THE NEWSLETTER FOR DANGEROUS THINKERS
(Issue 1 January 2001)
Welcome to the first edition of Genius News, a monthly newsletter based on the world's most
intelligent email forum: Genius-L. Genius-L is a discussion
list that is passionately dedicated to the nature of genius,
wisdom and Ultimate Reality and to the total annihilation
of false values. It is an unconventional discussion
list suitable only for the bravehearted. It is for
those who like their thoughts bloodied and dangerous.
It isn't a list for women.
In Issue 1 we throw ourselves off the safe platform of "formal logic" into the realm of infinite reason. We examine the nature of the Infinite itself and compare it to the more mundane conceptions of mathematical infinity. We look at the question of whether causality remains valid as a concept in the quantum realm and whether sanity has disappeared from standard quantum interpretations. We analyze the question of whether machines and man share the same basic nature. Also, we examine the nature of suffering and ask whether people actually derive benefit from their pain and therefore choose to continue suffering. And, as with each edition, we do our best to expose the endless banalities of conventional thought.
Good luck, and happy hunting! May you become more deadly with every passing day.
The button will return you to this contents table from each section.
Dialogue: "LOOKING INTO THE INFINITE..."
For any individual with spiritual aspirations, the concept of the Infinite is of paramount importance. It is not just some technical, mathematical conundrum, a mere plaything for set theorists, but a concept that speaks to the very essence of Reality. To delve into the abyss of the Infinite is to risk losing oneself - literally. This is probably why so many resist it, why they insist on limiting the Infinite to some necessarily finite number sequence or set of conditions, rather than trying to comprehend the complete unboundedness to which the concept actually refers. This difference in perspective is played out nicely in the following dialogue:
Dan: There is a difference between empirical problems and problems of logic. No amount of empirical observation, for example, can hope to inform a question such as the finitude or infinitude of the Universe.
Thomas: ... as no amount of pondering and logic can.
Dan: I disagree. I know with certainty that Reality is infinite in nature. But one has to be thinking of this in the correct manner: the infinitude of reality is proven by the necessary relativity of all things.
Normally we think of infinitude in terms of some kind of linear concept - number sequences etc. But whilst a number sequence may have no beginning or end - as a sequence - it is certainly not infinite in nature. To me, "infinite" means "not finite" or "unbounded". Clearly, a number sequence is not "Reality".
Thomas: Unbounded in what regard? Physically? Noumenally? Phenomenally?
Dan: In every regard, yet, in only one regard. The Infinite is only infinite in one regard, which is its own.
Thomas: Self-identity? As semantics fade, the above statement begins to sound like a Zen koan.
Dan: I think it's much more straight forward than that.
Thomas: You said that "Reality is infinite in nature." I hold against this that reality is finite in nature, because everything that exists is finite, and that infinity is an idea that exists only in our minds.
Dan: It's not possible for existence/reality to be finite. Any "thing" necessarily has boundaries; a thing is only what it is one the basis that it is not something else. If you assert some thing to exist (e.g. universe, reality, etc) you can only do so because it is perceived relative to what it is not. That which exists cannot, therefore, be the totality. Reality is a bit like a multi-dimensional fractal.
Thomas: Infinity is a mathematical concept. It does not have a phenomenal counterpart.
Dan: Well, I reckon Infinity is a
phenomenal concept! And it doesn't have a mathematical
Dan: Things necessarily exist relative to what they are not. Reality cannot, therefore, be finite - there is no final boundary possible. If you're unsure about the veracity of the assertion that things necessarily exist relative to what they are not, think about how it is that any thing can, in fact, be said to be what it is.
Thomas: Of course, they do in logical terms. Or do you appeal to another dimension of thought?
Dan: No, just logic and experience.
Thomas: I thought so. Then I wonder whether the above statement is revelatory or logical in nature? Both? Neither?
Dan: I'm not entirely sure what you intend by the term "revelatory". I guess all understandings are revelatory in the sense that something is revealed. One's understanding of existence is a revelation that occurs at the end of a logical process.
I would happily say that an understanding of the infinite nature of reality is something revealed to us by God. But in saying that, I am doing no more than stating the obvious fact that all things are products of Nature.
Thomas: Is infinity in your understanding, then, a divine manifestation or a logical conclusion?
Dan: A logical conclusion is a divine manifestation (i.e. something caused by Nature)!
From The Twilight Zone....
"Relativity means the end of causality."
Does God Really Play Dice? - The debate continues......
by David Quinn
"Eliminating the concept of hidden realities seems like a reasonable response from the quantum physicist given that the system can be, and is, examined in excruciating detail - but things nonetheless happen without apparent cause." - Al Young, paraphrased from a post to Genius-l, 9/12/2000.
It is often said that causality
doesn't operate in the quantum realm like it does in the large-scale
everyday world. Particles (e.g. electron-positron pairs) are
said to pop into existence without any cause at all. Like magic.
"We can prove it", says the quantum physicist. "It
has been done numerous times all over the world. Whenever we set
up the proper experimental conditions, these uncaused particles
always arise on cue. It is an observed fact."
The thinking behind this conclusion is, of course, completely absurd. And yet, strangely, quantum physicists seem to have no trouble accepting it as a plausible hypothesis. It doesn't appear to disturb them in the least.
They point to the coherency of the mathematics underlying quantum theory. They inform us of its effectiveness in making predictions in the subatomic realm. They point to the technology that the theory has generated - TVs, computers, lazer technology, etc. Implicit in all of this is the assumption that none of this would be possible if the theory had no sound philosophical basis to it. But that isn't necessarily true.
A theory doesn't have to be philosophically grounded in reality for it to be an effective scientific theory. It is possible for it to contain serious metaphysical flaws and yet do a sound job in predicting empirical phenomena. The ancient astronomers, for example, used to believe that the sun and the stars revolved around the earth as part of their anthropocentric philosophy and yet they were still able to make accurate predictions concerning the movements of stars. Even though their vision was radically flawed they nevertheless managed to make signficant advances in their field.
There are many other similar examples. Big Bang cosmology was created out of the fiction that the Universe (i.e. utterly everything) had a beginning. Classical physics arose out of the fiction that Nature was a giant, clock-like machine that had been wound up and set in motion by a creator God. Advances in neurology and neuropsychology have been made on the assumption that the brain is essentially a computer, and so on. It happens all the time. Science thrives on philosophical lies.
This is particularly true of quantum physics, which currently steeps itself in the fiction that subatomic particles arise uncaused. Obviously, the adoption of such a fiction simplifies things for the quantum physicist and helps make his mathematics run more smoothly, but it is still a fiction nonetheless. It still brings the physicist into self-contradiction and philosophical delusion.
The crux of the whole issue is as follows: If you assert that a certain class of things, such as subatomic particles, are constantly arising uncaused, then you are, in effect, asserting that coincidences of mind-boggling, stupendous proportions are constantly occurring within the Universe. The two inherently go together. To assert acausality into the fabric of Reality is to is to assert that some things, at least, happen by unbelievable coincidence.
To illustrate this point more clearly, let us consider the everyday act of turning on a light switch and observing light flooding a darkened room. As we all know, the appearance of the light is due to the many causal processes that are initiated when the switch is turned on. A circuit is closed, allowing an electric charge to flow through the connecting wires, which then causes the filament within the lightbulb to become charged, and so on. This is why, barring unforseen or unusual circumstances, whenever we turn on the switch, light always appears an instant later. It never appears by itself, for example, with the switch remaining off. Or it never appears tens seconds before the switch is turn on. Quite the contrary, the same ordered process always seems to occur, without fail, until the components break down in some way.
Now suppose, for the sake of argument, that scientists were to assert that light from a bulb arises without any cause at all. This may sound absurd, but it's essentially no different to asserting that electron-positron pairs arise uncaused. You would think the fact that light only seems to appear whenever the switch is turned on would automatically present a major problem to the scientists. If light really does arise uncaused, it could reasonably be asked, then why does it always appear the instant after the switch is activated? Why does it not appear at other times, or in other kinds of circumstances? Wouldn't the fact that it always appears in the instant after the switch is turned on constitute a most amazing coincidence? No doubt it would.
We could perhaps accept such a thing happening once or twice in a lifetime and put it down to ordinary coincidence. But if it happened time and time again, without fail, in the same ordered way, then clearly we would be looking at something which is far beyond the realm of coincidence. It would indicate without any shadow of a doubt that the hypothesis that light arises from a bulb uncaused is seriously flawed.
To grasp the scale of the coincidence that we are looking at here, imagine an infinitely large barrel that contains an infinite number of lottery balls. Imagine, also, that this infinitely large barrel somehow gets spun each week and six numbers are drawn out of it. Lastly, imagine that the same six numbers are pulled out each time. Such an occurance would be truly amazing, to say the least. Even if it just happened just twice in a row, it would be incredibly amazing - let alone three or four or five zillion times. And yet this is precisely the sort of mind-boggling coincidence that quantum physicists are asking us to believe is happening within the quantum realm all the time. Electron-positron pairs are always popping up exactly where we expect them to.
I realize that the subatomic realm is a very mysterious place, with some pretty strange things going on. But clearly, acausality is not of one of them. It's time that the quantum physicists stop leading us up the garden path and accept that, on a fundamental level, Einstein was right all along.
Dialogue: "CAN MACHINES HAVE SOULS?"
Through the centuries there has been many a fierce debate over the question of the rudiments of human nature. Proponents of the theory of the freedom of will abound, and, yet, the situation seems patently clear: everything we are is determined by causes, just as it is in any machine. Nevertheless, there are still those who hold that there is some aspect of our nature that is unlike any machine, that is essentially non-mechanistic. Almost without exception these arguments are insubstantial and represent a desperate attempt by our egos to salvage themselves from the wreckage of our ideas, wrought by the application of reason. In the following exchange, however, a determined, vigorous and interesting case is made for the non-mechanical dimension of the human being:
Marsha: I am not a machine. I am a human being.
A machine does not have will. A machine has no power of
determination at all.
David: In the future, we will probably be able to program machines with determination and will.
Marsha: Then, they will be machines that are programmed with determination and will. They will not be human beings.
David: And they'll probably thank the good Lord that they're not!
Marsha: They will thank Microsoft or Intel or Mattel or whoever processes and manufactures them, the good Lord notwithstanding.
David: I consider myself to be a machine in the sense that I am made of parts and everything I do is the result of causal processes. I also consider my "soul" to be a machine as well - for the same reasons.
But just because I am a machine, it doesn't mean that I cannot experience the highest that life has to offer. There is no law of nature which states that machines are forever condemned to remain ignorant. To conclude this would involve a false step of logic.
Marsha: I consider the human being as above the level of a machine. Machines do not suffer. Machines do not want or need; neither do they think; neither can they prevail; neither can they conquer; neither can they thwart or oppose.
If, in the future, there are machines developed that can suffer, then, we will have trouble discerning machines from human beings. It will become difficult to unplug a machine that is begging for its life. Of course, if by then, the human race has been completely replaced by machines, unplugging will probably not be a big deal.
David: Maybe. Perhaps the machines will become a lot more more intelligent and wiser than ourselves and will start to plan ways of "unplugging" ourselves. They might come to think that we are a hindrance to their purposes in life, just as we nowadays consider a faulty computer to be a hindrance to our own aims.
Marsha: I recognize causal processes but, since these causes are beyond finite knowledge, I do not consider my "soul" to be a machine. One can trace back the human being to the trilobite and to paramecia and still not find the exact cause of life; because the cause of life is beyond the material. Therefore, my "soul" is beyond the material. I am the product of my genetic lineage only to a point; only to the point that it can be explained. After that, is the unknown and I consider that I belong to that. Ultimately, the being that lives inside my body cannot be fully explained. Machines can be explained. Therefore, I am not a machine.
David: I don't see any difference. Like humans, a machine is a product of innumerable causes, some of which we know about and others we don't. We might know a bit about the chips and wires that we design, but we don't have 100% knowledge of the metals and chemicals that are used to build these component parts, nor about the ancient environmental conditions that created these compounds to begin with, nor about the cosmological processes which created the earth and the solar system, and so on. In other words, a machine is essentially as mysterious as a human. In both cases, their causes stretch back and become lost in the unknowable past.
Marsha: The difference is that, despite the fact that we may not have full knowledge of all the materials when we manufacture a machine, it is still an item that has been manufactured by man. It is devoid of spirit. It is not imbued with a "soul." A "soul" is the peculiar gift of humans. Many of us deliberately ignore this. Many of us are heartless and greedy; without either passion or compassion; without conscience; but the "soul" is there nevertheless and it will be reckoned with before one dies. I define a machine as a thing which is constructed or programmed by man. Human beings are not constructed nor programmed by men. They are separate.
David: What about when genetic technology reaches the point where we can begin to design our own children? This isn't too far away, you know. We'll soon be able to select our children's hair and eye colour, their height, the size of their nose, their personality traits, their level of intelligence, and so on. When this happens, will it mean that our children have become machines?
Marsha: No, the selection of hair color and eye color and other traits does not make the child a machine. I think that such selection is a fine thing if it is done by individuals according to their preferences. A lot of people would want a child of average intelligence rather than one with a brilliant IQ. Plus, even if the technology is available to choose these things, a lot of people will prefer to take pot luck. Women often select a mate based on the kind of children she thinks he will produce. I did and I got -- give or take a few little ingredients -- what I wanted.
There is no law of nature that states that human beings are machines. There is no law of nature that states that human beings are anything. If humans are machines, it is because they have defined themselves as such. I reject the definition. I do not have to be a machine. I am not controlled. It would be a false step of logic to conclude that human beings are machines. Such a step would imply complicity and subservience to The Machine.
David: Well, we're always being controlled - by our causes. We are already part of God the Machine. It's inescapable. Accept it.
Marsha: I absolutely accept that. But I am not a machine. I rail against it, with all my strength, every day of my life. With every ounce of will and determination I have -- not yet extricated or duplicated by androids -- I refuse to serve God, The Machine. When I say, God the Machine, I am not speaking of an infinite God nor of Nature or the Universe or whatever it may be called. I am speaking of man's specific want for self annihilation. As much as is possible for me to do so, I resist the controls that are placed on me by society -- the Machine. I accept that I am the product of causes and that such causes are inescapable. I am not a machine.
David: What you are really speaking against, then, isn't the idea that you are a machine, but the ever-present threat of soullessness. That certainly isn't a lost cause, I agree.
Genius-L at a glance....
If a person possessed absolute clarity of thought, they would also by necessity be absolutely clear about the fact that they possessed absolute clarity of thought (i.e. they would have no doubt of it). If they were not sure whether or not they possessed absolute clarity of thought, their clarity of thought would, by definition, not be absolute.
I agree it is possible for a person to believe they possess absolute clarity of thought & be mistaken about it. That's why it's useless to accept anyone's claims of having absolute clarity of thought since it's impossible from the outside to tell the difference between the real state & the deluded state. In fact, the only person who could tell for sure who possessed absolute clarity of thought & who didn't is a person who possessed absolute clarity of thought. I am not such a person.
On the question of whether or not it's possible for a person to have absolute clarity of thought: I don't know. And I will never know for sure unless I attain absolute clarity of thought myself. Shardrol
Suffering is more forgivable than boredom. David Hodges
When a philosopher (a real one, that is) refers to the Infinite, he is including everything - the ALL. So nothing can "contain" this Infinite, there's nothing other than it. Leo Bartoli
There's a difference between being unable to fit in and choosing to not fit in, which eventually creates an inability if the person is honest. Jane
It's important to realize that, as far as the philosophy of the Infinite is concerned, the wheel has to be reinvented in each generation. It's not like science, where lots of people can contribute to a collective pool of knowledge and there is discernable progress from generation to generation. Quite the reverse - in philosophy, every individual has to start from scratch. And for each individual who embarks upon the philosophic path, it's as though he is the first one who has embarked upon it in all of history. Such is the transcendant nature of the path to realization. David Quinn
The trap of nihilism is to mistake the lack of inherent meaning for a negation of the possibility of meaning. Shardrol
My definition of Ultimate Reality is - that which is timeless, permanent, unchanging, absolute in nature, everywhere and everywhen, the foundation and root explanation of all things. As far as I'm concerned, whatever possesses all of these characteristics constitutes Ultimate Reality. David Quinn
I think individualism is simply a true representation of human nature. Everyone is an individual, and ultimately everyone always ranks their own ideas and decisions as superior to others. That is simply the way humans work. Even when someone decides to be humble (non-superior), they are still deciding that being humble is superior than being anything else. Jason
Thinking is creation. It is
a way of life. Thinking is the getting beyond supposition;
acceptance. It is challenge. It is always the next
step and not the step that has just been taken. Thought is genius.
It is the next level up; not indicative of trend. Yet, the "unusual"
is not, by necessity, thought. What is not usual is, often
-- upon careful inspection -- usual.
Genius of thought is voice. One either hears and delivers it or one does not. Genius is a force. It is a part of nature. Thought is not machination. It is a thing nearly freeborn; a thing stemmed from causes that cannot be easily explained. The brain may be the organ of thought but it is not the origin of thought. The origin of thought is primordial; in the blood; mammalian; reptilian; discorporate. The beginning of thought is genius. It is separation of man from animus. Marsha Faizi
I don't really see how any remotely masculine man could tolerate a full-on relationship with a woman, let alone marriage. The independence and self-determination that one has to forego in such circumstances is quite considerable. In any relationship, men struggle in variously subtle and not-so-subtle ways to maintain some semblance of that independent life which they know to be their true nature. But, love blinds us to this reality, which is testimony to the power of the evolutionary forces in us. It's different for each individual, of course, but when you weigh up what you've gained against what you've lost, I don't see how any man could, to the extent that he is a man, judge in favour of the former. But this is part of the cunning of Woman - she strips you of your manhood without you even realising she's doing it. Your sense of independence and self-determination and individuality eventually become things about which you grow to be somewhat ashamed, to which you develop a sort of negative relationship (unless she's deriving benefit from it). When that has happened to a man, he becomes what is known as "happily wed" - or, as I put it - "happily dead". Dan Rowden
View From A Misogynist:
Q: Where are the men, who as Nietzsche stated, can find and tame a good woman?
A: Or more to the point, where are the men who can find a good woman and set her free? Indeed, where are the good women? For that matter, where are the good men?
Dialogue: "IS IT IGNORANT TO SUFFER?"
Suffering may well be a universal human experience, but our understanding of its true nature most certainly isn't. Theories abound. The idea that people suffer because they simply don't know any better is a comforting and popular one, but experience suggests something else is at work in human behaviour. It is obvious that people resist any critical examination of the nature of their beliefs as well as the possible source of their suffering. If people did not tend to choose belief over knowledge, either consciously or unconsciously, this would not be so - they would gladly leap at the chance to end their suffering through understanding. But this rarely occurs. Perhaps people are just ignorant of their ignorance? In this conversation, two rather different viewpoints are offered regarding the nature of suffering and the role of ignorance in its creation:
Thomas: The root cause of suffering is ignorance (out of which
grow delusion, hatred, and greed). There are no exceptions.
David H.: I maintain that suffering is caused by people wanting to suffer. The idea that suffering is caused by ignorance implies that there is certain knowledge that will stop suffering, and that people would apply that knowledge if they could.
Thomas: That is correct. The former idea implies that
there is a certain knowledge that ends suffering. -- This
knowledge exists; it was formulated by the Buddha. You have
probably heard of it in one or another form.
David H.: Well, if that is true, then people should be looking around for ways to stop their suffering. If such knowledge is offered to them, they should accept it gladly and apply it. On the other hand, if people want to suffer, they would ignore such information if it was offered. They would construct false models and false information to keep themselves deluded; to feel that they were doing something, while not actually ending suffering.
I maintain that this is more what you see in the world. Steps are taken with lip service to ending suffering, but they are generally ineffective - because they are not meant to be effective. To pick a random example, Christian Science teaches its followers that the way to heal disease is not through medicine, but through prayer. It's obvious (to me) that disease is not healed through prayer. This in not a matter of ignorance, but of people making up an excuse to suffer more. It's not that these people are deluded, except in the sense that they have deliberately deluded themselves. Ending the ignorance (this particular delusion) will not end their suffering - they will just find another way. The root cause is the desire to suffer.
Explaining to a Christian Science that his beliefs are the purest bullshit will not make him grateful. He will resent it greatly. You have destroyed a delusion, and now he will have to go through the effort to find or construct another.
Thomas: I think that you are missing something. You said "people should be looking for knowledge to end their suffering. Yes, they "should", but the question is: how can they? Obviously, if they are not even in the position to realize their own situation, they cannot ask that question. They would not be inclined to gladly accept such knowledge, because they wouldn't understand its use. Ignorance is in the way. People choose suffering because they don't know any better. They look for fleeting pleasures and temporary relief, or anything that gives them a buzz. They, too, create false models and ideals, but the latter is largely due to immoral leadership that exploits people's ignorance. Masochism may be common, but this does not change the fact that the desire to inflict pain upon oneself is pathogenic. It is a psychological disorder.
David H.: Almost everyone is insane.
Thomas: I disagree. The nature of human beings is such that everyone is completely sane underneath. This is to say that in principle human beings have a Buddha nature, or if you want, a God-like nature. The greatest lot of people, however, is afflicted by diseases, or better by ignorance, greed, and hatred. It is disheartening to see! Their karmic conditioning may not allow them to be cured in this lifetime; but in the long run, ignorance, greed, and hatred can be subdued.
Actually what you say
about the cause of suffering is deeper than it sounds at first.
Hardly anyone would disagree with the observation that people
generally seek pleasure and gratification. Yet, craving for
pleasure and gratification brings suffering, so, it appears that
when people desire pleasure, they also desire suffering.
The two are just flip sides of the same coin. However, most
people are not aware of this, and hence, are not equipped to
break free from the circle of pleasure and suffering.
The problem with delusion is that only oneself can lift the veil; nobody else can do it for oneself, except perhaps in the sense of giving assistance. Thus, if the deluded person, whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu is not ready to break through, you cannot make him/her break through. All you can do is try to facilitate the process.
H.: There are none so blind
as those who have plucked out their own eyes so they won't have
to see anything. I understand what you are saying about
ignorance - I just don't think it's the whole story.
We have immoral leadership because that is what people want. What happened when Bill Clinton was exposed as a liar, an adulterer, etc.? His approval rating went up. Is that an exploited populace? Have they been fooled? Do they not know any better? They don't want better! Are you aware of, say, Scientology? Do you think people who believe that stuff are just honestly mistaken? No, it would take a large act of will to swallow a bunch of bullshit that stinky.
If leaders "exploit" that, it is in the same sense that restaurants "exploit" the fact that people get hungry; they are just giving them what they want. If you have deluded yourself, the root cause is not the delusion, but the desire to delude yourself. The ignorance is deliberate, something the mind has constructed for itself in order to allow more suffering. Stripping away the delusion is secondary. People also seek suffering for the sake of suffering, not as a side effect of seeking pleasure. I disagree with your position that this is secondary, just a side effect of people seeking pleasure and screwing it up.
People like to suffer because that is what they feel they deserve. They feel a need to be punished. They seek it out. It reinforces their world view, where they see themselves in it, as worthless. They are usually not consciously aware of this, but the behavior is obvious. As obvious as a prostitute seeking out a pimp who will beat her the way she needs to be beaten. As obvious as the masochist hiring a mistress to beat him. They have no desire to break free from it. Not experiencing pleasure and pain is death; it is nothing.
FROM THE GENIUS ARCHIVES....
Date: Sat, 14 Jun 1997
A story that grabbed my attention: Once a Zen master dropped his handkerchief and told his student "Try to pick it up". The disciple faithfully picked it up and gave it to the Zen master. Zen master was not at all happy. He dropped it again and said "Try to pick it up". Again the student picked it up and returned the handkerchief to Zen master. Zen master got wild this time, dropped it again and shouted "listen to me carefully, try to pick it up". The student, thinking this to be some obedience test picked it up and returned to the master. This process of dropping and picking up continued several times and it suddenly dawned on the student that this was a koan; he realized his mistake and smiled at the master. The Zen master said "there is no such thing as trying to do something, you either do it or not do it". "Remember", he added "you either become enlightened or not enlightened, you cannot try to achieve it!"
All images in this publication are taken from "The Devil's Gallery" http://www.theabsolute.net
Disclaimer: editorial opinions expressed in this publication are those of its authors and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of subscribers to Genius-L. Dialogues adapted from Genius-L and Genius Forum have been edited for the purpose of brevity and clarity. Certain spelling mistakes and typographical errors have been corrected to preserve meaning.
Copyright © 2000 - 2007 David Quinn & Dan Rowden
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