Created December 2, 2022
Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.
The Meaning of Life
A Theory of Everything including Consciousness and “God” Pt. 1
As we transition from one year to the next, I’ll be sharing with you here a serialization of my newest shortest book The Meaning of Life: A Theory of Everything including Consciousness and “God”. I wrote this short book mainly for physicists but also for everyone. I’d like physicists to accept the scientific possibility of something very much like God, and to prioritize the subject. This book explains why. Hope you enjoy it and feel what Freud called “the Oceanic feeling”. –Bill
It is long past time to discuss the ultimate questions. We set those questions aside because things were interesting enough in the world of the senses and the everyday pleasures.
Now when things have gotten rough and the existential challenges are many, we remember that homework not done. Now we need the answers to why we are keeping up on our daily routines, in order to have the guts to stand up and do whatever it takes to overcome all the new challenges.
From the start, many of us could not shake off a strong compulsion to know more about who we are and why we are here.
Early aspirants to self-knowledge attained high levels of sophistication in contemplation of the self, remembering key ideas from generation to generation as lyrics in songs. Spirit and mind were regarded as the same thing then, so that psychology and spirituality were in the same category. Most of these key ideas being saved relate to the Oneness of all things. The Rig Veda, Egyptian Book of the Dead, Torah, Tao Te Ching are classic examples.
Science ought to consider this as evidence of a long-running human intuition that there is a far greater intelligence overseeing the universe, and that we are all parts of That. Just because almost everyone at some point experiences such an intuition does not prove that there is anything scientific about it. However, it is a reason to keep an open mind. Science is supposed to do that all the time anyway, the only exception appears to be in this one subject domain, “God”. As if a flinch reaction to having been “deluded” by it for so many millennia – that is the implied script. Hopefully most scientists do have open minds. Because this subject needs more attention stat.
The “inner life” tradition continued alongside every step forward we made in “outward” science and technology. In the world of 2022, meditation and yoga are practiced worldwide, and represent the 101 course of self-examination and thought experiments into what the world might be. The most advanced thinkers of every Age gave us (sometimes only through their followers) the findings of their own inner explorations.
For 6000 years of written history describing as far back as 10,000 BC based upon oral “records”, the ideas of materialism and spiritualism were always of nearly equal importance in explaining people’s behavior. That healthy balance took an odd turn a few hundred years ago and there has been a shrinkage first in the average person’s own spirituality, and then in the outward self-identification people give in surveys. This last drop took place only in the past 20 years, in which self-proclaimed spirituality (an exaggeration of true spirituality) dropped for example in the U.S. from 90% to 70%.
Eisenhower’s speech as he left office described Americans as “a free and religious people”. The absurdity of saying that in 2022 is obvious. The daily news paints all of humanity as running amok. People invoke God to sanctify deeds of extreme hostility. They must be thinking of the old vengeful images of God we first had while hiding in caves.
The “hip” thing to say since around 1970 is a bit like “I believe in something – some kind of force – it may be nothing like us – it may not care about us – but it is there.” This is the way to announce that you are a spiritual, and therefore a good, person. That is another concept of God.
The deists who founded the USA believed that whatever God was, was supremely benevolent, had our best interests at heart, and the teachings of Judeo-Christianity and Islam well described what God would want of us, for our own good. We trust in God. Even though we don’t know what “He” is.
Except that nowadays, even with the social pressure to go along with the herd, a third of us boldly state that we don’t trust God or acknowledge that “He” exists.
Eisenhower was not alone in his association of spirituality with the economic, social, and political success of a nation. He did trust God. A plausible social science theorem would be that the degree of law and order in a culture is predicted by its degree of trust in God.
All of this by way of explaining why a short book like this had to be written.
If we are to trust God in this modern cynical age where we are mostly ruled by violent mood swings, we cannot avoid discussing the nature of God within a scientific framework. If God cannot be reconciled within science, the game is over. The denouement shall not be pretty. The cards are stacked against us. Hedonism, material accidentalism, cynicism, selfishness, ego, scarcity of wealth (only a few have it), power, hate, racism, misogynism, xenophobia, fear, weapons of mass destruction, collapsing environment, dying species, fiat money, superficial education systems, unmoderated systems of social mass communication, all of which are the self-destructive negative forms of creative expression in the absence of spirituality.
The Benefits New Science Can Bring
If science shows that “God” is on the scientific agenda, humanity shall experience the strongest upsurge in positive emotion in hisandherstory. Science’s acknowledgement of possibilities very similar to the existence of God makes each of us important again. We were important enough to have been created by something like God. Life is important, has great meaning, is not to be treated frivolously.
Better behavior will steadily take over. Working together in a friendly way will become the norm. Doing things that you enjoy shall be the employment principle, inspiration and creativity and compromise shall all blossom, love will flower.
What Exactly Is Needed
These are the upside benefits to humanity if science decides that there is no scientific basis for ruling out a benevolent God whom we are right to trust. And taking a fresh look through the lens of science at how consciousness might be related to matter and energy, for that is the experimental direction to determining what “God” there truly is.
A “fresh” look means not again and again solving for the matter-energy quantum brain phenomena which generate the epiphenomenon of consciousness. But explaining why we experience consciousness, why there is Flow state, why there are other states of consciousness and powers of mind that come and go.
And theoretical scientists are needed to focus on all of the possibilities for how the universe came to be, without any presuppositions.
For example, could Wheeler’s first cause “quantum foam of probabilities” exist within a consciousness?
A Role for Individuals
There is a second experimental path for individuals described in the last Chapter of this book. How an individual can test various ways of using his or her own consciousness, and observe what the results might be. These results may not be of use to science, but could turn out to give you useful new tools and possibly even a profound spiritual feeling.
Love to all,