Fate, Destiny

Question of the Day May 15, 2011 ~ Fate, Destiny

Do you believe in Fate or Destiny, in the sense of a life direction power outside your control?


Certainly many things are not there as a result of my choices. Galaxies, Suns, planets, species, languages, cultures, etc were all around before I showed up.
Certainly much of what happens to me is a result of things that I have not chosen, and I do not believe that there is any such thing as destiny.

There just seems to be a massive sea of waves of consequence emanating out from choices that each of us make; mixed with the consequences of the “big bang”.

[followed by]

Hi Thomas

We seem in near alignment at many levels, yet we seem to be worlds apart at others.

Your statement “Non-locality is acausal” is one I agree with; yet I suspect what you and I infer/imply in that statement is very different.
For me, any form of free will can only exist outside of the cause-effect universe.
In that sense, when any of us is truly creative, truly expressing our free will, then we will do so from some “space” that is outside of normal “space” – non-local – acausal.

I suspect that we are each capable of generating such non-local “space”, and in many disciplines it is called “creating from nothing” (in the deep sense of no-thing – beyond locality – emptiness – manifestation).

[followed by]

Hi Thomas

I acknowledge that we can create from an acausal space, which is not to say that we necessarily do with any great frequency.
It seems that most of what happens to most of us, most of the time, comes from a very causal (default) existence.
Certainly we are capable of creating from elsewhere, and most of us don’t, very often, or very consistently.

Certainly, our subconscious beliefs create much of the “reality” of our experience, and it still seems to me that there is another deeper level of reality below our subconscious that provides a “base matrix” into which and upon which the subconscious builds its own systems.

So yes, there are many levels of subconscious and emotional causation doing “their thing” automatically, and all such systems are sensitive to higher level contexts provided by awareness (just as awareness is sensitive to the contexts of emotion – more rings of turtles biting the tails of the turtle in front!).

[followed by]

Hi Thomas

As I see things it is similar and it seems subtly and significantly different.

There seem to be three major areas at work here:
The difference between our experience of reality, and reality itself; and
The impact of will, vs the impact of “culture/existence” on the development of the models that we experience as reality; and
Feedback between models and reality (particularly powerful in respect of brain and body function, and applicable to a lesser degree at all levels).

So in all of this, there is certainly an aspect of, that we create many of the aspects of our model because at some level within our minds (either conscious, and more commonly unconscious) we want it to be so, there is also an aspect of a reality existent that is external to mind/model, that has connections to mind/model, but is not totally under mind control (there seems to be strong degree of independence between the two sets of systems).

It seems to me that “wanting” all that I experience is too strong.
Certainly it is powerful to accept (as in not resist at any level) all that I experience (no blame, shame, shouldn’ts, etc).

For me, “want” implies more of something envisioned for the future (at some level).
Certainly we have many unconscious and subconscious “wants”, many cultural in origin, and some genetic in origin, that may be in conflict with conscious level “wants”.
Becoming aware of such conflicts is for me the major aspect of “spiritual growth”.
It seems to be an infinitely recursive process.

For me, the main doorway to creativity is to have a balance between the various levels of conscious and subconscious minds. To allow the intuitions of the subconscious “holographic” systems to come through to consciousness, without giving them total control.
To create a space for reflection between “impulse” and “action” and to encourage a “flow of context” through that space.

In terms of the models (the interpretive schema that each of us uses), it seems that all models have their limits, and that the closer our perceptions get to the boundary, the less reliable they are, and the more likely they are to be mis-assigned to inappropriate elements of the model we are using (with all the confusion that results).
There does not appear to be any escape from this.
It appears that all we can do is widen the boundaries, so that in most common or important circumstances we do not run into such conditions, and there can never be any 100% guarantees – error (as in mis-alignment between model and reality) is always a possibility.

[followed by]

Hi John, Thomas, Muse et al,

@ John – for me it is not faith, it is experience.
As a child I grew up on farms, I learned the skills of working sheep and cattle, and looking after them.
I learned how to direct them to my will, by being able to balance the forces of fear, and inquisitiveness and hunger and habit within them. Once you get an intuitive sense of those boundaries, then you can direct individuals and herds with very subtle changes in position and attitude (a sway to the left or right, a step forward or back, a slightly more aggressive rise to the shoulder and hand, etc).

Later, at school, I learned about the abstract world of mathematics, and particularly about probability. I began to see how a boundary around a random distribution can create great reliability in higher level patterns – how the random and the reliable merge, and what the conditions at the boundaries of such systems look like.

I became fascinated with life, with evolution. Through the late 60s and early 70s I read voraciously, and studied biochemistry, earth sciences, and all sciences at university. The magic of the levels of activity and feedback and systems possible in molecular systems was just starting to be known, and I was working with people at the leading edge of such research. I loved the work of Richard Dawkins, and the mathematics of John Maynard Smith and others – particularly that of Kurt Goedel.

At the same time, I was starting to grow in political awareness.
The Bay of Pigs and the ensuing Cuban missile crisis had a huge impact on me.
In my late teens I spent a lot of my surplus money putting two years worth of food down deep disused mine shafts – as a bolt hole in case everything went “toes up”.

Slowly, I became more secure, and started to see more levels of pattern in the world around me. Then I started to see more levels of pattern in the world within me. I discovered Rand, and Wittgenstein and Nietzsche and Russell and Kant and many others. Then I discovered Werner Erhart and Landmark Education, and started yet more levels of exploration.

All this time I was involved in running my own businesses, involved in local community groups, and in broader national politics and in the environmental movement. I have been self employed all my life, and I have also held down jobs at times when my own businesses weren’t doing so well.

So I do not see what I have as faith. What I see is a great deal of evidence as to how the random can become the very ordered, and vice versa.
I see both the theory and the practice.
I see how competition leads to cooperation, and cooperation leads to competition.
I see spirals of life, at many levels, where things that appear to be cyclic from one perspective, from a different perspective appear more like a spiraling corkscrew, or sometimes like waves.

I see great dangers in our present reality, perhaps the greatest is the faith that most people have in money, and the role of money in our political systems.

And I am optimistic that all such dangers can be solved, if sufficient of us become sufficiently aware in time – and there is no certainty – we are again subject to a great deal of “randomness” at each new level – as well as all of the old randomness from the older deeper levels.

@ Thomas
I see what seems an essential confusion on your part. You seem to be making an assumption that you are in charge and have created all of the systems within you.
There is no logical basis for such an assumption.
Most of the systems within you predate you, and the mechanisms leading to their development are now well understood in general terms (though the specifics of any one of us is beyond the capacity of any human mind – we are each of us that complex).
Certainly, we can, with awareness, alter much, both within and around us – but taking the step from there to say that therefore we created all around us, and must necessarily “want” all of it, is a logical error (equivalent to Bell’s use of bivalent logic in a non-bivalent situation).

@ A Muse
Yes certainly, there is mystery, and I suspect there will always be mystery, should we live for billions of years – infinity is like that; and none of that should in any way form any sort of excuse for any of us to make anything less than the best use of the logical and intuitive faculties we have, and apply them to the best information we can find, in whatever fields we choose.

[followed by]

No Contradiction John

I do not see that consciousness is a requirement.
I see it as an emergent property of complex but non-conscious systems.

It is the fact that we are conscious, that tends to make us look at everything in terms of consciousness.
It seems that this “consciousness bias” is a big part of what leads to concepts like God.

At least, that is how it seems to me.

Very simple systems of rules can lead to very complex and unpredictable outcomes.
The more one studies such systems, the more obvious certain things become.

[followed by]

Sorry Thomas

Your last two posts are a logical nonsense to me.

A seed is not a tree.
Put a seed in fertile ground, give it water, keep it at appropriate ranges of temperature and humidity, and it will, over years, develop into a tree.

Certainly, there is in one sense, only the eternal now, but that does not imply that all forms are eternal and unchanging.
Things can change.
Things emerge, develop and disappear.
When I was a child, there were no personal computers.
I saw my first computer when I was 18 – an IBM1130 – new at Waikato university. I learned how to write programs for it, programs that had never existed before.

Consciousness is a personal experience.
There is as yet no definitive test for it.
We can make machines that respond in very complex ways to very complex environments, yet I doubt they are conscious.
We have dogs, and those dogs can do some things that are quite complex, but in other situations they do things that show little or no awareness.

I have memories of my awareness going through several transitions.
I have no memories that I can access prior to 3 years old.

I do not have to know and be able to specifiy the lowest developmental grade of consciousness.
I know that the only things to have spoken to me in a meaningful way are human beings.
I suspect that at some time soon, electronic computer based systems will be able to converse with me in a meaningful way.
Will it be conscious?
I don’t know – I suspect so.

I suspect our dogs have consciousness of a sort, but without words, and without much ability to distinguish time. Their awareness seems fairly much stuck in the present.

I see no sign of consciousness in a rock, or in water.
It seems to take quite complex systems to achieve anything nearing consciousness.

We are amazingly complex systems, at many different levels.

I can easily say that life is emergent from inorganic matter, once replicating molecules achieve the ability to replicate without any external factors (like a heating and cooling cycle).

It is not much of a step to go from that to consciousness emerging from complex life, in many stages, eventually achieving the languaging consciousness that we enjoy.

There is no defined moment when the first elephant emerged. Just a long succession of generations within populations; subject to varying selection pressures, resulting in small changes in the averages of characteristics across the population, over time.
It seems that all life on earth shares a single common ancestor, with different sorts of beings sharing nearest common ancestors at different times – with us and chimpanzees that time is about 6 million years ago, with us and insects about 600 million years ago, with us and bacteria about 3 billion years ago.

So no – it is not possible to specify when the first elephant appeared, it is part of a continuum.
Often in evolution, there is a first animal with a key mutation, and that mutation does produce something that is novel in a sense, and then selection pressures develop that novelty into something really useful over time.

We seem to have done that in several stages, involving increasing ability to language, to abstract, to intuit, to visualise and to communicate.

We are the possessors of a very complex form of awareness, one that has language and logic and intuition. Dogs lack the language bit, and because of that, most of the ability to work out of the present.

Consciousness seems to me to be just like all the other attributes of life, subject to mutation evolution, and increasing complexity in some lines (with reducing complexity in other lines) – all according to the pressures and accidents of circumstance.

So – We can clearly have a theory of consciousness in exactly the same way as we have a theory of elephants. You have one languaging consciousness, as do I.
No languaging consciousness exists in isolation – it is a social thing. No single entity can evolve it entirely alone – it takes the combined effort of many millions of individuals over a great many generations – to produce what we enjoy.
Just as it takes a long time to get from the small common ancestor of the elephants, manatees and hyraxes to each of the very diverse descendants, by gradual changes, to something we can clearly identify today as an elephant. But the nearest common ancestor of elephant and hyrax would not look much like an elephant, and would not qualify as an elephant today.

So too with consciousness.

[followed by]

Hi Muse

For me, the faith you describe, if I take your words at simple face value, does not exist for me, and occurs for me as insanity.

And I suspect that is not what you mean, and I will explore that more fully shortly.

For me personally, I have very few truths. Almost everything in my understanding has an associated probability function (a probability that it is true, and another that it is false), which is usually context sensitive (ie I can be very confident of some things in some contexts, and not at all confident of them in other contexts).

When you say “I call Faith a conviction of truth when there is no reason to believe” that is a nonsensical statement in my lexicon.
For me, having an intuition about something counts as a reason to believe.
I may not consciously understand all that went into making up that intuition yet, but expect to one day – maybe.
I think I understand how the mechanism of intuition works, and I have great confidence in it in many situations. So for me, this is a rational and reasonable belief.
Most of what I use is based upon intuition, and most of those intuitions are derived from my experience base, which has a lot of tests and experiments in it.

And only a small fraction of my “operant truths” have passed any sort of peer review process, and some of them have failed all attempts at peer review to date. I am aware that I am sufficiently off the edge of the bell curve that most of the time, most other people are not going to be able to understand things as I do, they simply do not have the experience base to allow it. So I am comfortable holding on to a belief even if that belief has been rejected by “experts”, if, in that rejection, it seems to me that they have failed to understand the key issues at the heart of the matter.

So for me, what you say only makes any sort of sense if what you mean when you say “reason” is something like “tested, proven, and fully explained and cross referenced at all known levels, and peer reviewed in at least two journals”. I have some reasons like that, but not a lot – most of mine are much more on the intuitive level, and those intuitions are on a strong scientific foundation, and I test them as soon as circumstances allow.

If this is what you mean by faith, a belief in something based upon one’s own experience and intuition and in the face of disagreement by “experts” – then I most certainly have it.

Yet in my world, it is not without reason – for in understanding the mechanism of intuition, I have one of the strongest reasons in existence for holding on to beliefs that are strongly supported by my intuition, but not yet understood by others.

That is why I encourage people to trust themselves, and also to stay open to possibility.
Be willing to try out what someone else says – for a while, and if it doesn’t work, then let it go.

Above all, trust yourself over all others, all experts, all sources of authority.
Even if that means rejecting almost everything else I say.

[followed by]Continuing thoughts on the nature of consciousness

Hi Thomas

Quite the contrary.
I did explicitly address that aspect.

I am very clear that there are levels of consciousness.

I suspect that consciousness is much like elephants.
If you look closely at their development.
Elephants can trace back to small rodent like animals, then back to replicating RNA molecules.
At each stage, there are elements of what will come later.
In the case of elephants, some aspect of replication.
In the case of consciousness, some aspect of ability to respond at some level to some classes of environmental stimulus.

I strongly suspect that reflective self awareness, of the sort that we as human beings experience, requires abstract language.

Far from being mere speculation, it is a combination of deduction and intuition based upon masses of data and experience – including many hours of clinical observation of development in children (both as part of my studies in psychology, and as part of training within the playcentre organisation – as a participating parent), and many hours at the Auckland Zoological gardens observing and recording baboon behaviour (as well as my thousands of hours on the farms of my childhood, and hunting throughout my life); and including a great deal of reading of the observations and intuitions of others who also have had an interest in the field over the years.

[An interesting link on the topic.]

[followed by]

Hi Thomas

I certainly did not miss the point.

The thing called consciousness is, in our highest experience, that of being – of awareness.
For me – it is the personal subjective experience of a languaging entity responding dynamically to the environment in which it exists.
That environment has physical aspects of matter/energy, as well as many layers of informational aspects (mimetic/cultural as well as memories and habits).
In a certain sense, because we are this consciousness, there is a personal subjective sense in which all else (other than the consciousness that we are) is inferred.
Because we are that which we name, there is a huge bias towards identification of that which we are.

It takes a great deal of discipline (in many different disciplines) to gain some levels of objectivity about the matrix in which we exist.
That matrix consists of many layers.

Some of those layers are physical, bodies, cells, molecules, atoms, and down through layers of sub atomic stuff with “rules” that are ever harder for our “common sense” to apprehend.
Other of those layers are informational. The mechanisms by which we interact with our environments.
Often these layers (at least in the early stages) have physical analogs, but as the layers become more subtle and complex they become less tightly bound to simple physical analogs (though still depend on them for function).

At the very gross level I can easily distinguish that I am conscious – I have language, perceptions, freedom of movement.
I see rocks, they do not speak, they do not move. They exhibit none of the properties that I experience as associated with consciousness.
Thus I have (as part of consciousness) an experience of something that appears to have none of the qualities that seem to associate with the consciousness I experience (from an as objective perspective as a subjective personal consciousness can manage).

There is a sense, and one sense only, in which I can agree with Planck – and that is the sense that I have already attempted to point to, in that I am conscious. In a certain sense, my experience of being is consciousness, and in that personal subjective sense, it is certainly primary.
In any sort of objective sense, it seems to be a hypothesis that is no longer supported by a thorough understanding of the evidence available.

It now seems very clear that consciousness emerges at some point in the development of systems that can respond to their environment.
I strongly suspect that the sort of languaging awareness that you and I experience emerges only after a great deal of genetic and mimetic evolution leads to the development of complex abstract symbolic language in some social animal, and that language develops a valuation distinction – a simple binary like “right/wrong” or “good/bad” or “good/evil” – and the pure software that is our high level reflective self awareness is born of a bootstrap routine implicit in the valuation distinction itself.

Consciousness is not simply a physical thing, like hydrogen or elephant.
Consciousness seems to be a very complex pattern, that can emerge within some very complex systems of information processing. It seems to require a physical matrix that can process information (such as a human brain), and also a complex operating system (like an abstract language), and then within that, a situation that can bootstrap a software entity into being.

There is no evidence, that I am aware of, of any such thing existing in a rock.

Elephants seem to have many of the required attributes, but lack a few others.
Certainly no elephant has yet spoken to me – which is not to say that they are incapable, just that they have not yet. The genetic components seem to be present, but some of the mimetic ones still seem to be missing in the case of elephants.

There is a very real sense, in which the only thing we can be certain of is our own consciousness.
It is an intensely personal experience.
It must, logically, have that personal experience aspect.
In this sense, all else, including the belief in matter and other people is an inference, and may be false.
Acknowledging that as a possibility, I assign a very low probability to it.
It seems highly probable that there does exist other people, matter/energy etc.
Working within that probable scenario, it seems that consciousness of the type I experience is associated with language – for all the reasons outlined above.

So – I see something using abstract language, and I infer it is conscious at the level I recognise.

In that sense, that is what I can point to – people using language, in complex situations, dealing with complex sets of recursive abstractions.

The “not thing” is everything else.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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2 Responses to Fate, Destiny

  1. holessence says:

    I don’t believe for a moment that we’re puppets on a string. I believe that whatever we are not changing, we are choosing.

    That said, I do think that there are interesting dashes of choices thrown in (for good measure?) by an unseen “hand” (not quite the right word, but I’ll use for lack of a better one at this moment) that taken advantage of can add a tremendous of pleasure (or regret if bypassed).

    Your story of meeting Ailsa is a perfect example. Impecable timing, to say the least!


  2. Pingback: 3 Questions – play, moon & twists | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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