consciousness has ceased to function altogether whilst the individual is alive, but when the physical body ceases to function at the time of death, all sensory consciousness also ceases function (along with the functioning of the other aggregates). This is an important observation, because it also suggests that for the Buddha, the concept of ‘mind’ (as thought formation) also ceases. The Buddha’s description of reality suggests that ‘mind’ only functions within a specific set of conditions, material circumstances, does not pre-exist physical birth, and does not post-exist physical death.

When all this is considered, why do many people assume that the Buddha’s thinking is ‘idealistic’? This is surely an incorrect assumption, premised upon a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the Buddha’s teaching. This category error probably stems from the false belief that the Buddha’s assessment of reality is ‘religious’ in nature, when it is obviously secular and premised upon a rational and empirical assessment of reality by a human mind freed from the historical conditioning of religious thinking. The Buddha rejected (as unsound) any theological notion that an unseen god created the physical universe (and all life in it), and then connected himself in a special manner to each human being through an individual ‘divine spark’. For the Brahmanic system, this  ‘divine spark’ is termed ‘atma’ or ‘breath of life’. Through introspective meditation, the Buddha looked into his psycho-physical interior and stated that no such ‘divine spark’ existed, and that when a person was fully enlightened to the nature of reality, all volitional karma ceased to function (i.e. there is no rebirth in the ultimate state of understanding), and that there were no such entities as ‘unseen’ gods, etc. The Buddha used a remarkably ‘modern’ rationale to ascertain the non-existence of the religiously inspired, immaterial realm. This has been the position of Buddhism ever since, and applies to Brahmanism just as it does to any other theistic religion – be it Islam or Christianity. The Buddha was not a god or a messenger of god – and there was no ‘hidden’ theistic meaning to existence. The Buddha achieved this insight through the meditative (i.e. psychological) exercise of non-identification with thought formation (in the mind to the point of cessation of all thought), and through the act of physical discipline (vinaya) with regards to how he ‘related’ to the material world around him. This led to the permanent state of ‘non-attachment’ to thoughts arising in the mind (and to the state of non-arising of thought), and the rejection (and complete cessation) of desire (in the mind and body) to otherwise attractive phenomena existing in the material environment. For the Buddha, this included a celibate lifestyle, and the exchanging of a ‘personal’ existence for a completely ‘impersonal’ existence. Through disciplining the mind and body, the Buddha discovered an indifferent collectivity to existence that contained no personal desire, and so saw the end of suffering caused by desire – this is the perfected, tranquil and harmonious state of ‘nibbana’ experienced by an individual that no longer exists in the dualistic, deluded or egotistically attached sense.

Given that the Buddha’s theory of mind is purely materialistic (with conscious awareness being a special arrangement of matter due to the evolutionary process as described by the Buddha in the Agganna Sutta), why is Buddhism still often misrepresented as a ‘religion’? Part of the problem is the Buddha’s insistence upon a disciplined ‘Sangha’, or ‘monastic’ community, with even the Buddhist lay-community expected to keep a certain number of moral rules or precepts. This set-up seems very similar to the Christian monastic orders that developed much later, but for the Buddha and his followers, there was no ‘grace of god’ at the end of their path.  Another reason lies in the modern Western habit of interpreting the Buddha’s path as a form of ‘idealism’ (despite all the Buddhist teachings to the contrary), and assuming the Buddha is advocating a type of ‘secular’ god-worship – with him as the physical manifestation of god on earth. Again, this is a grave error of interpretation, and bears no relation to the Buddha’s expressed teachings, even if the different schools of Buddhist interpretation are taken into account. Of course, certain politicised elements of modern Buddhism that ‘sell’ the Dharma to gullible Westerners, propagate the non-Buddhist myth of ‘reincarnation’, when it is clear from the Buddha’s description of the five aggregates that ‘nothing’ pre-exists birth, or post-exists death – certainly nothing pertaining to a ‘personality replete with memories’ that transmigrates from one life-time to another. This is true even if the Buddha’s rather vague explanation of an impersonal ‘rebirth’ is taken into account – a process that only exists in the deluded mind, and ceases with the realisation of complete enlightenment. The concept of reincarnation was probably integrated very late into certain types of Buddhist thought from theistic Brahmanism, and may relate to the ‘prophets’ that frequent the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, etc. Whatever the case, the Buddha denies any divine origin and rejects the concept of theism being of any value to practitioners. Finally, misinterpretations of the ‘Yogacara’ School have had a substantial effect upon Buddhism being mistakenly viewed as ‘idealistic’. The name itself – ‘Yogacara’ – is probably non-Buddhist in origin and translates as ‘yoga practice’, or the ‘structured practice of spiritual discipline’. From a Buddhist perspective, this school is also known as ‘Citta-matra’, or ‘mind only’, and it is this translation that has caused a number of misconceptions to arise (particularly evident in DT Suzuki’s English translation of the Lankavatara Sutra – a sleight of hand used by Suzuki to justify the distorted version of Zen that he followed and propagated in Japan leading-up to WWII – and in the West following Japan’s defeat after WWII)). The point here is easy to clear-up. The founders of the Yogacara School did not disagree with the Buddha, and did not think that the ‘mind’ as defined by the Buddha was ‘permanent’. On the contrary, the founders Asaṅga and Vasubandhu fully agreed that the mind was impermanent and subject to change and dissipation upon physical death. The point they were making, (and which is often missed), is that it is within the mind (i.e. the ‘thought formations’) that the ‘will’ to become enlightened must be propagated and developed, so as to generate the appropriate level of psychological and physical discipline, or commitment to the Buddha’s path. As the Buddha defines the mind as being part of the physical world, and considering he advocates a physical and psychological transformation into a collectively existing and impersonal being, there is nowhere in his teachings any grounds for the Buddha suggesting that ‘only the mind exists’. Mind exists temporarily (as a special arrangement of matter) just as long as a physical body is alive, but as matter (according to the Buddha) is always changing, and its forms are impermanent, so is the capacity of the human mind as defined through the five aggregates. The human mind has the power and capacity to manipulate and develop the material world (i.e. modern science and medicine, etc), but also possesses the ability to navigate an individual Buddhist practitioner from a purely selfish existence and into a selfless collectivity,

Further Reading:

Banerjee, Nikunja, Vihari, The Dhammapada, (2000), Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers

Narada Thera, The Dhammapada – Pali Text and Translation with Brief Notes, (1993), Buddha Educational Foundation

Rahula, Walpola, What the Buddha Taught, (1972), Gordon Fraser

Rahula, Walpola, Zen & The Taming of the Bull – Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought, (1978), Gordon Fraser

 

The Connection Between the Perception of Inner and Outer Space

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The Buddha’s ideas are very similar in nature to many of those generated by the philosophers of ancient Greece. Like those ancient Greek philosophers, the Buddha used his mind in a very ‘modern’ manner, and developed a logical and rational view of existence. Again, like the ancient Greeks his thinking reflected, the Buddha developed his mode of pristine thought out of the religiosity prevalent during his lifetime. The Buddha’s life dates are uncertain, but he is thought to have lived (by Western scholars) around 2,500 years ago in ancient India, and around 3,000 years ago according to the traditional scholarship preserved within Chinese Buddhism. I have speculated elsewhere, a tentative theory that Emperor Ashoka [304-232 BCE] (and his ministers) may have developed a peaceful and wisdom-loving (secular) philosophical path, that denied the relevancy and reality of an ‘Indian’ militant Brahmanism, an Indian religion that threatened to confront and over-throw Emperor Ashoka’s ‘foreign’ rule. A passive and meditating Buddhism could have been developed by merging certain Brahmanic elements (such as the yoga of meditation), with various aspects of Greek rational thought. A candidate for the Greek input for the Buddha’s mode of thinking could be the system of thought as developed by Epicurus (370-270 BCE). The similarities between the Buddha’s system and that of Epicurus are so obvious and staggering that I am surprised that this link has not been recognised in the past and studied with a greater depth. Of course, playing devil’s advocate, I have suggested that the ancient Greeks influenced ancient Indian thought, and that Emperor Ashoka ‘created’ Buddhism out of an admixture of Indian and Greek traditions. This is purely a speculation on my part, using the rational facility of my mind. It could also be that the Buddha’s mode of modern thinking was developed hundreds of years before a similar manifestation occurred in ancient Greek (spreading to Greece from ancient Indian through trade and cultural exchange). Another theory is that a ‘new’ way of using the human mind was an evolutionary development that spread ‘species-wide’ across many human cultures that had no direct (or indepth) contact with one another. The use of the rational mind (as advocated by the Buddha and ancient Greeks), is essentially a ‘free’ and ‘unhindered’ mode of thought that lies at the basis of modern science when channelled in a certain manner. This means that ‘free-thinking’ requires various modes of constraint to direct its energy into specific forms of creativity – with perhaps art for art’s sake being its most ‘free’ expression, and scientific endeavour being its most structured and disciplined.

Epicurus was taught by Nausiphanes, and their root-master was Democritus. Democritus was a genius who – without access to microscopes (or even advanced mathematics) – used his ‘rational’ mind to determine that existence is comprised of ‘atoms’ that move around through ’empty space’. Today, through the use of advanced technology and mathematics we know that this is scientifically correct. This would suggest that Democritus had an experience no less important than the enlightenment of the Buddha, as it radically redefined humanity’s perception of reality and existence, and yet generally speaking, there are no temples containing statues of Democritus, or people applying a meditative method to replicate his mode of thought. Democritus stated that atoms moved through space in a determinate manner – but Epicurus modified this idea by stating that atoms – although moving in a definite manner through space – also possessed the ability to suddenly ‘deviate’ or ‘swerve’ in a different direction for no apparent reason. This is how Epicurus explained how unusual events happened, whilst things seemed to unfold in similar patterns. Thousands of years later, Epicurus was proven right when Heisenberg produced his ‘Uncertainty Principle’ in 1927. My point here, is to explore how space and matter is perceive within (and by) the human mind. The Buddha and the Greeks said similar things about form and void. Epicurus – like the Buddha – rejected the relevancy of religion. Both seem to suggest that gods might exist in a deluded sense, but do not exist in an ultimate sense (as many people thought). Epicurus stated that even if gods existed, they had no interest in humanity, and after-all, as there are only atoms and space that define existence, the gods themselves must be comprised of atoms just like humans, and probably subject to some-type of ‘death’ or ‘demise’. For Epicurus – who understood that life was comprised of many sufferings and different kinds of pleasure – death is the absolute end of existence for the individual because the body has ceased to function and its atoms fall apart. There is no transmigration to a heaven or a hell, or rebirth into another living form. The Buddha agrees with this, but allows for a certain ‘delusional’ existence where rebirth occurs and physical death is not the end of existence. However, when full enlightenment is attained, then all rebirth (and karmic retribution) comes to an end – and yet the Buddha clearly states time and again the reality is comprised of empty space within which physical reality manifests. In other words, empty space is not ’empty’ in essence, and physical matter does not occur in a ‘dead’ vacuum.

The Buddha and ancient Greeks were able to use their minds to ‘see’ reality in such a way that modern science has confirmed their basic assumptions to be correct. Both Epicurus and the Buddha seem to suggest that this is not just an ‘objective’ understanding, but also the product of a profound subjective experience. It could be that the Buddha and Greek philosophers like Epicurus were able to manifest a rational mind premised upon subjective experiences that had been previously interpreted in a ‘religious’ manner – an approach rejected by ‘rationalists’. The following is a fascinating scientific documentary about empty space – which is not ’empty’:

 

A Non-Threatening Mystery

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The problem with the agency of ‘mystery’ as a conveyor of meaning, is that it is premised upon ‘not knowing’. This means that in the process of acquiring certainty, uncertainty becomes a prime mover. This differs from modern science in as much as the method of knowledge acquisition is dependent upon the eradication of ‘uncertainty’, as a means to secure ‘certainty’. Of course, a scientific mystery is different from a religious mystery in as much as it indicates an area of research not yet clarified through logical investigation. A religious mystery, on the other hand, provides a type of emotional support lacking in the scientific method, but does not supply a similar robust intellectual response. Yes, theology can be sophisticated, meandering, complicated, obscure and dogmatic, but it can never be scientifically ‘proven’ to be correct or to even exist – but such is the nature of reality. For some, for instance, the prospect of space travel can appear mysterious because it is unknown, but this does not mean that it is ‘unknowable’. Religion, by its very nature, is known only through its ‘unknowable’ nature, and herein lies its attraction for many people. It is not a matter of being ‘anti-religious’, but rather a matter of understanding the difference in how the human mind functions within the two systems under discussion. The problem with theistic rapture, is that the experiencer can stay in a dark cave for decades, and end his or her life staring at what is believed to be the divine, whilst contributing nothing to the scientific development of humanity. Poverty, illness, famine, drought, illiteracy and homelessness are not resolved by this approach to self-absorption. Although somekind of inner freedom is hinted at, nothing changes on the outer plain. Science, strictly speaking, does not require religion to function, and the same can be said for religion and its relationship to science. Both systems exist in parallel, but the battle in recent centuries has been which paradigm should direct human affairs – and secular science has proven its material worth by making human life better. Of course, with regards to the technologically-led destructive nature of the arms industry, a case can be made to suggest that science (at least in part), has contributed immeasurably to the over-all suffering of humanity, quite often in some of the most brutal ways imaginable. This criticism of science (and one of its uses) is undoubtedly true. However, the monopoly upon social destruction is not owned exclusively by science, as the Christian religion has had its fair share of committing mass atrocities over the last thousand years or so (the same observation and criticism can be equally levelled at numerous other religions). Perhaps it is better to state that humanity has a thread running through its genetic programming that has the capacity for immense violence, and that this capacity has been activated and operated in a vicious manner at various stages of its evolutionary development. This being the case, it is this propensity for violence that needs to be developed out of the human system as a means to secure a better future. This is where the various peace-orientated ideals contained within most religions and spiritual paths can be useful for the further evolution of humanity. This need not clash with the scientific paradigm, but exist peacefully alongside it. Although science may pursue a non-religious narrative, this does not necessarily mean that science is ‘anti-religious’. In reality, as religion cannot be ‘measured’ or ‘quantified’, it is of no interest to the scientific method, and exists outside of it. As science does not operate through the agency of ‘faith’, religionists should have no opinion about it, and yet the world is full of individuals that purport to support religion or science from a diametrically opposing position. This is not useful or helpful for the development of humanity, but this is not the complete story, as many religionists today study science, and many otherwise hard-nosed scientists profess a religious faith outside the laboratory. An appreciation of nature, and the sheer randomness of its creation and functionality maybe termed a non-threatening mystery that does not compromise the material essence of modern science. From the scientific perspective, religion can be explained scientifically (through the auspices of psychology and psychiatry, as well as secular philosophy), and need not necessarily be an issue that requires confronting, even if it does not obviously contribute toward the scientific method.

The Problem with Biblical Giants

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Much of pseudo-science is premised not on ‘science’, but on ‘theology’, and is an attempt to usurp the current age of scientific reason. Pseudo-science a priori assumes that the bible’s narrative is literally correct, and seeks to draw all the apparent ‘facts’ revealed by modern science, into a realm subsumed by theistic thinking. Evolution is either false (and from the ‘devil’), or ‘real’, but not as modern scientists contend (as being a product of accidental natural selection). In the latter sense, evolution is a product of god’s will, and scientists have got it all wrong – the earth has evolved, but is only 6000 years old, and early humans lived alongside dinosaurs. Even from this short list of comparisons, the reader can gain the two different directions in which the human mind is being used. Theology is an imagination arranged in an illogical order, that is taken by its adherents to be a ‘higher’ logic, or divine wisdom that ordinary human beings simply cannot understand (as their resisting mind is clouded by the ‘devil’). Rational science, on the other hand, objectively ‘measures’ the material world, and with that knowledge seeks to make life better here and now for humanity, and not in somekind of ‘imagined’ paradise at sometime in the future.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in taking seriously, claims that purport to state that within modern archaeology, a species of ‘giant’ human beings has been ‘dug-up’ around the world, being notably prominent in 19th century USA. Quite often these claims are accompanied by no evidence, or poor quality photographs that could be anything (in the modern era, there is obvious CGI hoax pictures doing the rounds). The usual narrative is that these finds ‘prove’ the bible to be literally ‘correct’, and that the ‘giants’ mentioned in that religious text are physically ‘real’. When asked where the bones are today, the answer is always that they have gone ‘missing’, or that mainstream academia has deliberately ‘hidden’ this ‘truth’ because it undermines the rational (secular) reality of science. If modern science is ‘wrong’ about biblical giants, then what else is it wrong about? The apparent existence of biblical giants would begin the collapse of the premise of modern science, with the demise of reason and the re-establishment of the dominance of imagination (and ignorance) over the mind of humanity.

Within the modern human species, genetic variation allows for adult people to be any height from 4 feet (or less) to 7 feet (or more). This is because modern humans are evolutionarily adapted to the environment within which they live. Human culture has evolved around catering for the ‘average’ height (or length of leg), and ‘average’ reach (or length of arm), and people who are very short or very tall have issues living within a cultural setting that more or less ignores their very real needs (the same can be said for people possessing all kinds of disability, as they live in a world defined by ‘average’ ability).  Of course, a civilised society makes allowances for these differences, and extends help or assistance to those that need it, whereas an uncivilised society punishes those that stand-out from the ‘average’ crowd. The point is that there is a tremendous diversity of height even within modern humans, but in the past there has been different early human species that were as short as 3.5 feet tall (Homo Floresiensis), and as tall as six feet (Homo Erectus), with each being perfectly adapted to its environment, and with a variance of height diverging from the ‘average’ applicable to a species. A 3.5 foot person might well find a 4.5 foot person to be a giant, or a 6 foot person might find a 7 foot person a giant, etc, and so ‘giantness’ is all a matter of perspective, and not in and of itself a specific ‘issue’ relating to a distinct ethnic group. Giants – that is a type of human that is on average 9 foot tall – could not logically existed in our environment simply because this evolutionary environment does not provide the conditions to make the human species 9 foot tall on average. Such an adaptation would be an evolutionary disadvantage to the human species existing in the natural environment, and would probably lead to its extinction. The biblical notions of giants are counter-scientific and attempt to replace evolutionary science with illogical theology. Giants of excessive height forming a distinct species as the norm, is illogical and unscientific, and therefore could not have existed.  This can be doubly asserted as correct by stating that if ‘giants’ a) existed, and b) were better adapted to their environment, than modern humans would die-out over-time for being maladapted, but then I am working from the very science that religionists reject.  It is not that exceptionally tall (or short) people exist (they undoubtedly do), but rather that a separate species of unnaturally ‘giant’ humans inspired by an ‘imagined’ religious text do not, and have never existed on the physical real. If they have ever existed, then provide the physical evidence for scientific scrutiny.

Teaching Evolution Effectively to Transform Human Understanding

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Evolution is an established academic fact, but as this is a new field of research, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection is an unfolding process that requires modification as new evidence comes to light. Unlike the ready-made teachings associated with religion, academic theories are in many ways a work in progress. Theology, with its central premise of a divine entity, does not require improving – only understanding and accepting, because such a teaching premised upon the authority of tradition, does not require updating or changing. In fact, any attempt to alter or modify theology is met by the various established churches with the charge of ‘blasphemy’. However, science is not at war with religion as certain academic or religionists would have the world believe, as each understanding of reality is distinct and not reliant upon the other. For dogmatic religion, science premised upon the collection of objective evidence is anathema, whilst for established science, religious belief is irrelevant – this is why the two realms of interpretation really have no connection. What is required in today’s progressive classrooms is a greater emphasis upon evolutionary theory, and the clarity of thought this brings humanity. This should not be a problem for religion, as such institutions teach exclusively theology in their churches with no reference whatsoever to modern learning and understanding. This being the case, it should be established under law that the school classroom is secular – whilst religious teachings remain the sole enterprise of religionists and their specialist theological centres of learning – with no confusion or conflating of the truth. Believing in religion is not a problem, but such a belief should not be used to ‘high-jack’ the secularist agenda of rational and logical thinking. A problem prevalent in the US (but less so in Europe due to Socialistic-type education systems), is that of religionists deliberately pursuing a path of conflict by attempting to infiltrate the institutes of established sciences, and through the strictures of theology, seeking to dislodge the rational agendas being taught. This is an attempt (primarily by the religious right), to replace secular ‘logic’ with theological ‘faith’. This is a battle that does not exist. Religionists are perfectly welcome to continue to pursue their theological path, and in so doing, should leave the academic community alone to pursue its rational agenda. In today’s post-modern world, it is secular science that is making the world a better place to live for the entirety of humanity – differing economic systems not withstanding. If a religionist truly believes in the theistic entity that lies at the heart of theology – then that faith should be so strong and unshakeable that systems of modern logic will not affect it at all. This principle can be seen in the lives of professional scientists that retain a religious faith in their private lives, but which keep the two dimensions entirely separate. Children and young people must understand how a rational and logical mind functions, and this must be conveyed at a young age, primarily through a secular education system. In this way, the stupidity of a lack of critical thought will be avoided. The following video demonstrates the cultivated stupidity of a young American who uses the language and conventions of a modern education to ‘attack’ evolutionary theory. The lack of understanding is palpable and reflects the current ‘anti-intellectual’ agenda being pursued in the USA. What this individual fails to see, is how his own mind is operating. He cannot help but make a fool of himself by ‘projecting’ onto Darwinian evolutionary theory, the limitations implicit in his own religious belief system. Perhaps the greatest ignorance is not understanding how our own minds work. The academic Laurence Krauss is lecturing superbly here – and his progressive performance makes a mockery of the ignorant commentator’s attempt to belittle and ridicule:

 

Evolution: the Weight of Evidence

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Understanding evolutionary theory (through natural selection), is very much a matter of how the mind is conditioned to work. Judeo-Christian theology, at least since its embracing by the Roman State, has existed as a means of political organisation, social order, psychological control, and of temporal power. This deliberate use of the teachings of Jesus Christ must be viewed as separate and distinct from the intended meaning of the original philosophy of personal freedom existing within the construct of moral surrender to a theistic entity. Where Jesus surrendered to the god that he saw as real, the Christian State demands that its adherents surrender not directly to god, but rather to the Christian State itself. Surely, this is nothing more than human-beings being coerced to conform to a political vision imposed by others, that is falsely presented as other-worldly, whilst remaining fully in the material world. This is not to say that there is nothing useful or helpful contained within biblical teachings, but is rather stating that the views retained by many so-called Christians today, are nothing more than the trumpeting of the dictates of a Christian State – in either its Catholic or Protestant formats. This observation should not be taken to justify the extent of criminality that exists within these religious movements that has seen the death of millions over the last thousands years or so, or the epidemic of child sexual abuse that currently haunts the established church. Jesus the man would never have authorised or agreed with a politicised church that committed mass murder in his name, or tolerated priests or nuns that have sexually abused (and even killed) children in their care. My point here, is that the easily observable history of the modern church is generally treated with a collective amnesia – as if all the killing and hatred do not really matter just as long as the central myth of Jesus’s divine birth is held in place. Here lies the pathway of madness…

Whereas within Islam, a type of advanced and secular science grew-out of Quranic theology (and was even guided by it), secular science in the West emerged outside of Christian theology, with the re-discovery of progressive Greek philosophy during the Renaissance. As the politicised Christian church perceived this development as a ‘threat’ to its temporal power, it immediately adopted an antagonistic stance towards what can be described as the ‘logical’ thought associated with modern science. Whereas enlightened Islamic leaders encouraged and supported scientific study, their Christian counter-parts ordered pogroms of destruction and murder against all those who dared to speak-out in support of logical and rational thinking. This included Christian monks such as Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) – burned at the stake by order of the Vatican – for daring to entertain Copernican ideas of cosmology (suggesting that stars might be suns that had planets orbiting which might contain other life). It is a measure of the flawed logic of a politicised church that such progressive thinkers as Giordano Bruno remain ‘un-Sainted’ – whilst highly controversial figures, such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta – an arch Catholic imperialist that openly spread Catholic notions of Suffering around India was ‘Sainted’ in a relatively short-time after her death.

Today, there are two types of Christian; one which views modern (secular) academia as being from the devil and refuses to engage with it, whilst the other takes the time to study secular science (and learn all its protocols) as a means to ‘disprove’ Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. However, the latter type does not just strive to disprove evolution, but simultaneously ‘prove’ creationism as propounded within the Judeo-Christian bible. In my view this is the misuse of secular academia, and is the product of primitive and superstitious thinking. The bible is a collection of disparate texts assembled over a long period of time, in no particular order or logic. The dichotomy between Judaism and Christianity offer yet another (and often contradictory) confusion in the constituent texts. The bible is a book assembled by men, and altered and changed many times to suit various existential socio-economic and political situations. For prime examples of politicised church editing of the bible, see the ample texts preserved within the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library, etc. Modern Christian academics that pursue the destruction of Darwinism, assume that the bible is a complete and pristine vision of the universe, its development and its functionality, when in fact it is merely a collection of incoherent and disconnected texts written at very different times, for vastly different reasons. Of course, one underlying reality to these texts, is the assumption that ‘god’ exists, and that ‘he’ created the universe by an act of divine will, and so on and so forth.

No matter what the bible says, it is not a logical or rational theory in the secular, scientific sense. It presumes the existence of a divine entity, and limits all debate to accepting this idea (whilst not being able to provide a shed of truth for it). The bible theory is regressive (because it is always pointing backwards to a divine origin), and is ‘anti-intellectual’ in essence. If the bible is taken as the ‘answer’ to all possible questions, then there is no need for the human intellect to a) exist, and b) be used to ‘think’ about reality. In this regard, the ‘religious’ organisation of the mind is self-limiting, and prevents any development of science. This is because despite its name, ‘theology’ (i.e. the ‘science of the divine’), is in fact nothing more than a collection of unproven ‘dogmatic’ beliefs – there is nothing ‘scientific’ about it at all. Therefore the theological argument cannot be truthfully used to attack secular science, as it has no basis in progressive thought. Creationists that participate within the world of modern science, do so in an attempt to prove Darwin wrong, but this ambition reveals an error in their thinking. Darwinism is a product of secular logic and reason divorced from theological speculation. At the current time, the weight of evidence is definitely toward the confirmation that Darwin was right. For Darwinism to be proven ‘wrong’, a cogent argument premised upon secular logic and reason would have to be developed, that involved the indisputable collection of empirical evidence that would suggest that Darwin was wrong – the dogma of theology does not meet this format. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that creationists are not interested in secular logic and reason, and not dedicated to furthering science. Their objective in attacking Darwin is simply to ‘remove’ the scientific edifice that is evolutionary science, so that the politicised Christian church can once again theologically dominate the world in a new era of intellectual darkness.

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