The dance of the molecules. What is the song?
Facing the existential vacuum is not everybody’s cup of tea (especially on a Sunday morning, when this is written). Sure – most ‘normal’ people will be in a building designed for religious believers, learning how great God is and re-confirming ‘his’ goodness and purpose.
Instead, my thoughts this morning do quite the opposite. I’m considering what lies beyond the constructs created by my dancing brain chemicals, that produce these very thoughts. Unfortunate is you reading this, if you’re a staunch believer in some divine entity, who has magically created the whole ‘scene’, every variation of it, and needs you to worship them. Why? Because this exploration of the nothingness will serve only to harden your self-serving delusion – that ‘without God there is emptiness and meaninglessness’. You remain trapped.
But for those who can bear to find meaning and purpose without the need of ‘God’, my wish is to take you closer to the fabric of reality. Then what? Then you can return – and allow the dancing molecules to do what they do best.
Some basics assumptions first:
My flesh and blood have come from the normally inanimate lifeless matter of the world I live in.
My flesh and blood will return to that state when my life ends.
My brain is the apparatus that learns, processes information, and produces my thoughts, experiences and emotions.
I have no real evidence of any other entity responsible for my thoughts, experiences and emotions.
I do not accept a soul as responsible for my thoughts, experiences and emotions.
I do not accept God and ‘the soul’ as ‘things’ that are relevant, on the grounds that they are constructs that are unreliable. By that I mean that those ideas (or would-be beliefs) are explainable on the grounds of conditioning by exposure.
I am unable to argue here today against every logical fallacy that has led to the construct we know as ‘God’.
Those who believe in ‘Gods’ have been conditioned to allow logical fallacies or ignorance to prevail (and they may not know that).
A God (were one to exist) that requires me to divorce myself of the rules logic and evidence, and instead embrace the principles of ignorance is not my God.
The concept of the devil is entirely ridiculous if one assumes an omnipotent and omniscient God.
My thoughts here today are the ripples that have been left by the biggest stone in my psychological pond in recent years, namely: The Blind Watchmaker. Yes, I knew about evolution – or so I thought I did. But reading Dawkins in this book has shown the ‘grain’ of what is referred to rather superficially as ‘evolution’. I have been in awe in recent weeks, thinking harder about every aspect of my existence.
And even the act of thinking puts me into amazement. Here I am, an organised set of self-sustaining molecules produced in a backwater of a solar system after billions of years of chemical reactions of various types, producing thoughts, conscious of the world around me and that I am conscious of my thoughts and actions – my fingers responding automatically to patterns laid down somewhere in my brain over years of practise of touch typing, spitting out these thoughts through a machine that is inorganic in nature but fashioned by the minds of others for this specific purpose. My mind is aware in an instant of how I came to be here; this body, how it ‘evolved’, how the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, neurochemistry, psychology, sociology – applicable to my thinking apparatus, works. And yet all this stuff will return to a state of ‘lifelessness’ – all records ever etched in my temporal lobes to be lost.
And from the centre of what you might call ‘soul’, is an urge to smother the meaninglessness of it all. Meaninglessness? Yes – you see once I do not invoke God, I am aware that my consciousness in this backwater of a solar system is meaningless. Sure I have a meaning and a purpose to my daily life – those things have been given to me; things that have been the result of my ‘grooming’ to become who I am and what I am relative to the world of people and things that existed before I ‘came’. But absent the world of people and things created by us, what is the meaning of my existence relative to the vastness of the universe. Float me into outer space in a spaceship – alone – amongst the lifelessness of the asteroids, planets, space dust and radiation, what am I? What is my relation to all that? What is my meaning and purpose in relation to that? And perhaps the answer is so simple that it is insulting of the arrogance we unknowingly hold about ourselves, our species – that I have been evolved simply to cause a more rapid increase in the entropy of the universe. And this thing we might call soul cannot accept that it is so simple. But there is a drive to perpetuate the ‘arrogance’ that somehow ‘we’, ‘me’, ‘I’ – am special in some way. And it is easy for many to allow that drive for ‘meaningfulness’ to twist the laws of logic to invent ‘things’ and ‘ideas’ that reinforce our senses of being ‘special’ – and push out the coldness – the emptiness – of the existential vacuum.
[At this stage my molecules have directed my will to pause. A chemically directed thing called hunger, has driven me to stop for breakfast.]
Okay – it’s now well past dinner. I got distracted with other stuff. I increased the entropy of the universe by doing a barbeque earlier, stuffing my face etc – and tomorrow morning I shall excrete having digested what I’ve consumed. That’s nature’s true purpose. From the sheep and ants in the field to sentient me – we share a common purpose. The big difference is that I’m able to pontificate about it and they cannot – and certainly demonstrate no capacity to do so – as one might otherwise expect from a ‘sentient animal’.
My existence would appear meaningless outside of the common frame of reference created by human affairs or delusions about God created by human culture. And outside of all that, the universe has one common direction for all things: maximum entropy. [Google the bledy thing!]. Do ants and birds and bees create meaning and purpose? Do they create delusions? No – their purpose is largely prescribed by the dance of their molecules, more so than our roles are prescribed by our biology. They cannot goal-direct themselves in different ways, as we sentient beings can. [See Wondrous little robots and sentient larger ones]
And now – having faced the coldness of space – the automation of the universe – my meaninglessness relative to it’s vastness and it’s own selfish purpose, where am I left? I am at this time forced to accept that the universe has created a structured bag of chemicals in my head that allows me to do all that I do – but for it’s own purposes. I am forced to ask, ‘What shall I do with my time afforded here?’ I feel trapped – like one of my opponents on the Chessboard about to face zugswang! Whichever move he makes, checkmate is inevitable. And the ‘intelligence’ of The Blind Watchmaker over his billions of years far exceeds mine. I must accept that.
His ‘intelligence’ is not like my human mind can fathom. He does not require worship and prostration before him in order to be satisfied that I am good enough for some special favours. ‘Intelligence’ is my puny word that fails to describe the mind of the Watchmaker. He is likened to ‘super-massive computer’, calculating for my every possible move – my every thought – even my demise – and yet I am irrelevant as an individual. And if he were to be likened to some kind of modern day computer tasked with creating a sentient life-form like one of us, within a day or two, we would know the true size of his ‘intellect’. And in a manner of speaking, we can see some of that – though many of us miss the spectacle which is normally hidden from our eyes. It is the spectacle of creation of sentient life in the womb of every pregnant human. In nine months or so, inorganic matter is extracted and organised exquisitely in a feat of engineering that all our scientists working together could never replicate from scratch in the next foreseeable million years. The hand of the Watchmaker has fashioned us in his laboratory to create on his behalf and on our behalf – for a common purpose we are commanded to share with him.
And my birth is my entry to this world to carry out his will. He has fashioned me from inanimate earth to have emotions, to think, to feel and to reason – to experience pleasure – to be ruled by reproductive instinct – to pontificate the essence of my existence – and to write all that I write here – and yet the greatest service I can give is to assist in increasing the entropy of the universe. The massive chain reaction of chemicals that brought me into existence is already orchestrated to collapse and return me to the inanimate dust. When in the zugswang, I’m left with two options – resign and cut short the painful end – or to play slowly the combination of moves that leads to my end, if only to share in my opponents joy at beating me. And ‘joy’ it is – the dance of the molecules allows me to make pleasurable that which would normally be painful.
I therefore submit to the will of The Blind Watchmaker. I shall enjoy the time he has allowed me and contribute to the entropy of his universe. But most importantly – I do so free from any will imposed by mankind that may be masqueraded delusionally as coming from God. I am at peace with reality and eudaimonic in living in sync with the true will of the Watchmaker.