Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In The Final Analysis

To get it straight, this gets it straight; what happens to the thought processes when you begin to clear away the wreckage of sentiment and nostalgia and the inanities of common, everyday concerns. If nothing else occurs, the grasp of essential terms and their employment in the place of old entrenched ones (the default settings of well-nigh autonomic responses close enough to the knee jerk to be organic processes) forces a confrontation with the unadorned reality of a situation, rather than one colored by experience.

At its core, the original argument remains firmly in place: Evolution. As much as Einstein based his theories on observations of Light, Darwin based his on observations of Life. Neither of their positions is open to argument, on the evidence, although everything is open to interpretation. But the evidence is clear on this: the organism's development via natural selection, adaptation and mutation, explains just about everything on how it got to be the way it is. The progression of a species, depending upon the rate and speed of reproduction and the complexity of the individual organism, can be affected by anything from dramatic climate shifts to the slightest solar radiation. While the latter may seem infinitesmal to a primate, to an amoeba it's like gamma rays to The Hulk. In either case, all it takes is a few broken chromosomes and the resultant genetic material will produce new chains of DNA sequences. Adaptation means these changes have become stable, but it also means the cycle can start all over again, as well.

The most salient point of philosophers (at least the one's we can understand without straining, like Wittgenstein and Bergson...and Kant, with a bit of heavy lifting) may be that they insist on keeping essential terms as close as possible to attributes/metaphors/examples representing human traits/aspects. In this, they are not that different from most legal systems: all testimony in courtrooms is limited to eye-witness accounts of experiences in the realm of the five senses, plus what those sensations meant to the testifier. What this means is that one universal truth which can be regarded as a Law, regardless of belief system or nationality, is that we call those things “real” (or at the very least “honest”) which hold up to some kind of empirical proof with the five senses.

One of the good things about Bergson was his reminder that whenever possible, use only primary references. And when I said I found two fuckups, he only violated this rule once, to my liking. He wasn't alone in citing Ernest Haeckel's “law”--“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. (I bring up embryological parallelism, or biogenetic law, one last time as it appears to have the same appeal I seem to be making. It would be comforting if, as the theory goes, “the growth and development of an individual organism is the same as the evolutionary history of the species.” But it doesn't happen enough to be considered outside of various phylum. And, anyways, my thesis only runs on the same track; the race is quite different.) Bergson was taken in like every other scientist-philosopher of the time, making the same error and compounding it by never getting verification (one of his absolute bugaboos). It was actually Steven Jay Gould, who brought this point home to me, among the other examples in the intro to “The Lying Stones of Marrakech”. The reason why I bring it up here is that it has survived long enough for SJG to cite it means it endures as a time-honored lesson. It is this sort of “truthiness”-in which “facts” get mistaken for rigorous scientific proof—that has become a major tool of Creationists by bringing in specious studies without proper provenance.

What put Bergson in the back numbers wasn't that, however. It was his insistence on the “elan vital”--as close to Intuition as it gets. It was alright for Kierkegaard to take a Leap of Faith; he was only outlining a condition necessary for belief in God. It is just that unknown factor being such a core issue of his, the only one not directly predictable in evolution (except for animal instinct) and without a direct line to the five senses... unless Intuition may be our Instinct. Certainly, there is no question about trying to shoehorn this into Darwin in the traditional fashion. Natural selection? We'd have to go far afield to see anything “natural” in something that has no 5-sense/testimonial origin. Species adaptation to changes forced by environment? Possibly—but to what environment? Not the earth's climatary regions; utterly nonsensical as people now live in all zones of the planet and our present method of adaptation has nothing to do with evolution...unless you count dressing in layers. But suppose this is a new development? Now there’s something to work with. Some might say Henri believes we developed a “divine spark”…except—HE DOESN’T MENTION GOD! So then, it is that Homo Sapiens, somehow, went beyond the design parameters? Moreover, that this is exactly what they were “designed” to do?

This begs the question: Who? Designed what? The answer might then be something like “Intelligent Design but without a governing intelligence”, which means: it works perfectly because it works perfectly…for the moment. Then, isn't this getting perilously close to Creationism? Ok. No problem going there, as long as you admit it is the design of a “creator” who has no interest in what happens to these creations. (Really. Take a look at the last century first, please.) Don't try to sell me an interventionist god; Dawkins' blind watchmaker is much more plausible. No, the “designed” verb refers to the mechanism inherent within the structure; how it works, its operation, and “intelligence” is like the verb/noun in CIA, our perceptions of that “design” (kinda like Heisenberg’s thang about how the observer is part of the equation), its observable functions and purposes.

This isn't tricky at all. Life, of any kind, must always create more life. That's easy. When you get into ecological niches, however, there is also a symbiosis that occurs, a balancing act wherein one species overproduces as a food source for another with a slower breeding and/or gestation cycle, wherein one species' waste products serves as the breeding medium/food source for another, etc. (Think Galapagos...another of Darwin's hot spots.) These are not “directed” purposes as much as “evident” functions—what some Chaos Theory physicists have observed coming out of decaying turbulence streams: vortices of self-organizing systems. Some might say that this is not a “design”. Look up “pattern”, ok? Try “symmetry”. And if all else fails, use your imagination!

Life “designs” itself by natural selection.

The previous was neither a color exhortation or a rhetorical device to make a transition from essential terms and primary sources to The Next Bit. The Next Bit IS both of those bits AND the “design” element.

The other sticking point with Bergson came from his singular dismissal of Darwin in this one statement. “Let us take care not to confound evolution and development... The truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general directions of the movement, still less the movement itself. The road which leads to the town is certainly obliged to climb the hills and go down the slopes; it adapts itself to the accidents of the ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road, any more than they have imparted its direction." ("Creative Evolution", pages 111-112.) He got the right metaphor, but grabbed it at the wrong end of the scale. Don't start with the finished product; start with the path through the forest. Obviously, at some point, a homind of one sort or another sighted through the trees, or across a plain, and saw the easiest route, the path of least resistance. It showed less objects or obstacles to the depth of field offered by binocular vision, possibly, as well, representing trails blazed by large-bodied, four-footed mammals who had crossed the terrain previously. What Bergson appears to have missed is that roads—unless they are grids imposed by civic planning—are usually, by and large, products of old footpads over vegetation. These were made and laid for a reason...just not one immediately available to those who see only the paved surface that came later.

This has a more sound intellectual basis when all are considered in sequence.
1. Bergson diverges from irrefutable argument (or sound reasoning) when he makes the claim that “the truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general direction of the movement.”
2. “The path through the forest” is a very good metaphor. Animals go through by their nose, foraging for food, eating brush, tender shoots, berries or fronds. Perhaps a hunter follows by spoor as well. In either case, as some twigs or saplings are bent, so goes the tree, bush, etc. and the hooves of ungulates dig further gouges in the earth. Their feces accumulate along the line of travel, fertilizing the soil, creating better, nutrient-rich surface for more growth along those lines of just the plants which attracted them in the first place.
3. Humans with binocular vision detect the subtle gradations of the ground to their goal. Over time, the succession of feet on the same ground wears a more well-defined path. It is this path which becomes a traffic pattern, creating the basis for a road, the surrounding forest becoming less dense in the bargain. A crossroads becomes a settlement, q.e.d. This is the evolution of a city, echoing all human development.
4. This refutes #1 as I understand it.

This may come under the heading of a “social” evolution, a “behavioral” evolution, but it still follows Darwin's theory to the letter. We have come to accept the “Gaia” hypothesis as the planet as a living, integrated organism, as the environment. It isn't any big jump to follow the “windings of the movement” as well as the “general director of the movement” to the same source. This is where the 5 senses of the living organism determine the development of patterns, along with other biological processes and imperatives, and that follows a course and speed set by the SELECTION OF THE ORGANISM (Darwin).

And, again, this is not a convenient metaphor or incidental cite: this is the core. The reason all the philosophers and scientists and even a theologian or two got their propers is that they are all, to a man (sorry, gals), THE PATH THROUGH THE FOREST. This is how I got here: thinking and reasoning as they do (to the best of my ability), testing hypothesis and questioning statements and propositions, etc. It was when all my questions began to merge, at the same junctions, the territory looking mighty familiar, and where all the terms started to describe the same properties and conditions, and when the forest stopped looking like a dark and tangled thicket and more a privet garden in the sunshine.

Ok. No more teases.

However, as the last philosopher cited previously was McLuhan, it is necessary to let him carry the ball through the uprights, but he's game. More or less, it is his position that all Media are extensions of the human organism and that every new media is an advance on the previous one, but not immediately recognized as so because, at it's inception, it pretty much duplicates (in combinations) the functions of previous media, until it finds its own purpose.
• Language=audio representation in specific messages between individuals; this is the mouth. At first it was for hunting and gathering, but later would evolve into the level of sophistication that could communicate our thoughts, our minds.
• Printing=extension of messages into symbols for general distribution. This is for our eyes, and/or most assuredly for our minds/brains, however you wish. What may have begun in simple iconography or even religious ritual, would become the most important human device ever, recording the past, ordering the present, and even describing the future.
• Telegraph=extension of messages into symbols in long-distance audio representation in code between individuals, but also for general distribution. This is where the body enters, allowing manipulation of things and events far beyond the reach of what would be our arms.
• Telephone=telegraphic audio messages without code between individuals. Again, the body, and the obvious ones of the mouth and ears.
• Radio=audio messages for general distribution. All the attributes of the telegraph and telephone but further, a theatrical element which once more engages the mind as does printing, creating, at times, an artificial realm for the eyes.
• TV=audio and pictorial messages for general distribution. This is radio without the artifice of mental images.
• The Internet=all of the above...and more.

So, inasmuch as Evolution is a progression based upon the demands of the organism’s basic survival, and the employment of the Five Senses to aid that end, so also is the History of Humankind’s development through Media. Then, to put in a little bit of substitution, just for a giggle, let’s say: MEDIA MANIFESTS THE SAME PROPERTIES AS AN ORGANISM, AND DISPLAYS THE SAME OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS OF EVOLUTION: RESPONDING TO CHANGES IN THE COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT VIA NATURAL SELECTION, ADAPTING TO THE NEW MEANS OF MESSAGE TRANSMISSION AND TECHNOLOGY, AND GIVING BIRTH TO A NEW GENERATION OF ADAPTED MEDIA. Too over-arching? Perhaps. Yet, there is nothing in that statement which is incorrect…if only as a metaphor. So if we’re going to explore some fanciful constructions, let’s try another, like: IF ALL CHANGES IN THE ORGANISM ARE AT THE SERVICE OF ITS EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENT, THEN ALL CHANGES IN ITS MEDIA ARE AS WELL. Again, if you place Media in the same category as the Five Senses (of which they are most certainly extensions), it is not unreasonable to say they must be doing some sort of labor at the behest of the organism, even if only selling commercial air time. Now let’s take one more step into speculative fiction: THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEDIA IS PART OF THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS OF LIFE. Here may be where the rest of the camp-followers depart: metaphor is ok; declarative statements are…well, kinda hard to hedge, actually, folks.

But why should it be? Remember: all developments must be at the service of the organism’s survival? Then why else did our brains/minds, which are, after all, developments of the Evolutionary process, even need to come up with Consciousness? A Creationist will tell you it was so we could have knowledge of God and worship Him. Like I said: open to interpretation. My boy Teilhard believed in God, but he understood Science was 100% Reality, or as much as could be said to be Real. And yet, this hard-headed pragmatic, anthropologist could still come up with something like an Omega Point of Noosis for a Christogenesis? It isn’t hard to accept that somebody who goes so far off the beaten path, and who’s shown a fair amount of horse sense in his time, must be seeing a different track through the shrubs.

So let’s talk some real hard-headed pragmatism. It’s no coincidence Marx came along with the Industrial Revolution; it was the first time Labor, to a certain extent, was liberated from Russell’s “brute existence” – and, incidentally, the invention of Leisure as something for other than the power elite. However flawed Capitalism would become, at that juncture in history it represented a mind-blowingly unique change in human consciousness. By and large, in our search for hallelujahs and hosannas, we came to this plateau on the road to our mansions in the sky via the route through God as an answer to all our non-subsistence-level-oriented questions here on earth. Now, there appeared an off-ramp at some little joint called happiness that looked pretty good.

So what does this have to do with the substitution game above? Suppose that Media was some kind of weird substitution-thing itself, wherein the Consciousness wanted to grow more, say, develop a sixth sense. Perhaps something like telepathy? Remember: consciousness must be at service of the organism, AND all media are extensions of Man. Well, if you think e-mail is fast, and Twitter faster, then you have no idea how fast a thought might be, even though they are trying their best to duplicate that instantaneous communication. Yes, we might have evolved into it, except we had God already there.

Why do I want to bring back Heisenberg now? Possibly because it is that same thing, tantamount to religion freezing Man at either Anthropoid or Ascendant Angel and MISSING THE BIG PICTURE! Remember: Behavior is an Emergent Property too! At quantum level, the analogy works just as well for Consciousness. The flux of particle/wave suggested the proof of the Uncertainty Principle, that fixity only comes in with an observer arresting one or another STATE OF BEING. But suppose that the "subject" is also the "observer"?

The Matrix has the same exact conclusion about the species as you, as a virus. However, when you add God into the mix, you get ideas like “unlimited growth potential” and “god-given rights” and “Manifest Destiny” and “entitlements” and such. The idea that God permits anything He does not stop and that, if anything goes wrong, God has underwritten the title policy against all acts of God, that God will fix it, abrogating responsibility of the individual or society to the rest of the individuals or society, the group/whole/racial identity, etc. (as long as they are not going to the same worship service as you) without any need for a social balancing act.

It also negates any need for personal growth. A stunted mind is one that will never find any environment inhospitable...unless it is asked to adapt and evolve, and is actually against the Laws of Evolution & GOD, if such a conception (in any form of awareness we could comprehend) does exist.

THESIS BEING: Humans have a limitless potential to develop, and would, even faster, without God to fill in the blanks. If we could develop a sixth sense, that might even be the one to know God with, instead of some belief in an ideal of various hotly-disputed interpretations. So—

Follow this one:

What we know of the Macrocosmic comes from our instrumentality , observation and proofs in physics. The same goes, and to a much lesser degree, for the microscopic and below to the subatomic and Quantum levels. But, add the two ends together and we have fairly good, logical reasons for believing in a 10-D universe. We live in three of them and part of 4 &/or 5 depending upon how you break down Space/Time, if you bother. As for the other 5 or 6, speculation has it that they were either “stillborn” or “undeveloped” (Note: foetus terms in embryology, metaphors – sure, but why not? After all, if you’re going to get philosophical, you gotta stick to human physicality…) or existing in some configuration “parallel” to ours (as much as anything can be described in term of Euclidean space), inaccessible but nonetheless absolutely essential to make our dimensions, the ones with Life in them, operate. (CARBON-BASED BIOPHYSICS? WHO’D A THUNK IT?)

So? What? Could be that they are in the same state of development as homo sapiens? Of course, this is rank speculation as there are no workable/useful definitions for “the Universe,” except GOD. (c/o St. Anselm of Canterbury?) However, if we can use GAIA to represent The Living Planet, we can use COSMOS (Why not – Carl Sagan?) for the WHOLE OF EXISTENCE.

In the final analysis, I will grant that it looks pretty cold; that anybody who participates in organized religion is part of the backsliding of the species from its fulfillment, the flowering of the organism into Brahma’s Lotus, or something—but it’s not, really. The reason I use a Buddha metaphor at the end was one of the best bits in the researches, about the meditation state of Tibetan monks. It seems that MRI scans of their brains lit up as the most serene when their contemplative zones went deep into the subject of Compassion and Mother’s Love – two of the highest character traits of human development. This proves that, EVEN WITHOUT GOD, we have a chance of achieving harmony and contentment, sorta like Woodstock in the mud, but without the mudslinging. interlude...

The idea of a public diary is as much the things we would like to talk about with our perfect Significant Other as a sounding board for the thoughts we enjoy thinking and doubly-enjoy in writing. It imparts form to the formless. And if this blog is about anything at all, it must be this. Therefore, it does me no harm and much good to spend a few moments as if I were an actual reader of myself. So if this entry sounds a little schizophrenic, it may be because I am of two minds meself... (Yeh, I know. Let's get ultra-primitive here and go all the way back to the dawn of psychoanalysis for a term and say, instead: This is more a case of a split personality.)

It having been months since my last visit, I decided to re-read all the entries for content, context, etc., including logic flaws, before preparing the previous edition. What I found was a helluva lotta repetition and some errors in basic proofreading. As is my wont to sit in chinese restaurants and correct their menus, this was a habit I needed to suppress here. Yes, I admit I am very redundant and the last one, at the very least, came close to boring pedantry. (Maybe is. I was a little like “get on with it” at the end.) However, there comes at point at which further refinement is a waste of energy.

What I found is pretty much what I remembered writing and still supports my researches. But, as a casual perusal, it seemed that I never fully answered my own question about Syntax, and just what that figures into the whole mix as. The reason for this is that I took some time off to actually read Steven Pinker's book “The Stuff of Thought”. At just about the time I was finishing up, I heard there was going to be an actual discussion of this very subject between Pinker and Tom Wolfe at the Rubin Center here in New York. So whatever independent ideas I had, of that which could be gleaned from the book up to that point in time, were put on further hold until I could attend that gathering of eagles. Perhaps I will go into the substance of their exchange (or at least what I can make sense of it from my notes), but that will have to wait.

As I said, the re-examination of the argument thus far has made me pretty satisfied, yet just as aware of the metamorphic nature of our times, how things change so fast, as mercurial as the glides up and down the gradations in the glass outside the window. Which is, in itself, an archaic reference: no manufacturer of thermometers uses any precious metal to tell the temperature anymore. Also, further edits only aid the logorithmic progression of Time means that the closer I get to my goal, the tinier the divisions become as halfs-proceed-halfs ahead of me into the infinite. And here I have the image of a slide rule in my mind, another relic of the past. I was in error attributing the coinage of “meme” to William Gibson or Bruce Sterling: it was Richard Dawkins they both copped it from, and rightly so—you can't have science fiction without starting with some really great science. (But I can't go into Dawkins here as that would take another entire blog on its own.) And I was even more outdated in quoting Gil Scott-Heron's “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the same breath (almost) where I mention McLuhan. Observing the events in Iran, even as I write, the parallels with Paris in 1968 cannot be dismissed. That was when the theorists, the Situationists, ended up becoming activists by becoming message couriers between factory workers and the transit unions and the student rebels to organize the most effective counter-demonstrations and to paralyze the nation. And what are the Iranians doing? Utilizing “social networking sites” to do EXACTLY THE SAME THING! The most innocuous of self-vanity/celebrity-worshipping whimsies becomes a tool of the popular democratic uprising. What was I thinking? “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”...but that doesn't say anything about twittered... Marshall would be ashamed of me.

Overall, it is obvious that while the enthusiasm expressed at the beginning was the same you get from Youth and the elation of embarcation on a journey, Shakespeare's “Seven Ages of Man” pretty much proved out the rest, leaving this one, I might gather, to be mewling and puking in the crib, sans sight, sans taste, sans wit. Truth is, probably, when it got down to the scut-work of actually using the philosophers I had some knowledge of, I kept switching from vernacular to doctoral thesis as if such informal/formal constructions could substitute for lucidity and directness, it became turgid and stiff. Even as it pumped up the vigor with the familiar, trying to get some life into the old girl, it got bogged down in jargon and, consequently, even the author got tired of not reaching the conclusion.

Yet he was so close.

So (some weighty preposition, totally without any relation to a bound morpheme—just try to figure out what it means: I DARE YOU...)
Well (and yet another stupid cupid to shoot an arrow into the void...)
The (at least you get the definite article, right?...)
And (...almost as bad as “But” to kick off any sentence...)

Here's the deal. (Oh my! Aren't we going to get all Wall Street on your ass?) Notes exist that finish this. No more deviations, no more proofs. They are no longer needed. I realized that if I was even partially right in all that came before, and had no reason to find much more fault than that cited heretofore, then it stands to reason that whatever followed it will most likely stand or fall on the same logic and if enough wasn't said to convince YOU, it surely did and does ME. (Yes. Ok. Functional “split personality” is alright too.) It may have something to do with reading Roberto Bolano's epic novel “2666”. Having gotten the second part of the trilogy first, I started reading at page 365 or so and realized that, yeah, this was possible, do-able. I don't have to know anything more to make all the connections I want and, in fact, will make them regardless of whether they are 100% accurate of not. That's the nature of the beast, folks.

What follows is, as much as necessary, the end. And that is why it is called...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part 6 (a work in progress, really)

The last one was all over the map, but it kind of had to be. You can’t get there from here, and the rap rep has, inevitably, lead to this hominem to my homie Emineminem: Mr. Marshall McLuhan. Going over all the Wiki articles and their links refreshed my memory of why this guy always looked more like a Nostradamus than a Norte Dame Emeritus (actually, McGill D., in Toronto, but I’m into hardcore phonography—what can I say?) and I barely scratched the surface.

So, the gems only: The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951) used a work by Marcel Duchamp as its title (and with such a subtitle!), and was written as a short number of essays to be read in any order, and was as much a visual presentation (such as newspaper clippings and magazine adverts, like a Mad Ave campaign) as proper thesis paper…and looks more like a web page than anything else. The Gutenberg Galaxy: the Making of Typographic Man (1962) probably felt like science fiction-philosophy when it first came out (as I gather from materials referencing it). The term "global village" was coined here, but not in the "bringing-all-of-mankind-together" sense later popularized. MM's was much more dystopian. (And now to unregenerently Wiki once more…) Check it out:

"In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called ‘electronic interdependence’: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a ‘tribal base’.

"Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. [ ... ] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. [ ... ] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture." (-MM)

Ok. If this sounds like I am simply parroting MM (and Wikipedia), there's no reason it shouldn't. It is just that he arrived at his conclusions close to fifty years before Prezboy declared a “War on Terror”, and the Internet—which turned everyone into a blogger and as well into a camp “follower” (even as I have none, or one)—was even a glimmer in daddy's big fat diode.

So as we are entering Moderngrammarstan, let's pose it in a more concrete, and contemporaneous, analogy: you can't have a computer without an operating system. In this view, the "hard problem" is a "hardware vs. software" problem; which isn't really a problem as you can't do anything with either without the other. And seeing as how (outside of Sportstalk USA) this the abiding, binding metaphor of our era, the Information Age, I feel confident to suggest that it might just pass muster as the likely paradigm of the time. Our concrete reality has become an electronic one.

Perhaps, if he were still around, MM might agree that the Gutenberg Galaxy has become the Digital Universe. Exactly what impact that may have on our existence, that’s up for grabs—literally. If, as he suggests in “an infantile piece of science fiction…our senses have gone outside us”, then, just looking at web traffic (and e-mail, Facebook alerts/Twitter, etc.) we can see the most instantaneous process of our “thoughts”, our brain’s messages, have become extended to the point of visibility. This process of externalization is a major thesis of McLuhan’s, that all Media are extensions of man’s physical self into the communications realm. That he later titled his 1967 book “The Medium is the Massage” (not misspelling, not a misprint) seems to create an inherent implication of a physical contact.

But how far could he go with this? And more: how far do we want to carry it?

Back to premise #2, at least. We CAN do things in the "real" world: build pyramids, cure diseases, land men on the moon, split the atom, etc. We know why these things work, and they work over and over again. That all comes from premise # 1. This is where we get to apply premise #3 to the barely-“previously-owned” premise #4. Premise #4 is the red-headed stepchild of "reality"; it doesn't belong in the "family" but it is there nonetheless. Assuming that our affect/effect on the "real" world is as evident as our senses report (right down to the recent development of actually causing climate change by our presence, and that of our constructions/extensions of our beings), the question becomes; Does anything we do affect Quanta? And/or vice versa?

It is not so far a stretch, considering how little we know of that little level. Consider: we know that a lot mental disease comes from imbalances in neurotransmitters. By advanced pharmacology, we have made tremendous strides to the point where we can make tiny, micro-adjustments to certain individuals' blood chemistry wherein they might lead semi-"normal" lives. However, when you think of how miniscule these changes are, on a biological level, we are much closer to the molecular (well, cellular, but close enough) than we are to the corporeal.

Chaos Theory gives us this statement: a butterfly flaps its wings in China and produces hurricanes in the Caribbean. If this domino effect can also be given grounding in Quantum Mechanics (which is, I suspect, some of its origin), that's when things get strange. In classical physics, actions have consequences that we understand. There is no reason to think the same won't apply in Quanta, right? It’s just the “that we understand” part which is tricky.

So, if we can’t “understand” Quanta, then at the very least we should consider the views of someone who is open to both the “hard science” and more “speculative” side. Roger Penrose is one of the king-hell, Alpha-dog mathematicians and physicists of our day. You may have heard of Penrose Tiles at some time or other, possibly as a reference to a toy sold in advanced-state New Age trinket shops. This is no mere paperweight for your yoga teacher’s desk, however. If you Wiki, you will find a rather extensive write-up, including an animation which shows some of its variants, which are, to these eyes, like nothing so much as CGI kaleidoscope pictures or Moorish scrollwork, and very hypnotic and beautiful.

Now, is this, in any way, significant? As a matter of issue, it is. In 1974, Penrose published a paper entitled “The Role of Aesthetics in pure and applied research.” You see, even though it is considered monumentally influential and great import, and even though the ostensible point of the essay, it was actually only one fifth of the whole. Penrose, like many another major thinker, is of the opinion that for anything to work well, at the level of fundamental principles, it should not just “add up, but should also be “elegant”. This is a word you wouldn’t normally associate with gnarly quadrilateral equations and such, but math profs use it all the time. If it were “all Greek to me” then I might actually know what all those ancient Hellenic symbols were doing in there. As it is, I have to accept that when a model is used by topologists and molecular chemists and other physicists to fabricate solutions to puzzles in describing spaces that could never be solved by traditional geometry, then there must be something huge behind it. And, as well, this underscores the philosopher’s dictum of never getting to far from human references, in something like, ‘if you can see symmetry and balance, there is something working’. A lot of people wonder how scientists can come up with a 10-dimensional universe with only a few thin shreds of evidence to back up their claim. The way you do that is you devise a formula that looks beautiful, except for a big gaping hole where some number should be. Then you start looking for that number.

But getting back to Penrose, in regards the Big Picture, he has made the observation that since "fundamental levels of reality are more informational than material (viz; quantum physics), then consciousness may be the interface between quantum and 'classical' physics of our existence." That is one of the ones I started chewing on at the very beginning of my researches, and it still stuns me. And he even goes one further. "How do we understand mathematics if understanding is not just following a rule (as a computer does) but requires understanding the meaning (my italics) of mathematical concepts?" The interaction between quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity is poorly understood. Fundamental questions about time and causality seem to depend on how that interaction gets worked out.

This is heavy stuff, but Penrose even steals a march from the fantastic cosmology of Teilhard when he proposes this: the brain exploits some large-scale quantum coherence to achieve consciousness, an infinitesimal collapse of quantum information into classical information that takes place in the cytoskeletons of neurons. And this gets an add-on from his student/collaborator Stuart Hameroff with respect to a biological analog to quantum computation involving microtubules, which became the foundation for Penrose’s subsequent book, “Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness”. The proposition? That the site of this collapse might be at microscopic level of the microtubule, a computer-like protein structure inside the dendrons of every neuron and cell.

We are now leaving the SciFi Zone for Comicbookland. This ventures into the area of superpowers, like X-Men or something. Or Nietzsche?

Of course, nothing’s proven yet, but still… Consider the discussion of “values” in the long slog through Part 3. Even with an equal or greater number of detractors of Penrose’s theory (especially in the AI community, who swing in another direction entirely on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem and the Turing Test on how to tell whether you’re playing chess with a human or Big Blue), Consciousness is actually deemed worth its weight in worry by people who do equations.