Saturday, January 03, 2015


"The Philosopher Kings"
Soft Rock Canadian Band 

The idea that there is some eternal essence from which all reality is derived gives a sense of the eternal. But such fantasies need to be abandoned along with the equally seductive idea (for the teenage male) of Philosopher Kings. In a sense I stand more these days with Heraclitus in thinking that everything flows, nothing stands still. To go as far as Nietzsche in suggesting that Being is an essential fiction probably takes the idea to the extreme but flow as a concept and as a metaphor is the (sic) essence of understanding complexity.”
David Snowden

“Emergence” is a formal principle like “synergy” which means two things interacting to create a third thing that is “better”, more complex.  I became aware of this first because of working with metal alloys in the bronze foundry.  They had to be molten to mix but bronze was copper melded with other metals and even silicon.  Each combination had its own characteristics.

Then I saw when working with dogs how “breeds” would mix.  Left alone, rez dogs become pye dogs (rustlers) or guard dogs (big and fierce).  I’ve watched the social development of the human rez to see what emerges.  It’s not genetic, but an alloy of systems and beliefs -- very complex, escaping the control of almost everyone who tries, somewhat impoverished by the weakened ties to the indigenous animals.

Here’s from that mysterious collection of unnamed people who write on Wikipedia. In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is conceived as a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties. In philosophy, almost all accounts of emergence include a form of irreducibility (either epistemic or ontological) to the lower levels. . .  For instance, the phenomenon life as studied in biology is commonly perceived as an emergent property of interacting molecules as studied in chemistry whose phenomena reflect interactions among elementary particles, modeled in particle physics. . . Neurobiological phenomena are often presumed to suffice as the underlying basis of psychological phenomena, whereby economic phenomena are in turn presumed to principally emerge.”

There are three main afflictions that come from the idea of “emergence.”  One is the idea that it’s possible to get to a few basic essences as particle physics constantly pursues little bits.  Existence is bottomless and so is emergence.  Another is the idea that emergence can be predicted and a third is that emergence can be controlled.  As a sub-category, people don’t realize that emergence can change everything (the internet changed books, telephones, spying, the African continent, outer space) nor that emergence doesn’t stop.  Whatever has emerged will be the substrate for whatever emerges next and it will be equally unpredictable and uncontrollable.  That includes the human species.

I am Heraclitian and Taoistic in my response to this.  That is, seeking and changing.  Follow the flow.  There’s a lot more to read, but right now I’m going to follow the threads related to “religious naturalism”

Ursula Goodenough

“Examples are detailed in a 2006 essay titled 'The Sacred Emergence of Nature' by Ursula Goodenough”  “Science and Spirit describes her as a warm, brilliant and embracing woman, [whose] contradictions make up a harmonious whole – sort of like nature itself, and describes her book as a poetic and accessible bestseller.”  I'm sure she's a lovely person, but this interpretation is total nonsense, liberal cant and I’m tempted to be more rude by changing a vowel.  Note the commercial endorsement.  Mother Nature as product. 

Embracing nature as poetic and accessible will get you killed and eaten, as Timothy Tidwell found out.  If you think of emergence in terms of starting small and growing, what is most emergent at the moment is ebola.  If you think of emergence as something less concrete, it may be social.  It is likely to be biological in the broadest sense, like the new realization that horizontal gene-swapping among living entities is constant and everywhere, so what is emerging is (as usual) our consciousness.  It was there all along.  

Code cannot be confined.  (That goes for ideas as well as cell code.)  More practical is facing and adjusting to the major changes in the lives of people in the ebola-affected areas of Africa: political, economic, familial, emotional and in terms of relationship to the rest of the continent and planet.  The bats in SE Asia appear to be carrying antibodies for ebola.

Stuart Kauffman

So maybe I’ll go to a 2006 essay titled 'Beyond Reductionism: Reinventing the Sacred' by Stuart Kauffman, although that takes me back to where old men are still fighting the Christian God.  “Kauffman frames a new scientific world view of emergence and ceaseless creativity, which, he notes, is "awesome in what has come to pass in reality, and God enough for me and many, where God is the creativity of the universe, yielding a global ethics of respect for all life, the planet, awe, wonder and spirituality cut free from a transcendent God."   

See what I mean?  Still in thrall to the old system, chained to the negative and metaphor.  ("God is love.")  Respecting "living things" but not inanimates like the breathability of the atmosphere or the power of geology.  Actually, this way of thinking is not emergent.  The trouble with any wiki is that it’s conventional.  Because it is drawn from a lot of people, even the “cutting edge” is conventional.  And the assumption that crowd-wisdom has value or meaning is always liberal.  They reject sin (legalities) but they don’t recognize evil (malevolence).  In their systems the indifference of the cosmos is never recognized.  Anyway emergence has nothing to do with such categories as living vs. dead.

It doesn’t matter how much a creature evolves, if the planet shifts and the shift pushes the creature out of its homeostatic stream, it’s gone.  No more evolution for that little swimmer.  But its absence will make ecological space for something else.  The temptation is to describe all the possible ecological niches and even to try to control them.  But eliminating bats will NOT eliminate viruses.  It might eliminate pollenization or insect control.  Are there robots for those?

An early argument (1904-5) for the emergence of social formations, in part stemming from religion, can be found in Max Weber's most famous work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”   Prosperity churches.  (Send money, send money, send money!) But I’m watching for “felt meaning” and for distinctions between the feeling of the sacred vs. religious institutions and technology.  Not seeing much.

I’m not going to pursue the emergence of schools of art or the emergence of the artist.  At one time I did a lot of reading about creativity but most of it was useless.  They did not deal with whatever it was that emerged in the Paleolithic mind that we now call art and creativity.  Why did they begin to strew flowers on the dead and make ornaments from bone and metal?  

The most important emergence sequence goes like this: code, cell wall, polarization between inlets and outlets, connecting structures within the cells, cells linking up into small creatures, small creatures evolving into specialized creatures, internal structures developing in the creatures, creatures forming groups, emerging internal structures of tissue enable “virtual structures” of felt meaning in a sensorium that guides actions and develops into a connectome of operations among senses and actions, giving rise to empathy and need to communicate which is an emergence of consciousness.  Sound management (speech) emerges, then writing which lets more complex history and thought systems emerge -- and so on.

“God” is an historically emergent concept based on family, kingship, and war.  This concept is an interpretation and has no reality.  Much violence has emerged from it, and this is one source of unconscious concepts interacting in ways that would, for instance, make a man believe he should kill his child or another man order all babies of a certain age to be killed.  But also emergent is the empathic and felt meaning of loving and protecting each other.  If the planetary conditions are favorable, it is possible to thrive with delight.  

Traces of ebola in Asia now.  No actual cases so far.

If planetary or social conditions are miserable, something will emerge that might be totally unexpected.  It was not the gay movement that made AIDS emerge -- it was cutting African forests for profit and building roads to take the wood to market.  It could be argued that same sex desire was set free by the pill because it undercut the reproductive component of marriage and let women earn their own livings.  Something is now emerging in Russia and something else in the megacities.  Something else among the indigenous peoples of the world -- in conversation forming a planetary sense of justice and participation.  The moguls don’t know, can’t know.  They look for profit and never see the small scurrying forces of little boys roasting little bats on sticks.

Jungle S'mores

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