Home » Philosophy » Dialog with John Zande: The TOOAIN Thesis

Dialog with John Zande: The TOOAIN Thesis

If you have followed a link here from rationalwiki, please be aware that this dialog is a response to trollish behavior on the part of Mr. Zande in a number of forums in which faith was discussed by people seriously concerned with fundamentalism, many of whom are trying to heal its impact. As Mr. Zande appeared immune to criticisms from some that he was not contributing to the dialog, I found it of interest to deconstruct his teleology with the goal of creating a single point of reference for future discussion. In other words – “Yes, John, we’ve discussed this before – everybody just look at this post over here.” What was of interest to me was that I actually obtained some value from the exercise – the single axiom differentiating our two strains of “logic” is the existence of the soul.

I would hope, in turn, that Mr. Zande would recognize that he gained from an analysis that reveals the shallowness of his parody. I might encourage him to strengthen it, except that there are far more important goals crying out for the investment of his intellectual energy.

The original discussion follows.


 

This post establishes a forum for dialog with John Zande. The comment from John was originally posted on my New Physics page, but I am relocating it here because it does not address to material there, but posts his own thesis.

Here is my original comment that explains my frustration in trying to dialog with John, and my characterization of the distinction between our points of view:

You choose not to engage the material on my blog and then accuse me of not presenting a formal rebuttal? Well, if you get to control the axioms and terms of debate, how is that possible? Nobody can counter logical deduction if they are not allowed to challenge the argument’s precepts. That is why I pointed you at my site – to fill in the gaps in your precepts.

But to characterize the distinctions: It is obvious to even the casual observer that human initiative has vastly altered the world from its natural condition. I focus on the improvements, you tend to focus on the costs. My thesis is that the improvements are more significant and reflect a divine agency that is engaged in a slow process of healing. Your thesis assigns a hidden malefic intent that will undermine our efforts. I would argue that your justifications are similar to withholding trust in hospitals because every time you look inside you discover sick people, and even to go further claiming that the sick people actually control the doctors.

Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of power. Time will tell which one of us is right. As I see it, your thesis is disempowering. It saps human will. I have enough experience of the power of love in my life that I have absolute faith in the efficacy of the strength it awakens in myself and others.

John’s reply was (I have added point identifiers below to facilitate discussion):

A formal rebuttal would address the central thesis. Your opening sentence to me on the post in question reads: “The proposition of good and evil is not a functional moral dichotomy.” To which I answered directly: “First up, one must disregard all common concepts of morality. Good and bad are meaningless in this thesis, and any deferral to such terrestrial notions will only create confusion.”

https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/the-owner-of-all-infernal-names/

Here I am telling you specifically you must disregard any and all ideas of some dualistic universe where forces of good and bad are locked into some eternal battle. That has nothing, nothing at all, to do with the thesis. I went to great lengths to explain this to you, over and over again, but you simply couldn’t get your head out of this notion.

The problem, of course, is you haven’t even read the thesis. If you had you would know there is no Problem of Good, which is what your entire objection seems to be centred on.

And you continue to make the same mistakes:

“But to characterize the distinctions: It is obvious to even the casual observer that human initiative has vastly altered the world from its natural condition. I focus on the improvements, you tend to focus on the costs.”

No. Again, you have no idea what the thesis even says. You’re just shooting blanks. The Creator is thrilled humans (all life, in fact) tries to improve themselves. A ship must be floated and launched before it can be drowned and sunk. Good and evil do not exist. Good is not something distasteful or hurtful to the Creator. Good is not a wave of dissent, a rebellion growing inside Creation like some determined cancer, a tumour. Good is neither a disease nor a corruption, for good is not the equal and opposite of evil but rather an evil (what we humans would call “evil”) unto itself. It is a flavour of evil, a dialect, or perhaps more accurately, a variation in temperature there to be experienced in those moments when there appears to be a temporary reduction of perceptible suffering.

For this reason, good feels real, distinct, because to both the observer and the one directly experiencing the good, it is. It has a presence, an impression of substance, of form and body. It is valid to the touch and capable of moving individuals in miraculous and meaningful ways, and for those who want to believe it to be true they can easily convince themselves that they see good spawning good. And in a manner of speaking, it can, and does. Good can appear to inspire more good. Grooves can be made deeper, channels widened, but the appearance of good birthing good is, at its heart, an illusion. The shadow cast by good acts and good times can expand, pleasure can build upon pleasure, swelling, but it is not a virtuous growth if its source was evil itself. It cannot be considered excellent or righteous if it comes from the perfect corruption.

“Your thesis assigns a hidden malefic intent that will undermine our efforts.”

No, that is not my thesis at all. Not even close. The Creator does not interfere or meddle.

If you were to address the thesis in a meaningful way (meaning after actually “reading” it, rather than simply assuming you know what is in it) you would have to confront three central points:

1) demonstrate (with working examples) that this universe is not a complexity machine tumbling relentlessly forward from a state of ancestral simplicity to contemporary complexity,

2) demonstrate (with working examples) that complexity does not father a wretched and forever diversifying family of more devoted fears and faithful anxieties, more pervasive ailments and skilful parasites, more virulent toxins, more capable diseases, and more affectionate expressions of pain, ruin, psychosis and loss, and

3) demonstrate (with working examples) that the very constitution (the design) of this universe is not profound teleological evidence for the mind of a malevolent designer… an architect who so clearly cherishes His anonymity, and has quite purposefully painted Creation in impenetrable naturalism.

The discussion wanders around a bit, leading eventually to this response to John’s request:

  1. The Christian experience (shared by all mature practitioners of every religion) is that the Creator is not distant and uninvolved, but supports the expression of love. (satisfying criterion 3)
  2. I have offered a model of physics that explains the mechanisms by which this process is elaborated. (satisfying criterion 1)
  3. The most powerful and influential figures in history have been those that preach that there is an escape from this reality into a realm of infinite possibility. To those that understand spiritual experience, this is evidence of the truth of their proclamations. (satisfying criterion 2)
  4. My conclusion, stated at the beginning of this discussion, is that this reality is a hospital – a place of healing for a personality infected with selfishness. (satisfying criterion 2)
  5. That conclusion is backed by my own personal experience including access to spiritual energies that (satisfying criterion 2)
    1. heal my wounded heart when I engage the brokenness of the world, and
    2. empower me to offer healing to others.

As I see it, to TOOAIN hypothesis disempowers you. I reject it because I choose to live in joy. I encourage you to do the same.

21 thoughts on “Dialog with John Zande: The TOOAIN Thesis

  1. Hi Brian

    You have the three points. Even though you’ve never read the thesis, which puts you at a distinct disadvantage, you can start from that base.

    But please, this is not a comparative exercise. I am not calling your Middle eastern god, Yhwh, evil. We are proceeding from the assumption that a maximally powerful Creator exists, and this being does not share His Creation with any other comparable spirit.

    I hope that’s clear.

  2. John:

    Thank-you for the time invested in your comment.

    Point 1: Regarding good and evil: we are in agreement.

    Point 2: I am confused by your use of the word “good” throughout. My concern is with identifying sources of power that allow us to manifest our will.

    Point 3: In response to my statement regarding intent, you offer: “The creator does not interfere or meddle.” But intent is not an active intervention, and I find that your assertions (1)-(3) regarding the nature of this reality reflect intent.

    • “Good” can be divided into natural and moral good. These are things that work against disorder.

      Creation follows one impulse, towards greater complexity. The Creator does not micro-manage anything. He does not interfere in the congenital functions of this world.

      “You might suspect I bring calamity upon your roofs, but I have never pestered the atmosphere that swirls above your heads, never tutored those great rocky plates which swim under your feet, never aggravated a river, schooled a virus, or tossed an asteroid at you. Accuse me all you like, but I have never stood over a single organism and instructed it to be cruel.
      I could.
      I could unleash civilisation-wrecking floods, deliver centuries-long droughts, and fashion a thousand flesh dissolving plagues before your warm, wet, decaying synapses even had time to register their electrochemical disgust at such boasts, but why would I?
      Why should I?
      These little dramas are already assured.” (Confessions of the Creator)

    • Let me look into this. I’ve had other new visitors get comments published without my intervention. When I looked at the settings on the admin page, it indicated “will appear when either you or the poster approve.” I think that allows people time to think about it, maybe discuss through private channels? I didn’t mess with it for that reason, but I also noticed that I never get that option on my comments when others require moderation. Maybe I have to approve once or something?

    • It seems to be working. I think your settings are like mine. First time commenters are held in moderation, but once that first comment is cleared, everything from then on is fine.

  3. I do recognize the kernels of your perspective in my own writing, for example (https://everdeepening.com/2015/10/24/reflection/):

    When I revealed my burdens to Diane Hamilton at a Buddhist Geeks conference, her first reaction was to declare “No one person can carry that burden.” A day later, she testified that the “Cosmic Mind” enters to assist us when we open our hearts to problems that are beyond our strength. Her reflection was in response to my testimony that its essential nature was to be “infinitely enamored of the potentiality of living things.”

    So that’s one half of the coin, and I hope that I have presented that choice to my readers. I may sound crazy at times, but this is really the way that I experience life, and my experience does contain great and inexplicable gifts of beauty.

    But there is a flip side to the Cosmic Mind: “inexorably destructive of selfish personalities.” That seems contradictory: if the Cosmic Mind is committed to the creation of living things (“selves”), why is it set against them? The reason is that selfishness impedes the elaboration of the potential of life. The predator would consume all its prey, and so must die if any life at all is to survive.

    However, in another post (https://everdeepening.com/2015/02/28/thats-the-spirit/) I present a physical model of spirit that describes how energy is stored in the fabric of space. I have reasons to believe that accumulation, if organized effectively, is great enough to protect us from the very disasters that you describe. Some of my reasons have to do with the energy accumulated in the biosphere over billions of years, others are rooted in experiences that I cannot document.

    So as I said, it comes down to power. In that pursuit, loving has proven valuable to me for two reasons:

    1. Its expression builds trust, and therefore reduces resistance to the expression of my will. That touches on the management of disorder that you mention (as a physicist, I often use “entropy”).

    2. It joins things that are eternal (pure spirit) in voluntary association that I do not have to invest continuously in maintaining. They enjoy the interaction and invest in its preservation, for which I am eternally grateful. Their testimony also facilitates the disassembly of threatening personalities, which are often held together by lies that foment fear.

    My apologetic is titled “The Soul Comes First.” My escape from entropy (that “inexorable destruction”) is therefore into spirit through a route that is achievable only in cooperation with others.

    • Hi Brian

      May I ask, are you a Buddhist or a Christian? From what I can see of your blog, you seem to be trying to marry the two. Here in Brazil, Spiritualists are the second largest religion, and they are dedicated to much of what you seem to be try to be doing. It’s generally interesting stuff.

      Now, to business.

      “The reason is that selfishness impedes the elaboration of the potential of life. The predator would consume all its prey, and so must die if any life at all is to survive.”

      OK, this is great. Max Andrews suggests a similar thing, that maximum evil would also be maximally selfish. This characterisation of evil is, however, fundamentally flawed. Here’s how I have addressed this issue:

      In the minds of those determined to believe, maximum evil could not, under any circumstance, exist unto itself, free and unrestricted. In the eyes of those who must believe, this universe could not, as such, possibly be the construct of a perfectly evil, maximally powerful creator because such a universe would almost certainly annihilate itself. Maximum evil, it is held by those who are committed to believe, must surely also be maximally selfish, a brutish force of incalculable hostility, incapable of restraint, and despite possessing infinite capacity for creativity would be destined to defile itself and whatever it imagined into being. Unchained evil—the portrait of the perfect predator—could not help but to consume itself in a single gluttonous moment of unchecked desecration, an Ouroboros on a colossal scale, hopelessly given over to self-indulgence; a helpless, impossible creature whose very nature seals its own fate in a closed circle of almost instantaneous self-obliteration. Omnipotent evil, it is believed by those who force themselves to believe, would seduce itself in the first instant, and in the next, ravage and befoul anything borne of that nanosecond-long creative benediction, leaving nothing of its presence but ash.

      To those, however, who are not subject to an emotional fickleness that poisons intellectual honesty, it is clear that this self-negating characterisation of evil is a pantomime. It is, as Jeremy Bentham would have said, “Nonsense on stilts;” a cartoon which purposefully ignores the self-evident fact that a world driven only by impetuous brutality would resemble more a raging, superheated, short-lived bonfire than an enduring, vibrant, profitable marketplace desired by a Creator whose central ambition is to maximise His pleasure over time.

      His pleasure.

      There are no two more important words in all of Creation.

      His pleasure.

      Creation—this finite construct man has so audaciously named the ‘universe’—exists as it does to give pleasure to its Creator. It knows no other state of employment, and it is simply the case that the most persuasive and predictable source of that pleasure is the genuine, incorruptible, thrilling energy released through suffering that has existed since hydrogen screamed that most ancient of all primal screams. His pleasure marks the outermost cell wall of Creation. His pleasure defines and instructs the single mechanism by which all things move and shift and transform, tumbling forever forward into ever-greater complexity, and by doing so maximising the production and potency of those things—and later, events—from which He draws greatest stimulation.

      Brian, consider this simplest of all facts: If the operations of this world were underwritten by nothing but an outwardly reckless policy of uncapped destruction and mayhem—if all life defiled itself and everything around it without regulation—then it would very quickly bring about a reduction in suffering, not enhancement, as continuously savaged life systems would never be afforded the necessary time, space, and security to mature and internally enrich, and without self-enrichment, without diversification, the Creator’s harvests would be increasingly anaemic over time, and this would represent a failed, bankrupted Creation.

      As Creation exhibits neither qualities of failure or approaching bankruptcy one must rationally conclude Creation is functioning precisely as the Creator desires, and what He desires is an accretion in those things He finds enjoyable, finds pleasurable, and that directive supersedes everything else.

      What then is maximum evil?

      What is not is destructive.

      Hope is to be favoured over ruin, dreams preferred over nightmares, for in the larger narrative—the only narrative that truly matters—it is hope and pleasant forecasts that is the surest possible path to the greatest possible harvest. Where hope is fertile the trinkets of the Creator’s amusement are compelled forward, and they move not because they are being instructed to move, but rather because they perceive from where they stand a degree of safety, security, and predictability ahead. Whether real or simply anticipated, safety and stability stirs in the more forward thinking of individuals’ thoughts of greater investments in future enterprises. Larger, bolder, longer-term investments are made (families, cultural infrastructure, exploration, empire building) and this appropriately services the Omnimalevolent Creator’s hunger to see the fields over which He will take his profit ripen and diversify in new and fascinating ways.

      Dreams, after all, must be erected before they can razed. Prospects and aspirations and expectations must be birthed and floated before they can be overwhelmed and drowned. Optimism must be established, plans mapped out, investments made and ambitious journeys launched before a thousand and one profitable little deaths can be delivered. A population must be fattened before it can be starved. One and a half billion people must be fed and protected to some degree of satisfaction—a precious few even allowed to live spectacular lives in idyllic settings free from any and all concerns—so the six and half billion thirsty, starving, sick, war-torn, homeless, and displaced can recognise and appreciate their sorrowful lot. Impossibly courageous adventures must have, at the very least, some scent of imaginable success or else the adventurer would never unfurl his incomplete map and wonder, what if…

      What maximum evil is not, is careless. The reach and diversity of evil is growing more complex over time because the reach and diversity of evil is meant to grow more complex over time. Suffering is growing more potent and expressive over time because suffering is meant to grow more potent and expressive over time. The machine has not malfunctioned. The program is running precisely as designed. Creation is unfurling exactly as desired by the Creator.

      Maximum evil knows one thing: itself.

      Maximum evil is thoroughly pragmatic. It has no opinion on aesthetics. It gives no thought to what is right or wrong, just efficiency and output. It does not assess actions as correct or incorrect. It is not malignant and does not recognise malice. It is not hateful. It knows no concept of revenge. Perhaps most importantly, maximum evil does not even know those contingent things capable of complex and predictive thought inhabiting its Creation would consider it “evil,” for maximum evil does not recognise the word.

      I can describe maximum evil in greater detail, but I hope this helps to at least frame your thoughts when approaching the Creator.

      Some have named a lesser species of this being the Devil, others The Deceiver, Ahriman, Abaddon, Mara, Baphomet, Apollyon, Iblis, Beast, Angra Mainyu, Yama, Moloch, The Father of Lies, The Author of Sin, Druj, Samnu, Mammon, and The Great Spoiler, yet these characters of human literature and tradition do not begin to approach the nature and scope of this entity who may be identified as simply, The Owner of All Infernal Names: a being who does not share His creation with any other comparable spirit, does not seek to be known to or worshipped by that which He has created (or has allowed to be created), and whose greatest proof of existence is that there is no conspicuous proof of His existence—just teleological birthmarks that can be isolated and examined as testimony—for He understands that the trinkets of His greatest amusement, arousal and stimulatory satisfaction must be blind to the nature of the world they inhabit so they may act freely, and suffer genuinely.

      Now, before I address the next section of your comment, let me just say I respect your thinking. You are attempting to formalise something positive, and that should be commended. However, what you have written (and yes, I read and enjoyed your linked article) is little more than Deepak Chopra “Woo.” It sounds nice, but it’s unfounded, and I’m not entirely sure why you have even presented it. In another discussion it could be fun to fantasise about all this, but it’s irrelevant here in what must be, and remain, a factual, teleological debate. I only cite real world examples and case studies to demonstrate the thesis. I deal only in what is quantifiable and reference well over 300 published papers to support every word I have presented. It is real, tangible, demonstrable. We are looking at the physical world, looking at its history, looking at the evidences of Creation, not contemplating ethereal notions which you yourself admit are incomplete and unfounded.

      What we are doing is striving for an explanation of this world that does not require a creative excuse, a theodicy. A genuine truth does not tolerate excuses. A truth that requires annotation is not a truth, but a fabrication, and for the the truly impartial observer there exists therefore just one aspersion-free path down which he or she must move to assemble a legitimate and robust explanation of the physical world: the teleological survey; a study of design, of best results, and as such, an exploration of intent.

      “Contrivance proves design,” accurately observed William Paley, “and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer.” Know then the disposition, revealed as it must be through design, through the architecture, and one may know the designer.

      It is important to repeat this point. We are not entertaining excuses for why things are not as they should be if matter had been persuaded to behave by a benevolent hand, rather a coherent explanation for why things are as they are in the unignorable presence of a Creator.

      Let me, however, address your thoughts concerning love.

      It seems that you’re trying to argue love is a force for good. To this I would thoroughly agree. Love, like hope, is a good, and as a matter of simple necessity, Creation must contain the capacity to not only host some good, but a great deal of it. Indeed, to flourish and to swell, to teem and to thrive, natural and moral good—such as a degree of environmental or social stability and the presence of unmovable natural laws which enable men, above all other creatures, to cast their thoughts off into the near and even distant future with some degree of predictable reliability—must be nurtured as a precondition of existence itself. It must be self-actualising, self-affirming, and as such, self-sustaining. It must, in a manner of speaking, believe in itself.

      If, for example, daylight hours were not predictable, or the ocean tides were massively erratic, or perhaps the earth’s tectonic plates flowed at meters-per-hour instead of centimetres-per-year then even the simplest and most resilient illustrations of organic life, cyanobacteria, would be harassed to such a degree to make large, stable populations impossible, and without cyanobacteria the earth’s atmosphere would never have been flooded with the oxygen essential for more complex and muscular life to be nudged into being. Similarly, without the constants of numerous forces including friction and gravity, ballistic trajectories would be impossible to calculate, and without such consistency in the world, arrows, bullets, and devastatingly efficient airburst artillery shells and cluster bombs would never have been dreamed up by devious minds, let alone manufactured and thrown through the air as parcels of pre-packaged agony.

      Love, certainly, might be a momentarily strong force capable of moving individuals in strange and remarkable ways, but given sufficient time and the relentless weathering effects of repetition it will always and ultimately diffuse into boredom and melancholy. Given enough time, the greatest passion will dissolve into tedium, and even the most heartfelt rage will eventually dilute into an unforgivable apathy. Love found can be wondrous in a thousand different ways, its enchanting effects enjoyed for a few months, or even a few seasons, but the emotional upheaval of love lost is stronger and assuredly more enduring than any short-lived spike in sweet chemical attractions—the power of ‘complicated grief’ festering like a wound that does not heal, stunning the individual into a malaise of dangerous inactivity.

      This is the effect of habitualisation, which together with crisis constitute two of the cardinal impulses released through Creation, driving it towards ever greater complexity. It has been observed in all species from motile single-celled organisms to humans, and it is a triumph of the Omnimalevolent Creator’s design. As technique is improved, joy declines. Inevitably, talent degenerates too. So just as a simple rain drop is ultimately stronger than the strongest mountain, habitualisation—as much as any physical shift in environmental, cultural, technological, or economic conditions—slowly but irrepressibly corrupts not only the most robust of all behavioural adaptations, but also eats away at even the most potent of emotions. Given sufficient time, love will inexorably diffuse into boredom, passion will dissolve into tedium, hate will bleach-out into fatigue, and every pleasure imaginable will eventually temper into the dreary monotonousness of sameness. Fascination will slide into repulsion, charm will give way to repugnance, beauty will decay into ugliness, and the fashionable will always and forever degenerate into the old and the out-dated.

      If crisis is the first voice pushing all things, tossing and churning Creation, affording nothing within it a moments rest, then habitualisation is its echo: the second voice, a whisper, the itch that keeps things moving when they do not really want to, or do not really have to.

      This, however, is not to say that great loves can’t persist. Some can. Most don’t. Those that do, however, serve a purpose to inspire others… and that is priceless. Man should work against existential despair, and love is a wonderful, accidental residue that serves this purpose. Love, therefore, is welcomed by the Creator. As I said earlier:

      Good is not as something distasteful or hurtful to the Creator. Good is not a wave of dissent, a rebellion growing inside Creation like some determined cancer, a tumour. Good is neither a disease nor a corruption, for good is not the equal and opposite of evil but rather an evil unto itself. It is a flavour of evil, a dialect, or perhaps more accurately, a variation in temperature there to be experienced in those moments when there appears to be a temporary reduction of perceptible suffering.

      Now, apologies for the length of this reply, but I hope we’ve established here the base of what we’re in fact talking about. Teleology. Natural philosophy. An honest survey of this world. I have not even offered yet a case study, but I have them, and many at that. In fact, everything can be shown to support the thesis.

      This here is a segment from the book which I think might help further frame what we’re discussing. It is also the only instance where I touch on a comparative note:

      Could a benevolent designer, a craftsman who is mindful of harmony and joy, pleased by plenty and safety, tolerate such an abysmal existence for its most precious expressions of creation? Is it conceivable, the Impartial Observer asks, that a caring Creator—the Good Father—who is fond of laughter, delighted by happiness and has the best interests of life forever in the fore, arrange his great masterpiece in such a way that obscene levels of meaningless suffering are not just allowed for, but underpin everything? The answer, as studiously articulated by John Fiske, is No:

      “A scheme which permits thousands of generations to live and die in wretchedness cannot be absolved from the charge of awkwardness or malevolence. It is impossible to call that being Good who, existing prior to the phenomenal universe, and creating it out of the plenitude of infinite power and foreknowledge, endowed it with such properties that its material and moral development must inevitably be attended by the misery of untold millions of sentient creatures for whose existence their creator is ultimately alone responsible.”

      If it is impossible to call the Creator Good, as Fiske duly notes it is, then what remains by way of an explanation for this world is simple malevolence. Without need for excuse or elaborate theodicies, malevolence explains the world that is, and by the strength and rigidity of this explanation an imprint—an outline—of the Creator who cherishes His anonymity is revealed. It is the explanation that exists without need for an alibi, scapegoat, hastily arranged apology, or laboured advocacy. Where the theologian is forced to rescue an incompetent spirit who has, for one imaginative reason or another, lost total control of his creation, the gospel of the malevolent hand stands unchaste, uncontaminated, and inviolable. As an explanation for the world that has been, is, and will be, malevolence is complete. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are made clear without a cover story or inventive pretext

      In addressing the thesis, which you haven’t read, it is important to note that suffering is ubiquitous. It is everywhere, and existed for billions of years before the first stirrings of anything that might be considered ‘happiness’ ever emerged. This fact has to be explained. Here I’d urge you to look in Integrated Information theory for it demonstrates that suffering existed long before even life itself.

      500 million years before the first self-replicating systems encased themselves within walls creating a bubble of organised, captured anxiety, zircon crystals formed. Inorganic, yes, but their phonons (atomic vibrations) marked them out as a new category of thing; a thing that had a personality defined by heat, a distinct behaviour that could be altered, changed, bent, pressured, ruined, and ultimately destroyed. The quasiparticles that made up these crystals were emergent phenomena, an explicit nature seen in all microscopically complicated systems, all subject, therefore, to a most ancient, albeit thoroughly foreign flavour of suffering.

      Indeed, according to neuroscientists Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch, Zircon crystals were not just unique things capable of a peculiar pedigree of discomfort and death, but sentient. In their theory of Integrated Information, they assert that any system, organic or inorganic, that processes and integrates information experiences the world subjectively to some degree. Plants, computer chips, even protons are all examples of such systems. Consciousness, Tononi and Koch assert, is integrated information, represented as Phi Φ, and the quantity—or body—of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information (Φ) generated above and beyond the information simply generated by its parts. Anything with a non-zero Phi has subjective experience, and this includes subatomic particles.

      “Even simple matter has a modicum of Φ [integrated information]. Protons and neutrons consist of a triad of quarks that are never observed in isolation. They constitute an infinitesimal integrated system.”

      Consciousness, as Koch points out, is spread throughout space like a cosmic web of experience, and awareness is greatest where there is significant information integration. Mind, therefore, is everywhere. Not only do zircon crystals experience the world, but protons, too.

      A peculiar, alien caliber of suffering existed long before life, and with life the degree and depth of suffering has only augmented, expanded, deepened, growing more competent, more pervasive, more convincing over time. Suffering blossoms with time. This is an unmistakable pattern.

      Now, to help structure the discussion, I have given you three central points which should be addressed if you’re actually going to move on the thesis. To repeat them, though:

      1) demonstrate (with working examples) that this universe is not a complexity machine tumbling relentlessly forward from a state of ancestral simplicity to contemporary complexity,

      2) demonstrate (with working examples) that complexity does not father a wretched and forever diversifying family of more devoted fears and faithful anxieties, more pervasive ailments and skilful parasites, more virulent toxins, more capable diseases, and more affectionate expressions of pain, ruin, psychosis and loss, and

      3) demonstrate (with working examples) that the very constitution (the design) of this universe is not profound teleological evidence for the mind of a malevolent designer… an architect who so clearly cherishes His anonymity, and has quite purposefully painted Creation in impenetrable naturalism.

      Again, apologies for the length of this reply.

      All the best
      J

    • John:

      I’ll have to process this more fully later on. It’s a lot of writing. But you have returned to your three points at the end, and so I must re-iterate:

      It comes down to power. I have had experiences of such that you reject categorically (as per your reference to “Deepak Chopra woo”). If you cannot open your mind to their possibility, then the compulsion of your argument is beyond any logic.

      For example, I could say “I have brought a person back from death.” I could say “I have healed people simply by touching them.” I could say that “I have moved asteroids.” I could say “I have changed the course of storms.” I could say that “I have influenced global affairs while lying in my bed at night.” Many these experiences are documented in my blog.

      However, the reason I was able to accomplish them is because I only do them when they need to be done. I do not exercise my power for purpose of flash or show, to convince others of my superiority, because my goal is to convince them to do the same themselves. In fact, the most powerful experiences involve many personalities that allow me to direct their energies because they are confident that I won’t abuse them.

      Part of such abuse is using them to convince others who choose not to participate. Implicitly, that would be to cede my influence to you. Well, it is not mine to grant. You need to make your own friendships.

      So what I am waiting for you to realize is that there is really no point in arguing with people who have experienced the power of Christ (the avatar of unconditional love) in their lives. You have chosen to reject that influence, and therefore you are cut off from the experiences that would reveal the self-limitations they impose.

      To me, it is this simple: You choose weakness. I choose strength.

      I could hypothesize regarding your motivations, but I cannot heal your wounds – I can only offer you the opportunity to heal yourself. I have come to accept that I cannot save everybody. What I can do is to make positive declarations so that those balanced between your view (which is prevalent) and mine are encouraged to choose to live into hope and love.

      I am not trying to convince you of anything. I am creating a library of rationale to fortify the faith of others.

      Brian

    • Hi Brian

      I was under the impression you wanted to actually discuss the thesis. Isn’t this why you invited me here? The three points will help structure that discussion, and I have provided some background to help establish what it is we’re talking about. If, however, the totality of your objection is simply “I don’t like the thesis, therefore it’s wrong,” then there’s nothing further to say, and I have wasted my time.

    • John:

      I wrote something earlier for which I must apologize. It is not a choice between strength and weakness. It is a choice between frameworks for interpretation of reality. We can both benefit from each other’s experience.

      My comments were not intended to disclaim involvement in the discussion of your thesis, but rather to offer the courtesy of informing you that my motives are not those of proof, but of political contradiction. I accept that I cannot prove anything to you.

      However, I also feel that I have the right to assert that my personal experience is inconsistent with certain points of your thesis: for example, my perception is that the creator has an active spiritual involvement in the process of healing. This is not unique to me – it has been celebrated by people of faith in all religious traditions. It would be nice if you were to recognize that point. In other words, where you challenge me to move beyond “I don’t like the thesis, therefore it’s wrong”, I am suggesting that your position is “I don’t share your experience, therefore it’s inadmissible as evidence.”

      So, back to the issue at hand:

      You argue in your thesis that TOOAIN gains maximal satisfaction from allowing love to manifest. This is to articulate, as I see it, the experience of predators dating back to the earliest epochs of life on Earth. They cannot consume rapaciously without destroying themselves.

      What I write in The Soul Comes First is that predation is also necessary to the operation of healing. Certainly the immune cells of the body destroy invaders, and on a societal level so do police and armies.

      So you are correct to say that the interpretation of history is ambiguous, and that physical evidence of entropic decay supports a pessimistic perspective regarding the motives of any “prime mover.”

      What I offer here is a set of experiences of this nature: I reach the end of my personal resources, feeling like me heart is going to break, but in that moment of surrender a great flood of spiritual energy courses through it, and the pain lifts.

      In other words, I have experiences that I can only interpret as evidence that the creator continues to intervene by providing a pool of spiritual energy that can be drawn upon by selfless people to bring healing into the world. What this taught me is that predation can be replaced by the loving heart under the guidance of a discerning mind.

      This is the lesson of the martyrdom of Jesus of Nazareth and others. While Jesus’s demonstration was perhaps somewhat flashier than others, it is unique only in degree, not in kind to the demonstrations of others.

    • OK, it seems you’re not at all interested in actually discussing the thesis in any meaningful way. You just want to talk about yourself, which makes me wonder why you extended the invitation (challenge) in the first place.

    • John:

      I am doing the best that I can to cast your perspective into my experience. That is entirely relevant, because the measure of the value of any philosophy or religion must be whether it allows us to organize energy and effort to accomplish our will. It has to have meaning to us as individuals.

      So I don’t follow your assertion. I did not issue the invitation so that I could understand TOOAIN. I experience it, as might be evident from my comments and prior writings, at a deep organic level. I think that an objective analyst would also conclude that I have subsumed it in a larger intellectual and psychological framework. I have moved beyond it.

      I am not alone in that sense. Robert Monroe documents his experiences in the “Journey” series. Starting from the predatory context of corporate decision making, with rationalizations of suffering somewhat similar to yours, he slowly expands his view of reality. I have broad sympathy with the perspectives he offers in Ultimate Journey, his last work.

      My purposes in extending the invitation are complex. I am involved in a chess match with the personality that you characterize as TOOAIN. Ask him/her/it to explain why you felt compelled to take it up as a “challenge.”

      Brian

    • Hi Brian

      ”I think that an objective analyst would also conclude that I have subsumed it in a larger intellectual and psychological framework. I have moved beyond it.”

      I’m afraid to say, you haven’t even seen the outer edges, let alone put a scratch on a single proof I have presented for the existence of the Omnimalevolent Creator. The central theme of this discussion is teleology. The central theme of this discussion is Creation itself: an intelligently designed, yet deceptively natural world.

      You, however, clearly don’t want to talk about teleology, about design, about the real world, as it appears you know fully well such a survey supports my thesis. So instead you wander around in ethereal dreamscapes, offering up vaporous thoughts that have no bearing on reality, cannot be quantified, and which even you admit are unfounded…. and you expect me to be impressed?

      To repeat an earlier note, a note you evidently ignored: We are not entertaining excuses for why things are not as they should be if matter had been persuaded to behave by a benevolent hand, rather a coherent explanation for why things are as they are in the unignorable presence of a Creator.

      Real world, Brian.

      If we find a bomb carefully concealed in a kindergarten, primed and set to detonate when it would wreak the greatest possible carnage, we would assume, in all reasonableness, that someone vicious and vile—someone exquisitely evil—had designed the device and had purposefully put it there, positioned as such to maximise suffering and misery and mayhem. No prudent observer mindful of the legitimate passage of common cause and effect could consider the device’s shaped casing, circuits, electrical leads, assorted wires, power source, detonation pin, volatile chemicals, and inner chamber crowded with a small but appalling menagerie of metallic debris, including ball bearings and nails, had all come together in the exacting order in which they must to perform the task by purblind chance.

      No.

      The device was designed. Its many parts were envisaged by an agent and the necessary materials were brought together and persuaded to bend and to marry in contrived ways. And the device’s position inside the school, as opposed to one perhaps on some barren field where even grass is reluctant to grow, considered and deemed optimal—to the maker of the device—above all other possible choices.

      These are natural conclusions. They are, in modest respect, unavoidable.

      In surveying Creation, how much more reasonable then must it be to attribute the world as we know it, the world that is, to a vicious and vile, calculating and malevolent designer? Is this not, after all, the most credible, excuse-free explanation for the degenerate nature of things before us?

      So, if you think you can mount a coherent, intelligible rebuttal to my thesis then by all means do so.

      1) demonstrate (with working examples) that this universe is not a complexity machine tumbling relentlessly forward from a state of ancestral simplicity to contemporary complexity,

      2) demonstrate (with working examples) that complexity does not father a wretched and forever diversifying family of more devoted fears and faithful anxieties, more pervasive ailments and skilful parasites, more virulent toxins, more capable diseases, and more affectionate expressions of pain, ruin, psychosis and loss, and

      3) demonstrate (with working examples) that the very constitution (the design) of this universe is not profound teleological evidence for the mind of a malevolent designer… an architect who so clearly cherishes His anonymity, and has quite purposefully painted Creation in impenetrable naturalism.

    • John:

      I’ll conclude by correlating my statements with your criteria for a rebuttal.

      1. The Christian experience (shared by all mature practitioners of every religion) is that the Creator is not distant an uninvolved, but supports the expression of love. (satisfying criteria 3)
      2. I have offered a model of physics that explains the mechanisms by which this process is elaborated. (satisfying criterion 1)
      3. The most powerful and influential figures in history have been those that preach that there is an escape from this reality into a realm of infinite possibility. To those that understand spiritual experience, this is evidence of the truth of their proclamations. (satisfying criteria 2)
      4. My conclusion, stated in the first entry in this discussion, is that this reality is a hospital – a place of healing for a personality infected with selfishness. (satisfying criteria 2)
      5. That conclusion is backed by my own personal experience of power, including access to power that heals my wounded heart when I engage the brokenness of the world. (satisfying criteria 2)

      As I see it, to TOOAIN hypothesis is a delusion that disempowers you. I reject it because I choose to live in joy. I encourage you to do the same.

      Brian

    • “1. The Christian experience (shared by all mature practitioners of every religion) is that the Creator is not distant an uninvolved, but supports the expression of love. (satisfying criteria 3)”

      Based on what, Brian? What evidence can you present to support this absurd proclamation?

      Has the Creator supported ‘love’ by arranging His Creation in such a way that suffering existed in this world for 3 billion years before the first stirrings of what may be called happiness was ever teased loose?

      Does this fact indicate benevolence or malevolence?

      Published on the 7th of July, 2012, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness firmly asserts that the absence of a neocortex does not preclude non-human animals from experiencing genuine suffering. Indeed, the signatories to the declaration stressed that the required neurological apparatus for total awareness of pain—and the emotional states allied to that—arose in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod molluscs, such as octopus, Nautilus, and cuttlefish.

      Now, to repeat, as John Fiske observed,

      “A scheme which permits thousands of generations to live and die in wretchedness cannot be absolved from the charge of awkwardness or malevolence. It is impossible to call that being Good who, existing prior to the phenomenal universe, and creating it out of the plenitude of infinite power and foreknowledge, endowed it with such properties that its material and moral development must inevitably be attended by the misery of untold millions of sentient creatures for whose existence their creator is ultimately alone responsible.”

      Plants suffer, Brian.

      Like algae and fungi, they are stained with a gentle but persuasive insanity known to all life, and can suffer in a form of chemical panic if starved of (or saturated by) water, nutrients and sunlight, if strip-barked, infested with parasites, or over-grazed. Plants also fear pain. Located deep inside the plant genome, isolated within the first intron MPK4, lay three ancient genes (PR1, PR2, PR5) that have revealed to researchers that MPK4 is devoted to negative regulation of the PR gene expression. What this means is that plants not only experience suffering, they live in fear of it. This gene expression is anticipatory. It is what humans would identify with as a deep-rooted paranoia, a most ancient anxiety.

      Climb then above this first chorus of pain-aware life and the experience of physical and emotional torment only deepens with each ascending rung.

      Without a single neuron to call its own, protozoa can suffer in more intimate ways, and these tiny micro-factories are endowed with a primitive ability to struggle against their torture at the hands of, for instance, the parasitic Legionella pneumophila, notifying all observers that this most primitive breath of life knows it is suffering.

      “2. I have offered a model of physics that explains the mechanisms by which this process is elaborated. (satisfying criterion 1)”

      No, you haven’t offered anything. You even admit your thoughts are unfounded, and are therefore nothing but wishful thinking. Dreams. You have nothing to support your position, rendering it obsolete. Like I said, Deepak Chopra “Woo.”

      I, however, have presented nothing but real world facts.

      “3. The most powerful and influential figures in history have been those that preach that there is an escape from this reality into a realm of infinite possibility. To those that understand spiritual experience, this is evidence of the truth of their proclamations. (satisfying criteria 2)”

      Has this reduced suffering in this world? No. What it has done is increase suffering by encouraging religious belief. Belief is, after all, an extraordinarily powerful deflection. It is a potent desensitiser which numbs men to an inhospitable and inconsistent world. As a value-added benefit, as man is himself both the father and caretaker of these phantoms—these deities who paint the universe with a meaning palatable to human minds desperate for a sense of immunity from the terrible blights of this mad and unbalanced world—then they will defend these chimerical spirits with a vigorous zeal that promises, and delivers, repeated windfalls for the Omnimalevolent Creator.

      Indeed, religious belief ensures suffering on small (private) and grand (public) scales, spreading sweet misery across Creation, while obviating any threat to the anonymity the actual Creator so desires.

      I have an entire chapter dedicated to the subject of religious belief, detailing the miseries it has brought.

      “Human violence is inevitable as long as those of us who are practitioners of competing faiths give legitimacy to violence-of-God traditions” (Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack, 2003, Is Religion Killing us? Violence in the Bible and the Quran)

      “4. My conclusion, stated in the first entry in this discussion, is that this reality is a hospital – a place of healing for a personality infected with selfishness. (satisfying criteria 2)”

      Hospital? This world, Brian, is a cell, a nightmarish cage where every inmate is contracted by birth to prey upon the other in order to steal the proteins and fats and sugars and minerals they need just to stay alive one more day in what amounts to a daily apocalypse of obliged bloodletting.

      Can you, Brian, foresee a time in this world when an organism’s success might be dependent on its politeness in asking permission to consume another organism? The thought is ludicrous. Creation is simply not orientated towards such outcomes. A lion will no sooner ask a gazelle for permission to eat it than a hoverfly larva will patiently await the milkweed aphid’s invitation to board its body and suck it dry.

      If Creation’s stubborn obsession was in fact towards the production of less suffering and anxiety and pain over time, even if only in those ages when the theorised forces of good held the high ground, then observers of every kind would have already seen, collected and assembled immense libraries of hard observational data detailing impressive, unambiguous and irresistible movements towards less complexity over time, not more. Such paradigmatic shifts would be exampled in a multitude of different flavours and pedigrees, including perhaps innovations like green chlorophyll-laced skin, rather than sharper, stronger, longer talons designed for one purpose, and one purpose alone: to more competently steal from another’s living flesh the proteins required to sustain the complex life which has no choice but to evolve and grow more complicated with every passing generation. In the earthly theatre the observer would witness nature favouring adaptations that promoted good will and kinship through simplicity, not the heaping on of rewards to those organisms that developed more devious weapons, cleverer poisons, or massive and prohibitively expensive brains capable of envisioning discrete parcels of manufactured destruction that could be thrown anonymously over horizons, or if deemed necessary, placed quietly inside a kindergarten to administer some near-future mayhem.

      Fact.

      And Brian, any reason you’re ignoring the suffering of animals? Of all predatory attacks on prey it is estimated only 19% achieve a success rate higher than 90%. The great majority of attacks either fail partially or completely, but experts orientated to studying brain functions and perennial anxieties have recorded that this repeated exposure to predatory stimuli produces severe cognitive changes in prey animals analogous to those seen in human patients with acute stress disorders (ASD), and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

      What is true then of the natural world is not happy animals blissfully going about their business unconcerned by a thousand eyes and claws and covetous mouths directed down on them, but rather great assemblies of frantic organisms beset with a sickening pathological anxiety forever working against any possibility of enjoyment, even in those brief times of plenty.

      “A bee amongst the flowers in spring is one of the most cheerful objects that can be looked upon,” observed Paley in wild flight of blinded fantasy. “Its life appears to be all enjoyment; so busy, and so pleased.” Under the microscope, the bee’s outer body is however found to be infested with the ferocious varroa mite, their airways riddled with impatiently greedy acarine (tracheal) mites, their intestines ravaged by the veracious nosema apis, and their hives, where some degree of safety should at least be expected, is instead crowded with gluttonous bacillus larvae and the hideous Brood Disease.

      These are the realities of the natural world: uncensored, untwisted, uncorrupted. As the uniquely qualified evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, David Barash noted:

      “Although the natural world can be marvellous, it is also filled with ethical horrors: predation, parasitism, fratricide, infanticide, disease, pain, old age and death — and that suffering is built into the nature of things.”

      Let’s repeat that: “that suffering is built into the nature of things.”

      Read this very, very carefully, Brian:

      The unguarded, naked truth is this: This world was never good. It was never peaceful, and never without suffering. At no time was there neutrality. There was never an armistice between all living and not-so living things, nor can evidence be found to suggest there ever was—or still is—a loosely balanced war tumbling across Creation with the advantage swinging between the forces of light and happiness, and those of darkness and misery. Fire has always burned flesh, water has always drowned babies, and Creation has only ever exhibited but one impulse, one motive, one direction: towards increasing complexity, where complexity—across all systems, animate and inanimate—corresponds precisely to the degree and depth of potential suffering available to those contingent things whose participation in Creation was never solicited.

      Violence has always lorded over the All, and obscene levels of suffering, fear, anxiety, competition, sickness, destitution, scarcity, decay, ruin and deplorably protracted death have always saturated existence. It is immediate, it is inescapable, and it is everywhere.

      “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.” (Dawkins, Richard, 1995, River Out of Eden)

      Brian, it is, in no uncertain terms, an inexcusable moralistic fallacy to believe that what is good is found in nature. This world is not, as Paley declared, a happy world teeming with delighted existence. For most living things existence has never been a stream of abundances, sweet distinctions, and trusted pleasures. Predation, disease, parasitism, thirst, starvation, intraspecific aggression, ostracism, and sexual frustration are endemic in what are called ‘healthy’ ecosystems

      “5. That conclusion is backed by my own personal experience of power, including access to power that heals my wounded heart when I engage the brokenness of the world. (satisfying criteria 2)”

      Yes, and unicorns exists.

      “As I see it, to TOOAIN hypothesis is a delusion that disempowers you. I reject it because I choose to live in joy.”

      And there it is, the truth: “I don’t like this proposition, therefore it is wrong.”

      That is the totality of your objection. You have offered nothing. Absolutely nothing.

      Take a look at your reply, Brian. Have you addressed a single teleological reality of this world anywhere?

      No, you have not.

      Have you given a single real world example?

      No, you have not.

      Evidently, you do not have the intellectual capacity, or honesty, to engage this subject as an adult, and you are just wasting my time.

  4. Pingback: The Teleology Challenge |

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