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Panpsychism – The Future Calls?

Toaster is in lurve

Toaster is in lurve: Cle0patra “Toaster has a new friend – Ice, they’ve been inseparable since she arrived” via Flickr

Panpsychism is the belief that all things possess consciousness. Some extend this belief to say that the type of consciousness matches the complexity of a thing’s organization.

The idea goes back to ancient times and has appeared around the globe. But it was rejected by a Church that adhered to a speculative, Aristotelian view of matter and which made a sharp distinction between organic and inorganic substances.¹

The Church’s teaching that human beings, alone, have souls complicated things, especially during times when disagreeing with or merely peeving powerful religious authoritarians could lead to ruin—that is, loss of property, torture and death.

After the Church, the philosophy of logical positivism helped to further squash panpsychism in the mid-20th century.

But it never went away.

Interest in panpsychism reemerged in academic philosophy, the New Age, science fiction and quantum physics. Also, it never really left Eastern religions, especially within Korean, Japanese and Chinese beliefs.

Image via Google Images CC

Today, with the rise of robotics, computing and artificial intelligence, a whole new vista of debate has opened up.

A contemporary panpsychist might say that an electrical circuit or machine generates a quality of consciousness in keeping with the degree of that object’s organizational complexity.

Also, the way a thing is organized could affect its consciousness. Not just the degree.

Sound nuts?

Well, let’s remember that human consciousness is demonstrably affected by our bodies and especially the electrochemical pulses coursing through the brain, nervous system and organs. So maybe the panpsychic view is not too far-fetched.

Additional critiques of panpsychism maintain that it is doubtful machines have souls, which many say is an essential component to life.

This might seem like the most compelling critique.

But can we be certain that God does not instill certain machines with souls… if not now, perhaps in the future?

St. Jerome produced a 4th-century Latin edition of the Bible, known as the Vulgate, that became the Catholic Church’s official translation – Wikipedia

Also, as our human bodies are increasingly transformed by science and technology even before conception – with in vitro fertilization – where do we draw the line between mankind and machine?

Traditional theology classes would probably not ponder these kinds of questions in a mature way.

It seems they are more geared toward generating revenue, defining intellectual boundaries and inculcating organizational obedience within a financially free clergy.²

But the questions raised by panpsychism are not going away. And soon they will have to be taken seriously.

Our future might depend on it.

¹ (a) This agrees with “Aristotle’s distinction between the mineral kingdom and the animal and vegetative kingdoms.” https://books.google.ca/books?id=KGaghraz8AUC&pg=PA526&lpg=PA526&dq=Aristotle%E2%80%99s+distinction+between+the+mineral+kingdom+and+the+animal+and+vegetative+kingdoms&source=bl&ots=o6Uhhd0oLB&sig=agRCj_3qQwuEsfs99EywODtzNac&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwirkcut4r7UAhVK44MKHQLxBaYQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=Aristotle%E2%80%99s%20distinction%20between%20the%20mineral%20kingdom%20and%20the%20animal%20and%20vegetative%20kingdoms&f=false

(b) “There is no clear or universally agreed-upon distinction between organic and inorganic compounds.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inorganic_compound

² From the perspective of depth psychology, emotionally challenged individuals often want something to cling on to. It might be hoards of money, status, or just something old and familiar. I say “financially free” because clergy who fit the bill are not burdened with financial concerns. How many working people around the world can claim that?

Related » Artificial Intelligence (AI), Strong AI Thesis, Leibniz, Spinoza


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The Q – Star Trek’s mythic gods

Q (Star Trek)

Q (Star Trek) – Photo Wikipedia

The Q is a fictional group entity in Star Trek TOS spin-offs and films. Members reside in an eternal field of space-time called the Q-continuum. Like the avatar in Hinduism, the Q appear in specific moments of space-time to apparently regulate the ebb and flow of events in the universe.

The manifestation of Q that usually appears in the Star Trek franchise is male and played by actor John de Lancie. Simply called “Q,” he conforms to the trickster archetype.

Like most mythological deities, the manifest aspect of Q uses supernatural powers to baffle, vex and test human beings to the point of distraction. And like most otherworldly pantheons, there is a faction of rebellion within the Q-continuum. The rebels are tired of being “good” and politically correct at the expense of enjoying their free will and vitality. These dissenters are prohibited and disciplined through punishment by the Q moral majority.

Here’s how I put it in my entry for Star Trek: The Next Generation, the series in which he first appears:

And then there was “Q,” played by actor John de Lancie, who was something akin to a classical Greek god in that he had powers and knowledge extending beyond our normal conception of space and time. Also like the Greek gods, he often abused these powers in childish ways and even challenged the authority of the Q Continuum (the ruling body of the Q, representing its status quo), resulting in his frequent punishment.

More recently Wikipedia notes that:

The similarity between Q and Trelane, the alien encountered in the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos“, inspired writer Peter David to establish in his 1994 novel Q-Squared that Trelane is a member of the Continuum, and that Q is his godfather.¹

Trelane - with harpsichord (under his arm...)

Trelane – via startrek.com

I’m not sure if this interpretation of Trelane (one of my favorite characters in the original Star Trek) is endorsed by those who define the Star Trek canon. But the literary device of retroactive continuity certainly has become a mainstay in the Star Trek universe.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_(Star_Trek)

Related » Dreamtime


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Romulans – Star Trek’s Nasty Vulcans from Ancient Rome

Romulan fights Andorian for Vlad

Romulan fights Andorian for Vlad by GizmoDoc via Flickr (costumers, not professional actors)

Romulans are an alien, imperial race in the original Star Trek TV show, sharing common ancestry with the Vulcans.

Instead of using their considerable intelligence for the promotion of peace, as do Vulcans, Romulans are bellicose and at perpetual war with the Federation (an interplanetary organization that includes humanity).

The Romulans are notorious for being able to “cloak” their ships with a device that renders them invisible. This makes for dramatic battle scenes similar to the contemporary naval destroyer and submarine.

The creators of the original Star Trek chose the name Romulans to resemble Romans, which subconsciously resonates with ideas of power, military intelligence and forceful acquisition.

As screenwriter Paul Schneider says:

It was a matter of developing a good Romanesque set of admirable antagonists … an extension of the Roman civilization to the point of space travel

The Romulan home world is actually two planets in the same solar system: Romulus and Remus. Again, this is a direct borrowing from Roman mythology .²

In a humorous vein, Romulan ale is a blue, illegal drink that many Federation officers mention during moments of lively banter.

A female Romulan Commander in 2268 via Memory Alpha

A female Romulan Commander in 2268 (via Memory Alpha)

In this image (immediately right) we see a Romulan Commander whom Captain Kirk seduces in order to gain freedom from captivity. When she finds out their mutual affection was a ruse on the part of Kirk, she’s hurt and he feels a bit badly.

Interspecies love is no big deal in the Star Trek universe. People with a true eye as to what sci-fi is all about tend to be less concerned about things like gender, age, sexual orientation and race.

However, some sci-fi buffs still seem to be hung up on these conventional categories. Maybe they like to fantasize about a better world but are not mature enough to put their fantasies into reality.

¹ See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulan This reminds me of an arrogant man I once knew who felt that North Americans lacked “culture.” He (somehow) physically escaped the grip of his communist country to benefit from living in our free society. But ideologically, he was still imprisoned. He had no appreciation, other than his visible excitement at the mere mention of scanners and computers, for the depth and innovation of North American culture.

² Read my notes for more: http://marker.to/anwBFm


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Religion – As diverse as peoples of the Earth?

What is religion? With so many different religions out there can we come up with a concise or, for that matter, comprehensive definition? It seems not.

In fact, there are many different definitions of religion in encyclopedias and other educational works. In the simplest sense, some writers focus on the afterlife component, others on the inspirational.

Here’s a brief (and by no means comprehensive) survey:

Religion has been defined as any belief or activity that moves the soul, activates, energizes or inspires. For example, Marxism, sciencescientism and athleticism have each been portrayed as religions. Some scholars argue that the TV show Star Trek is a religion, which adds science fiction to the list.

The Economist published an article suggesting that Google is like a religion.¹ Others maintain that religion must refer to ideas like God, gods, goddesses, spirit beings, transcendence, the miraculous, the numinous and the afterlife.

Follow the Star by Michael Clark via Flickr

follow the star by Michael Clark via Flickr

Meanwhile, some insist that religion refers to a group, not a mere individual. Western jurisprudence outlines that a religious group must exhibit some degree of organization and be legally registered for legitimacy.

Other scholars insist that religion needs scripture, rites, ritual obligations, representatives, leaders, as well as a path to transcendental – no just social – liberation or salvation.

William James, Max Weber, Rudolf Otto and several other classic religion scholars suggest, each in their own way, that religion differs from magic.² This distinction is complicated by the recent move toward being open to whatever one believes in, and seeing these diverse beliefs as “new religions.”³

Just today while driving home from Mass I happened to hear a radio talk show about the new face of religion. A representative from the United Church said:

Some believe in God, that’s great.
Some do not believe in God, that’s great.

For the person on the radio, the essence of religion was respect and kindness towards others. I have to admit, when he said not believing in God was great I quickly changed the station to some pop hits. This was more spiritual for me that listening to someone say that it was “great” to not believe in God.

My bias, admittedly. But hearing him say that felt like being dumped on. I briefly wondered if I was being narrow-minded and should switch back. But I was driving and didn’t want the voice on the radio to bring me down. So I stuck with the pop hits.

Cate Storymoon - Nothing short of everything will really do - via Flickr

Cate Storymoon – Nothing short of everything will really do – via Flickr

¹ Now a dead link, this was active for the previous update of this entry (2009/11/23) »  http://www.ipdemocracy.com/archives/001018google_as_religion.php . It seems any new thing, if it gets big enough, is described as a religion or, at least, discussed in the context of religion. Today, for instance, it’s about kids staring into their phones. But instead of being described as a religion, the Vatican actually warned in 2008 that this was bad for the soul! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/3531418/Vatican-warns-mobile-phones-are-bad-for-the-soul.html I find this silly. New technologies should be integrated with spirituality, not demonized.

² Some argue that religion and science share a distinction from magic. See:

³ Articles about religion at Earthpages.org


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Odo – Change is the name of the game

Image credit – Wikipedia

Odo is a character in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played by actor René Auberjonois. He belongs to a race called “changlings.” Basically a shapeshifter, he can assume practically any form he likes.

This idea is similar to the changlings and shapeshifters found in mythologies and folklore pretty much around the world. The idea is also found in literature. Sometimes one changes shape against their will or by surprise, as in Franz Kafka‘s Metamorphosis, other times the change comes through choice or perhaps divine intervention.¹

¹ A good list here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shapeshifting#Fiction


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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Benjamin Sisko

Benjamin Sisko – portrayed by Avery Brooks (Wikipedia)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is an American science fiction TV series and a spinoff from the original Star Trek. Almost all of the drama takes place at an outpost – a United Federation of Planets space station called Deep Space Nine (DS9) – belonging to spiritual people called the Bjorans.

DS9 is headed by Commander Benjamin Sisko (played by Avery Brooks), whose small Federation crew is influential. The outpost doesn’t travel but is located at the edge of a wormhole. So DS9 is a checkpoint for travelers before they enter the farthest reaches of space through the wormhole. Not surprisingly many different species come and go.

Avery Brooks, the actor who portrays Sisko, was a part-time university professor before becoming part of the Star Trek franchise. His mother was one of the first African-American women to receive an Masters degree in music at Northwestern University, USA.

He says he accepted the role to provide black children “who are planning their own funerals the chance to think the long thought, to believe that our people will be alive 300 years hence.”¹

Brooks has appeared in several TV shows and films. He is also a singer who recorded a cd with sax player James Spaulding as a tribute to Duke Ellington.

¹ http://www.oocities.org/area51/corridor/2721/StarTrek/trekterm.htm

Metaphor

“The Flash’s” Tony Todd is on the Short List for CBS’ “Star Trek” Revival Series

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine In 82.5 HoursI love Star Trek. I’ve…

 


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Star Trek: Voyager

Kathryn Janeway

Kathryn Janeway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Trek: Voyager is a spin off from the original Star Trek TV program in which a Federation ship, Voyager, is transported to the distant delta quadrant, far from Earth. The plot centers on the crew’s attempts to return home.

The show ran for seven seasons (1995 to 2001) and contains significant innovations from previous series (Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Next Generation), most notably the woman captain, Kathryn Janeway; the holographic doctor who gained freedom from the holodeck by obtaining a mobile emitter from his future; and Seven of Nine.

Originally a human girl (Annika Hansen), Seven of Nine was transformed into a semi-cybernetic entity when assimilated by the Borg in her childhood. Seven’s humanity is restored when Commander Chakotay stimulates her human memories through a technologically assisted mind-link.

Actress Kate Mulgrew (Left) Stars As (Captain Kathryn Janeway) And Susanna Thompson Stars As (The Borg Queen) In United Paramount Network’s Sci-Fi Television Series ‘Star Trek: Voyager.’ Episode: ‘Unimatrix Zero, Part Two.’

Although Janeway is fully human, the doctor and Seven each try to learn what it’s like to be human through different means. The doctor receives new programming giving him more spatial freedom or, alternately, which allows him to feel human emotion. Seven learns about her human roots through trial and error and is rewired to feel emotion without the usual Borg constraints. This makes for interesting viewing. We learn afresh what it means to be human, vulnerable, and to take risks.

Janeway’s import lies in her character, played by actor Kate Mulgrew. A strong captain, she has moments of doubt where she relies on the counsel of her male Commander Chakotay. When the show first aired, the time was ripe for this inversion of traditional sex-role stereotypes.

Deutsch: Titel der Sci-Fi Serie Star Trek:Raum...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not unlike William Shatner (who plays Captain Kirk in the original series), Mulgrew’s acting is a little wooden here and there. What’s different, however, is that wooden acting was more common on TV in the 1960s than the 1990s. So this might have been one factor preventing Voyager from becoming a full-fledged pop phenomenon like The Original Series and The Next Generation.

By the time the Voyager makes it home, however, Mulgrew puts in a solid performance as her older self who travels back in time to ensure the safety of her crew as they jump through a Borg infested wormhole. In fact, I felt she played her older self far more convincingly than her present self.¹

¹ For some years there were rumors that Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan were at odds on the set. These have recently been confirmed. Apparently Ryan would feel nauseous just thinking about having to do a scene with Mulgrew. See http://trekcore.com/blog/2014/11/ryan-mulgrew-feud/ This is surprising because Janeway often plays a concerned “mother” figure to Seven, and does so quite well.