Monday, February 1, 2016

How Meditation Affects the Brain


Scientific research shows how meditation can alter the brain to improve mental health.

There are different neural networks in the brain. The analytical network is used for solving problems. The narrative network produces mental chatter - the internal talking we do about ourselves, our past, and our future. The experiential network1 is active when a person is meditating mindfully. Too much analytical thinking causes callousness, too much mental chatter can cause or worsen anxiety and depression. Experiential thinking increases empathy, compassion and wisdom1. Mindful meditation quiets the analytical and narrative networks and stimulates the experiential network.

Permanent changes in the brain are possible because of a phenomenon called neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to rewire itself. Whenever you do a task, the neurons involved recruit neurons away from other tasks to help strengthen the current task. When you meditate mindfully, you strengthen the experiential network. However, during the rest of the day, that strength is being recruited away by everything else you do. The way to strengthen the changes in the brain caused by meditation and maintain them over time, is to meditate for longer periods of time and meditate more often. When you are not meditating, try to be in the mindful state whenever possible. Be aware of what you are doing as you are doing it, not thinking about the past, the future, or anything else. Notice the absence of mental chatter as you do that. Everyone needs time to plan for the future, digest and understand their past, and solve the problems in their life, so you shouldn't eliminate those activities entirely, just do them deliberately at times you control rather than letting them control your mind.

Notes

1) From my web page on meditation:

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In the transcript of a podcast on bigthink.com, he describes how meditation can quiet mental chatter made up of anxious and depressed thoughts:
If you put people in a scanner and tell them to just do nothing; just rest in the scanner; don’t do anything at all, it turns out that there’s a region in the midline of the cerebral cortex that’s known as the default mode network that just lights up, that all of a sudden gets very, very active. I mean you’re told to do nothing and then your brain starts to use up energy a lot. ... And that’s called the default mode network because when you’re told to do nothing, you default to activity in this mode and when you inquire what’s going on there, a lot of it has to do with my wondering and just daydreaming. And a lot of that has to do with the self-referencing our favorite subject, which is me of course. So we generate narratives. ... it’s also called the narrative mode network or the narrative network. And it’s the story of me.

When you train people in MBSR, you find that another area of their cortex lights up more lateral after eight weeks of training in mindfulness. And that that area is associated with a region called the insula and that doesn’t have a linear, time-based narrative. It’s just the experiencing of the present moment in the body — breathing in, breathing out, awake, no narrative, no agenda. And the interesting thing — and this is the study — when they put people through eight weeks of MBSR, this narrative network decreases in activity and this experiential network increases in activity and they become uncoupled. So they’re no longer caught together in such a way. So this one can actually attenuate and liberate you a little bit from the constant thinking, thinking, thinking — a lot which is driven, of course, by anxiety and, "What’s wrong with me?" The story of me is often a depressing story. And a fear-based story. We’re like driving the car with the brake on, with the emergency brake on. And if we learn how to just kind of release it, everything will unfold with less strain, with less stress and with a greater sense of life unfolding rather than you’re driving through it to get to some great pot of gold at the end, which might just be your grave.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn also says the benefits of suppressing the narrative network and stimulating the experiential network with meditation leads to wiser, more empathic and more compassionate thinking in an interview at: psychcentral.com:
One pathway is a mid-line pathway, very akin to what is called a default mode, that seems to be functioning when nothing else is supposed to be happening — like being or mind wandering, or something like that, which is what they call the narrative network for self. So like what you tell yourself about who you are, where you’re going, how things are going, how stressed you are, how great it’s going to be in the future, how horrible it was in the past, or vice-versa, how wonderful it was in the past, or how horrible it is in the present. So it is a narrative ongoing story of me. And that occupies a certain kind of brain territory.

They showed that people who are taking the MBSR program showed activity in a whole other, more lateral ventral pathway in the cerebral cortex, again in the prefrontal cortex, which was involved with what they called experiential focus. It’s like no more story, just this. Just this moment. Just this breath. Just this unfolding. And I want to emphasize that it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you are either disassociating or that you’re going to get really, really stupid practicing mindfulness because now you’re just in the present moment and you don’t know what’s really happening and you’ve now gone beyond thought. Not at all. I mean it’s much more an effective, wise and emotionally intelligent way to make use of one’s thoughts and emotions, but hold them in a much, much greater and more empathic, and in some sense, more compassionate and wise container, and that container embraces what I mean when I use the word mindful."


Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Constructive Approach to Bridging the Conservative / Liberal Divide


The political polarization in the US is caused by journalists and politicians who are misleading the public. Research by sociologist Jonathan Haidt shows that all people throughout the world have the same five basic intuitions about morality. The differences between liberals and conservatives occur in slight preferences about which aspects of morality they think are most important. Liberals and conservatives have much more in common than they have differences. However, journalists and politicians gain personally by demonizing and dehumanizing people who disagree with them when they portray these differences as a matter of smart vs. stupid or good vs. evil. This is a scam. This hate mongering makes it harder to find solutions to problems because it leads discussions to rapidly degenerate into name calling and vilification. It breeds mistrust and keeps us fighting among ourselves which makes us susceptible to exploitation by demagogues and moneyed interests1. Good, intelligent people can disagree. Every scientific controversy shows that the interpretation of facts is only an opinion. If people will stop being fooled by this deception, the hate mongers will become powerless and our society will be able to solve problems through civil discussions based on mutual understanding and respect. The politicians are not going to solve this problem until it is in their interest to do so. We the people have to come together ourselves and reject media sources and political candidates that persist in dividing and polarizing the country. As Milton Friedman said, we the people need to make it politically profitable for the politicians to do the right thing2.

Jonathan Haidt is a sociologist who studies morality and ethics. In the two videos below, he discusses his research which explains why liberals and conservatives should be able to come together in a positive, cooperative, working relationship instead of their current antagonistic mode of interaction.



Haidt's research identifies five intuitions about morality that people of all cultures recognize. Each moral factor is beneficial in certain situations. Haidt has found that that conservatives and liberals in the US have different opinions about which moral factors are most important and this minor difference is the essence of what differentiates conservatives and liberals.

Haidt himself is a liberal who has come to appreciate the good qualities in conservatism. He likens the relationship between conservatism and liberalism as like yin/yang. Both are a necessary part of the whole of humanity. This is a much more accurate and healthy way of viewing the relationship between the two outlooks than the antagonistic approach many people (particularly journalists and politicians) have. Haidt explains political differences not in terms of smart vs. stupid or good vs. evil but in terms of inborn traits and neither outlook is better or worse in its consequences. A society with both liberals and conservatives will be superior than a society of only liberals or only conservatives.

One of Haidt's interests is the political deadlock and polarization in the current US government. The implications of his research are that in the legislative assemblies in the US, legislators of each party should understand the positive contributions both liberalism and conservatism make to society and they should work together with mutual respect using this knowledge rather than taking an adversarial approach that the other side is stupid or evil. By understanding the different aspects of morality and which situations each is appropriate in, legislation and amendments can be justified on moral grounds - providing a rational, respectful, basis for discussion and compromise.

Electoral politics and commercial journalism seem to me to be a huge obstacle to this vision. Haidt thinks holding open primaries is a good way to improve the situation. I think it would be also be helpful if the political candidates and journalists understood this research and talked publicly about it so that it becomes part of our culture.

Notes

  1. Part of the problem we have solving problems in society is understanding what the actual facts are. Frequently, moneyed interests use media and internet savvy to create a false reality that fools most people including politicians, doctors and scientists who then spread the misinformation. Because of the acrimony caused by political polarization in society, it is very difficult for people to sort through these deceptions because attempts at civil discussions about the facts quickly descend into accusations of the stupidity and evil of those who disagree.

    This TEDx by Sharyl Attkisson explains how these false realities are created:



    In this eye-opening talk, veteran investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson shows how astroturf, or fake grassroots movements funded by political, corporate, or other special interests very effectively manipulate and distort media messages.

    The talk includes a discussion of how Wikipedia (3:57) has been complicit in the problem. Wikipedia contradicted medical research 90% of the time (5:31).

    Attkisson suggests how to recognize propaganda and astroturf (at 8:55):

    • "Use of inflammatory language such as crank, quack, nutty, lies, paranoid, pseudo, and conspiracy."

    • "Astroturfers often claim to debunk myths that aren't myths at all. Use of the charged language tests well, people hear that something's a myth maybe they find it on snopes... and they instantly declare themselves too smart to fall for it. But what if the whole notion of the myth is itself a myth and you and snopes fell for that."

    • "Beware when interests attack an issue by controversializing or attacking the people, personalities and organizations surrounding it rather than addressing the facts."

    • "Astroturfers tend to reserve all of their public skepticism for those exposing wrong doing rather than the wrong doers. In other words, instead of questioning authority, they question those who question authority."



  2. No we don't need to change congress. Excuse me. People have a great misunderstanding about this. People in congress are in a business. They're trying to buy votes. They're in the business of competing with one another to get elected. The same congressman will vote for a different thing if he thinks that's politically profitable. You don't have to change congress. People have a great misconception in this way. They think the way you solve things is by electing the right people. It's nice to elect the right people but that isn't the way you solve things. The way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.

    Milton Friedman:
    quoted at goodreads.com:
    I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.

Copyright © 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ordinary people are able to discern the truth without help from scientists.


I often find people on internet discussion forums who think that science is the only way to determine the truth. But the scientific method does not guarantee truth. Most published research findings are false. People who think science is the only way to obtain information about the universe ignore all of history before the scientific revolution when people developed knowledge and technology without the use of randomized double blind experiments. What would happen if a scientist became lost in the desert or in a jungle? He would be dead in a day or two unless prescientific aborigines found him and showed him how to survive. People have been determining truth for thousands of years, long before the start of the scientific revolution. How could primitive people survive in the wilderness, the jungle, the desert or the arctic if they didn't have accurate knowledge needed to survive? How could prescientific people cross the globe in sailing ships, work metal, tan leather, grow crops, raise livestock, build pyramids, set broken bones, and perform surgery? How could the Romans build aqueducts or the dome of the Pantheon if they didn't have accurate knowledge of architecture?

Below are videos and links that show that ordinary people have been able to determine the truth without being scientists:

What the Ancients Knew - Egypt

What the Ancients Knew - India

What the Ancients Knew - Greece

What the Ancients Knew - Rome

What the Ancients Knew - The East - The Chinese

Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain - Episode Four: Bob Kramer

Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain - Episode Two: Frank Shattuck

Rick Kelly Guitars - The Intelligent Hand - The Balvenie

Raw Craft with Anthony Bourdain - Episode Three: Steve Goodson

The Balvenie Morgan - Full Film

Rare Craft Roadshow - Full Doc - The Balvenie

National Geographic

Nearly six centuries after it was completed, the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence—a cathedral known around the world simply as il Duomo—remains that city's icon and greatest pride. Built without flying buttresses or freestanding scaffolding, using experimental methods that many contemporaries believed would surely fail, the 150-foot-wide (46-meter-wide) dome effectively ignited the creative explosion known as the Renaissance.

Wikipedia

A modern understanding of physical laws and the mathematical tools for calculating stresses were centuries in the future. Brunelleschi, like all cathedral builders, had to rely on intuition and whatever he could learn from the large scale models he built. To lift 37,000 tons of material, including over 4 million bricks, he invented hoisting machines and lewissons for hoisting large stones. These specially designed machines and his structural innovations were Brunelleschi's chief contribution to architecture. Although he was executing an aesthetic plan made half a century earlier, it is his name, rather than Neri's, that is commonly associated with the dome.

This video shows how the dome was built and explains why it is such a tough engineering problem:


Great Cathedral Mystery • NatGeo TVG Special

More here:


The Medici - Godfathers of the Renaissance 1/4

The worst jobs in history

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x01 - Roman & Anglo-Saxon

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x02 - Medieval

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x03 - Tudor

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x04 - Stuart

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x05 - Georgian

The Worst Jobs In History - 1x06 - Victorian

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x01 - Urban

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x02 - Royal

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x03 - Industrial

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x04 - Maritime

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x05 - Rural

The Worst Jobs In History - 2x06 - Christmas


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Direct Voice Medium Leslie Flint. What it is like in the Afterlife.


Leslie Flint was a direct voice medium. He described his work in his autobiography:

I am a medium, I have a rare gift known as the independent direct voice. I do not speak in trance, I need no trumpets or other paraphernalia. The voices of the dead speak directly to their friends or relatives and are located in a space a little above my head and slightly to one side of me. They are objective voices which my sitters can record on their own tape recorders to play later in the privacy of their own homes. Sometimes those who speak from beyond the grave achieve only a whisper, hoarse and strain, at other times they speak clearly and fluently in voices recognizably their own during life.

I do my work by sitting wide awake in total darkness with other people. I know I have learnt more about life and people and human problems and emotions by sitting in the dark than I could possibly have learnt in any other way, and those who have taught me the most are people who, dead to this world, are living in the next.

Taken from Voices in the Dark, Leslie Flint's autobiography.

(If you are interested in obtaining a copy of Leslie Flint's autobiography, check leslieflint.com. It might be available for a lower price there. Used copies are sometimes very expensive. I am not affiliated with leslieflint.com nor am I suggesting you buy the book, I just want to save you some money if you are interested in buying it.)

There is no source of information on the afterlife that is more reliable than the statements of the spirits who communicated through Leslie Flint although other sources may be equally reliable.

Samples of spirit communications from Leslie Flint's séances can be found at leslieflint.com:

Here is an example of what the spirit of George Harris communicated at one of Leslie Flint's séances:

Greene: When you passed over, you found yourself alive. Now, how did you think about things?

...

Harris: Huh! Much the same as being on your side as far as I can make out. There are certain differences, I suppose; course there are. We haven't got all the old worries and the 'eadaches we had like... well... finding wherewithal and all the rest of it.

Greene: Mmm.

Harris: And our life's very much in some ways the same - much the same. Same... As far as I've seen everything's just as solid, just as real. Got our houses and places and interests. Course, we don't have to go out to work. Nothing like that. I don't have to try and earn a few bob. Money doesn't mean nothing here. Money is no consequence at all. You are as you are and what you are.

...

Woods: How do you spend your time on that side?

Harris: Well, I'm interested in building. I was in the building trade and...

Woods: Oh yes.

Harris: ... I very interested in building and I like my job. But here it's like a different... We do build... We do build with materials and things that are real and solid and all that but... Of course you don't do it for money. You don't do it for... you know, because you've got to do it. You do it because you like doing it, because you get pleasure and happiness out of it.

Page 2

I mean there's no business firms or anything like that. But everyone who comes over 'ere - I'm talking about where I am - if they 'ad a trade or something rather special and they enjoyed it and it made 'em happy, they have the same thing 'ere. You get the carpenters, you get the decorators and all that and I suppose whatever you enjoyed doing on Earth, you can still carry on doing it here old chum. And they do say as how over here, you know, that you can do whatever you want to do, until such time as you begin to think a different way.

I mean, I listen to these people from these other places. They come and they talk and they tell you this that and t'other but why should we give up... I mean, why should I give up a condition, as you call it, of life where I'm perfectly happy and perfectly content and I got all the sort of things that interest me. And I... as I say I'm quite happy building, helping others who, you know, were also in the building trade that was on Earth and we build and work together.

And our houses are as real and solid as yours, and some of them are real beautiful, you know. Of course the people that we build for are people that we like, people we're fond of, people who are anxious for something of their own, and their own way of thinking and idea, and it's all worked out. There are people who create 'ere. There are those who are... what you call it... architects and all that. They rough out things, you know, work out things and we follow it out.

Course, there are aspects that ain't the same. I mean, you soon realise you don't want to eat in the same way and there ain't none of the other aspects of life which are common on Earth. But it's funny. It's more like your world but more perfect, without all the irritating things, you know, and the things that... Well, there are no aches and pains. No illness. Ain't seen no 'ospitals, nothing like that, although there again they tell me there are places like 'ospitals but they say they're for mental cases, you know; people that... they're sort of peculiar in the head like, you know. I can't imagine why they should be peculiar in the head over here. But then they do try and tell me for instance and others that have been to these meetings and that where they say as how it's a state of mind; that everywhere where you live's a state of mind and if you think you want to do certain things then you do certain things. But until you learn to sort of look out in a different way you carry on in the same old way.


Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Beyond Joy



Contents
This post is intended to bridge the gap from my web page on Serenity Meditation to the post on this blog Realizing the Ultimate.

Beyond Joy

Lester Levenson was sent home from the hospital with an incurable heart ailment. His medical situation caused him to examine his life. What he discovered transformed him. This transformation is described in Lester Levenson's story at releasetechnique.com. It is only 20 pages long and I highly recommend reading it.

...

What is happiness?

...

"Happiness is when I am loving!" He realized that in every instance his feeling of love for the other person had been intense and that's where the happiness had come from, from his own feeling of loving.

...

How far could he take this?

...

"When I mixed with people, and again and again when they would do things that I didn't like and within me was a feeling of non-love, I would immediately change that attitude to one of loving them even though they were opposing me. Eventually I got to a point where, no matter how much I was being opposed, I could maintain a feeling of love for them."

...

He realized that the cause of his ulcers was that he had wanted to change everything, starting with his nearest and dearest and extending out to the rest of the world, including the United States, other countries, government heads, the weather, endings of movies he had seen, the way businesses were run, taxes, the army, the President; there was nothing he could think of that he had not wanted to change in one way or another.

What a revelation! He saw himself subject to and a victim of everything he wanted to change! He began dissolving all that. When he thought of something that caused him pain about a person or situation, he would now either correct it with love or dissolve wanting to change it.

...

Lester asks "What is intelligence"?

...

I began to examine thinking, and its relationship to what was happening. And I saw that whatever was happening had a thought behind it at some time prior. And that the reason I had never before related the two was because of the element of time between the thought and the happening.

...

Above all, I saw that I was responsible for everything that had happened to me, formerly thinking that the world was abusing me! And I saw that my tremendous effort to make money and then losing it was due only to my thinking; that I had been always seeking happiness, and thought that making money would do it. So whenever the business started to make money, and the money did not bring me the happiness I wanted, I began to lose interest and the thing collapsed. I had always blamed it on other people and circumstances, not realizing that it was simply my subconscious knowledge that this is not happiness which caused me to lose interest and that, in turn, caused the business to collapse.

...

How joyous could he get?

...

He felt light, living for weeks with joy exploding inside him every moment. Everyone and everything became exquisitely beautiful to him.

...

After several weeks, he began to wonder if there could be anything better beyond this joy. He was sitting in his chair in the usual position, slumped down, legs stretched out, chin touching his chest. He had the idle thought without expecting an answer, but the answer came.

What was beyond this incredible, joyous state that didn't stop? He saw that it was peace, imperturbability... and he realized with certainty that if he accepted it, if he decided to move into that peace, it would never, ever go away... and he went... slipped into it so effortlessly... with just a decision to have it... he was there.

Everything was still. He was in a quietness that he now knew had always been there but drowned out by incessant noise from his accumulated, uncorrected past. In fact, it was more than quiet; it was so far beyond anything imaginable that there were no words to describe the delectable deliciousness of the tranquility.

His earlier question about happiness was answered too. There were no limits to happiness, but when you have it all, every minute, it gets tiresome. Then this peace is just beyond ... and all you have to do is step over the line into it.

"Is there anything beyond even this?" he wondered. But as he asked, he knew the answer.

This peace was eternal and forever, and it was the essence of every living thing. There was only one Beingness and everything was It; every person was It, but they were without awareness of the fact, blinded by the uncorrected past they hold on to.

He saw this Beingness as something like a comb. He was at the spine of the comb and all the teeth fanned out from it, each one thinking it was separate and different from all the other teeth. And that was true, but only if you looked at it from the tooth end of the comb. Once you got back to the spine or source, you could see that it wasn't true. It was all one comb. There was no real separation, except when you sat at the tooth end. It was all in one's point of view.

The great value that I see in Levenson's writings comes from the fact that he discovered the same truth Buddha did and had the same experience, but he did it independently without any knowledge of Buddhism. Because of this, he has his own perspective on the subject which adds to what we learn from the teachings of Buddha. And Levenson is a man of our own era so he can explain things in ways that make sense to us.

Contents

What am I?

Lester Levenson explains how he attained his realization in his book KEYS TO THE ULTIMATE FREEDOM Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation which at stillnessspeaks.com.

When I started my quest I thought “thinking” would give me the answers. I had a mind that was as active as any mind could be. But I was at the end of the line. I had had a second heart attack and they told me I was finished, that I had only a short time to live, and so I had to have the answers. And even though my mind was far more active than the great majority of minds, the intensity of the desire for the answers caused me to hold to one question at a time, obliterating all else. This concentration did it!

I started seeking with no knowledge of metaphysics, no knowledge of the way. In fact I was anti all religion and all metaphysics; I thought it was nonsense, for the weakminded, for people who believed in fairy tales.

But it was only because of the intensity of the desire to get the answers, I had to have the answers, that they began to come, and they came relatively quickly. Over a period of three month’s time I went from an extreme materialist to the opposite extreme: the material is nothingness and the spiritual is the All.

The wish to get the answer was so strong, that in spite of my mind being one of the noisiest of minds, the answers began to come. I automatically fell into things (I knew no words for them) like samadhi. I would concentrate on a question with such intensity that I would lose awareness of the world, lose awareness of this body, and then I would be aware of just a pure thought, the thought itself would be the only thing existing in this universe. That's absorption when the thinker and the thought become one. One loses consciousness of everything but that one thought. That's a very concentrated state of mind and the answer is always discovered right there.

I started with “What is happiness? What is life? What do I want? How do I get happiness?” I discovered that happiness depended upon my capacity to love. At first I thought it was in being loved. I reviewed my life and saw that I was very much loved by my family and friends and yet I was not happy. I saw that was not it. Continuing, I realized that it was my capacity to love that gave me happiness.

The next question was “What is intelligence?” I persisted until Ah! I saw it! There is only one intelligence in the universe and we all have a direct line to it.

Then I worked on responsibility and discovered that I was responsible for everything that happens or happened to me. Creation was something I created!

Finally, I held the question “What am I?” until the answer presented itself.

And this went on and in a matter of three month’s time I believe I saw the entire picture, went all the way, only because of the concentrated approach. I knew nothing about the subject; I knew nothing about the direction, the way, the path, but I wanted to know: “What am I? What is this world? What's my relationship to it?”

You discover that the whole world is nothing but you, that there never was anything but you all along, because there's only One and you are It! But that isn't the final state. You come out of it and there's still a certain amount of mind left. So you go back into the meditative quest until there is no more mind controlling you. When you've eliminated all the habits of thought, all the tendencies of mind, you are free; then you can use your mind and you are the master and director of it. It no longer determines you, you determine it.

More:

The way to this inner Being that we are, is to direct our attention inward. We first focus the mind back upon the mind until we discover what mind is. We then focus our attention on our Self to discover our real nature. And it turns out that our real nature, the infinite real Self that we are, is simply we minus the mind; that the mind was a limiting adjunct covering our Beingness; that all thoughts have limitation (and we develop millions of thoughts of limitation) which prevent us from seeing this infinite Being that we are; and that by turning our attention inward we discover all this. When we do, we naturally let go of all these limitations. Then we see that we have always been, are now, and always will be, this unlimited Being.

...

The mind finds it very difficult to imagine what it's like beyond creation, because the mind is involved constantly in creating. It's the creating instrument of the universe and everything that happens in the world. So, if you take this thing called mind, which instrument is only a creator, and try to imagine what it is like beyond creation, it's impossible. The mind will never know God or your. Self, because you have to go just above the mind to know God, your Self.

To know the infinite Being that you are, to know what it's like beyond creation, transcend the mind. The final state is beyond creation. It is the changeless state. In creation everything is constantly changing, and therefore the ultimate Truth cannot be there.

...

The thing that keeps us from recognizing and expressing our infinity is simply the mind, conscious and subconscious. If we are to express this infinite nature, we can do it only by getting behind this mind. When we reach the realm behind the mind we operate without thoughts, intuitively, and are in harmony with the whole universe.

...

The direction is to still the mind. Quiet the mind and you'll see your infinity right there.

***

Just let go of the mind completely and what's left over is your infinite beingness, all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present.

...

In your imagination you have written and projected a cinema show of acts, actors and audiences on a screen and have lost sight of the fact that it is all in your imagination, your mind. Discover this and you discover the absolute Truth.

...

The reason why thoughts wander back into the world is because we believe the world is real. But for this belief, Realization would be!

...

All thoughts are of non-truth. It's so simple. You just stop the thoughts and the infinity that you are is self-obvious.

...

The mind will never discover the Self because the mind is the cover-up over the Self. It's only by letting go of the mind that the Self is seen. You get the mind quiet enough to allow your Self to be obvious to you so that you may use It to let go of the mind.

...

You use your mind to still your mind. When you are meditating, holding one thought, other thoughts drop away.

...

People who have had realizations of the ultimate reality, Brahman, experience themselves as the consciousness that creates all reality. They see themselves as all things and they see all beings are one. They see that ordinary reality is an illusion projected by the mind. They understand the Buddhist concept of emptiness: all is illusion, individual self is an illusion, material reality is an illusion, separate (other) beings are illusions. There is only Brahman. Even the unity of self and other is still illusion because there is no self, there is no other, there is only Brahman.

There is nothing mystical about how the mind projects illusion. For example, many negative emotions are not really necessary but the mind produces them anyway. It makes us unhappy and can poison the quality of our existence. If something annoys you, there is no law of physics that requires that you get annoyed. You might even recognize that being annoyed is unwanted but you still get annoyed. The mind produces this annoyance, it has no basis in physical reality, it is totally unnecessary, and it is unwanted. It is an illusion. You might say that there is a biological explanation for it, but that is just an explanation of how the projector works. A projection is not something real. And the mind does this to us constantly, it produces opinions, attachments, aversions, worries, fears, ... all are illusions, but most of the time we swallow the bait and think they are real. Because they appear in our mind, we assume that they are our ideas and we accept them as part of our reality, we rarely question them.

Realization allows you to become free from these illusions.

Realization cannot come to you as a thought or as a logical understanding. The analytical mind is no help here, in fact it is the problem. The realization is going to come to you as an experience when you stop using the mind, stop thinking about the world through the mind and stop thinking of yourself through the mind. The mind only projects illusion, the illusion of self, the illusion of things, the illusion of other separate beings. To attain realization, you have to turn your attention inward so far inward that you go inward to a point before all conceiving of or thinking of.

There are various ways to free yourself from the illusions projected by your own mind. One is through insight / mindfulness practices in which you observe how the mind produces illusions. Another is meditation where you still the mind by thinking of one thing, meditating with a single pointed, focused mind, until there are no other thoughts, then let go of that one thing. Another is working with a koan such as "Who am I?", "What am I?", or "What is this?"

Contents

Be the Witness.

In addition to posing this question ['What am I?'] until we get the answer, it is good practice in our daily life to be not the doer, be not the agent. Just be the witness! Acquire the “It is not I but the Father who worketh through me” attitude (which several in this group already have). This is the main conduct of life that we should strive for. The more we become the witness in life, the more we become non-attached to the body, the more we are our real Self.

So, there are two things I'm suggesting, one is the question “What am I?” and the second is, in life itself, be not the doer; be the witness. Let things happen; allow life to be. That's the way we are in the top state, and the best behavior in life is that which is characteristic of the top state.

...

When we attain this top state, we are not zombies, but we are all-knowing and everywhere present. Everything falls perfectly into line. We move in the world just like anyone else moves, but the difference is that we see the world entirely different from the way everyone else sees it. We see our body and every other body equally as our Self. Likewise, every animal and every thing as our Self. Seeing everything as “I,” gives us that singular Oneness throughout the universe which is called God, or the Self. We watch our body moving through life like an automaton. We let it go its way. And since we are not really that body, nothing that happens to that body can effect us. Even if it were crushed, it wouldn't mean much to us because we fully know that we are not that body. We know our eternal Beingness and we remain That!

So, one who has attained the top state is difficult to distinguish from anyone else. He'll go through the same motions of life and whatever he was doing before, he might continue to do. But his outlook on life is entirely different. He is completely egoless; he has no concern for his own body. He is interested in others and not in himself, he is interested in all humanity. Whatever he does has absolutely no ego motivation. His body will continue to live its normal span and usually goes out, in the eyes of the unknowing, the same way most bodies go out, via so-called death and coffin. But the one who was originally connected with that body never sees any of this death. He sees this entire world and body as an illusion that was created mentally just as we create scenes, cities and worlds in our night dreams. When we awaken, we realize there never was such a thing. And in the same way, when we awaken from this waking state, we see that the whole thing was a dream and never really was. That the only thing that ever was, was my Being, the absolute Reality, being all beingness, infinite, all perfect, all knowing, all powerful, omnipresent.

It seems that Levenson's idea of being the witness and the Buddhist practices of insight and mindfulness are, in part, getting at the same thing: to develop a sense of detachment. If you've done insight meditation and mindfulness practices, "be the witness" makes perfect sense and is easily done. But, it also makes sense out of those practices. It helps you to understand the purpose of them in a way that helps you to do them with the right frame of mind and understanding of purpose.

A witness is also an observer. Realization is not going to come from logical thinking. Being a witness means forgoing a lot of mental chatter, logical thinking, that is involved in analyzing situations. An observer doesn't have to analyze.

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Go with the Flow

Q: To not be the doer, don't you plan? Don't you do everything normally?

Lester: No, the right way is not to plan. Let it happen. Let go and you'll be guided intuitively. Instead of planning with thought, you'll do the exactly right thing, perfectly at the right moment, from moment to moment.

Q: There is a situation where someone might take a position of that kind when he hasn't really felt it; for example, he will say, “I'll just stay in bed until I'm moved.” Meantime his rent isn't paid.

Lester: So, he'll have to move! If we assume that we are there and are not, we are soon awakened to the fact that we are not there, see. Bob, I'm talking from a higher level now, the perfect state, where everything is in absolute harmony every moment. There you never think, and at every moment you know from within just the right thing to do. You're guided intuitively each and every moment and everything falls perfectly into line. Now, if you're not there, of course you have to think; you have to plan.

Q: Well, in practice then, in the beginning, it's probably a combination of the two where things go very easily, and then there's a hump in which you have to plan.

Lester: Definitely yes! In the top state you do by knowing; you just know from moment to moment. One feels “I know it!” That's just the way it feels and there's no thinking to it, only “I know it!”

You don't have to control everything. You don't have to be constantly thinking about plans and contingencies.

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The Relationship Between Mind and Brain: Not-Self

What he was the moment before he died, he is the moment after, except for the fact that he has let go of the dense body. The physical body is an exact copy of the astral body. And when you step out of the physical body, it feels the same to you and you try to do the things that you were doing just before in the physical body, if you have attachments to the physical world. If you don't have attachments, you adapt much easier to the freer way of life in the astral body.

...

The mind is the brain of the astral and causal bodies.

...

There's no mind in the physical body. It's the mind of the astral body that operates the physical body.

...

Realized knowledge is non-intellectual although the means we use are intellectual. We use our mind, we direct our mind toward the answer. But you will discover that the answer does not come from the mind. It comes from a place just behind the mind. It comes from the realm of knowingness, the realm of omniscience. By quieting the mind through stilling our thoughts, each and everyone of us has access to this realm of Knowingness.

Realization involves the mind and not just the brain. You do not experience realization just because you leave the physical body.

This helps to explain the Buddhist concept of not-self. If the mind is the brain of the astral body, then the mind is not self in the same way that the brain of the physical body is not self. When you understand the mind is not self, it is liberating. When you understand

this body is not me or mine and
this mind is not me or mine, you also understand that
this personality is not me or mine,
this life is not me or mine,
these mistakes are not me or mine,
these failures are not me or mine,
[fill in the blank] ____ is not me or mine.

This is not a license to do wrong, the law of karma still pertains, the life review and reincarnation still loom. However, it explains why there is no blame or punishment in the afterlife, only karma and learning.

Contents

Realization:

Those who experience realization tell us that each of us is all of us and all things. The reason we don't see this is because the mind creates illusions that confuse us.

These illusions are the opposites of the three characteristics of all things. The three characteristics are unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and not-self. When you have a deep understanding of the three characteristics you are no longer fooled by the illusions that desire can be satisfied by impermanent things, or that there is a self. When you are not fooled by these illusions, you will naturally let go of all attachments and aversions.

If you don't believe in the self, then when something good happens to me it is no different than if it happened to you. If you don't believe in the self, then if you harm me, it is no different from harming yourself. If you don't believe in the self, then if your body is damaged, it is no different than if a rock is damaged. If you don't believe in the self, then you are no different from everyone and all things, you are limitless, unbounded.

When you produce happiness and love through meditation, you can see through the illusions of desire and self. When you are happy, you don't need anything to make you happy so you have no desires. When you love others, if something good happens to another person you enjoy it as much as if it happened to you. When you love others you would not harm another person anymore than you would harm yourself. If you love unconditionally and have no desires, when someone else has something nice, it will give you as much pleasure as if it was your own. If you have no desires and you are not attached to self, you will not desire anything permanent or impermanent. You will not fool yourself into believing that anything can be permanent. You will not fool yourself into believing that anything impermanent can satisfy a desire. You will not be troubled by the impermanence of things.

When you are not attached to self, and you learn how to experience happiness and love while all sorts of things are happening around your not-self, that is nibbana. When you are free from attachments and aversions, wisdom and compassion will arise naturally and inform your actions.

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Love:

When we love, and only love, we are using the most formidable power in the universe. No one and no thing can harm us. We can never ever be hurt or unhappy if we would only just love without any hate. You can never be hurt when you love in the sense that the love is full, complete, divine love. It's just love with no, not one bit of, hate in it. It requires turning the other cheek, loving your enemy, that's the kind of love it takes.

Q: Love is understanding?

Lester: When you love fully you understand the other one fully. Love is understanding. It's identifying with the other one, being the other one. Coming down a step, it's wanting the other one to have what the other one wants, loving the other one, the way the other one is.

Q: Then who is our enemy?

Lester: In reality we have only one enemy and that's ourself. No one can do anything to us; no one can do anything for us. Someday you'll see this, that we in our consciousness determine everything that happens to us.

...

When we see someone doing wrong, we have to know that this is a god-being, misguided. He's looking for God in the wrong place. Am I making sense? That's the understanding.

...

So we love everyone, see them as misguided beings, forgive them for they know not what they do. They're like children, misguided. Attain the highest state of loving everyone equally as Christ did!

Contents

Happiness:

You will begin to see that the joy is only in you abiding as your very own Self. Then, when you discover this, you're not going to look for joy where it isn't. You will immediately let go and just be. And finally, you reach the place where you need no one and no thing to be happy, you just are happy, all the time!

...

The prime overall thing is that you move toward happiness in the direction of where it really is, in you, not in the externals. In that way you establish a state of happiness that is continuous.

...

There's no happiness in people or things. Happiness is our basic nature. Happiness is our very own beingness. And when we are only being, we are infinitely happy. Yes, when we are only being, and nothing else, we are infinitely happy!

...

You must let go of all your thoughts. Every thought has limitation in it. Drop all your thoughts and what is left over is you in your infinite happiness, your Beingness. Then you will realize that it is as easy for you to discover that you are an infinite Being with infinite happiness as it is for you to discover that you are a male or a female!

...

The entire body of happiness is being what you are, the Self. Happiness is exactly what you are. Misery is exactly what you are not. The natural state is happiness.

...


This thing we call happiness is merely the infinite Beingness that we are experiencing to more or less of a degree. The real Self we are is infinite joy. And if we would take it only directly from where it is, that's all we would have. But we miserly take it in tiny amounts through external means by assuming that we need something; we are not whole; we are not complete; we need something out there to make ourselves complete; and we create a want, a lack, which, when we fulfil it, the thoughts for it drop away, and when our thoughts drop away we remain at that moment more in our real Self. And that's what is called happiness, joy.

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Copyright © 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Video: Guillermo Gonzalez on the Fine-tuning of the Universe to Support Life


Guillermo Gonzalez, Grove City College, PA
On Guard, July 27-28, 2012


Other posts on this subject can found in the Cosmology section of my Articles and Links Arranged by Subject page. In particular, a list of fine-tuned parameters can be found at The Fine-Tuning of the Universe to one part in 10^10^123 is best explained by an intelligent designer and creator, aka. God.

Below are some of the slides from the lecture by Dr. Gonzalez. I have (with permission) included some of the commentary from the lecture with the slides and edited the text for clarity and readability. Any transcription errors or typographical errors are my own. Please see the video for the original content.

Contents


1:18


What is fine-tuning?
  • Over the past century, scientists have discovered that if certain properties of the universe were changed very slightly from what they are, life could not exist in the universe. These properties have to be within a very narrow range for our universe to be life-permitting (habitable). This sensitivity of the habitability of the universe to small changes in its properties is called fine-tuning.

  • This was recognized about 60 years ago by Fred Hoyle, who was not a religious person. Paul Davies, Martin Rees, Max Tegmark, Bernard Carr, Frank Tipler, John Barrow, and Stephen Hawking also believe in fine-tuning.

2:37
A fine-tuned universe

"The possibility of life as we know it depends on the values of a few basic physical constants and is, in some respects remarkably sensitive to their numerical values. Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences."
- Martin Rees

"The present arrangement of matter indicates a very special choice of initial conditions."
- Paul Davies

"The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life."
- Stephen Hawking


3:35
Three types of fine tuning
  1. Fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

    Existence and forms of physical laws (forces, types of particles, quantum principles, dimensionality of space-time).

    Examples:

    • FG= Gm1m2/r2

      The force of gravity is proportional to the product of two masses and inversely proportional to the square of their separation.

    • The Pauli Exclusion principle dictates how electrons are arranged in atoms and pretty much determines the whole structure of the periodic table and therefore all of chemistry.

    • The Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

  2. Fine-tuning of the constants of physics.

    Masses of fundamental particles, force strengths, cosmological constant value.

    Constants: In Gm1m2 (above), G is a constant. Other constants are:masses of fundamental particles, electron, proton, quarks, constants for electromagnetic force, strong force, weak force, cosmological constant.

  3. Fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe.

    Initial entropy, initial expansion rate, initial density fluctuations, inflation, matter/antimatter ratio.
Contents
10:10
Possible objection 1

Q: How can you assign a probability when the sample size is precisely one (universe)? You can't say, for example, that 1 in 100 universes are habitable.

A: Run a hypothetical universe creating machine with different settings for the fine-tuning parameters and place a black dot on a chart of the results if it makes a non-habitable universe. Place a white dot when it is habitable. You will get a white dot is in a sea of black dots.


12:12
Possible objection 2

Q: What about universes governed by different laws of nature that allow radically different forms of life than those in our universe? Maybe constants and initial conditions in those universes aren't fine-tuned.

A: The answer to the question is not relevant to explaining the fine-tuning of our universe.


13:59
Possible objection 3

Q: If the constants and initial conditions had been different, we wouldn't exist, but maybe other forms of life would have been possible given the same laws.

A: Several of the examples of fine-tuning would prevent even the precursors to life. No planets, no galaxies, no chemistry! Slight changes in some parameters would result in a universe that is all black holes, all hydrogen, or it would collapse back on itself immediately.

Contents
How do you define fine-tuning?

A 10 cm ruler with an accuracy of 1 mm would have a relative error of 1%. In analogy to fine-tuning, 1% corresponds to the amount of fine-tuning (one part in 102), and 10 cm is called the comparison range.

Similarly, for fine-tuning, you need to define a suitable comparison range. It could be theoretical or empirical. A physical property of the universe is usually considered fine-tuned if the life-permitting range is < 10% of the comparison range.

18:25
A sense of big numbers
  • There are about 1013 cells in the human body.

  • The number of seconds in the entire history of the universe = 1017

  • Number of subatomic particles in the known universe = 1080


  • Having a precision of one part in 1030 is like firing a bullet and hitting an amoeba at the edge of the observable universe.

  • Some examples of fine-tuning require greater precision than this!

20:05
One- and two-sided fine-tuning

  • Some cases of fine-tuning are one-sided, meaning that a parameter falls near the edge of the life-permitting region.

  • Some cases of fine-tuning are two-sided:
In one sided fine-tuning, there is either a minimum or a maximum value of the parameter beyond which the universe would be uninhabitable. In two sided fine-tuning there is both a minimum and a maximum value and if the parameter was outside this range, the universe would be uninhabitable.
Example: How a comparison range is calculated to determine the fine-tuning of the forces of nature:

21:24

G0=Strength of gravity

Strength of weak force: 1031G0

Strength of electromagnetism: 1037G0

Strength of strong nuclear force: 1040G0

The natural range of forces in the universe spans 40 orders of magnitude. Therefore 1040 is an empirical comparison range. It is a lower limit because theoretically it could be greater.


23:12
Examples of fine-tuning
  • Fr. Robert Spitzer notes that there are at least 20 independent constants and factors that are fine-tuned to a high degree of precision for life to be possible in the universe.

  • The number continues to increase at a rate near one per year.
Contents
24:16
One-sided example 1

The maximum value of the electromagnetic force that allows a periodic table of sufficient length is 14 x 1037G0. Its degree of fine-tuning is:

(14-1)x1037G0/1040G0 ~ 1%.


26:04
One-sided example 2

The maximum value of the gravitational force that allows stars to last at least 109 years = 3000G0. Its degree of fine-tuning is 3000G0/1040 ~ 1/1036.

But that is just one effect of gravity. When you consider other effects, the possible values are fewer. If gravity is stronger, a planet must be smaller so that complex life is not crushed, but then the planet will cool too fast if it is small. These multiple constraints put tighter limits on the strength of gravity.


27:37
Fine-tuning analogy

Radio dial stretched across the universe

WKLF ("K-Life"): You better tune your dial to the first Angstrom if you want to tune gravity for life!


28:35
One-sided example 3

If the weak force is decreased by a factor of 30, the initial neutron/proton ratio would be ~0.90, leading to nearly pure helium universe.

The degree of fine-tuning is ~ 1/109.

The weak force is also involved in supernova explosions which distribute heavy elements throughout the galaxy. Heavy elements are needed for rocky planets and biological organisms. The weak force also determined the relative numbers of protons and neutrons in the early universe which determined the amount of helium in the universe. The weak force also controls radioactive decay which is responsible for most of the heat in the earth's interior. All three effects of weak the force, geophysical heat, amount of helium in early universe, and supernovae limit the values of the weak force that would permit the universe to be habitable.
Contents
31:20 Carbon production


  • Life-essential 12C is formed inside stars via the nuclear reaction:

    3α ---> 12C

    (The symbol α represents an alpha particle, a helium nucleus containing two protons and two neutrons.)

  • In the early 1950s, physicists did not think this reaction could operate in stars. Fred Hoyle made a prediction. We're here, as carbon based intelligent life, so somehow 12C must get produced. What would enhance the rate was a then unknown excited state of 12C at 7.7 MeV above the ground state.

  • The state was discovered by subsequent experiment.

32:32
Carbon production is fine-tuned
  • The production of carbon via the 3α process is an example of fine-tuning.

  • Oberhummer et al. (2000, Science) studied the relative production of C and O in stars. They showed that a 0.5% change in the strong nuclear force or a 4% change in the electromagnetic force would lead to large changes in the C/O ratio in the universe (due to changes in the energy of the 12C resonance level).

  • But wait, there's more...

34:19
Carbon production is fine-tuned


  • A collision of two α particles
    produces
    8Be
    which has a short lifetime of
    10-16sec. This short lifetime prevents runaway fusion that would result in early stellar explosions (before life-essential heavy elements are formed). The instability of 8Be leads to stellar stability. But, its lifetime could not be much shorter, or the reaction to produce carbon could not proceed.

  • There is another fine-tuning with 16O, which lacks a resonance level near the typical α particle energy in a star. If such a resonance level existed, most of the carbon would be converted to oxygen.

  • Fourthly, a conservation law prevents most of the 16O from being converted to 20Ne (via α-capture), which has a resonance at the right energy.
Because of the fine-tuning, there are comparable amounts of carbon and oxygen in the universe instead of mostly carbon or mostly oxygen. Both are needed to support life. Oxygen is needed for water and energy metabolism for complex intelligent life.
Contents
36:50
The cosmological constant (dark energy)
"Our current understanding of gravity and quantum mechanics says that empty space should have about 120 orders of magnitude more energy than the amount we measure it to have. That is 1 with 120 zeroes after it! How to reduce the amount it has by such a huge magnitude, without making it precisely zero, is a complete mystery. Among physicists, this is considered the worst fine-tuning problem in physics."
- Lawrence Krauss, (Scientific American, Aug. 2004, pp. 83-84)

38:38
The initial entropy of the universe

  • The initial state of the space-time (and thus gravity fields) of the early universe were very smooth and homogeneous (very low entropy).

  • Present entropy of the universe is much greater than the initial entropy.

  • Initially low entropy is required for a habitable universe in which high-entropy structures like stars form out of the surrounding low entropy space-time.

  • Roger Penrose estimated that the amount of fine-tuning required of the initial entropy to allow for a habitable universe is 1 part in 1010123!

Contents
43:10
Multidimensional fine-tuning

  • To be precise, you cannot just change one parameter while holding all others constant. Changing another parameter might compensate for the life-inhibiting effects of a particular parameter change.

  • Example: reducing the weak force can be compensated by reducing the mass difference between the proton and neutron in the early universe.

  • However, it is usually the case that changing a parameter has multiple different effects. Reducing the weak force also affects the explosion of massive star supernovae and radioactive decay.

46:31
Local fine-tuning

  • Each instance of global fine-tuning must be evaluated by its effects on habitability at the "local" level. By local, we mean structures within the universe that are relevant to life. These include galaxies, stars, and planets.

  • Knowing the number and ranges of properties of galaxies, stars, and planets will allow us to determine if a change to a particular global parameter will have life-inhibiting effects.

  • This involves details of star and planet formation, climate stability, orbital dynamics, stellar nucleosynthesis, etc.

Contents
51:33
Some history
"[Evidence for God comes] from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the Mind which ordered the universe."
- Plato (Laws 12.966e)

"...when the night had darkened the lands and they should behold the whole sky spangled and adorned with stars; and when they should see ... the rising and settings of all these celestial bodies, ... when they should behold all these things, most certainly they would have judged ... that all these marvelous works are the handiworks of the gods."
- Aristotle (On Philosophy)


52:59

Reconstructing historical events

The universe is an artifact. How do you reconstruct a historical event?

Not all science is laboratory based. Some science is historical. Geology, archeology, cosmology, astronomy are all historical sciences. There is a type of reasoning that is appropriate to historical sciences called abductive reasoning or inference to the best explanation. It's the way causal explanations are reached in the historical sciences. Abductive reasoning infers unseen causes in the past from facts in the present. If you discover an artifact or a pattern, and you want to determine a causal explanation for it, you apply the principle of uniformitarianism: apply the same kinds of causal explanations we use in everyday life to infer the best explanation for past unobserved events. If an artifact or pattern could be the result of several causes, you set up competing hypotheses based on mutually exhaustive possible explanations and choose the best one. The list of mutually exhaustive possible explanations is: necessity, chance, or design.


If you can rule out chance and necessity you can conclude the cause is design.

A meaningful pattern is improbable and rules out chance.

If you can infer a purpose it gives stronger evidence of design.


59:55
Chance

The conditions that allow for a life-permitting universe are highly improbable.


1:00:24
Necessity

The properties of the universe we observe are not logically necessary. They could have been otherwise.

M-theory explains how you could have other universes with different properties.

(There is a distinction between physical necessity and logical necessity.)


1:01:28
A meaningful pattern

The correlation of the conditions that allow for life and the fine-tuned parameter values of the universe we observe forms a meaningful pattern.


1:01:50
Summary of design argument

We can make a design argument:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to logical necessity, chance or design.

  2. It is not due to logical necessity or chance.

  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

Contents
1:02:47
What is the Anthropic Principle?

  • The Anthropic Principle is the recognition that our very existence constrains the properties of the universe we observe to be those that allow our existence. We can only observe a habitable universe!

  • It is merely a reminder that we have to take into account observer self-selection bias in interpreting our observations. Our sample of universes is necessarily biased.

  • The Anthropic Principle does not explain why there exists a universe fine-tuned for life in the first place.

1:03:30
Why can't the Anthropic Principle explain us?

Illustration:

  • Quasars were discovered to be very distant in 1963 from their large redshifts.

  • Why are they so luminous?

  • Wong answer: because if they weren't, we wouldn't be able to see them. If we see an object in the distant universe, then it must be very luminous.

  • Right answer: Quasars are powered by the gravitational energy released by matter falling into a supermassive black hole.
The anthropic principle is stating a necessary condition to make the observation. It is not explaining the cause of the observed phenomenon.
Contents
1:05:04
What about the multiverse objection?

  • If there exists a vast multiverse, the probabilistic resources available to account for our finely tuned universe by chance are increased. Then, we could appeal to the Anthropic Principle.

  • Some cosmologists try to make the case that a multiverse actually exists.

  • Chaotic eternal inflation - popular universe generator. Assume for the sake of argument.

Contents
1:10:12
Problem 1: Why such a large universe?
"... do we really need the whole observable universe, in order that sentient life can come about? This seems unlikely ... Let us be generous and ask that a region of radius one tenth of the ... observable universe must resemble the universe that we know, but we do not care about what happens outside that radius ... we can estimate how much more frequently the Creator comes across the smaller than the larger regions. The figure is no better than 1010123. You see what an incredible extravagance it was (in terms of probability) for the Creator to bother to produce this extra distant part of the universe, that we don't actually need .. for our existence."
- Roger Penrose
If we live in a multiverse generated by a process like chaotic inflation, then for every observer who observes a universe of our size there are 1010123 who observe a universe that is just 10 times smaller. That means if the universe really did arise from chaotic inflation, from just a quantum fluctuation of a vacuum, then the universe that we see beyond our region of space, say the nearest few hundred million light years, is not really there its an illusion, if you take this to the extreme ...

Contents
[Shortly after 1:05:04]
Boltzmann Brains

"One argument that the universe had a beginning is that it hasn't reached thermal equilibrium or "heat death" yet. If the universe was infinite in age, it would have reached thermal equilibrium an infinity of time ago - so that is evidence of a beginning of time. Ludwig Boltzmann in the 19th century said the whole vast universe could be at thermal equilibrium except we only observe this tiny little patch. This patch is not in thermal equilibrium just by chance ... we have reached heat death but not in this tiny little patch. The bigger the patch is, the more improbable it is so the universe is much vaster than it needs to be to account for our existence. If you just have a solar system pop out of a statistical fluctuation its much more probable than to have this big vast universe pop out of a statistical fluctuation. Then if we see this big vast universe and just our solar system popped out of a statistical fluctuation, then it must be an illusion, The stars that we see are really not there, everything beyond the solar system is an illusion, you have to believe in illusionism so it was rejected."

1:11:31

"The Boltzmann argument is relevant to the multiverse argument today."

"Taken to the extreme we can have a universe pop out of a quantum fluctuation that contains one brain. Boltzmann's brains are by far the most common observers in the multiverse given their small size. The smaller the universe the more probable it is. Its far more probable for a Boltzmann's brain to occur in a multiverse than our vast fine-tuned universe with its long history. And so you're more likely to be a free floating brain than a person with a real history living in a 13.7 billion year old universe. The world we observe then is an illusion. You're the only person who actually exists. All your memories are false. The probability of forming our universe out of a quantum fluctuation at its present state with the appearance of age is more likely than forming it with its finely tuned initial conditions and its long history and so this is called the attack of the Boltzmann brains and its a real conundrum for the multiverse advocates. They basically have to give up realism and the whole world around them is an illusion if they want to believe in multiverse because the most common observer in the multiverse is a Boltzmann's brain."

[Q&A 1:27:00]

If the multiverse theory is true then the most probable reality is that there is no fine-tuning, the universe arose as a quantum fluctuation consisting only of your brain, and everything else is an illusion. To believe in the multiverse is to believe in illusionism.

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1:12:50
Problem 2: The rejection of rationality

  • Anything that can happen, no matter how improbable, does happen countless many times in the multiverse.

  • Anything can be attributed just as readily to human design or to chance fluctuations of the quantum vacuum of the inflaton field.

  • Renders all scientific reasoning and explanations unreliable. Must believe in random miracles!

Multiverse cosmology can explain the origin of all events no matter how improbable, as long as they're not impossible, by reference to chance because of the infinite probabilistic resources it provides. Events we explain in terms of known causes based on ordinary experience are just as readily explained in multiverse cosmology as chance occurrences without any causal antecedent.

There is no way to attribute events to causal physical laws. All causes as seen to be related to effects really aren't. They're just chance fluctuations. Chance events. So you do away with the possibility of all scientific reasoning because scientific explanation and reasoning are unreliable. You must believe in random miracles. The scientific method is dead if you believe in the multiverse.


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1:14:24
The best explanation

  • Design is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.

  • From our uniform and repeated experience, objects we know are designed are always associated with minds and never otherwise.

  • Multiverse cosmologies invoke causes we have no experience with and Anthropic explanations fail on our universe. But, we do have direct experience with minds.

  • The cause of the universe is a transcendent, immaterial, timeless Mind.

"You can think of the universe as a kind of artifact and that artifact points to a designer. If you add to this the evidence for a beginning to the universe from another session, the cosmological argument, then you have a cause of the design already available to you. So if you already accept the cosmological argument there's a cause waiting in the wings to employ in explaining the design of our universe ... the fine tuning. The cause of the universe must be a designer who is transcendent, immaterial and a mind that exists in a timeless eternity and I think that is quite consonant with the Christian idea of God."


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Sunday, April 19, 2015