All posts by dxshaw2014

Author: The Rise and Fall of the Traditional Theories Of Creation

My experience with community building projects

My Experience with Community Building Efforts

I have spent a major part of my life on projects to create community. My most successful project was in Mount Vernon Virginia where I lived a walking distance from the supervisor’s office. Supervisor Hyland announced a special community gathering to obtain input on whatever was on the mind of residents. This was a very unusual opportunity. Citizens were offered three minutes to present their views. I enrolled.

I spent the four weeks preceding the event preparing my case. Our area had several notable organizations: an organization that dealt with poverty, a chamber of commerce, a historical organization, an athletic league. I wanted to see a community newspaper that could present the views of all parts of our community. I also wanted to see a community umbrella organization where citizens could plan community events and identify other issues that could lead to a stronger community.

When the time came, I was ready. The event was held at Mount Vernon High School. About 100 citizens were in attendance. About 20 citizens had enrolled to present their views. I can remember how I concluded my presentation. I said, “All I want is a newspaper and an umbrella.” The response was a standing ovation.

I thought that surely someone would come forward to implement this program. After six months had passed without anyone offering to take up any part of my vision, I became aware that I had succeeded in formulating my own agenda.

The Newspaper

The newspaper was the easier of the two objectives to get started. I identified Record Printing Company in Silver Spring as my printer. I had two persons who had agreed to distribute the paper. I had a name for the paper, The Mount Vernon-Lee Vantage Monthly. I had a major information source, the Mount Vernon Civic Federation which met monthly. Since I was president of my civic association I attended every month.

I started the newspaper in September of 1988. At the start, I had no other writers. Later, architect and Lee District planing appointee Jack Kelso and Mount Vernon District Education appointee Kristine Amundson wrote monthly articles. A highlight was the resurrection of civic life in Hollin Hall, a large neighborhood in the center of Mount Vernon district. The newspaper continued until September 1999.

The Umbrella Organization

The umbrella organization was a greater challenge.  After searching for an idea of how to launch a large organization without success, I learned about Lorton’s plan to host a Fourth of July parade. Mount Vernon had never held such an event.

I sent letters to about 40 community leaders asking for cosponsors for a Mount Vernon Fourth of July parade. About 20 responded affirmatively. In my flyer listing the cosponsors, I announced the coming event. I also asked for volunteers. I thought the volunteers might be interested in becoming the board members of the Mount Vernon Community Coalition. The newspaper served well in announcing this event. The event was held at the Whitman Middle School athletic field.

The two high schools of the Mount Vernon District provided bands to march in the parade. The General from Fort Belvoir attended and was on the speaker’s list. Community associations occupied vending booths around the large field. There were pony rides for the children.

From the stage, after the last speaker, I read the preamble to the Declaration of Independence and concluded with this question to attendees, And now Mount Vernon how do we stand? Are we in support of this declaration, what say you? The response from the 50 attendees was a strong affirmative roar.

How did the umbrella organization result from the Fourth of July event? My hunch proved right. Many of the volunteers at this event were eager to participate in the Mount Vernon Community Coalition. The coalition also gained the membership of 60 local organizations.

After two years, I moved to Franconia a community neighboring Mount Vernon. Franconia is at the heart of the Lee District. I was close enough to Mount Vernon to continue with the coalition.

Mount Vernon, as a civic area, is the best I have found in my lifetime. The Mount Vernon Council has a paid membership of about 50 civic organizations. The president or a representative of each organization attends the monthly meetings. The council has eight committees. Each committee gives a report. The Mount Vernon Supervisor does not speak until the end of the meeting when he or she gives a report. The website for the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens’ Associations is MVCCA.org.

Where is the Mount Vernon umbrella organization today? It is dust. It lasted four years. I moved to the Lee District. Jack Knowles was a New England phenomenon. He was chairman of the education committee of the Mt Vernon Council. He was president of his small Home Owner Association. He took over the annual civic dinner, that I started. He was civic perfection until he died.

My limitation as a community builder is that I conceive great ideas and implement them but I fail to stick with them through the long haul. What do I draw from this experience? I draw that it is very difficult for an individual or a small group to create an institution. What they create is very fragile and likely to fail. This is held up by all the other community building projects I have participated in. There are no lasting results that I can identify.

     This is why I have been impressed by municipal corporations and homeowner associations. They have a much greater permanence. They have the power of taxation. The larger ones at least can pay the salaries of elected officials. The residents have a bounded area for organizing interest groups and a help group for assisting those in critical need. They have elected officials whom they can question or to whom they can direct suggestions and proposals.

David C Shaw

What is your view?

My view of morowitz’s book

My View of Morowitz’s Book

I am deeply impressed with Morowitz’s book. He is a biologist as a specialist. He had to become a physicist, astrophysicist, geophysicist, paleontologist, chemist, historian, psychologist, philosopher, and theologian to write this book. He has expanded my horizons. He has given me a study agenda that includes complexity theory, and a review of philosophy, especially Spinoza. His emergences have provided a much clearer affirmation of the long process of creation.

Another contribution of Morowitz is his theology. He defines the immanence of God as the laws of science. The transience of God is humanity’s efforts in shaping the future. Thank you, Harold Morowitz.

I have some doubts that do not lead me to withdraw my positive view of Morowitz. He states that Teilhard has a more teleological view of a new and final state, the omega point.  He says, “At this point, I neither understand nor follow him.” However, he seems to accept Teilhard’s vision of a spiritual final state. I must say at this point, I neither understand nor follow Morowitz.

Morowitz has an agenda of holding a dialog with theologians of the traditional religions. This is an admirable commitment, but it should not be an exclusive commitment. Morowitz has devoted the last several chapters of his book to the objective of this dialog.

Among his publications is Cosmic Joy and Local Pain: Musing of a Mystical Scientist, 1987. Throughout the presentation of the 28 emergences, he was a scientist, but when he addressed the next emergence he became a mystic.

A Review of Harold Morowitz’s book

The study of emergences is an alternative to reductionism, the reduction of problems to their elements. An emergence is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Harold Morowitz is a master in the study of emergences. He died in 2016, but he left us a great book, The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex.

He identifies 28 emergences from the big bang to spirit. Each emergence is something new in the universe and provides a foundation for the next emergence. With each emergence, he provides a list of books by authors who have the deepest insights into that emergence.
The Table of Contents provides a map of the book.

Contents
The Emergence of Emergence
Ideas of Emergence
The Twenty-Eight Steps
The First Emergence: The Primordium
    Why Is There Something Rather Than
    Nothing?
The Second Step: Making a Nonuniform
    Universe
The Emergence of Stars
The Periodic Table
Planetary Accretion: The Solar System
Planetary Structure
The Geospheres
The Emergence of Metabolism
Cells
Cells with Organelles
Multicellularity
The Neuron
Animalness
Chordateness
Vertebrates
Crossing the Geospheres:
    From Fish to Amphibians
Reptiles Mammals
The Niche
Arboreal Mammals
Primates
The Great Apes
Hominization and Competitive
    Exclusion in Hominids
Tool-making
Language
Agriculture
Technology and Urbanization
Philosophy
The Spirit
Analyzing Emergence
Athens and Jerusalem
Science and Religion
The Task Ahead

When the author begins chapter 32 The Spirit, he introduces and follows Teilhard de Chardin up to a point. At the time Teilhard wrote, he introduced a new term noosphere. Morowitz’s interpretation of this term was that the term was actualized by the World Wide Web. He states that we are all part of the noosphere.  He says, “in this chapter, we focus on what to expect as the next emergence beyond the noosphere. It is the move from the mind to something more spiritual.” He confesses that he never realized how difficult it would be. The other emergences were in the past, while now he was trying to see the future.

He reviews several possibilities without favoring any. He states that Teilhard has a more teleological view of a new and final state, the omega point.  He says, “At this point, I neither understand nor follow him.” At the end of this chapter, Morowitz lists two books, Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, 1959 and Hans Moravec, Robot, Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind, 1999.

Chapter 33, Analyzing Emergences. The first is the greatest surprise of all. There is something rather than nothing. The second emergence says, not only is there something, it is structured. The universe is now made of many kinds of entities not previously present. Complexity has increased. Stars are the next emergence.  The next emergence occurs when parts of the nonuniform universe cool enough for nuclei and electrons to come together. This is the periodic table. The next emergence is planetary accretion – the solar system. The last of the astrophysical and geophysical emergences is the organization of the surface of the Earth into the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The chemical organization of the planet includes massive amounts of water, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the hydrosphere, carbon in the lithosphere occurs as calcium carbonate. The first seven emergences are studied by cosmology, high-energy physics, astrophysics, geophysics, and geochemistry.

At this stage, a set of organic molecules emerges and the method of complexification changes to making information-rich polymers from a restricted set of monomers. Procaryotic cells emerge in the transition from chemistry to biology. Mutation in the genome led to a new kind of complexification, a world of microorganisms with distinguishable features. Speciation entered the unfolding of the Earth’s history. The next emergence is that of the eukaryotes, the combining of features that different species had succeeded in evolving individually. Multicellularity is the next emergence. Successful multicellularity demands morphogenesis. This requires a language of types of sticky spots, rules of sticky-spot interaction, and differentiation of cells by function to put the right function in the right place in the organism. This is the morphogenetic code, analogous to the genetic code.

The neuron is selected as an example of the kind of emergence by cell type. The neuron emergence is important because it is on the main pathway to the ultimate emergence of the brain, mind, and higher cognitive function. The next series of emergences leading to the group of chordates, vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, arboreal mammals, and primates are the classical Darwinian domain. It is here that emergence theory and evolution operate in the same arena. The agents are genes and gene clusters, but unlike the earlier agents, these get their meaning through an elaborate series of operations. The whole hierarchical problem puts a large gulf between genes and organisms. In part, the appearance of novelty lies in the ill-understood intermediate steps. A description of a checkers-playing program that over time defeated the program designer illustrates this problem.

The series of emergences following the great apes includes a shift to learned information between the generations and between individuals having a larger role. The pace speeds up, language, writing, printing, and computers. In the beginning, there was a small group, but now it extends to the global population.

At the level of agriculture, control of the environment by a single species emerges. With urbanization, affairs are moved up one level and the state emerges. Emergence has moved from protons to philosophers, a closing of the loop.

The next emergence candidates are on the horizon. Morowitz sees two contenders. One is robotics, silicon takes over from carbon. See Hans Moravec’s Robot. The other is Teilhard de Chardin and the emergence of spirit.

In chapter 34, Athens and Jerusalem, Morowitz reviews the history of theology, natural and supernatural. This chapter is remarkable in documenting 2,500 years showing little progress in reconciling Aristotelian, Jewish, Christian, and Moslem views of God. Thomas Aquinas successfully reconciling Aristotle with Catholic teachings is an exception.

“It is our contention that the concept of emergence that has come out of complexity theory in just the last 30 years had much to say about dialog that has been proceeding for 300 years before the birth of Jesus. We will try to place it in context.” He ends the chapter by saying, “I suggest that we are now in an era that is ready for a dialog between faith and reason.

Chapter 35, Science and Religion

“The first break between science and religion covers the period shown in Table 9”

Table 9: Scientists in the controversy with religion
Nicolaus Copernicus    1473-1543
Giordano Bruno           1548-1600
Johannes Kepler         1571-1630
Galileo Galilei              1564-1642
Rene Descartes          1596-1650
Benedict Spinoza        1632-1677

“Copernican astronomy placed the sun at the center of the universe in disagreement with the biblical view, which had the Earth at the center.” “The Church tried to suppress these ideas through the execution of Bruno and the house imprisonment of Galileo.”

“With Spinoza’s essay ‘On Miracles’ the argument was fully engaged. Spinoza identified God with the laws of nature and then argued that miracles are violations of the laws of nature. This left God violating his own laws, which Spinoza found impossible.”

“I argue that the understanding of emergence is not only vital to understanding science, but it is also crucial to natural theology in the ongoing effort to seek the relation of the created to the creator.”

“We homo sapiens are the mode of action of divine transcendence.” … “Among the emergences was mind, with the possibility of understanding the universe and the ability to respond in a nonprogrammed way to the multiple emergences that led to some degree of volition and free will. Once this happens, we are partners of the immanent God in directing the further unfolding of local events in time.” … “The immanent God is knowable to us through our science, and the transcendent God is knowable to us through our actions. It is not the God of our ancient and revered faiths, but the world has changed, and we must change our thinking.”

Chapter 36, The Task Ahead

“Transcendence for traditional religions is within God rather than being in us as emergent from God.” “This is where the dialog begins. I suspect that it will remain a dialog for a long time, but it is too important to let it go on. It is the point of difference between our religion of emergence and traditional religions.” “To those who believe that we are the mind, the volition and the transcendence of the immanent God, our task is huge. We must create and live an ethics that optimizes human life and moves to the spiritual.”

David C Shaw

What is your view?

Teilhard de Chardin

I was excited by The Phenomenon Of Man by Teilhard de Chardin. At last, there was a churchman speaking out for the evolution of man. He was a paleontologist and evolution was part of the fabric of paleontology. Evolution was not a theory. It was a fact.

He was immersed in paleontology and passionately driven to argue for a divinely inspired momentum towards a cosmogenesis and ultimately to an omega point.

This is a mix of science, and natural theology. Paleontology is science. The rise of complexity, the biosphere, cosmogenesis, and the omega point are natural theology.

He does not directly affirm human participation in creation. He does affirm that humans are moving towards the omega point without discussing a method for humans to follow to get there.

David Shaw

What is your view?

Parallax

The starmap of Hipparchus established the coordinates for about 850 stars. His map did not include parallax measurements This would not begin until 1840 when parallax was measured for three stars: 61 Cygni by F. W. Bessel, Vega by Wilhelm Struve, and Alpha Centauri by Thomas Henderson. The significance of having parallax measurements was not merely to distinguish these stars from the background stars. Halley had already done this in 1718 by identifying three stars ( Sirius, Procyon, and Arcturus) that had moved in relation to background stars. A parallax measurement establishes the distance to the star. By 1900 about 90 of the brightest stars had parallax measurements and therefore known distances.

I have not yet found a source for parallax advancements for the early 20th century so let me jump ahead. The Hipparcos Catalog, a high-precision catalog of more than 118,200 stars, was published in 1997. The lower-precision Tycho Catalogue of more than a million stars was published at the same time, while the enhanced Tycho-2 Catalogue of 2.5 million stars was published in 2000. Hipparcos follow-up mission, Gaia, was launched in 2013. Gaia increases the number of stars with parallax measurements to a billion.

Bessel, Struve, and Henderson

1840

3 stars

1900

90 stars

Hipparcos Catalogue

1997

118,200 stars

Tycho-2 Catalogue

2000

2.5 million stars

Gaia Catalogue

2013-2018

1 billion stars

With this great progress, it might seem that the reach was also immense. However, the reach of parallax is limited to our galaxy, the Milky Way, and not the entire galaxy. Figure 1. illustrates the reach.

DistanceLadder2 Figure 1. The Limits of Parallax                                                     ESA/Hubble

The left half of Figure 1 shows the bottom right quarter of the Milky Way galaxy. The largest dashed circle shows the current domain for parallax.

The Gaia Project collects among other things parallax measurements, repeated coordinates of position, luminosity, and color. See the video from the first release of data which shows the motion of two million stars of the Milky Way Galaxy projected for the next five million years.

The challenge against the theory of the great vault issued by Edmond Halley in 1718 has come to a dramatic phase in our lifetimes.

David C Shaw

What is your view?


Astronomer Claudius Ptolemy

Claudius Ptolemy (c. 100-170 AD) was a Roman astronomer, astrologer, geographer, musicologist, and opticologist. He worked in Alexandria, Egypt. Little else is known about his life. Ptolemy’s Almagest is the only surviving comprehensive ancient treatise on astronomy. It served as the guide for astronomers and students of astronomy for some 1300 years until Copernicus published his Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543.

The only hope for survival an astronomer who lived before Ptolemy had was to be incorporated within the Almagest. Of interest is Hipparchus’ star map that included the positions of about 850 stars. Ptolemy included Hipparchus’ data and increased the number of stars in the collection to 1,022. This resource was available for any interested person to do a comparative study of the positions of stars observed by Hipparchus (c. 190 – c. 120 BC) with their own observations.

The intellectual climate was not encouraging for anyone reporting differences between the original data and current observations. This would indicate instability in the heavens. Copernicus feared the consequences of moving the Earth from the center of the universe. He consented to publication of his Sun-centered universe only on his deathbed.

The intellectual climate had changed within certain countries after the Protestant Reformation especially England and the Netherlands. King Charles II
granted a charter to the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge in 1663. The society’s motto is Nullius ad verbum, take nobody’s word for it. It expresses a determination to resist the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.

Edmond Halley participated in this society and financed the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica in 1687. Among Halley’s other accomplishments was his presentation of the first evidence against the solid sky in 1718. He compared Hipparchus’ positions of stars with his own observations and found three stars out of place: Procyon, Arcturus, and Palilicium (Aldebaran). If it were not for Hipparchus’ star map preserved in Ptolemy’s Almagest Halley would not have had an ancient reference with which to compare his observations.

David Shaw

What is your view?

 

Cosmos is no longer the Universe

Cosmos was the divine intention of creation. For over two thousand years, the universe was viewed as an eternal work of art. Cosmos was the universe. The universe was seen as eternal. It had no history. The four revolutionaries of modern science and Edmond Halley have crushed this view in principle. The progress of science since then has given us an entirely different universe, a universe in development, a universe with a history, a universe that is not a cosmos. But what has become of the stories of creation, the Hebrew story and the Greek story? They were written when the universe was seen as a cosmos. Can they be our guide or inspiration today?

Beginning with Pythagoras the universe was given a new theological name that acknowledged the divine order of the universe. Before Pythagoras, cosmos was a simple word meaning order with no theological implications.

Scientists have been led to reject scientific theories based on a final cause. Detectives, however, seek to find motives which are final causes to prove their cases. Plato responding to the question “what are the greatest things?’ said, there are two great things the cosmos and the city-state. Plato had several examples of community to observe. He did not have to speculate about what community could be. He was aware of the flaws in these communities. Yet he found them to be similar to the cosmos at the human level. The cosmos/universe = city-state/humans. Cosmos was the order of the universe. The city-state was the order of humans.

What has this to do with creation?

If creation deals with establishing a cosmos then creation is a past event. If creation deals with our developmental universe then creation is a forward-oriented final cause.

David Shaw

What is your view?

Science’s mistake

Science has had a decisive role is demolishing the ancient cosmos. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Halley have joined together to leave the cosmos in fatal tatters. I am not an expert on these scientists, but I doubt that any of them were conscious of what they had done. I can’t recall any of them leaving a written mention of the word cosmos describing what the word meant. Even in our own time, we are entertained by the TV series COSMOS which appears to be unaware that cosmos is a theological term. Carl Sagan explained within the series that cosmos is a simple word for order. If this were true cosmos could not be a synonym for universe.

Sagan made no mention of Pythagoras who was the first to apply the word cosmos to the universe. Plato and Aristotle acknowledged Pythagoras and added definitions to the cosmos:

  • the planets moved in perfect circles;

  • beginning with the sphere of the moon and outwards the universe was made of eternal matter;

  • the Earth stood at the center of the cosmos;

  • the stars are equally distant from Earth;

  • the motion of bodies on Earth was explained in terms of the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire.

With these definitions disproved, Pythagoras’ universe-cosmos was also disproved. The meaning of cosmos was demoted from the theological level to its prior meaning, simple order.

If this was what Sagan meant by cosmos how could his TV series be named COSMOS? Did Sagan have a conception of the cosmos that prevailed for two thousand years until the revolutionaries? If he did why did he never describe it? Is science aware that cosmos was a theological optical illusion that science has destroyed? This was a great accomplishment. Cosmos is over as an astronomical conception. Nothing in astronomy is clarified or enhanced by continuing to use the word cosmos.  Cosmos is no longer a synonym for universe. If cosmos is a simple word for order as Sagan has stated it does not apply to the universe. If Sagan like the theologian Pythagoras saw God’s creative intention in the universe then cosmos is not a simple word for order. It is a theological affirmation that steps beyond the boundary of science.

Cosmos was associated with a model of an eternal universe such as the Hebrew cosmos and the Greek cosmos. Our universe is not a cosmos. Our universe has a history. Our universe is in the process of creation. Aristotle recommended contemplation of the universe-cosmos as the highest possible activity for the human intellect. Today contemplation of the universe is not the highest possible activity of the human intellect. Today speculation regarding the divine creative intent is the highest possible activity of the human intellect.

David Shaw

What is your view?