Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Transhumanism: staring into the abyss (updated March 2016)

Never in the history of humanity have we needed so much to be in touch with the divine, with the Holy source of creation from outside of space-time. Never has this been so crucial to human destiny.
By copying and adapting the mind boggling designs, schemes and systems of God’s natural order we are, it would appear, within sight of being able to alter, for good or evil, the body and brain of a person, before or after birth. As a layman who follows popular science stories it appears to me that dramatic reductions in the cost of sequencing a genome, growing knowledge of epigenetics, rapid progress in genetic technology (mainly mimicking nature) and quantum computing, could conceivably allow us to

  • Achieve life spans of hundreds of years
  • Impart immunity to many diseases
  • Enhance mental abilities
  • Increase physical strength
  • Alter the body’s appearance

Some of these are already beginning to happen and no doubt there will be mistakes and unforeseen consequences. We are tampering with a miraculous work of heavenly engineering having the God-given property of life. Hubris and its consequences are inevitable, especially if we ignore  factors such as the transmission of learned information and environmental influences from generation to generation via the epigenetic mechanisms and meta-mechanisms which govern the switching on and off of genes as well as the function, shape, size and folding characteristics of the proteins which are encoded by some genes. These factors have only recently been discovered and are barely understood. It is also a sobering, if not terrifying, thought that resistance to antibiotics is growing yearly and we may soon be faced with horrific diseases that medicine can do nothing about.

... -illuminati.com/blog/transhumanism-mk-ultra-google#.U3UKwCg5TEwThe human body-brain system is orders of magnitude more labyrinthine and multi-layered , complementary and competitive in function and mysteriously diverse in the way it relates to the environment than was thought only a decade or so ago. In fact, with the discovery of quantum entanglement and recent findings on the molecular scale of undreamed of hierarchies of complexity in a person it is becoming apparent that not only does the body-brain system interact with the present world around it but, quite likely, with both past and future and potentially all parts of the universe (this follows from quantum entanglement). We have not adjusted to this idea let alone thought about its implications.

And what is life? We have absolutely no idea and much of the time are not even aware that we don’t know. It is more of a mystery than in the early days of homo sapiens sapiens. All we can say is that some all pervading agency holds the continuously changing flux of living systems in being, so that atoms, molecules and cells are continuously arranged, rearranged, repaired and replaced to result in functioning organisms which jointly give rise to a biosphere which has remained benevolent even as the sun’s luminosity has increased by 25- 30% over 4 billion years, mass extinctions by asteroid impacts have occurred repeatedly and cosmic rays have bombarded the whole planet (albeit mitigated by the Earth’s apparently unique magnetic shield and the solar wind shield stretching to the limits of the solar system).

Not only is the nature of life unknown. Its extent in the universe is also totally unknown. Even on our own planet we are finding viruses and bacteria miles below the surface not only of the ocean but of the surface soil. 

‘Functioning organisms’ includes homo sapiens sapiens (the extra ‘sapiens’ is needed because the latest paleoanthropic findings based on scattered bone fragment suggest more than one 'species' of homo sapiens) made in the image of God, the Imago Dei. These organisms question their own existence, explore the nature of the world and the universe, construct theories of science and philosophy, deduce the limits of their own knowledge, invent, make and distribute ever-better technology, create art, poetry and music, set up civilisations, have concepts of divinity, experience love, truth, justice and beauty and seek out the Creator and sustainer of the universe. A supernatural universe because it emerged from outside space-time itself i.e. outside the natural order, therefore beyond the epistemological limits of future science.  Everything from quarks to abstract ideas and works of art are, ultimately, from outside of our universe, from a realm not susceptible to scientific investigation.

So in practice what do we do with the burgeoning knowledge of the human brain-body system? Copy it or improve it? Given that certain human beings suffer because of a bodily dysfunction there does not seem to me to be any reason why we should not use any means possible to restore function. But when it comes to improving a brain-body system we hit a problem.

What constitutes an improvement? Every time a system is altered it immediately impinges on other systems in the body-brain complex, potentially on the whole organism and even by some amount, not necessarily minute, on the biosphere or even beyond. How do we know the overall result is an improvement? The whole biosphere includes immeasurably large numbers of interactions from the macroscopic right down to the quantum level, where particle spins are entangled independently of the distance separating them.

An analogy might be to consider a chimpanzee which does not understand the working of an automobile (along with many human drivers) except that bad fumes come out of the exhaust pipe. So he improves this state of affairs by sticking a banana up the exhaust pipe, not realising that this will not only reduce emissions but completely stop the whole engine functioning, possibly killing driver and passengers in the process.

Suppose, for example, we have the ability to prolong life to 300 years (an incidental theme in my novel, 2077:Knights of Peace). This would have a Noah’s’ ark full of ramifications:

  1. Individuals full of evil (e.g. Hitler types) would be able to do much more evil in their lifetime; conversely, those filled with goodness would have more time to do good. E.g. people harbouring grudges for 300 years could do a lot of damage, while those doing charity work could do a lot of good. Would good win over evil in this scenario? Or vice versa?

  1. Family structure and rules of marriage would have to change. Ways of bringing children to maturity would have to change. The education system would need completely restructuring and morality would need to be given more emphasis.

  1. Travel to and from distant planets within our own solar system would become possible in a human lifetime even without a quantum jump in propulsion technology.

  1. Some individuals may become wiser than any hitherto, causing knowledge and technology to grow even faster than it has done since the Renaissance. New biotechnology could cause life spans to be further increased. Conversely, the long lived individuals may become stagnant and resistant to new concepts. Progress could be brought to a halt by intellectual stagnation. Some long lived people may become bored and question the point of life.

  1. New strains of virus and bacteria could appear to attack the long lived members of the race and these variants might be so powerful that they would find those not having had life extension treatment (probably the majority of people) easy targets.  
  3. Individuals with the ability to earn high incomes might be able to amass more wealth in their extended lifetimes, making their relative wealth even higher. A steep wealth hierarchy could emerge. Those not able to have life extension (e.g. because they can’t afford it) may be regarded as inferior and expendable. New socio-economic and political systems could evolve, possibly more totalitarian and hierarchical than ever before.
Immortality can never be achieved within the confines of a natural universe bound by the laws of thermodynamics. The universe itself is destined to heat death and this applies to everything in it, including machines and robots, even quantum computers.

Moreover, the concept of absolute goodness disappears in the godless world of robots, as it already has among atheists, relativists and post-modernists. Somebody has to define what is good, and this will never be agreed upon by more than a very  small group, probably even as small as just two people.  Robots rely on humans for their inbuilt arbitrary moral laws (NB: all robots must be atheists). 
I am sure there are many more possible implications of longer life spans. The point of drawing up this list is to show that ramifications and consequences will abound and rebound from any attempt to ‘improve’ humans. Given that increased life span is likely to occur in conjunction with intended or unintended changes in other factors such as personal appearance, intelligence and physical attractiveness together with new technologies for creation, destruction, communication, education, subjugation and exploitation, the scope for unintended consequences is multiplied.

The above assumes that all the longevity techniques actually work without unforeseen and undesirable side effects at the biological level. Given that the human body incorporates not only trillions of body and brain cells working together in unknown ways and in unison with bacteria and viruses more numerous by orders of magnitude, and this meta-system varies continually by the microsecond with the environment in which the organism finds itself and that no mortal being can know the nature of consciousness, this seems more than likely.

In addition to the potential for Transhumanism there is now the real prospect of technology driving us into the colonisation of the solar system and the possible terraforming into benign environments of some of the extra-terrestrial environments we encounter. This could lead to new nations on different planets. If each nation decided to use transhuman  technology in different ways there could be totally different descendents of the race. Is this meant to happen? In a sense it would be a repeat of Genesis chapter 11’s early verses which portray the scattering of humanity over the Earth after building the Tower of Babel  after the Flood (probably at least 4000 years ago) , when the survivors were concentrated  in one place and spoke only one language. God made them all speak different languages to prevent them advancing too much too quickly. Perhaps this time the break up of humankind, English speaking and homogenized in western ways, into different cultures on different terraformed planets will slow down progress to a rate we can deal with spiritually. Just a thought.

So we need to maintain humility and move slowly and carefully in a spiritual way, with humanity and divinity united in our being. God manifest Himself as Jesus Christ, to sanctify humanity, conquer spiritual death and take us forward to a New Heaven and a New Earth. Most Christians believe this and if they are right nobody can ignore the consequences – every single particle or quantum of energy or living being is affected.

Science on its own can’t answer the questions we face.

So look into the abyss, empty yourself of pride and pray for guidance.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

1984 revisited: collective post-modernism (updated March 2016)

See 1984, George Orwell website
George Orwell finished his novel 1984 in 1948. It is a remarkably perceptive book about a fictional world  dominated by people whose idea of a good time is to cruelly exert power over others for the sheer pleasure of doing so and who do not believe in an ultimate truth or objective moral values

Instead they create their own model of reality in a kind of ‘collective solipsism’ (a phrase used by O’Brien, the Party leader) and force this on the Party members by controlling every aspect of their lives and thought processes from cradle to grave. Solipsism is defined in my Penguin English dictionary as the 'theory that the only possible knowledge is that of oneself.' 

The collective solipsism of 1984 is the extension of this to a whole society.

 All those in the Party are forced, by indoctrination and torture, not just to pretend belief, but to really believe, for instance,  that

black is white
ignorance is strength
war is peace
love is hate

The Party members thereby learn to ‘doublethink’:  to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. This reminds me of Steven Hawking’s ‘model dependent realism’ and post-modernism (as defined in philosophy rather than art; dictionaries often don't reflect this) in general, since these philosophies deny the existence of an objective reality. Fortunately they are not collective in nature and are not imposed on us by a totalitarian regime but in my view they could have dangerous consequences in the long term even if only held individually.

Orwell appears to have based his society on the communist and fascist godless, anti-Christ dictatorships of the first half of the 20th century. The rulers in these regimes, in Orwell's view, saw themselves as the source of power and power was all that mattered. The real God does not exist for the Party founders of 1984, so the Party is God and the Party stands for power over people. Hence ‘God is power’ is perhaps the most telling slogan of the novel.

People loving power over others feature in my novel, 2077:Knights of Peace. I call them ‘dominophiles’. However, they are not as ruthlessly evil as the founders of the Party in 1984. Their danger to the world lies mainly in their capacity to bring out the badness in others and stir up trouble in zones of ‘sociodynamic’ instability, which unchecked would cause violent conflict such as ethnic cleansing.

A dominophile with the right aims, e.g. wiping out some disease,  might do some good in the world; but I would not like to work under one.

What concerns me about western democracies today is that they are overly secular and attempt to hold up Christian moral values - love your neighbour and your enemy; also love the Lord your God, which is almost totally expunged from public life - without any acknowledgement of their sacred source. Political correctness and endless talk about human rights and labelling of people as 'racist' or 'homophobe' or 'sexist' when they make  simple statements of fact are, I believe, symptons of this denial. The spiritual equality of all human beings is a natural consequence of Christianity and without constantly reminding ourselves of this shrill denouncements of 
those who speak truths such as that 

some people are more intelligent than others

some people are more talented than others

people brought up in different environments or cultures are different 

people of different races are physically different

 women are on average physically weaker than men

lead to a tyrannical suppression of truth which can only lead to trouble from those who are guided and inspired by evil (e.g. ISIS).
I believe there is a God who incarnated himself into humanity. If this is true, and the evidence is huge, then pretending that it is not is a complete denial of reality, a mass insanity which can only have dire consequences, starting with the rise of demigods offering prosperity, social justice and security to the masses. I don't know what Donald Trump really stands for but we need to be careful about expunging the divine source of reality from government, schools, hospitals, private companies and all public institutions, lest we open the door to evil to rush into the spiritual vacuum. 

God is real and sustains every atom, thought and being in existence. He cannot be locked in a church. 

See also Gems from the Hiding Place

1984 revisited: here today? Some observations


Thursday, 10 March 2016

The deep mystery of existence. 5. Life is from outside space-time

Every form of biological life, known or imaginable, depends partly on the arrangement of chemical elements in countless ways into hierarchically ordered goal-oriented systems, interacting in an astronomically large number of ways to create the Earth's biosphere of which humans are a part and in which they play a central role (e.g. by being aware that the biosphere exists and that they are meant to be stewards of it). Moreover, the latest biomolecular research indicates that the protein molecules (amino acids etc.) out of which life is formed are finely tuned to fold themselves into the 'building blocks' of life; so this propensity must have been embodied in the original creation design along with the finely tuned physical constants (i.e. laws of physics) also needed for life to be possible.

image from http://adoreabhijit.wordpress.com/tag/prayer/

In 1954 Fred Hoyle calculated that for this miraculous phenomenon of life to be possible a certain kind of nuclear reaction would have had to have occurred inside stars billions of years ago. He even forecast
the energy of the reaction – 7.6 million electron volts. He calculated that it would have only a small chance of occurring but without it carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and most other elements could never been produced in stars or anywhere else for that matter. Astronomers then searched for the gamma rays which would show the existence of this reaction, subsequently named the ‘Hoyle state’, and they found it within 5 years. 

This had a profound effect on Hoyle, who became convinced that the universe and the life in it was not just a chance throwing together of matter and energy. He did not believe in God and so was opposed to the idea of a created universe (subsequent observations have proved with growing accuracy that the universe was indeed created, as stated in Genesis 1.1 and John 1:1) : the only alternative for him was an eternal infinite universe which had a kind of mind. 

Hoyle was right in stating that the universe has a teleological nature. However, it is now accepted by most cosmologists that the universe is not infinite and eternal. It emerged from outside of space-time and indeed space-time only came into being as it emerged, i.e. during the Big Bang. So in a sense it emerged from the mind of God and its teleological properties can be seen as a means by which the Creator guides, permeates and holds in being the whole creation, including evolution of some kind. The creation and ongoing involvement of the God in the created order is now easier to imagine than it was before modern physics and cosmology. Life was dependent on these early stellar reactions and on the way the atomic output of these cosmic factories formed the protein molecules which assembled,  folded and arranged themselves into ultra-sophisticated systems that thrived under the right conditions – conditions which are very probably unique to Earth, judging by observations of the 1000 or so exoplanets detected to date and the specifically life-friendly nature of these conditions which modern science is revealing.

So where and when was life created? Where does all this information and intelligence come from? There can, it seems to me, be only one answer. Order cannot emerge from chaos. The ultra-sophisticated purposeful complexities of viruses, bacteria, plants and animals must have been designed before the universe exploded into existence. In essence, living systems, ranging from bacteria to mammals,  were created from outside the universe, not within it. 

Whether life formed early in the history of the earth, say 4 billion years ago, or only  few thousand years ago (I don’t believe that, incidentally) its real origin resides outside our reality, in the mind or being of the Creator, who is also able to exert ongoing influence on it. Life is not just extraterrestrial: it is supernatural. 

Life comes from a timeless and spaceless 'place', and it seems not surprising that life at some level should return ‘there’ in some form when it has finished ‘here’, having undergone a learning process. ‘There’ is the place of eternal life.

 See also

Our perception of existence, ancient and modern

Links to all parts of
Deep Mystery of Existence

John Sears