Today’s post comes from the one and only Paul-No-Blog, a non blogger who writes bigger, better, and more frequent blog posts than many actual certified bloggers. (We won’t point any fingers here, since it’s rude, and kind of pointless because you can’t really see where exactly I am pointing anyway).
Love and Gravity, an Essay
by Paul Curran
Have you ever noticed that in life there seems to be a repetition of concepts within very different applications, across applications and in both macro and micro effects? For instance the best definition I have seen of “love” comes from Plato’s Socrates: “The desire to be one with”. Certainly not complete but definitely targeting the core of the meaning. And yet, in the physical world, gravity is a fundamental force described as: “all mass attracts” – alternately, “desires to be one with”. At first glance this may seem a matter of semantics: concepts that are different at their core but are expressed similarly in words. Deeper inspection though shows that not to be true – in fact the definitions are the same because the central concepts are the same and intrinsic: one application creates the existential integration of living things and the other creates one of the primary forces that allows this physical universe to exist. Both are critical to human existence, they are not at all related and yet at their cores, they are the same concept. This seems very curious to me, given that I warily eye any coincidences. (Yes, real coincidences do seem to happen occasionally but with about the same frequency as UFO sightings turn out to be true.)
Image source http://www.cosmotography.com
So, that being said, the big question is “Why would the same concept drive completely unrelated forces in the world?” After pondering this I have come to a couple of loose conclusions. One of the challenges in discussing this is: “Where to start?” Because the majority of human knowledge is internally consistent (i.e., all linked together) it is theoretically possible to start anywhere and get to the issue at hand – and any other like discussion could, for sure, start elsewhere. It is like driving past a fully mature crop of corn in the field. As the huge stalks of corn rush past the car window, the field appears to be planted randomly. There is no obvious or evident order to the organization of the plants springing from the ground. And still as you watch, the wall of green continually emerges from ahead, flicks past and recedes behind. Then, suddenly, you can see a bit further into the field between the stalks. Then further still, further still and then, as if a switch was flicked, you can see all the way down the row to the far end of the field. For a few seconds (or less) each row marches past with full visibility to the trees on the far side of the acres wide field, like a picture of a railroad track narrowing into the distance. Then the trees disappear and the corridor grows shorter and shorter until apparent randomness reestablishes itself. But now you know it is not random. That narrow space in time when the field’s order, organization and pattern is clear as you race by, introduces you to the farmer’s perspective when he first plowed the field and planted the corn – many months before. How he saw and drove the field when there was no corn – how he planted the individual seeds that grew to be the cornfield. His perspective. And you shared it for a few seconds. Life is like that and it opens an opportunity to explore further the nature of the field.
So, come and join me as we stop where the rows are obvious and walk out into the field, down the line of plantings and think about the perspective of the farmer, a long time ago. The point of this is to communicate that there IS often a discoverable inherent perspective even though it all often appears to be random. Once you know that, it is a simple process to find the perspectives that you can see clearly. Just walk around in your life actually looking, until you come across an area where the rows line up and you can see the organization, et Voilá: there is the perspective.
In logic there is a set of problems called “Wicked Problems”1. They are special because, basically, in order to find the way from the question to the answer, it is necessary to know both the question and the answer before beginning. And then, and only then, can a pathway be found between the two – and that pathway is often not unique. This has always struck me as a metaphor for life – to live a full and fulfilling life, it is necessary to know the meaning of life (i.e. what’s important and why) or, failing that, to assume a meaning. The issue is, of course, that the meaning of life is not likely to become known to an individual until the end (if then), so life is an especially wicked problem. These types of problems have a unique name: super wicked problems2 (I kid you not!). One of the 4 defining characteristics is that the person seeking to solve the problem is a part of the problem (the other 3 characteristics are logical extensions of being human: time is running out, there is no apparent central authority and policies discount the future irrationally [i.e. we can only base beliefs and directions on past experience and that is not necessarily related to the future]).
If life is a super wicked problem, then one of the possible methods of solution is iteration. We assume an answer and then see if the actions we take move us from the question to the assumed answer. Some call this failure when it doesn’t work but I prefer Thomas Edison’s response when he was asked by a reporter how it felt to fail a thousand times in his pursuit of a working filament for the light bulb: “I didn’t fail; I found a thousand ways it didn’t work.” You see each “failure” offers us information, helps us to learn and promotes our growth. This method of iteration is often (in my experience) combined with a second method: risk taking. This is done by getting immersed in the topic that contains the problem, seeking out possible avenues of solution and then committing to one without the assurance that it is indeed the route to solution or even a possible solution. This is more often employed when the “answer” is more ephemeral. For instance, Edison knew the exact physical requirements of his answer – a filament that would emit light for an extended period when charged with electricity. So, iteration. However, in a problem such as “I want to find my soul mate”, the answer is much more elusive, and requires commitment and risk to even test a given candidate. Quite possibly the answer is even going to be partially defined by the candidate (i.e., presented a possible solution that had not been considered) as opposed to just the question asker – an even more complex problem.
So, then let’s put all this together and apply what we find to the question of “Why are concepts repeated within different applications, across applications and in macro and micro effects?”
We define “intelligence” as the ability to absorb, process and integrate information and then organize it to produce either knowledge (i.e., links between concepts and a better understanding of existence) or a physical structure or behaviour that is either an improvement or creates efficiencies. Interestingly (and logically) enough, if we walk past a garden in front of a house and see that it is ordered by plant size, type and spacing, weeded, fertilized and contained in a well-marked area, we automatically (and rightly) assume there is an unseen gardener with intelligence who has organized this. And yet we will walk by a field of grass growing apparently randomly, without realizing that each blade of grass is orders of magnitude more complex and organized than anything mankind has ever constructed (even ignoring that fact that the grass is alive and we humans have not [yet] been able to convert inanimate objects to living objects). Why is that? Ha! Not trying to introduce another wicked problem here, rather I intend to suggest an answer that helps with the repeating concept problem – which you may be beginning to be suspicious is actually a super wicked problem. And it is. There is no fixed answer known and no clear way to find a path from the question that may lead to an answer. And the pathway cannot be found until the answer is known. And because the question so obviously involves human interest (i.e. example of love and gravity) it is a super wicked problem.
Here’s an example of a repeating concept that does have an obvious answer as to why it repeats. Humans and a small earth worm (nematode C. Elegans) appear to share about 75% of their genetic material:
“Collins [Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute] said that by understanding what happens in the worm cells, researchers also learn what happens in human cells. Of the 5,000 best-known human genes, 75 percent have matches in the [nematode C. Elegans] worm, Collins said.”3
And the answer is that they came from the same source – just a long while ago:
“According to accepted evolutionary theory, nematodes and humans split more than 600 million years ago.”4
And then another repeating concept that does not appear to have a common source: in both DNA and the nuclear construction of the physical world, the number of unique fundamental components is very small and from that very small group, through combinations and groupings, all living things and all matter is designed. In the physical world there are only 3 fundamental particles – electrons, neutrons and protons. Of these, all atoms are created (a few more than 100) and from atoms all molecules (unnumbered) are created – simply by unique rearrangements of the basic particles. And in DNA, there are only 4 molecules (RNA substitutes a fifth for one of the molecules) and those molecules are combined to construct all DNA and carry all the information to create all living things. Both of these examples have the same central concept – the combination of a very small number of fundamental components creates all that exists and an apparently unlimited top end of how many unique combinations are possible.
There appears to be a level of organization and integration (read “intelligence”) in this universe that is many, many orders of magnitude greater than what humans possess. The fact that this level of organization exists implies a higher intelligence – remember the garden and the cornfield? So, let’s take a shot at solving the super wicked problem of why there are so many central concepts that are repeated in completely different applications by proposing a higher intelligence and see if that fits. This certainly works with the beliefs of billions of humans. We need a name for reference and any current name for the higher intelligence comes with a whole culture attached and often exclusivity – but from what we’ve seen above our answer can only be inclusive. So, if we assume that the higher intelligence is an omnipresent, omnipotent deity (if you’re going to assume, then go all the way) then we will abbreviate that with OOD.
Checking OOD first against the definition of a super wicked problem, we find that it makes it go away. It resolves the apparent lack of a central authority; it thereby releases individuals from involvement as responsible for the repeating concepts; it solves time running out because it would imply life after death; and OOD would also imply the ability to include both the past and the future in policy (beliefs) drafting – removing irrationality. So far, so good.
It is common that similar driving concepts often occur when the two applications are from one source, i.e. the nematode vs. human DNA comparison. An OOD would have created the major concepts that drive the universe and in doing so would have repeated the most defining concepts that best worked and best reflected the nature of the OOD. Checking this, it is common belief (in most tracts that discuss OOD) that the central concept behind OOD is unity or Love. That would solve two mysteries: 1) The concept of desire for unity is used in both the existential world (i.e. love) and the physical world (i.e. gravity): both defining applications in our universe and 2) a number of central repeated concepts are based on the building of large complex systems from very simple fundamentals (i.e. molecules, DNA) much as a single unified OOD would produce a wildly diverse universe.
One of the hallmarks of highly organized and integrated systems is an eloquence that maximizes efficiency. When coding a computer program a good programmer will write a sub-routine for each regularly used calculation. Whenever the program requires that calculation, it is directed to call the sub-routine. This increases efficiency (i.e. more can be accomplished with less energy and complication) as well reducing errors as the same sub-routine is used in each calculation. It appears as if the universe is built that way with concepts – whenever a particular need demands a particular concept, the same one is reused to maximize efficiency (not likely OOD makes mistakes – that one is for us lowly humans). For instance a maple tree bears an unmistakable resemblance, in shape, to a maple leaf. When the same mathematical concept is repeated on both a micro and macro level (which is a very efficient way to build) we call those fractals. This too is consistent with an OOD.
So, why is there a non-random amount of concept repetition within very different applications, across applications and in both macro and micro effects? All of the results of our discussion point clearly to the existence of an omnipresent, omnipotent deity. Once we learn to view our world through this lens, the answers to many other questions also come to light. One of the complications of this view is that it raises as many questions as it answers – it is only a beginning.
Love and Gravity – references
1 Wikipedia, Wicked Problem, December 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem
3 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Computer Science Department: http://www.cs.unc.edu/~plaisted/ce/worm.html