Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the category “Human Ontology”

Perception Theory and Memes — Full Circle

It seems straightforward to integrate Perception Theory with Meme Theory.  Perception Theory has been introduced and experimentally tested on various issues and topics within this website Beyond Good and Evil or www.ronniejhastings. com (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  The theory of memes was developed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1989, Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-286092-5 (pbk.) ) and expanded by Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (2003, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, ISBN 0-618-33540-4).  Daniel C. Dennett  in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995, Simon & Schuster, New York, ISBN 0-684-80290-2) dealt with the philosophical implications of memes in evolutionary theory.

Generally, memes are synonymous with the non-veridical (subjective) ideas, concepts, memories, meanings, algorithms, symbols, theories, and language all illustrated in Figure 1 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], as well as the interactions of the non-veridical interactions among memory loops, ideas, self-perception, and concepts represented in the same figure.  In other words, memes are the constituents of the non-veridical “world display screen” presented to our “mind’s eye” illustrated in Figure 2 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  ( For example, quoting from The Selfish Gene, “If the meme is a scientific idea……a rough measure of its survival value would be obtained by counting the number of times it is referred to in successive years in scientific journals.” )  Figure 2 is a collage of both veridically and non-veridically produced  results “projected” on the “screen” that makes up what we experience as perception.  So, why were memes not used from the very beginning of Perception Theory (2016)?  Mainly because memes by 2016 were associated with Dawkins’ theory that “religious” memes were like infectious, toxic “viruses,” meaning that in his view religion functioned like a mental disease.  In the minds of many of the religious, therefore, the word “memes” meant some sort of atheism, especially as Dawkins became demonized among some believers as a professed atheist.  So, at the beginning (2016) of the development of Perception Theory, the use of generic and more “benign” terms like “ideas” and “concepts” rather than a “toxic” term like “memes” seemed “fairer” and more “open minded” to both believers and non-believers alike.  Only when Perception Theory led to a possible “common ground” of agreement among theists, atheists, and agnostics in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016] and after Perception Theory was applied to philosophical and religious cultural concepts such as belief, hope, faith, prayer, and free will (I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], Prayer, [Feb., 2017], and The “Problem” of Free Will, [June, 2018]), keeping memes out of the language of Perception Theory would make the theory appear incomplete; the “cat was out of the bag;” there was no longer any need to be concerned about open-mindedness, as the religious basis of such concerns had been exposed in the understanding of religion itself through the memes of Perception Theory .  Succinctly, since all theories are concepts, all theories are memes.  All religions are memes.  Memes are the common specie of human culture, and Perception Theory is an ontological approach to all culture.  Therefore, Perception Theory is another meme dealing with the production of memes, or, actually, a “meme of memes.”

It is possible Perception Theory is the most “self-contemplative” meme yet, a meme exploring the ontology of memes.  I suppose I could have entitled Perception Is Everything “Memes Are Everything” instead.

Therefore, the word “meme” could have been substituted for many of the different terms sprinkled all over Figure 1 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] and substituted for all the drawn symbols ( both solid and dashed ) and written equations sprinkled all over Figure 2 of Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  But that would have been a too ridiculous application of Occam’s Razor, losing all categorical distinction of one meme from another (not to mention making two figures covered with the same word obviously unnecessary).  But using the word “meme” now, in coming full circle back to the beginning of Perception Theory as represented by Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016], may be useful in furthering understanding of the “subjective trap” introduced in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  Could “meme” get us out of the trap?  Could “meme” help us “prove” that other minds like our own exist?  Could “meme” help us actually perceive the perception of another person?  “No, not really” is an appropriate answer to all three of these questions.  But because of the broader concept of the non-veridical products of our epiphenomenal mind that the term “meme” brings — namely, that memes “spread” from mind to mind —  the assumption of other minds around us becomes more intellectually palatable, more “comfortable” than just the stretching of “our limits of credulity into absurdity” presented in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  ( Again quoting from the same sentences as above from The Selfish Gene, “..[the scientific theory meme’s] spread will depend on how acceptable it is to the population of individual scientists…” (brackets mine).)  Because our minds are filled (or “infected” to use Dawkins’ term) with memes that have “traveled” or been “transported” from meme sources other than our own mind (“Thank you!  I never thought of that!”), our tendency is never to doubt that “new” memes are from sources like we have within our own skulls — our brains.  Looking at the “behavior” of memes, the subjective trap seems not as isolating and bound to solipsism as it first appears.

The specie of human culture, the meme, allows Perception Theory to be thought of collectively, not confined to our own personal experience.  Perception Theory is a meme that provides a possible explanation of the production and evolution of memes in the epiphenomenal non-veridical mind of the veridical brain.  And cultural evolution can be understood as the flow of memes, the flow of humanly “made up” information, some of which we revere (because it is AVAPS,” as veridical as possible, stupid) — revere as “knowledge.”

 

RJH

 

 

Good Bye to Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

Kavanaugh’s views on Roe vs. Wade, pro-lifers shouting the mantra “abortion is murder!”, and pro-choicers defending Planned Parenthood are but three indicators of how powerful in the great social and political divide brought on by American conservatism are the issues over a woman’s reproductive rights and the alleged rights of her fetus. Yet in this melee of charge and counter-charge, little biological, medical, and pre-natal information seems to be used. It is as if people would rather demonize the other side than to find out information that possibly can make this whole divide over abortion in our country both silly and moot.

 
In the posts The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk [April, 2013] and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs [July, 2013] — both written in 2013 and published on my website www.ronniejhastings.com — I suggested a solution to the controversy that so far does not seem to satisfy either the pro-lifers or the pro-choicers. However, in these posts I present my reasons I think the pro-choicers have a much preferred position than that of the pro-lifers. The history of modern prenatal care has put the pro-life position on the road to extinction, in my opinion. There appears to be a general public ignorance of this care, brought on by the failure of virtually all religious institutions and public or private schools to provide our children a respectful and comprehensive sex education program. This post plans to eliminate as much of that ignorance as I can and talk about the apparent future of having children in our species.

 
From this point I will assume the reader has read the two posts cited above on my website or read them on my FB notes.

 
Here is what can happen NOW for any woman who through a home pregnancy test knows she is pregnant: A sample of her amniotic fluid can be taken in her pediatrician’s hospital and attendant lab and the genome of the fertilized egg (or even of the blastula) can be displayed to look for any genetic defects. The discovery of any defects places upon the mother-to-be and her pediatrician (and the father, if involved) the decision to either abort (a very safe and routine procedure at this stage) or not abort and see if the defects can be eliminated by generic engineering, using techniques like CRISPR, which technically turns the baby-to-be, or baby-in-the-making, or proto-baby, into a genetically modified organism, or GMO. The cycle of amniotic fluid analysis and applied engineering can be repeated if the first attempt did not produce a “normal” genome. Repeated failures to reach a “normal” healthy genome increases the likelihood the mother would choose to abort. Of course, she has from the very beginning and each cycle the choice of NOT aborting, but this choice says she is bearing the financial and emotional responsibility of birthing and rearing a child afflicted with a congenital problem (Downs syndrome, etc.).

 
Of course, even if the proto-baby genome is normal, the “normal” risks of any pregnancy — miscarriage, still-birth, or forced abortion due to endangerment of the mother’s life anywhere during gestation — apply.

 
In other words, today any woman who can reach a delivery room with modern medical technology and attendant laboratories can be assured that the establishment of a normal proto-baby genome assures the birth of a healthy baby, outside unforeseen miscarriage or undetected trauma at birth . This is already a reality in the larger cities all over the planet, and with increased communication and transportation abilities in areas outside larger cities, an increasing number of women worldwide can choose the benefits of large-city births. As the number of hospital prenatal and natal programs equipped with genetic engineering technology increases and as the rights to medical care (medical insurance) expands to even third-world countries, this assurance spreads and grows, hopefully, exponentially. The greatest social effects would center about temporary “9-month” housing needed to house women living great distances from the large-city birth centers and who need multi-month monitoring.

 
Why then, would any woman want to take the risk of bringing upon their children-to-be a life afflicted with congenital defects? She never, ever has to risk that, technically speaking. This certainty of a healthy baby (not 100%, but very close for any woman who conceives) renders, in my opinion, the pro-life position almost absurd. Pro-lifers would suggest that a mother-too-be must “suffer the judgment of God” or something like that if her proto-baby has a congenital defect. No she doesn’t! If she cannot offer even a healthy child a good life and if the pro-lifers try to talk her into taking the proto-baby to term as they usually do (without willing to “foot the bill” until the child is 18 for a poverty-stricken mother who, say, is an addict and can’t afford to feed a child probably afflicted with the congenital defect of being born an addict), she should have the right to an abortion, right up to the time of birth and the umbilical cord is cut. (See The “A” Word — Don’t Get Angry, Calm Down, and Let Us Talk [April, 2013] and The “A” Word Revisited (Because of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas), or A Word on Bad Eggs [July, 2013]) No unwanted proto-baby, genetically defective or not, has be born. The pro-life position is rendered moot and useless, except for making mothers-to-be’s lives miserable with unnecessary doubt and guilt. Pro-life is becoming extinct, like the flat-earth movement, the creationist movement, and the intelligent design movement.

 
Of course, the mother-to-be can listen to sacred arguments that can doom her and her future child to unnecessary misery. That is part of her right to choose. She can have all the counseling from different sources besides her pediatrician she wants. But as information like the above becomes more widespread over the years and mother after mother has healthy children, taking advantage of miscarriages and abortions, the number of such women dooming them and their future child will get exponentially smaller — hopefully one day to practically zero worldwide. And also decreasing will be the number of mothers who want to be “surprised” and learn little about their proto-baby, not even the gender; for, what loving, responsible mother would risk something tragic for her child, all because she wants some serendipity in her life? How loving is it not to know all you can about your proto-baby?

 
So it is good-bye to pro-life. “Pro-choice,” by default, becomes a redundant and unnecessary wording, as child-bearing women species-wide choose the singular healthy, ever improving way to become mothers. So it is good-bye to pro-choice also.

 

 

 

Already available to couples who can afford it, is the opportunity to plan and control all the children with which they want to bless their marriage. Imagine a universal medical insurance covering all couples in future, to go along with generous features like maternal leave compensation from both the insurance and the employer. Knowing I am neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, the following is a possible option to all couples, instead of to the elite few today who have the finances and the facilities nearby; this is not fantasy or science fiction:

 
Mr. and Mrs. X, soon after their honeymoon, set up a multi-year plan with her pediatrician that collects all the fertilized eggs (actually “eggs” up to the blastula stage, perhaps) they produce over a chosen period of years before they practice some form of contraception. The couple may choose to intersperse this period with bringing a child or two to full term under the conditions described above, or they may not. The eggs are kept frozen, but before being put in “deep freeze,” each is mapped genetically for congenital defects and for the characteristics the proto-baby will have when it becomes a baby. The couple agrees that any eggs having verified defects can be disposed of or donated to the hospital for medical research. When a number, say N of the frozen, healthy eggs is collected to the satisfaction of the couple, Mr. and Mrs. X can then start ongoing contraception.

 
The time comes when Mr. and Mrs. X want another child. If Mrs. X is on any type of female contraceptives, she ceases them. They then go to their N-long “egg list” and, with the pediatrician, select exactly the kind of child they want — the gender, the hair and eye color, etc. Each selection from the “frozen egg basket” is assured to be free from defects and “designed” by the loving parents. The selected egg is “thawed” out and inserted into Mrs. X’s uterus at the “perfect time” of a natural or induced menstrual cycle. Or, in the far future, the couple can opt to have the proto-baby grown “in vitro” to full term. This is not to mention the techniques that will be developed that will allow a mother-to-be to avoid a Cesarean if she carries the fetus inside her body (e.g. Removing the proto-baby with attached placenta prematurely through the birth canal and placing it in an artificial uterus that will bring the proto-baby to term with computer-controlled feeding of optimum nutrients). After one birth, there will be N – 1 eggs in the X’s “basket.” The cycle is repeated as often as the couple wants and only at the precise times for which the couple has prepared. If for any birth the couple wants to be “surprised,” they can give permission to the pediatrician to “randomly” select any one from the remaining eggs on the list.

 
Say Mr. and Mrs. X want in their marriage C children and they at the beginning opted to have children only from the “basket” of N frozen eggs. When the “basket” contains N – C eggs, then the couple can opt to donate the basket of eggs to childless couples, donate the basket of eggs to medical research, or request the N – C eggs be disposed of. The nuclear X family with C children exists throughout its span with the assurance of optimized health for life. The concept of “pro-life” is like a Jurassic dinosaur among concepts.

 
(Here is an interesting thought: What if Mr. and Mrs. X, before they have the C planned children, get a divorce? What is the legal and moral status of the eggs still in the frozen basket? Not only am I not a prophet, I’m not a lawyer.)

 
Two closing thoughts: 1) The above scenario has NOTHING to do with those living today with any kind of congenital defect. This is NOT some ghastly resurrection of euthanasia. Any human being who survives birth, whose umbilical cord is cut, regardless of medical condition, is fully human, with full rights and privileges. My point is restricted to saying that lack of knowledge and information has obscured the opportunity we NOW have to eliminate tragic congenital defects in all children yet to be born.

 
2) If you are an adult, and reading and considering the above makes you embarrassed, squeamish, or uncomfortable (presumably due to lack of comprehensive sex education in your home, your school, your place of worship, and/or your many social circles), let me suggest you inform yourself about the basics of mammalian sexuality and reproduction, especially that of Home sapiens. It is NOT pornography, you know. The enlightenment I suggest can began as simply as Googling.

 

RJH

 

The “Problem” of Free Will

Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) describes human existence as a perpetual juxtaposition of empirical sense data from the outside, veridical, “real,” objective world outside our brains with imagined data of concepts, ideas, and orders from the “inside,” non-veridical, epiphenomenal subjectivity inside our brains — all projected upon our world view “screen” (perceived by the mind’s “eye”), upon which we simultaneously perceive what we “see” from the real world and what we “see” with our imagination. (Again, see Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016])  Clearly, the areas of philosophy emphasized by Perception Theory are ontology and epistemology.

Almost any extended discussion of human ontology and epistemology sooner or later gets around to the topic of “free will,” the  problem of whether we have discretionary powers over what we think and do, or, are we slaves to the laws of physics, chemistry, and biochemistry, such that any such discretionary powers are delusional.  Do we have free will or not?

It seems reasonable that Perception Theory has the ability to answer the question of free will and “solve” the problem of free will.

In Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016] the “subjective trap” is defined as the impossibility of an individual to see both the perception of something like “red” on our world screen inside our heads and the biochemistry within the neurons of our brain we know responsible for causing the perception “red” on our screen.  This impossibility leads to our assuming without proof that our perception of anything is just like someone else’s perception of the same thing.  Were we to look inside the head of that someone else perceiving red, we would see only his/her biochemistry of red, not his/her perception of red.  Hence, because of the subjective trap, we ASSUME others’ perceptions are as our perceptions, but there is no way of justifying that assumption in a scientific, objective way; we justify the assumption only in a practical, utilitarian way — communication among all of us seems to be compatibly possible making this assumption.

Is free will assumed similarly as are the perceptions of others?  If so, it would have to be assumptions within and about the individual mind, not assumptions about the perceptions of others.  Let’s say I am on a pleasant walk among a park’s many walkways and I come to a two-pronged fork in the path of equally appealing potential pathways, and, to all appearances, including my own, I CHOOSE one of the two paths and continue my walk.  Did I choose of my own free will?  A proponent of objective deterministic free will might argue that all my previous experience, if known, would predict with certainty which path I would choose, and only because I cannot command from my memory ALL my experiences (If I could, my brain would be flooded to insanity with stored empirical data.), I delude myself into thinking I flippantly, “for-no-reason,” “just-because-I-feel-like-it,” or randomly chose which path to take; in other words, I do not have free will, but have not the capacity of realizing I do not; my choosing is illusory.  A proponent of subjective free will might just as well argue that I have complete discretion in the two possible states of walking one path or another.  Even if my past experiences tend me toward my left or right, with each new decision I am free to choose either way in disregard of my tendencies, without having to justify that decision to anyone, including myself.  “Choosing without thinking about it” is a hallmark of my exercising what everyone is assumed to have, a free will.  But, just like the objective argument admits the futility of realizing all the assumed factors that “determine” the illusion of free will, the subjective argument irresponsibly assumes a “freedom” of choice ignoring all the physical laws to which the complexity of the brain and its epiphenomenal mind are subject.  Note how both arguments employ non-demonstrable assumptions, implying free will is not demonstrable without such assumptions.

Perception Theory, an admitted blend of the objective and the subjective (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), suggests both arguments are useful in solving the problem of free will.  The patterns of empirical data that demand strong veridical resonance of the mind with the “outside” world compel science and medicine to conclude all causes and effects, including our apparent free will, to be understandable in terms of particles, fields, and energy.  Yet these particles, fields, and energy are creations, or concepts, or imagined orders of the subjective mind.  (The epistemological “bottom line” of particles, fields, and energy existing outside our brains (mind) is that when we observe external to ourselves as objectively as possible [scientifically], we have to say the universe outside us behaves AS IF all the universe is made of particles, fields, and energy.)  We know how these particles, fields, and energy can demonstrate and explain physical phenomenon throughout the universe, but we do not know how they can be used (yet) to demonstrate how empirical data and previously store ideas can produce veridical and non-veridical projections upon our world screen of perception in our heads.  Similarly, particles, fields, and energy cannot demonstrate (yet) the explanation of free will not being “free” at all.  On the other hand, the “freedom” of the subjective argument cannot be truly free, as our perceptions ultimately are products of “star-stuff” just as much as our brain and body are, and star-stuff is bound by the universe’s demonstrable laws of physical science and life science.

What is suggested by Perception Theory, then, is that just like it is logically impossible for a person to simultaneously experience both her biochemical (objective) perception of red and her non-veridical (subjective) perception of red, it is logically impossible for free will to be both completely deterministic and completely without empirical cause.  In other words, when I appear to exercise free will at the fork of paths I cannot assume my choice is determined NOR can I assume I’ve exercised any kind of free will.

So what is free will, given the logically impossibilities and forced assumptions of both free will’s detractors and proponents?  What is suggested in my mind as a trained physicist is that free will is just like light.  When you ask a physicist what is the nature of light, waves or particles, the answer is “both; it depends upon how light is measured or observed.”  Similarly, free will is neither determined or undetermined.  “Free will” has to be a non-veridical concept, but not a scientific one trying to explain the veridical world outside our brain.  Rather, free will is a concept trying to explain human choice or volition, a behavior of possibilities, just like human love is a behavior of possibilities.  Gravity is a concept that can take on objectivity; free will, like any other human psychological concept, cannot, as DEFINITIVE SELF-STUDY CANNOT BE AS OBJECTIVE AS DEFINITIVE STUDY OF OUTSIDE THE SELF.  When we study the star-stuff that is us, we cannot escape ourselves, so that we cannot ever see ourselves as if we were outside ourselves; we cannot see ourselves objectively like the subjects of physical science.  This is why physics is considered a “hard” science, while psychology is considered a “soft” science.  It is as if the study of our minds has built-in an unavoidable uncertainty principle, like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.  Just like light can behave differently in different cases, the exercise of our free will can appear deterministic in some cases and wildly free in others.  Two different observers of my choice at the fork of paths could describe my exercise of “free will” differently.  One might say he predicted my choice and the other might say my choice looked completely random to her.  Neither could measure the “amount” of free will I exercised, and, neither could I.  I could recall my choice later as one of conscious or unconscious deliberation, or as one of complete obliviousness to either path, or as one somewhere in between.

All this uncertainty and lack of objective definition suggests that free will is a rationalization of convenience arrived at in the minds of humans over thousands of years to obtain the mental comfort of explanation of particular human behavior in the act of choosing.  Free will is psychological balm soothing the discomfort in trying to answer “Why did I do that?”, or “Why did he do that?”, or “Why did she do that?”  The real answer, down to the neuron, is like education, too complicated to understand entirely.  The non-veridical concept of “free will” or “lack of free will” is assumed as a practical vehicle toward understanding human behavior.  Free will, like concepts of gods or god stories, is a practical and illogical explanation that conveniently and more easily explains behaviors without having to take the trouble to objectively study them; free will makes dealing with human choices efficient.  Free will is an unconscious assumption of the human mind passed on generation to generation directly or indirectly.

So, who is right when it comes to free will, the objective proponent or the subjective proponent?  Both.  Who is wrong when it comes to free will, the objective proponent or the subjective proponent?  Both.  The “problem” of free will is not a problem at all.

 

Yet, any impasse about free will implied by the foregoing discussion is not a “hard” impasse like the subjective trap in Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016].  Progress can be made toward understanding free will, by, first, dropping the “free” part and just talk about “will,” or just talk about human volition.  So my choice of paths employed above would come to a discussion of my choice being a product of my personal volition in that moment.  Next, one’s volition, or will, can be seen as a well-developed psycho-physio behavior practiced inside the individual from early days of infancy, if not before in the womb (See “I.  Development of Self-Consciousness in a Human Infant” in Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]).

Part of human self-consciousness is the awareness we can willfully do or think things just by employing an “I want to..” in our mind.  In my opinion, the “feeling,” perception, genetic tendency, or epiphenomenal “extra” for self-consciousness that we can will any action or thought of our own free will is one of many important evolved results of the “Cognitive Revolution” that occurred in our species, according to Harari (Sapiens and Homo Deus), between 70,000 and 12,000 years ago, before the Agricultural Revolution.  Clearly, our conviction we have a will that we control had, and probably still has, survival value — a trait “favored” by our physical and cultural evolution.  Perception Theory emphasizes that, as our self-consciousness was developed, probably around and within the Cognitive Revolution, our imaginations developed the ability of perceiving ourselves independent of our present setting.  That is, we could imagine ourselves not only in the present, but also imagine ourselves in the past or in the future.  Imagining ourselves in this way naturally includes imagining ourselves doing or thinking something in the present, past, or future.  The logical explanation of the cause of our doing or thinking something independent of setting is having the ability to command our thoughts and actions of our imagination; it is logical to us we have a will “barking orders of our judgement or whimsy” within our imagination.  And it is logical to us because we’ve been exercising that will since we were infants, according to our imagination. (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016])  We can easily imagine all infants, including ourselves when we were one, for the first time reaching out with a hand to touch or grasp some object that is not part of their body; the baby “wanted to” or “willed” his/herself to touch or grasp.

Not only can “will” be seen as a natural evolutionary development in our heads, it can be seen, thanks to modern science, as subject to statistics and probabilities of the complicated.  In the wake of the revolutionary development of the Kinetic Theory of Matter wherein all matter (including our bodies and our brains) is seen as composed of countless particles called atoms or clusters of atoms, molecules, statistical mechanics was developed in place of Newtonian mechanics, which had “no prayer” to describe countless masses moving and colliding with each other.  Statistical measurements, such as temperature, were defined to represent an average value of kinetic energy for all the masses, which tells you nothing about the value for a single particle.  Moreover, the scale of atoms and molecules is quantum mechanical, meaning mechanics are quantum, not Newtonian.  Hence, interactions on an atomic scale, such as the firing of a neuron in a brain cell, are statistical and quantum, not biological in scale and behavior.  In other words, our brain-based non-veridical “mind” exists because of countless neurons (brain cell) quantum mechanically interacting in accordance to biochemistry; just like the “well-defined” big-scale images on our TV screens are produced by atomic-level, quantum solid state circuitry understood in terms of electrons which are so tiny they can only be “seen” indirectly, our “well-defined” imagined images on our world perception screen in our heads are produced by atomic-level, quantum biochemistry within neurons understood in terms of the same electrons.  And all quantum phenomena are “fuzzy,” not fixed, subject to statistical fluctuations and unavoidably described in uncertain probabilities; the appearance of certainty on the scale of our bodies (big-scale) is the statistical mean of atomic “outputs” filtered by our averaging senses to a single result.  When we perceive “red,” the probability that we are perceiving data similar to previous perceptions of red is high, but, statistically, can never, ever be exactly the same, because the same exact set of electrons, atoms, and molecules that produced the previous perception are not available to produce the next; our big-scale senses only deliver the average of countless atomic-level inputs from incoming light data and processed, averaged biochemical data by our retina cells and optic nerve cells.  Imagine how “averaged” must be the non-veridical images on our world screen!  Our “feelings,” perceptions, and convictions are our big-scale utilitarian “averaging” of unimaginably numerous and unfathomably complicated quantum behaviors of the atomic level particles making up our brain.  And each “averaging,” it stands to reason, can never be repeated in detail.  Equally reasonable is the assumption that the averaging only has to be accurate enough to “get us by,” to assure that we survive as a species.

Our “will” is a self-imposed, evolutionary, imagined property describing our subjective “self,” the epiphenomenal result of the long-ago origin of self-awareness and self-consciousness.  It is a psychological, positive, mental “crutch” to attribute to ourselves the ability to conjure actions and thoughts; it is basic to our self-confidence.  There is, however, as best we know, no reason to call it “free.”

Further ontological insight into “will” can only be possible through future understanding, via scientific research, of how the physical, veridical brain can produce epiphenomenal, non-veridical perceptions.  The same research will perhaps make progress toward understanding and, maybe, redefining (“overcoming”) the subjective trap.  Though obviously useful, Perception Theory can be improved with better models and metaphors than veridical, non-veridical, world-view screen, etc.  Building a better theory seems necessary toward better understanding “will” and the subjective trap.

 

RJH

 

Toward an Imagined Order of Everything, Using AVAPS

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) defines human existence in terms of the products of our imagination, products formed by the non-veridical, subjective mind mixing veridical, empirical raw data from our senses with previously formed non-veridical subjective ideas, concepts, and perceptions. These products “appear” on the world display “screen” of our mind’s consciousness (Figure 1 in Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]). These products can be conveniently classified as “imagined orders,” after Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow).  Any products of the human mind that have been shared partially or wholly across the species throughout cultural history can be called imagined orders, such as plans, ideas, conceptions, inductions, deductions, scientific theories, political theories, economic theories, philosophies, religions, and ideologies of all ilks.  Since Perception Theory postulates that “Perception is everything” and since all perceptions are products of the non-veridical imagination, it follows that Perception Theory itself is an imagined order.

Using anthropology, archaeology, and history as forensic sciences, directions of human betterment and human progress can be ascertained by comparing the historical effects of different imagined orders across time.  In other words, there are better imagined orders than others, measured in benefits to the species; we need to follow the directions suggested by the “better” imagined orders.  In AVAPS! [May, 2018] it was suggested the “better” imagined orders were those as veridical as possible; in other words, the “better” imagined orders resonated strongly with the veridical, “real” world.  For example, the toxic theology attributed to all religions based upon gods and god stories (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016] and Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) is not one of the better imagined orders upon which we should base future imagined orders.  In his song “Imagine,” John Lennon was right to suggest we should imagine no religion.

 

Perception Theory came not only to using Harari’s terminology, but originally came from questions taking years of off-and-on reading to resolve in my head questions like:  “What were the major historical events contributing to the modern world?” (The Big Picture, [Sept., 2011]); “Is the United States a Christian nation?” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012]); “Why did the US-like ideals in France devolve during the French Revolution into the Terror?” (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012]); “Why was I never in my 40-year teaching career (within both public and private schools) never intellectually reconciled with the educational system I was supposed to be a part of?” (What is Wrong With Public Education…and What To Do About It, [April, 2012], What is Wrong With Public Education…Briefly Revisited, [April, 2012], 1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014], and “Campusology” at Texas A&M and in Education 6-12, [Nov., 2016]); “Why am I so critical of American political conservatism?” (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012], Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013], Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 1, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 2, [Dec., 2012], An Expose of American Conservatism — Part 3, [Dec., 2012], Some Thoughts on Trump’s Election, [Nov., 2016], Dealing with Donald, or, A Citizen’s Survival Guide for Trump’s Apparent Presidency, [Dec., 2016]), 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017],  21st Century Tories?, [March, 2017], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]); “How did Christianity (and by implication other ‘world’ religions) come about?” (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012], Sorting Out Constantine I the Great and His Momma, [Feb., 2015], Sorting Out Jesus, [July, 2015], At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], and Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]); “What are the historical and political effects of globalization?” (Going Global, [March, 2018]).

The results of reading summarized in the above posts indicate the possibility of talking about an “imagined order of everything,” or “universal imagined order,” or “global imagined order” made of component imagined orders seen as “good” for mankind and devoid of imagined orders shown by anthropology, archaeology, and history as “bad” for mankind.  Indeed, is it possible to imagine such a universal order?; is the indication valid?  What follows is the attempt to answer “yes.”  Many of the posts cited above correspond to “good” component imagined orders making up parts of the universal imagined order.

So far, Perception Theory, as developed by the above sources, suggests the global imagined order should include the following component imagined orders (in no hierarchical listing):  a) ethical, b) political/social, c) economic, d) ecological/environmental/agricultural,  e) educational, and f) scientific.

The imagined structure of the global imagined order has to be applicable to all humankind all over the globe and all humankind who will in future leave the planet to live and work in outer space, and, epistemologically, the components of the global imagined order must not conflict or contradict each other, just as we have today in modern science; the physical sciences do not say one thing while the life sciences say another, conflicting, contradictory thing.  The inclusive group of all of us will be thought of as the “ultimate family” and the components of the global imagined order must be also inclusive, compatible, and cooperative.

 

a) Ethically, individuals need to relate to each other via the Golden Rule, the Principle of Reciprocity — like the philosophy of the ethical teachings of Jesus (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015]).  As Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015] points out, many other thinkers throughout human history — both sacred and secular — before and after the beginnings of Christianity, taught the ethics of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity.  Emphasizing that the Principle of Reciprocity is its own reward, no in-life or afterlife punishment need be taught to young minds.  For this reason and for the sake of avoiding hurting each other due to non-veridical epiphenomenal overload in individual minds, all supernatural gods and god stories should be phased out. (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  John Lennon in “Imagine” sang of not only imagining no religion, but also “no hell below us and above us only sky.”

Harari classifies “religion” as any ideology (non-veridical concept) as anything that can bring together a human group of roughly 150 or more to agree upon a common purpose or action.  He therefore goes on to say that the “religion” of the enlightened West is liberal humanism, wherein the feelings and insights of the individual are supreme, replacing gods and god stories. (For comparison he reminds us of evolutionary humanism, the ideology or “religion” of fascism — which lost out in WWII — and of social humanism, the ideology or “religion” of communism — which collapsed beginning in 1989.)  I prefer to relegate “religion” to any ideology involving gods and god stories; animism and any thought system involving “spirits” (imagined non-veridical concepts) are also relegated to “religion.”  Any form of humanism is, at best, an ethical ideology, in that it attempts to suggest how we should behave toward each other as members of our species.  Therefore, my choice of Jesus’ (and others’) teachings of the Golden Rule could be considered humanistic.  However, I prefer to divorce “religion” from both “ethics” and “humanism.”

All religion, with its gods and god stories, is based upon the dangerous and deplorable “us-them syndrome,” which sooner or later fosters animosity between believers and non-believers.  This syndrome dooms all theologies to toxicity.  As Diderot said, “Sooner or later the moment comes when the concept [of God] that prevented the theft of one ecu [French coin of face value of about $30] causes the cutting of the throats of a hundred thousand men.” [parentheses mine]

Ethics fosters no “us-them syndrome.” (Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015])  And to me the Principle of Reciprocity is the ethics for us all.

This is not to say that religion and its accompanying theology, as I am defining it, will not be part of human culture eventually.  Being religious is a genetic tendency “built in” by our evolutionary past, but has become unnecessary to our survival, as other assurances have been developed by our minds that contribute reliably to our survival (e.g. science and medicine).  Therefore, religion is delegated to the individual mind henceforward; theology is limited to the individual, thanks to the subjective trap (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Religion, with its theology, gods, and god stories is a personal matter for the single member of the species.  I have my own personal theology, for instance, and can say, along with Thomas Jefferson, “I am a sect of one.” (The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], Jesus — A Keeper, [Sept., 2015], Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017], and Prayer, [Feb., 2017])

b) Regarding political and social organizing of the human species, whatever avoids war, colonialism, and imperialism of all forms must be avoided.  No grouping of humans must advance itself at the expense of another; exploitation of one nation of another must cease.  The imagined order of egalitarianism must be expanded so that nations cease to be independent of all other nations; we are all stuck on the same planet with, at this time, no alternative; this earth is all we got.  Therefore, egalite must be expanded from egalite only among citizens of a single nation to egalite of every Homo sapiens on the planet  (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).

The imagined order of the UN needs expanding into a more global UN composed of every nation, nations which cease to have political borders.  All military forces of each nation join the single global UN force for the purpose of keeping the peace worldwide and of responding to human need created by natural disasters anywhere in the world.  Similar to the way individual States in the United States relate to the national federal government, all nations relate to the global government, with responsibilities, resources, and money separated into regional and global designations.  The global government will be a republic both capitalistic and representative similar to those imagined at the births of the American Republic and the French Republic (Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist, [March, 2012], The United States of America — A Christian Nation?, [June, 2012], For Your Consideration, I Give You…..Tom Paine, [August, 2014], and Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  No nation needs its own militia anymore, as danger to one UN member is danger to all; the peace-keeping global UN force, with no peer anywhere, will assure the protection of life, liberty, property, and rights the world over.

Health care, education, and housing will be provided by the global UN.  (Members in health care will be on a worldwide payroll, supported by worldwide competitive drug manufacturers, cutting-edge medical schools all over the earth, and globally reviewed medical research.)  The legacy of both UNICEF and UNESCO will be strengthened and widened.  Suffrage, the right to vote, will truly be universal.  The whole world will democratically vote to see what behaviors are deemed criminal enough to deny individuals of such rights as freedom and the vote.

The chamber of world representatives as well as the head of the executive part of the world government (a President, General Secretary, Prime Minister, etc.) shall be elected for finite terms by a democratic worldwide vote (not by electors).  A world court shall be periodically reformed from a cadre of elected judges (judges-in-waiting) from each former-sovereign-nation, or nation-state.  The court shall be appointed by a vote from the chamber of representatives (Congress, Parliament, Convention, Assembly, Althing, etc.) and shall preside and settle all disputes between or among nation-states.  All three branches of the world government, the legislative (chamber of world representatives), executive, and judicial (world court) shall be subject to limited terms, ceilings for years of service, and prohibitions to personal gain beyond their salaries.  Conviction of accepting bribes, accepting payments/perks from lobbyists, both corporation and/or political lobbyists, or committing criminal/civil crimes shall result in immediate termination and swift replacement by the germane nation-state government.

All nation-states will be required to limit campaign and election time for choosing members of all three branches of world government to one year or less.  (Citizens (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class, [Nov., 2012] and Citizens (III) Call for Election Reform, [Jan., 2013])  In addition, within every nation-state, campaign contributions must have a universal limit per person and must come only from individuals, not corporations or political organizations.  Exceptions to these campaign contribution rules will result in the candidate’s expulsion from the race.

c)  The economic organization of the global UN implies a global economic system — a worldwide capitalism regulated to create both capital to build business and personal wealth.  Taxes on personal income  and investment requirements will be structured to make personal wealth limited, assuring capital will be reinvested into economic growth. (Citizens (II) The Redistribution of Wealth, [Jan., 2013])  Businesses will have incentives to operate with the partnership of the employees (mandatory employee stock ownership and mandatory retirement fund for all employees), so that all within that business have the same incentive to succeed.

Worldwide trade will be the primary modus operandi to insure perpetual world peace.  War to any degree hurts everyone, the least of which way is cutting off trade (death and maiming being the greatest way), but, at the same time, probably the most important way for the species at large.  (Going Global, [March, 2018] and 21st Century Luddites?, [March, 2017])  All economic barriers will come down; there will be no need for tariffs.  There will be a worldwide currency, similar to that in the European Union.  All stock markets will resonate to operate as if at one single site, as world trade makes every regional economy in business partnership with the rest of the world.  Highways on the land, sea, and air will perpetually be filled with exchanged goods.  Hunger, disease, and poverty will become things of the past (like smallpox, polio, and yellow fever) through trade.

d) Ecologically, environmentally, and agriculturally speaking, the home to all of us, the earth, needs to be treated as our one and only hope and treated holistically.  I’m not talking a cult-like worshiping of our planet as some living Gaia, but, rather, the development of a worldwide respect for not only the biosphere, but the great oceanic and geological processes that make our existence possible.  This respect is admittedly teleological, even selfish, as we have to use this planet to generate all the sustenance our species and our fellow species need both now and in the future.

Therefore, agriculture must be guided by environmentalism and ecology, as suggested by the warnings of both Harari and of Mann (1491 and 1493).  The vision of thinkers like Michio Kaku must engage thinkers and planners of the world government.  The world government has to allocate its efforts and resources toward making the land, sea, and air more productive without placing more of our fellow species (both plants and animals) on the endangered list.  Projects of converting sea water into fresh water should dominate most of the future seashores.  The possibility of turning the Sahara and other world deserts green should become more feasible.  All ocean shallows becoming underwater farms should be forthcoming.  Orbiting agricultural stations wherein food is perpetually grown in ideal conditions to feed the entire planet should become commonplace.  In addition, synthetically produced food, such as animal tissue, should be grown in “giant test tubes,” with the goal of not having to eat our domesticated sources of meat; genetic engineering is just as important in agriculture as it is in human medicine.  Synthetically produced food, especially large-scale synthetically product animal protein, can mean the land now needed for pasture can mostly be turned back to natural processes, producing through evolution more genetic vigor needed for the future.

As I said in  AVAPS! [May, 2018], “The world needs more marine biologists, not more missionaries!”

e)  Education needs to become an egalitarian worldwide phenomenon, particularly the education of young minds as practiced in American public schools (Egalite:  A Qualified Virtue, [Feb., 2018]).  This means educational funds for the entire world will come from taxation of personal property in all nation-states and distributed fairly to all nation-states by an educational arm of the the world government.  However, public education as practiced worldwide must be freed from “professional educators” and applied as in undergraduate and graduate college and university faculties, exemplified by such faculties in the United States.  (1:  Education Reform — Wrong Models!, [May, 2013], 2:  Education Reform — The Right Model, [May, 2013], 3:  Education Reform — How We Get the Teachers We Need, [May, 2013], Top Ten List for Teachers of HS Students Preparing for College or University (Not a Ranking) – A List for Their Students, Too!, [Dec., 2014])  A system of public schools from kindergarten level to grade 12 and at least one major four-year research college or university will be established in every nation-state, if not already in place in a given nation-state.  Through school taxes in every nation-state the education of each child from kindergarten through four years of university shall be offered free of charge (provided the student successfully fulfills the requirements of each previous level in college).  The deficiencies of a nation-state to provide such free education to a qualified student will be made up from a world education fund managed by the world government and contributed to annually by all nation-states as part of “membership dues.”

The worldwide curriculum used by all the planet’s schools will feature general physical and cultural anthropology, which will be focused on the cultural history of the particular nation-state.  World history touching upon the cultural histories of every nation-state will be taught in every nation-state.  The language of each nation-state will be taught locally, but the languages designated as “world languages” (how many?) by the world government will be taught in every nation-state.  (Presumably, these world languages, like the languages chosen in the UN today, will be the official languages used in the world government.)  All sciences and mathematics will be taught via a worldwide curriculum; math is treated as the “language of the universe.”  Engineering will have a local focus within a nation-state, along with an engineering curriculum of worldwide scope.  Philosophy curricula will have their universality supplemented by the works of local philosophers within each nation-state.  As part of the worldwide philosophy curriculum, comparative culture over time, including comparative religion, will be offered.

Cooperative research at the university level, which would inevitably be international cooperative research, will emphasize dealing with the challenges of climate change, of artificial intelligence, and of mankind traveling into space.  Architecture, also a worldwide endeavor, will work on novel housing for a presumably increasing global population — housing able to adapt to possible rises of ocean levels; living under the surface of the oceans as well as in space colonies in orbit, on the moon, on Mars, on moons of the gas giants, in interplanetary space, and in interstellar space will be worldwide endeavors.  Funding for all this research will come from local nation-state and worldwide dues contributed to the world education fund, not to mention research grants from corporations.

A given student’s education toward a college or university degree will normally be peppered with study programs abroad in other nation-states and with opportunities throughout to develop artistic and athletic skills.  Academic contests, art expositions, and athletic contests among teams of students from all nation-states will be preludes to worldwide Olympic-style events that include not only athletics, but academics and the arts also.  With sponsorship from their native nation-state, outstanding performers in these areas could be professionals in these areas, expanding the number of such professionals today.  A worldwide educational system will provide stage and lighting for ever-amazing intellectual and physical achievement.

f)  Science and math requirements characterize every level of every student in a worldwide educational system.  The philosophical assumptions and underlying concepts of science and math are replete in the philosophical studies of epistemology, ontology, ethics, and anthropology.  Children learn to count as soon as they learn to speak and read; children learn to test, experiment, and answer their own questions as soon as they are rationally able.  Truth based on evidence rather than authority is taught as early as possible, and scientific skepticism is practiced as early as possible.  Teachers will need to be trained to expect everything they teach be questioned by their students.  History of science will be taught as a parade of great ideas, not a parade of great people.

Next to the classrooms, the most important part of higher education will be scientific research.  It will be up to teachers to develop a science of education, if that is possible.  It will be necessary to develop a robust ethics for science and engineering, presumably based upon the Golden Rule and a dedication to protect and advance the integrity of science itself.  Done right, these precautions will assure that areas such as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and robotics will not run amuck with dire consequences for our species.

Most of all, science must be remembered as a non-veridical enterprise of our imaginations, just as theology is.  All areas of study, including science, must function in such a way as to develop the imaginations of all people of all ages; all curricula and all teachers who teach young minds need to stimulate the imaginations of young minds; those who don’t need to be rewritten or asked to find another job, respectively.  And, it almost goes without saying, science needs to be AVAPS; the star-stuff we are must keep focused upon the star-stuff we are not.

 

In summation, then, an imagined order of everything or a global imagined order for all mankind should include:

a) A specific, non-religious ethic of the Golden Rule, or the Principle of Reciprocity; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

b) A UN-like world government wherein all nations function like States of the United States in a federal government.  This world government has the three branches of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial.  Members of these branches are democratically elected by a worldwide body of voters wherein suffrage is distributed as wide as possible.  It will have jurisdiction over a single, global military force to keep worldwide peace and respond to emergencies everywhere.

c) A planet-wide economic system of regulated capitalism engaged in worldwide free trade within a single universal market.

d) An environmentally conscious planet-preserving agriculture utilizing the best potentials of bio-technology.

e) A worldwide educational system offering a free universal education and funded by a world education fund governed by the world government, offering a globally coordinated curriculum.

and f) A commitment to progress indicated by an imaginative, respectful, and ethical worldwide scientific endeavor.

 

RJH

 

 

 

AVAPS!

Describing human existence in terms of Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; and  Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]) demonstrates that all perceptions, concepts, ideas, and theories are necessarily non-veridical, due to the subjective trap. Logically, it is possible no product of the human subjective mind is faithful to the veridical, “real world,” empirical data bombarding the human senses; it is discomforting, to say the least, considering the possibility that our collective perceptions over time (our existence) have little or no bearing upon an objective, external-to-our-mind, universe “out there” which we presume and assume to exist.  (An in-depth review of the veridical/non-veridical dichotomy can be found in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015].)  The source of this discomfort is the ontological baseline assumption that we are star-stuff in self-contemplation (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), for the more disengaged our non-veridical perceptions are from the raw data upon which they are based, the more removed we are from our physical building blocks (star-stuff), from the very veridical universe of which we are a constituent part.  In other words, the less we are “at one” with the universe — the less we see ourselves objectively, as we really are.

I am happy to say that Perception Theory uses the cultural history of our species to avoid the non-veridical discomfort and possible despair of disengagement from the veridical universe, thanks to the help of two recent works by historian Yuval Noah Harari, namely Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind (2011, ISBN 9780099590088, Vintage, London) and Homo Deus, A Brief History of Tomorrow (2015, ISBN 9781784703936, Vintage, London).

It was encouraging to read that Harari, though doing history, was using a human ontology parallel to that of Perception Theory, especially since I had formulated Perception Theory before I had read Harari.  That is, he understands the creative power of the human imagination, the existential, subjective part of human existence as well as the power that same creativity can have on the empirical, objective “real” world of science.  He does not deny the benefits to humanity given us by non-veridical scientific theories, but he understands they cannot be purely objective, can be themselves veridical.  What I call the non-veridical perceptions, concepts, ideas, and theories of our imagination Harari calls “imagined orders,” a term I will use henceforth for brevity.  One class of imagined orders we call “religions” (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]; I Believe!, [Oct., 2016]; Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]; and Prayer, [Feb., 2017]), with their “toxic theologies.”  Another class would be the imagined orders we call “scientific theories,” with their history of human-altering and planet-altering effects.  Clearly, essentially any well-developed concept in our minds could be call an imagined order.  For example, political theories, economic theories, and ethical theories.

Cultural history has given our species a direction, a clue for our imagined orders.  Ask what imagined orders have vaulted us into the world-wide collective of the “modern world,” in which we are benefactors of healthier, longer lifespans, of being relatively free, for the first time, of large-scale famine, plague and war, and of emerging with a consensus idea of the best political, economic, and ethical directions to pursue.  The answers have come in the survival of the political, economic, and ethical catastrophes of the 20th century:  combinations of imagined orders  of applied scientific theories, of non-theological, humanistic religions, of humanistic ethics that reach beyond our own species to other species, of practical capitalistic economies mitigated by tried and true socialist programs like universal health care, universal suffrage, universal, free public education, and care for the elderly, of political cooperatives based upon world trade and free from nationalism and delusions of empire, and of educational imaginative orders based upon how minds actually learn.  In other words, history has witnessed our blindly “stumbling” upon imagined orders that “work” for all of us because those orders take into account the natural more than the imagined supernatural, fanciful, or ill-conceived; we now know more imagined orders that “fit” the universe of which we are a part than ever before.

Consequently, I, as a scientist, am, perhaps, more optimistic about our future than the historian Harari.  It seems straightforward to me that our cultural history mandates we in future make our imagined orders as veridical as we possibly can, like great scientific theories like gravity, quantum mechanics, kinetic theory of matter, chemistry, biochemistry, evolution, and plate tectonics.  That is, make all imagined orders, scientific or not, as veridical as possible; in the vein of KISS!, “keep it simple, stupid!”, AVAPS!, “as veridical as possible!”

 

Here in the 21st century, we know what past mistakes to avoid repeating.  Don’t make the liberal mistake of making equality more important than freedom and brotherhood.  Don’t make the conservative mistakes that wealth cannot be created, that there are only zero-sum economies, that some must gain at the expense of others.  Don’t confuse education with indoctrination.  Don’t base truth upon authority.  Don’t create religions and political theories of intolerance; there are better imagined orders than religions, or nations, or empires.  There are better imagined orders than liberal humanism, social humanism, and scientific humanism (Homo Deus).

With the help of Harari, it is now possible to apply Perception Theory toward better imagined orders for all of us.

RJH

 

P.S.  Thinking toward better imagined orders need not be more complicated than asking the question “What the world needs now is __.”  The Beatles have suggested all you need is love, and that means the human capacity to love ourselves, others, and everything outside ourselves needs to be borne in mind.  Dionne Warwick sang it more directly with her 1966 hit “What the World Needs Now Is Love.”  What do all of us love?  Lots of things, sure, but the things that have grown to benefit everyone, like the inspiring contributions of the humanities and the world-altering improvements to our living on this planet of the sciences, engineering, and medicine seem to beckon our ardor.  Let me plant the seed of: what the world needs now is more scientists, engineers, doctors, environmentalists, social workers, care takers, historians, and philosophers.

Not long ago I attended a Southern Baptist church in which my wife grew up and in which we were married.  At the end of the service a 10th grade girl made public her decision to become a missionary instead of her previous dream of becoming a marine biologist.  My heart sank.  “The world needs more marine biologists, not more missionaries!” I said to myself.

 

RJH

Prayer

Perception Theory (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), after being applied to, among other things (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]), the existence of God (Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]), was taken to the subjects of belief (I Believe!, [Oct., 2016]), hope, and faith (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]). Could prayer be far behind? Of course not.

Rev. Paul M. Burns, son of my good friends Dr. Jim Burns (Ph.D in physics and retired Presbyterian minister) and Judy Burns (award-winning retired public school teacher), has written the book prayer encounters (ISBN 978-1-4497-5194-4, WestBow Press, 2012), whose subtitle is “Changing the World One Prayer at a Time.”  The importance of prayer in the life of so many believers seems obvious; a prayer life is vital to an individual’s faith.  Prayer not only is found in some form in most major religions and in our common exchanges of concern (“I’ll pray for you,” “Pray that will not happen,” “We need to pray together as God’s people,” “I pray, God, You will lead me to understand,” “I pray You will lead me to someone who..”, etc.), it is, as the book’s subtitle suggests, a teleological tool in nature — one means to change the world.  I have prayed with a congregation, lead small groups in prayer, said grace at the dinner table, and had a secret place near where my grandparents lived where I regularly prayed in private.  I have encouraged others to pray for my son Dan when he was hospitalized for a closed head injury years ago responsible for, I think, PTSD effects in his brain today (We All Can Have PTSD, [Jan., 2017]).  Prayer is something with which I am not unfamiliar.

Paul’s book is a series of individual cases in his ministry where prayer was applied toward making someone’s life better, as would be expected.  The days when we pray for our enemies and adversaries to be “smitten” I trust are few, far between, or non-existent.  Each case in the book is engaging, heart-breaking, heart-warming, and inspiring; the book is a good read.  What struck me was that in each case the prayer was not always answered, but in all cases the answer or non-answer is seen, in hindsight, as understandable by faith.  Those emotionally involved in the case praise God if the prayer is answered and explain no answer to the prayer by referring to God’s will.  The spectrum of prayer results in the book triggered my own recollection of personal prayer results — results of praying to which I referred in the previous paragraph.  Ambiguous and sometimes inconsistent outcomes of prayer had triggered my curiosity for years, but I never focused on the question of prayer ontologically until now.  So I ask, what is prayer?  What are we doing in our heads when we pray?  It seems to me Perception Theory can be of help.

I will try to avoid two extremes concerning prayer.  On one hand, prayer is skeptically and/or atheistically dismissed as nonsense, and on the other hand, prayer is communication with God, with gods, or with saints as if you are talking to a deity or a holy one across the breakfast table.  Neither extreme makes sense to me.

From the introduction of Perception Theory to its application to faith (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]), Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory:  Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], I Believe!, [Oct., 2016], and (Hope and Faith, [Jan., 2017]), prayer can be inferred as a non-veridical activity relegated or looped inside the mind.  It might have reference to parts of the real, veridical world outside our heads, but like all ideas and concepts, these references are not the actual real world, but, rather, are processed perceptions of empirical data from that world created by the blending of the data and the non-veridical proactive mental processes of the mind confined to the brain.  In the end, prayer is part of the epiphenominal menagerie of creations of our evolved, “big” brain.  Since the existence of God in Perception Theory strongly suggests God is like an “imaginary friend,” then prayer might be as simple as talking to the imaginary friend we carry around in our head as the concept of God.  We confide in real friends out in the veridical world around us as well as idly chit-chat with them; so it is with children who create imaginary friends in their heads.  Communicating with real friends can not only be fun and helpful, it can be downright therapeutic.  Prayer, communicating with our concept of God (or of gods or of saints) in our heads, can also be fun and helpful, but since prayer is seen as “serious” business, then prayer is usually therapeutic.  Hence, along with our capacity to make up gods and god stories, to be religious, came the capacity to make those gods our imaginary, surrogate friends to whom we take our thoughts, mental conflicts, and struggles with the veridical world outside our heads for a “help session.”  We take our burdens, our wishes, our hopes, and our need for answers to the “feet of the Lord,” to the “listener” inside our head, our imaginary friend.  Prayer, therefore, functions as a self-induced psycho-therapy with a modus operandi of confiding in our imaginary God in our head.  As the old Christian hymn to prayer says, “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”

Prayer has survived as a coping tool in our heads, a part of the evolved epiphenominal “baggage” around the concepts of friends, gods, and god stories.  Its survival value is proportional to the importance for the species of individual self-introspection and self-analysis (self-induced psycho-therapy) within our heads.

In Julian Jaynes book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (ISBN 0-395-20729-0, Houghton Mifflin, 1976) a fascinating hypothesis was put forth:  Before about 500 BCE, we had evolved a brain with two copies, the left and the right hemispheres, which could communicate (or “talk”) with each other; we had a spare brain, in other words, in case something went wrong (brain damage) with one of them.  This “talk” between hemispheres was like the gods within us — the origin of gods, god stories, theology, and religion; the gods talked to us all the time.  Around 500 BCE human culture had become so complicated and demanding, division of labor had to be relegated out to the different hemispheres of the brain, ceasing the talk of the brain to itself; the gods stopped talking to us in our heads, explaining why so many great religions in which we had to find the gods’ voices outside us (or try and re-find them inside us) arose around this time — Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, great Prophets of Israel, and Confucianism.  I am not saying I subscribe to this hypothesis, but its similarity with the idea of “talking with God” when we pray seems to me very compelling.  Prayer is, like the gods very ancient — an epiphenominal, non-veridical means by which we furnish ourselves with “bootstrap” sessions of psycho-therapy, or an evolved tool to keep ourselves sane, perhaps because, as Jaynes suggests, the gods stopped talking to us long ago.

Like religious belief, hope, and faith, prayer is confined within the individual’s “subjective trap” (Perception Is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).  Praying together assumes others’ minds are like our own, something we can never know with any degree of certainty.  Making that assumption, our group prayer sessions (at least two persons) are like mutually agreed-upon group psycho-therapy.  It is understandable how a group prayer can be answered differently in the minds of the group, given the differences of expectations among the individuals’ heads within the group.  If a group explodes in agreement that the prayer is answered, such as when my son came out of his week’s coma that followed his closed head injury, it can be assumed the expectations, hopes, and supplications across the minds in the group during the prayer were very similar, though, of course, that can never be objectively demonstrated (at least not yet).  In this sense, prayer for something explicit to occur is like making a bet, like predicting the future, whether as an individual or as a prayer group.

Let’s say a drought-stricken individual or group prays to God (or to a saint) for rain.  In the “old days” sacrifices of the fruits of the harvest, of animals, or of humans would be offered to induce the deity or deities to answer the prayer for rain.  Today, we’ve pretty much gotten past those requirements, to the “relief” of our fellow plants and animals, I’m sure.   The psycho-analysis model of prayer predicted by Perception Theory would say the prayer for rain serves as a self-induced assurance not to worry so much about the drought, as religious belief and hope transforms into faith the prayer will be answered.  That assurance is not nothing to the supplicant, though any effect of the prayer out in the real veridical world cannot be demonstrated; the assurance is the value and justification of prayer; without it we would worry ourselves silly asking questions for which we cannot possibly find an answer.  Whether it rains or not is really incidental, and simply a matter of chance involving local meteorological conditions, conditions presumed to “play out” whether rain is prayed for or not.  The epistemological/ontological mistake of the supplicant or supplicants is to attribute rain or no rain, attribute the outcome of prayer, to the god or gods inside the brain(s) of the supplicant(s).  The non-veridical concepts of the human mind had nothing to do with what transpired in the veridical world, except to be the non-veridical processed perceptions produced partly by empirical data bombarding the body’s senses for each individual.  It was going to rain or not rain, prayed for or not.  Yet, the religious believer says rain was the answer to prayer, or says no rain is the “will of God” beyond human understanding (or due to some flaw in the prayer and/or in the “hearts” of the supplicant(s)).  No wonder many thinkers are of the opinion religious belief is like a mental illness!  I say that prayer is its own reward, providing therapeutic assurance and lowering stress, regardless if the prayer is “answered” or not.  Seen this way, prayer is neither the hollow nothingness of the atheist, nor is it communication with anything outside the heads of the believer.  It is something in between.

To suggest, as Paul Burn’s book does, that prayer changes things is, therefore, correct in one sense, in my opinion.  It can bring on therapeutic healing inside the mind(s) of the supplicant(s).  My experience is that when I pray, I feel better afterwards.  And though I cannot ever know for sure what is inside the heads of my fellow supplicants because of the subjective trap, the behavior of my fellow supplicants after prayer is consistent with their feeling better also.  In other words, prayer can create “good vibes” in the social collective minds of the supplicants, as it did when family and friends near and far prayed for the recovery of my son.  No wonder back in 1986 when my friend Rev. John Armstrong of Canada asked if I would welcome a Muslim friend to join in the widening circle of prayers for Dan, I said something like, “Absolutely!”  I wanted Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists — anyone of any faith — to join in praying for Dan.  I know two things about the outcome of Dan’s ordeal in 1986:  a) the more prayer, the better all of us felt, and b) in the end, Dan made a full physical recovery.

We now know (National Geographic, Dec. 2016) that having faith that healing will come (often fueled by prayer) will trigger the “natural pharmaceutical shelf” in our bodies toward healing with the biochemistry we all inherently have, even if no real medicines (placebos) are only employed.  This could be the key to understanding how the tendency to become religious, along with its attendant prayer, had evolutionary survival value in our deep past.  It therefore is possible that the non-veridical healing inside the minds of prayer supplicants can, if the “good prayer vibes” resonant in the minds of those deemed in need of prayer, has a veridical, real world link (Part of medicine is “bed-side manner.”).  Perhaps prayer can in this way positively change things outside our heads as well as inside, at least to the boundary between our body and the world surrounding it.  Ironically, however, credit for the healing is usually given to the god(s) in our heads thought to be outside our heads, not to the non-veridical tool of prayer in our heads correlating with our biochemistry, or to the attendant physicians plying their skill with modern medicine.

If what is prayed for has to do with something outside the body in the veridical world, like the rain example above, obviously triggering natural pharmaceuticals is not directly germane to the answer or no answer to the prayer (e.g. rain or no rain).  But these biochemicals, like endorphins, could be germane to the therapeutic lowering of stress in the supplicant(s) brain(s); they could be connected to the “real” reward of prayer (self-induced psycho-therapy), which has nothing to do with the prayer’s outcome.

In summary, then, prayer is not nothing, according to Perception Theory.  But it also is not contact with anything outside our bodies; ultimately, it is contact with ourselves within the subjective trap.  That it has value to our well-being has a strong case; psycho-therapy is as important as physical therapy (the two possibly linked by our own body’s physiology), as we’ve known from the days of Freud.  Perception Theory would say that the psycho-therapy of prayer demonstrates this importance back to the dawn of our species.

RJH

 

Hope and Faith

I remember singing in Sunday School, “Have faith, hope, and charity, That’s the way to live successfully, How do I know? The Bible tells me so!”   I assume the song’s words are taken directly from Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 13:13, KJV).  The three words faith, hope, and charity are called the “three theological virtues” or just the “three virtues.”  Having sorted out what Perception Theory tells us about “belief” (I Believe! [Oct., 2016]), two of the three, faith and hope, or, in the order I consider them here, hope and faith, will be considered.  Both are related to belief and though both are “separate virtues,” the pair, I intend to show, are very similar in Perception Theory, yet are very distinguishable from one another.  (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]; Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016]; Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016])  Indeed, they are paired conceptually in Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV)

Despite my skepticism Paul should even be call an apostle, much less an accurate describer of Jesus (Sorting Out the Apostle Paul, [April, 2012]) and despite the consensus Paul did not write Hebrews (Priscilla, Barnabas, Luke, Clement of Rome, and Apollos of Alexandria have been proposed as more likely authors of Hebrews than Paul.), the presence of the same two words (hope and faith) together in both KJV verses provides a convenient “cutting board” upon which to dissect the two with Perception Theory.  In I Believe! [Oct., 2016] belief is far from having anything to do with evidence, yet the Hebrews verse links “substance” and “evidence” with faith.

Hence, if this linkage is accurate, faith has more to do with evidence than belief.  In fact, starting from absence of evidence, starting from belief, and heading in the direction of evidence, I see hope first, followed by faith, with evidence (“I know” statements –I Believe! [Oct., 2016]) coming only after faith.  “I believe” statements and “I know” statements, with hope and faith “sandwiched” in between, are all four non-veridical activities of the brain, with “I believe” statements devoid of resonance with the “outside,” real, veridical world beyond the volume of our brains and “I know” statements as resonant with the real, veridical world as they possibly can be (as possibly allowed by the “subjective trap”).  This would suggest that both hope and faith exist as resonating non-veridically based concepts, “in between” the looped non-veridically based existence of “I believe” statements and the strongly veridically-based existence of “I know” statements.  In other words, belief is looped non-veridically based, like God, and hope and faith are possibly resonating non-veridically based, like freedom (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]); both hope and faith at first appear to “reach out” to the veridical world in a way belief does not bother to do.

To Perception Theory, however, hope is like a “wish statement” that may or may not resonate veridically.  To hope God hears our prayer is looped non-veridically based, but to hope your sick loved one gets well is resonating non-veridically based.  Hope statements can be in either non-veridically based camp — looped or resonating.  To Perception Theory faith leans strongly toward the resonating non-veridical, like having faith that your sick loved one will actually get well, which means the loved one’s health will be described with “I know” statements of wellness in the future.  If the sick one does not get well, the hope still seems justified, but the faith seems ill-placed; hope cannot ever count on “I know” statements to come, but faith risks counting upon “I know” statements coming.  One’s hope can never be squelched by the real veridical world (it is so looped); one’s faith can (it is so resonate).  Faith, then, is like a “prediction statement,” a declaration that something will in future be supported by evidence, and by, therefore, “I know” statements.  With hope I wish, and with faith I predict or bet.  Moreover, faith is embedded with a confidence in a “real world” outcome, whether justified in hindsight or not.  This confidence reinforces the resonance of faith with the veridical.

Hebrews 11:1, therefore, is way off-base.  Faith cannot be substance or evidence of anything.  I can believe or hope in just anything (wishing); conversely I cannot bet on just anything (predicting) and be considered sane, no matter how confident my faith.  Based upon what we know about the universe that seems to be outside our heads, hoping that unicorns exist can be seen as “cute and charming,” while confidently predicting that unicorns exist will probably been seen as silly.  Stating I have faith that unicorns exist is not evidence that unicorns exist, but stating I hope unicorns exist “gets a pass” from those who demand evidence.  One is simply not taken seriously when hoping, like he/she is when bestowing faith.  Hope is more like belief than faith; faith is more like predicting freedom in a veridical society than hope, but with a confidence often falsely interpreted by others as connected with evidence.

An analogy might be in order:  I am about to witness the results of a wager I’ve made at a casino in Las Vegas, say.  It’s the results of a pull of the handle of a slot machine, the final resting place of the ball in a roulette wheel, a roll of the dice at the craps table, the revealing of the cards at the end of a round of poker, or the public posting of the results of a sporting event I have bet on.  Normally, I hope I win (which is not the same as saying I predict I will win), but if I don’t (if I fail to win), the worst that can happen is the loss of my wager.  However, if I win, any conclusion other than to realize how lucky I am would not be warranted; I happened to beat the odds, the probability of which I knew was very low when I made the bet.  But if I have bestowed faith in winning the wager, as we have seen above, it is almost redundant to say I am betting, that is, predicting that I will win.  (Recall I can place a bet with hope, which is not a prediction.) If I have faith that I will win, predicting that I will win, then the amount of the wager, the bet, relative to my gambling budget, is a measure of the strength of my faith.  If I fail to win, my faith will be seen as ill-placed and in hindsight unnecessary; confidence in my winning (in my faith) in hindsight might seem cruelly laughable.  However, if I win, my faith, along with the confidence attending it, seems (irrationally) justified.  In minds wherein suspension of rationality seems commonplace, the human mind tends to think that the win might not have happened without the faith and its attendant confidence.  But the win would not have happened without the bet, and the confident faith before the results had nothing to do with the win, but too often the faith and its confidence are seen as the “cause” of the win!  Such an irrational conclusion is nothing short of believing in magic; it is a view of the win that is all in the head of the winner, and has nothing to do with the evidence from the real world that actually determined the mechanics of the results.  Perception theory would say that veridically the results, win or lose, were the outcome of random probability; any hope or faith put in the results are non-veridical processes inside the brain (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]).

Now, let’s get to the “elephant in the room,” the “gorilla sitting in the corner.”  Believing that God exists is just like hoping God exists — neither tells one anything about God’s existence, except that God is a concept in the head of the one making the belief statement or the hope statement (Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016]).  Having faith that God exists in the real veridical world bets that, or predicts that, God exists like freedom, a dog, or a rock.  Bets and predictions can fail (as in gambling), as have all bets and predictions concerning both unicorns and God, so far.  Faith in God outside our heads, as faith in unicorns outside our heads, is ill-placed — in terms found in Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, it is absurd.  Unlike freedom, God and unicorns do not resonate with the veridical.  I can think of at least one statement about God in which we can all make an “I know” statement — God is a concept in our heads.  It is curiously difficult not to say we can all have faith that God is a concept in our heads.  Also, curiously, I am betting, have faith, that the concept of God, under “high resolution,” is different for each and every head.  Perhaps this “God difference in every head” will one day be shown to be only a hope (an inescapable belief) or. even perhaps be another “I know” statement.

RJH

We All Can Have PTSD

PTSD (acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder) has started expanding its applicability way beyond its military context, it seems to me.  Historically, the concept of PTSD developed from the stress of combat and other horrors of war causing either damage to brain physiology or to the individual psychology of the mind, or both.  Its symptoms, regardless of particular causes in particular cases, are a myriad of brain disorders that cause mild to chronic disruptions of normal brain function.  In World War I, it was called “shell shock,” and in World War II on in to Vietnam, it was called “combat fatigue.”  I want to make the case that all of us can have shell shock and combat fatigue without experiencing a second of combat, without a speck of horror or brain damage.

My most vivid experience of PTSD in a Vietnam vet was when I was working with faculty members from Waxahachie High School years ago in preparation for a faculty party to be held at the Waxahachie National Guard Armory several years ago.  Helping us build stage sets for party performances was David Simmons, building trades instructor at the high school and a Vietnam vet.  The Waxahachie Guard was moving the last cargo truck out of the building when David, upon hearing the truck’s engine, immediately had a flashback to Vietnam.  He dropped his hammer and had to be helped to sit down on the edge of the stage we were building.  For a few moments, he could not stop the imagery in his head; only when the truck had exited the building did he return to “normal.”  Clearly this was purely mental PTSD, as I am not aware of his suffering a head injury during the war.

Equally clear are PTSD-like cases of closed head injuries, such as result from motorcycle accidents.  I remember my friend Rick Qualls and I visiting a motorcycle accident victim who was seeing blood on the fossils he was collecting; we were “experts” invited by his mother to examine the fossils and help him be a little more critical in his hopefully therapeutic hobby.  We to no avail could convince him his iron-compound stains were not blood or that blood does not normally leave trace fossils.  At least he was not a “vegetable,” but that was little consolation to a mother whose son’s close head injury had interjected tragedy so cruelly into the family.  The son was experiencing something personally real in his head, just as David was in his head inside the armory, but the something was permanent, not temporary, as in David’s case.

I have come to think similarly about my older son Dan, who experienced a closed head injury in 1986 as a freshman in high school with a collision on bicycle with a van.  He is Sylvia’s and my “miracle child,” as he clearly recovered completely from all his physical injuries and almost recovered completely from his brain injuries.  Years after his accident, only the stress of traumatic events like divorce revealed his inability to deal with higher cognitive functions, as now in the past few years he is incapable of finding and holding a job.  Only recently have I recognized his cognitive trauma as PTSD-like, showing symptoms like paranoia, depression, mistrust, and hallucinatory reports.  But his brain recovery was so complete he now has a healthy case of denial, stubbornly refusing to recognize he is behaving abnormally.  But, when seen in comparison to the motorcycle accident victim, our son could have suffered mentally much worse.

Also helping me to recognize my son’s form of PTSD (in my opinion), was my recent development of Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016]) and its wide spectrum of applications in our universal experiences (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]).  Perception Theory was suggested to me during explaining the role hallucinations played in the origin and development of Christianity (At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015]), in which I shared my own flashback-like hallucinations.  Emerging from both projects conjured the realization my own non-combat hallucinations (only requiring some kind of trauma of the mind — not necessarily bad or harmful trauma) might mean I too have a form of PTSD, and, by extrapolation, all of us have the capability to empathize with PTSD victims, for we have experienced it ourselves, but have not recognized it as such.

 

I know I can empathize with David, with the motorcycle accident victim, and with my son Dan, for I have had several PTSD flashbacks over the years.  Rather than repeating those in At Last, a Probable Jesus, [August, 2015], I thought I would share with you three others:

1)  I grew up, as I’ve said in my memoirs and in my book SXYTMCHSC1964M4M (ISBN 978-0-692-21783-2, College Street Press, Waxahachie, TX, 2014) {See Fun Read, [August, 2014] to read how to attain a copy}, I grew up simultaneously at three homes, one with my parents in town in Cisco, Texas, and in the two rural homes of both sets of my grandparents outside Cisco.  The “home” of my maternal grandparents, the McKinneys, was completely destroyed by a tornado in May, 2015, a site that belongs to my wife and me nowadays.  For sentimental reasons I had the bulldozer and track hoe “cleaning up” the site leave a surviving iron yard gate still swinging on its hinges, so that any time I want, I can go out there, open the gate, and slam it shut.  That sound it makes when closing conjures images of the house and yard and of me going in and out the gate as a young boy.  I cannot help but see the house and yard, even though they are not there today.  The images are triggered by the slamming of the gate; it’s like being one of Pavlov’s dogs.  There is some possible bad trauma in this example, because of memory of the tornado, but the images are pleasant and very sentimental.  This feels to me as a PTSD-like experience of bittersweet memories and pleasant imagery, triggered by an iron-on-iron collision.  The imagery doesn’t last but a few moments, but can be re-conjured by slamming the gate again.  (This gate triggering also seems to work, at least mildly, on first cousins of mine who spent a lot of time at the site also as young children.)

2)  In the summer of 2007 I arranged a very personal and emotional moment upon myself when I confided in my good friend Bill Adling (See SXYTMCHSC1964M4M.) that I was about to write my life’s novel at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  He was the first in whom I confided such information, and I had insisted I tell him in private away from our wives.  The site chosen to reveal my secret to Adling was a neon display advertising the Beatles-based performances of “Love” by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage.  The display had places at which we could sit.  It is hard to overstate how important the Beatles are and were to Adling’s and my friendship — for example, the two of us, along with our fellow fast friend/high school prankster Bob Berry, claim to be the very first Beatles fans in Cisco as 1963 changed to 1964.  How appropriate a setting for me to share my secret with Adling!  Fast forward to the summer of 2016, when just my wife and I were “taking in” Las Vegas and I was wandering around the casino floor of the Mirage while my wife Sylvia was still playing video poker.  I wandered to the spot where the neon display was 9 years earlier (It was now gone, despite the fact “Love” was still playing — we saw the show again, incidentally.), but I recognized the spot by its surroundings.  And suddenly, here came into my head bright neon lights, Adling’s face, and exchanged words I seemed to remember from almost a decade ago!  It was very fleeting but no less vivid.  The “trauma” must have been the “stress” of keeping the secret from everyone except Adling at the time, but the feeling was exhilarating, making me momentarily almost giddy!  I now look upon this moment as a PTSD-like experience.

3)  The third of this trio is the most PTSD-like to me and, coincidentally, the most gross.  Near the McKinney house of 1) above, my Granddad McKinney, among other animals, raised and kept for selling and butchering (Yes, the tornado left the rock and concrete foundation of the old slaughter house.) hogs, lots of hogs.  Playing in and around the lots, sheds, and barns there as a boy, I was in a constant menagerie of not only hogs, but cattle, chickens, turkeys, and peafowl.  Fast forward to just a few years ago, I had stopped at Brendan Odom’s house (Brendan today leases much of the land my wife and I own, including the McKinney place.), which coincidentally is on the road between where my Granddad McKinney lived and my Granddad Hastings lived, to ask him something.  Away from his house but sort of in the extended front yard was a covered cattle trailer, one of my dad’s old ones, in which Brendan kept wild hogs he had trapped for sale to buyers with customers craving “wild pork.” (Today, because of the collapse of the small-scale hog market, no one today raises hogs such as my grandfather did.)  As I walked by the trailer, I noted there were no hogs in it, but that there recently been some “residents,” as my nose was bombarded by the unmistakable odor of hog shit!  And the imagery flowed in my head of hogs wallowing, hogs sleeping, hogs feeding, and hogs squealing.  I could not stop seeing them!  As David’s trigger was auditory, mine in this moment was olfactory.  I had to walk away almost to the house to get the imagery to stop.  The trauma, as well as the trigger, was the incredibly bad odor, so the images were not particularly pleasant.

 

Perception Theory (Perception is Everything, [Jan., 2016], (Perception Theory (Perception is Everything) — Three Applications, [Feb., 2016], Perception Theory: Adventures in Ontology — Rock, Dog, Freedom, & God, [March, 2016], and I Believe!, [October, 2016]) suggests what is going on in our heads during PTSD experiences.  Some non-veridical trauma in our mind triggers uncontrollable perceptions upon our inner world view, momentarily or permanently blocking or suspending the non-veridical brain mechanisms by which we normally determine that what we are perceiving at the moment “must have been a dream.”  The uncontrollable perceptions seem as real and the controlled perceptions we receive from the “outside world” outside our brains.  They are suspensions of rationality, much like what we do when we fall in love.  Often they make us doubt our sanity, and often we are reluctant to share them with others for fear they will doubt our sanity.  Yet, history has shown they can cover the spectrum of individual perception from the destruction of life, through little or no effect, to the basis of starting a religion or a political movement.

PTSD-like experiences are profound epiphenomenal capabilities of our brain, part of the evolutionary “baggage” that was part of our “big brain” development.  I would guess it was a trait neutral to our survival (or, “tagging along” with our vital survival trait of the ability to irrationally fall in love), and, therefore, could be a vestigial trait passed into our future by the same genes that produce our vital non-veridical existence within our brains (in our minds).  Whatever future research into them brings, I will always be fascinated by their possible triggers within an individual, whether it be combat, closed-head injuries, a sound from the past, the Fab Four, or hog shit.

RJH

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