Sunday, January 07, 2007

Deus ex machina.

(click title for some sort of explanation as to why I chose those words)

Probably more words have been expended on “god” than any other subject .. so here are a few more.

As regular readers are aware, have signed up for my small part in the “Trees for Life” project. That, and recent readings of various blogs has prompted me to think about it yet again.

Like most people – I presume – have to admit to a sort of dis-association between “reality” and the “metaphysical”. A longish subject in itself, but am not a fluent typist (typer?) so takes a long time to type anything lengthy. [am not affluent enough to spend all day at it, either – but that's a different subject :)] Some people think in pictures; I mostly think in endless strings of words, but the ability to convert the electrical impulses from brain synapses down through neck, both shoulders, arms, hands, fingers – and onto a keyboard [bit like trying to run a railway network] – is not well embedded. Talk? The connection between brain and vocal chords? Oh yes, much shorter distance and has been trained and developed into habitual fluency since I was 6-8 months old – though the ability to vocalise is instinctive, built in before birth. [bet that you could skwark! before you could see.]

I “know” what I can “see”.

These are seeds of the Allocasuarina verticillata – Drooping Sheoak. They transform themselves from there, into this -

Then this -

And eventually this.

How do they do it? Well, I “know” how they do it. Have read several Botany and Biology books. Each seed is composed of cells. Each cell is composed of chemicals, molecules, atoms. An atom is a chunk of discrete energy. Combinations of chemicals form hormones. Hormones trigger recombinations of molecules. Recombinations of molecules form different cells. Different cells recombine to form the building blocks for the shape of stems and leaves. The “blueprint” for the eventual shape is controlled by genes.

But this is where it becomes difficult to comprehend. Yes, I have “seen” a cell – something denied previous generations prior to the discovery of glass; and how to shape it into a lens – but have never “seen” a molecule nor atom. Have to take that bit of information on “trust”. Do I “believe” it .. yes, much as “primitive” tribes “believed” what they were told by their local “medicine men” (or women).

Have also “seen” a brain – both in a jar, and the pinkish-grey, blood-veined mass in the opened skull of a newly-slain sheep. But .. have never seen a “thought”? What is a “thought”? Do sheep have thoughts? Do sheep believe in “god”?

While I understand that WE, rocks and stones; as well as humans, animals, insects, amoebas; and flora – all living things – are mostly a recognisable and stable collection of cells, chemicals and hormones .. the ever swirling combinations of which produce reactions which we call “emotions”.. still have trouble understanding “thoughts” and “imagination”.

The images and word-strings that sometimes rise un-bidden from the sub-conscious. [Imagination is yet another complex and fascinating subject. For thousands of years it was firmly “believed” that it was impossible to fly .. until technology(and expanded communication) allowed it.. From there, imagination expanded exponentially – so, now it won't be long before mankind sets foot on Mars .. and beyond.]

And so, cutting a long story short .. I personally have no wish, nor desire to poke, prod – HAMMER - the Allocasuarina seeds into separate fragments, cells, chemicals, molecules, atoms .. and beyond

as THIS..



is not a tree
that I would desire to see,
near me.


Kathy said...

I hope i never see a scary looking tree like that either.

just because humans know how to split the atom and cause a chain reaction doesn't mean we can apply the same level of intellect to the control of primitive negative emotions such as greed, control of others, and selfish gratification.We are still monkeys.

"words are also seeds, and when dropped into the invisible spiritual substance, they grow and bring forth after thier kind." - Charles Fillmore

Davo said...

Not a new concept, Kathy. To paraphase .."Some word-seeds dropped on barren ground .." etcetera.. but it is the word-seeds dropped with malicious intent into the fertile jungle of teenager's minds via the TV, that bothers me. Buut, mebbe am just another old fogie.. heh.

Davo said...

mm, still haven't got the WE paragragh the way i want it.. but might just leave it at that.. heh. fill in the blanks.

Davo said...

yeah yeah, sometimes I spend all day editing and re-editing.. playing with words and images.. go away.. come back when have stopped rehearsing this bit.. heh.

Kathy said...

I'm not good with my words. i delete a lot. mostly i give up. expressing myself with words is hard for me.

your post is really good! words and everything! I enjoy reading everything.

Thanks! Happy Sunday to you

Yves said...

I thought your post was going to go somewhere different, & it was the bit about the dissociation between reality and the metaphysical that got me interested, for I thought there would be some twist in the tail on that. Of course there was a twist in the tail anyhow.

Good on you for the trees for life project: symbolic, inspiring and useful.

GreenSmile said...

Analysis and being analytical is almost our only tool, certainly our strongest. You seem to be expressing a love for the wholeness and a mistrust or perhaps a fear that in taking things to pieces, we loose too much for indeed, the world is more than the sum of its parts.

That perception that none of the "pieces" we know of properly account for growth and other kinds of goodness in this world leads many to posit a missing dimension or power to account for the orderly or at least pleasing assembly of parts that is [was ?] our world.

I would point out that however you decompose or analyse [I like decompose! its ambiguity suits me] and no matter how fine-grained the entities into which you divide the things of this life, there are always two aspects to each of the elements you arrive at:
1. what the thing itself is in its own
2. what its forms and capacities for interaction, connection and relation with other parts of its own kind and other kinds.

I submit that we never know that much about category #1 because the only handle our senses and our instrumentation can give us for understanding anything is the properties in category #2. For physicists, this dichotomy is as clear as a dry spring morning in the desert because the only definitions and theories they can concoct and test for things like electrons, for instance, are its observables, its interactions in bulk or individually with stuff we can sense or measure...thats why we got good at tolerating the "is it a wave or is it a particle" conundrum while still making vast, application enabling, progress in understanding what it would do in various circumstances. I may be extrapolating my physics too far into metaphor but I think there is a fair analog here for how much we really know about ANYTHING via analysis.

We are only human. Most of us are pushed toward all these questions and answers by the big bang of all questions that echos, sometimes below consciousness, in the back of our minds: why?

The purposes of things we do arise from within our own thinking but don't we go too far to presume any event or existing thing outside our own making similarly had a reason or purpose at all? But my post on How vs Why is ancient and I don't want to stray that far from the particular nut you are trying to crack in this post. I just want to warn that all the brilliant dissection in the world, if pursued honestly, won't find one damn word of "why" and only how. Is the dissatisfaction I sense in your report of how questionable you find the "reality" of some of our more advanced dissecting stem from the weakness [I say absence] of "why" in the findings? The mention of deity prompts this question.

BTW, regarding "seeing a thought": we are actually on the threshold of an era when "thinking" both conscious and unconscious, can be seen, quite literally. But your objection is sustained: knowing exactly when, where and what chemical reaction and exchange of ions between synpses has taken place is not all like we know if the person was making a new connection about science and politics or just thinking "I could use a drink".

It would seem sadly ironic that a triumph of our mastery of the atomic finds its most significant application [in the public's mind and in the mind of our "leaders"] in weapons that could blight if not end the lives we have eked out upon this planet. Note however that the formost scientist [well, the project leader for the science], Robert Oppenheimer, was profoundly saddened and disquieted at the achievement...the McCarthyesque pols booted him from the establishment the minute they had their bomb. Less visible to the public is the way the ideas of atomic physics have blossomed in thousands of minds like mine and left me shaking my head at only one thing: the sightlessness of massed humanity and its so-called leaders. We spend orders of magnitude more nowadays on medical and biological reasearch and most of that with the nominally benign purpose of improving our health. But once again, we invent tools we can't afford to acheive results with consequences we cannot predict.

Well, I AM chatty this morning! Thanks for rousing me.

BBC said...

My constant statements that we are God in evolution is not in a metaphysical realm, but a factual one.

No one however believes it so I may as well give up saying so and just go off and deal with the rest of this humans life the best I can while the rest of the world goes to hell.

What else is there to do? If in the future I'm just a bug again, well, I'm just a bug again.

That may actually be better than being an earth destroying monkey.

Take care buddy.

Davo said...

sheesh BillyB, and here's me thinking God had infinite patience ;-)

Glad to see it 'got ya going', Greensmile.

Kathy, depends on what "We" do with it, I guess. Fire can be used to warm a hearth, or burn down a house. Gunpowder can be used to poke a hole in a mountain for an aqueduct, or destroy a village.

Have to admit though, that the nuclear option is the first time we have had the option of destroying the earth as we know it - all in one go.

Yves, what makes you think that nuclear fission is not both "real"and "metaphysical", at the same time?

BBC said...

Well, God doesn't like to see all this destruction. It's harmful to the life giving planet.

Whoever said I/we have infinite patience was wrong. :-)

Marcus said...

G'day Davo
I've heard of you but never visited before, very interesting, especially your series on God, a lot more thoughtful and stimulating than the usual surface level of most blogs.
I'm a believer. Got lots of reasons why but haven't got all the answers.
Science is the new God but as one of your commenters said, science only sheds light on "how" not "why".
Scientists know exactly what's in an apple seed, they can even make an exact replica, right down to the protein mix etc, but the one thing they can't do is make it grow. God on the other hand makes billions of them and every one of them can grow and make a miracle, ala the Stranger's Sunrise.
I like God.


Davo said...

Hiya Marcus, welcome. You must have got the arty bit from yer Dad; he does the poetry bit and you do the Pics .. heh.

Am very intrigued by this notion of "god", but don't have much in the way of answers. What really pisses me off though, is the way that humans have picked bits, fragments and pieces of the concept - anthropomophised it, concocted myths and legends according to their own local society vision around it, written it down then call their version incontrovertable "fact" and "truth".

There are people of integrity, generosity, care, [and all the rest of the words we call "good"] in EVERY tribe, village, nation.

It is NOT unique to any particular segment, and I still can't fathom why people form gangs and fight over the NAME, fer Gaia's sake!.

As for the WHY - if homo sapiens did not exist to ask why, would God?

Does a bird sing to praise god, or just attract a mate? Are humans kind and caring toward each other because god told them to - or it just seems to be the sensible, natural, thing to do?

Is not "religion" purely and simply a formula for how to conduct oneself in the particular society that one happens to born into?

You may have gathered that am particularly antagonistic toward the rather violent and unforgiving Mediterranean "god", but to explain why would take more time and words than i have here.

Peace and blessings on the work that you do, Marcus.