Infinite Spirit

Question of the Day ~ May 22, 2013 Infinite Spirit

How does an Infinite Spirit get to be a mortal Human being??!

Loaded question.

It seems to me that spirit, in so far as it exists, is software, running on very highly evolved hardware, with a very highly evolved set of supporting software systems.

Even a simple switch is capable of producing infinite complexity (evidence Morse Code, a system of dots and dashes that can encode any written text).
And all real systems are time limited.
While real systems may be capable of infinite complexity, they cannot be infinite in any real aspect. Of that infinite range of the possible, only a very small subset will actually become real.

So in this sense, the term “Infinite Spirit” seems to me to be a misnomer, as it implies something real that is infinite.
The reality seems to be that all real things are finite, and many finite real things have access to infinite possibility (and are in this sense, essentially unpredictable on at least one, and usually many, level(s)).
The distinction is subtle, and seems to me to be profoundly important to understanding the reality in which we find ourselves.

[followed by]

Hi Deb

You asked “Can software exist, without having been “programmed” by an intelligence ?”

The answer to that is a resounding Yes.

That is what evolution does.

Evolution is a process that has random and non-random elements to it (like most things in life).

All forms of life living on earth right now (from archea, to bacteria, to algae, to trees, to fish, to bird, to rats, to elephants, to whales, to humans) seem to all be the result of evolution by natural selection from a single common ancestor. Each line via different descendants that have been subject to different environments and different random aspects over time.

What has resulted is extremely complex and has many subtle levels of relatedness.

The hard thing for many people to get their heads around is that every life form has had equal evolutionary time, and in that sense is equally evolved. Many of them are quite simple. Evolution does not favour complexity, it simply favours survival in particular circumstances.

One line, us, has produced entities capable of sustaining complex software systems, which systems have been programmed by an evolutionary process that is logically equivalent to the process of genetic evolution.

It is hard to put into words the beauty of the mathematics and logic of evolution as a process. Once you have spent a few thousand hours playing with models, and pouring over evidence from multiple sources, one develops an intuitive view of how the process works that no words can deliver. This is my reality.

I have been part of teams that have written simulations that allow self programming entities to evolve within them.

[followed by]

Hi Kathy

The scenario you describe does not appear to be anything like the reality I experience.

Humans are far from infallible.

Our senses far from perfect – we are easily fooled by stage magicians and other tricksters.

We reach inaccurate and inappropriate conclusions on a regular basis, particularly with things that are unusual, or not typically life threatening, from a perspective of our evolutionary history.

And this is what we would expect from evolution.

Evolution deals with cost benefit analysis across multiple domains simultaneously.

Evolution does not require absolute precision in all cases, it only requires that things work well enough to survive long enough to leave enough offspring to survive, and work better than other competing variants in the conditions in which those variants find themselves.

Humans need to find food. Brains can assist in that, but brains take a lot of food to run. So there is a very complex relationship, between the likely frequency of events like near starvation during a lifetime, the energy available for reproduction, energy available for maintenance of other bodily functions including growth of muscles, and a huge number of other factors, and the cost of running a metabolically expensive brain (like ours). Only in one set of very specialised conditions, in all of evolutionary history, has it been advantageous at all stages to have powerful and metabolically expensive brains, that are capable of providing a sufficiently complex environment to allow the evolution of advanced mimetic forms (language and culture).

Perhaps I was not sufficiently explicit about evolution happening in the realm of ideas, what are now called “memes”, in a way that is directly analogous to how genes (genetically transmissible units of inheritable traits) controlling the expression of bodily characteristics are selected for or against, so “memes” (transmissible units of behavioural information) are also selected.

This selection of memes is what allows software to evolve without a designer. We see all of the same sorts of characteristics in mimetic life that we see in genetic life forms. Some genes tend to stick together and be conserved, some sets of genes work cooperatively, others work essentially independently. So too with memes.

Genes work in the realm of bodies.

Memes have an aspect of their existence in the realm of bodies, but most of their existence is in the realm of minds.

Memes can jump from mind to mind, and don’t much care that the occasional mind might be destroyed in their passing, provided there are enough minds left to provide a safe environment for them. It is a very complex multi-domain set of interacting probability functions.

This is what all the evidence I have found points to as the source of “spirit”. It is worth noting that the term spirit come from the term for breath or air. Before people understood about atoms and gases, it seemed that there was some strange animating force that moved across the land and through people (wind and breath). When the breath left someone, they were dead, never to move again. We now understand those phenomena in a completely different context, but the old notion of spirit has morphed a little, and is trying desperately to survive in a new mimetic landscape (as are many of the old meme-complexes – religions and cultures in particular).

I have spent a lot of time looking, and have found zero evidence, of any kind, that supports the notion of spirit existing independently of bodies in human beings.

I understand that many people think differently, and in every case I have investigated, I have found reasonable mechanisms that account for the experiences those people have that do not involve discorporal spirits.

I do not discount the possibility of life forms living in non-physical matrices, and to the best of my knowledge, I have not yet encountered such a thing – certainly none that owned up to the fact, and could provide a reasonable demonstration.

It is one of my objectives to take my own existence to such a state, and even based upon current exponential trends in technological developments, that could be several hundred years away. Some people are much more optimistic than that, and I think they vastly underestimate the complexity of the problems involved.

[followed by]


The concept of memes is proven beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.
I no more doubt it than I doubt the concept of atoms.
The evidence is of the same sort of order.
Not many people actually do the work themselves, to design and test systems in computer simulations. I have.
Just like once you have built a house, you have no real doubt that houses can be built – similarly I have no real doubt that memes exist.

In my understanding, being human is very complex.
We have physical bodies.
Those bodies have brains with subconscious minds.
And in most people, those minds have conscious level processes that some term “spirit”.

I acknowledge many levels of “spirit” in this sense, and it seems that there may potentially be infinite levels.

I see no evidence for that spirit being in any way separate from the body or the brain, or the mind; in the analogous fashion that it is not possible to have computer software separate from a computer.

I see mechanisms for how all of these things evolved – the mathematics and logic of the principles of it all are sublime, and the complexity of the reality far beyond the capacity of any human mind to deal with, ever.

I am.
I am more than a little unusual, in many respects.

It is clear to me that all systems of awareness must start from simple approximations to reality, and may then move on to ever closer and more powerful approximations to reality. And no map or model is ever the thing it maps or models.

The notions of “truth” that we start out believing have an element of hubris to them.

It seems that as humans we have no access to certain truth. All we can have is models with greater or lesser probability of alignment with reality within certain limits of measurement.

The models I have are the best I have found.

I am under no illusion that any of them have any sort of ultimate truth, and they do have demonstrable utility and alignment within the limits of measurement available to me.

[followed by]

Hi Deb

You wrote ” I don’t need thousands of hours “playing with models”, nor your level of mathematical understanding, to really gronk all of this.” and also wrote:
“I don’t argue with that much, I simply don’t believe it explains “all”, nor does it go far enough”.
To me, the second (which you wrote first) actually demonstrates that you do not sufficiently understand the process, or have not sufficiently contemplated the necessary consequences of the process in action.

When one does “gronk” all of the mathematics and logic, it does indeed amply explain all that is observed. And what it predicts is complexity beyond any hope of definitive prediction.

When one has put in the time, it is abundantly clear that it is enough.

It is also abundantly clear why it is not clear to those who have not had a similar experience.
So I clearly understand why people without a similar or logically equivalent background to myself do not see that the explanation is enough.

I fully get that it doesn’t seem enough to you. I understand how and why that is so, and it is enough for me, and it is only enough for me because of the depth of the understanding that I have. I could write for days, and it would not be enough. It is far more than words. It is all the experience, all the time working with the math and the logic, and all the time spent programming, and all the time spent in labs and with simulations working on the structures of the enzymes, the DNA, the RNA, the transport systems – the vast levels of subtlety that one can spend months of work to understand in one interaction of one molecule with one other molecule, and then take that knowledge and apply it to the fact that every cell in our bodies has over 30,000 different types of molecules in it, and they are all interacting with each other in similarly subtle ways – that is over 400 million different combinations of 2 molecules, and over 4 trillion combinations of 3 molecules and 3×10^16 combinations of 4 molecules. The numbers are far beyond any mind to consider within the age of the universe – and that is just at the molecular level, without taking all of those implications all the way up through all of the levels of pattern we find in life.

There is all the complexity and uncertainty that anyone needs to account for all that we observe; but because we are conscious entities first and foremost, it is easiest and most natural for us to conceive of explanations in terms of consciousness – so we intuitively gravitate to explanations in terms of spirits and gods. One has to go through a great deal of complexity to find the simplicity on the other side that seems intuitively more simple that notions like spirit and god, and I have gone through that complexity.

The popular press does not make it easy either, with mischaracterisation of evolution in terms that are neither scientifically accurate nor intuitively appealing.

All major advances in evolution are characterised by new levels of cooperation. The popular press only characterises evolution in terms of competition.
Competition is a real force in evolution, and so is cooperation.
Unless one has a good handle on the cooperative power of evolution, it has little intuitive appeal to most, and there is little in the popular literature that explains evolutionary forces in their cooperative context. Until that is understood, evolution makes little sense.

The mathematics of games theory is fundamental to my understanding of evolution, and few people are into math or logic at that level.
Most people are more interested in putting their time into social matters, than spending hours working in abstract conceptual spaces, with few other human beings to communicate with. I’m more than a little unusual in being essentially asocial, and happy to spend hours on end in conceptual spaces devoid of human interaction.

So I understand why few other people see things as I do, and I am very confident that the models that I use are a much closer fit to reality that any of the models supplied by any culture; and those cultural models have some very complex aspects and are a reasonable first order approximation in terms of the outcomes they produce – certainly much better than no model at all.

[followed by]


Memes have no consciousness. They are the conceptual equivalence of genes.
All memes do is behave in the way they behave in the environment in which they find themselves. They do not have any choice in what they do, they just do it (within their probability functions).

It is difficult to conceive of, because there are two separate realms at play.
Memes exist in minds, and minds exist in bodies.
Memes get expressed and transmitted by altering the behaviour of those bodies.
A meme can spread and be successful even if it causes the hosting body to die on occasion, if the death of that body enhances either the spread of the meme, or the survival of other bodies containing the meme.
Memes move from mind to mind (body to body) and are not attached to any specific body; yet only get to express through the actions of specific bodies.
It gets really complex and subtle, particularly when memes get together in large stable groups. They have quite complex relationships and can express quite complex sets of strategies for transmission, invasion, defence against invasion, etc – just as genetic life forms do.

And there is much more to a human mind than memes alone, and memes are there.

Just as certain sets of genes give rise to an environment where memes can grow and flourish, so certain sets of memes give rise to environments where other levels of pattern can begin, grow and flourish.

We each have a genetic history, that is undeniably part of who we are, and we are more than that.
We each have a mimetic history, that is undeniably part of who we are, and we are more than that.
We each have a self-awareness, born of a declaration in language (which is a mimetic construct), which awareness seems to me to have degrees of freedom not seen anywhere else in reality. We really do seem to have very creative abilities; quite above the amazing intuitive abilities that are at work in all of our brains/minds.

It is an amazing subject, so deep, so profoundly complex, yet based on such amazingly simple logical principles – yet in such numbers that they are beyond counting (a human being devoted to counting might get to a billion in a 100 years of life, the numbers involved are billions of billions of billions).
Very few people understand even simple numbers, let alone complex ones.

[followed by]


Memes are, by definitions, transmissible units of behaviour.
They have no physical form.
They exist only as patterns of behaviour that can be copied to other entities.
They are logically analogous to genes. They are so in the same way that genes allow form and function to be transmitted from cell to cell, so memes allow behaviours to travel from mind to mind.
And like genes, memes are often more like recipes than they are like blueprints.
There is a direct analogy between how genes function in the world of cells and bodies, and how memes function in the world of minds and thought. The same mathematical tools can be used in either case.

I am saying that memes are a simple form of life in the same way that replicating RNA and DNA is a simple form of life.
All higher life forms are built upon the basis of replicating RNA and DNA, including cells and bodies and minds.
All higher thought structures, are built upon the basic building blocks supplied by memes.

And no animal is completely controlled by its genes, it is the interaction of genes and environment and learned behaviours etc. And most animals are mostly controlled by genetic influences.
And no human is completely controlled by their memes, and the less one knows of the influence of memes, the more influence they have.
As with everything in life, awareness brings with it the possibility of choice and override.

So in the realm of the existence of minds, memes have the same relationship as genes do to bodies.
And it is a bit more complex because genes have a function in the building and operation of minds too.
And as a first order approximation, it is close enough.

Memes can no more jump from mind to mind without a behavioural vector than genes can jump from body to body without a physical vector.
And not all behaviours are controlled by memes, and most are in most humans.

[followed by]

Hi Deb

Unless I see some evidence of something more that requires more explanation, I stop there.
As soon as I have evidence, I will go beyond there.

It is less than 200 years since some of the best minds on the planet argued about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Because they seriously believed such things existed.

Logic requires of me that I use the simplest explanation (the simplest model) that accounts for all observed phenomena.
I see no unaccounted for phenomena.

And you are correct, I don’t do “social mores” easily or well, I tend to go directly to the logical heart of the matter, irrespective of social conventions. I do not intend offence to anyone, none of it is personal, it is just the enquiry. My presence here is all about the enquiry, about the seeds of the possible (Brian’s Zaadz).

[followed by]


The Wikipedia article is fine as far as it goes, and it makes no reference to games theory, or other underpinnings of evolutionary understanding.
I read “Selfish Gene” in 1978, and have had several email exchanges and one meeting with Richard Dawkins since then. I align with most of what he says, and not quite all, but the subtleties of the differences are probably not worth delving into here and now.

I classify all of the things you mentioned (attitudes, perspectives, approaches, beliefs, judgments, interests, values) as behaviours in the sense that they require some sort of behaviour to transmit then. At higher levels, the behaviours can involve symbols as possibly multi-level indirect referents.

[followed by]

Hi Sharon

To say that because a thing had a beginning, it must have an end, is clearly logically false.
The set of real numbers has a beginning, and it has no end – it is an infinite set.
There are an infinite set of such infinite sets, sets with beginnings and no ends.

Clearly you think I have things backwards, and I am confident (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the idea that human consciousness or spirit is in any way separate from the body, is untrue. It is simply not required to explain any observation I have tested.

It seems very probable to me that what most people experience as contact with infinite consciousness is an experience of their own subconscious, which is so much vaster and faster than our conscious selves, that it appears infinite.

It makes much more sense to me, that like the set of real numbers, we start from one cell, and grow, and as we get more cells, more systems, more things start to happen, until, eventually – consciousness.
For most people, that consciousness ends some 70 or so years later, and it seems entirely possible that for some there may be no end, that the body and the mind just go on and on, without end, as the set of real numbers does. And no one will ever know for certain.

It seems somewhat odd to claim that all of our experience of reality is a dreamscape.
We can show, by making assumptions about experience, that our experience of reality is not a direct experience, but an experience of a model created from past perceptions, and kept entrained by current perceptions. There are multiple subsystems feeding into the model, and sometimes they crosslink inputs , so we get to see and otherwise experience things that do not exist in external reality – but they sure seem real to us.



[followed by]

Hi Brian

What kinds of experiences are you referring to that I am choosing not to have?
I have had a great many experiences.
I choose different interpretive schema with which to evaluate those experiences. Schema very different from the defaults supplied by any cultural or religious tradition (and I have explored many cultural and religious traditions at some depth).
I do not deny anyone’s experience (least of all my own).
What I challenge is the interpretation of those experiences.

[followed by]

Hi Brian

I have had many similar experiences to the one you describe.
I do not doubt the experiences you describe at all. They are very common.
I see nothing in them that is even slightly at variance with science.

What I doubt is the stories (schemas) you use to relate those experiences to other experiences; the explanatory framework you have around the experiences.

I accept that people have the experiences they report, in so far as what they see, feel, hear etc.
What I doubt is the explanatory framework.

My children hate going to the movies with me, as I can cry or laugh at anything. They find me an embarrassment.
I am highly empathic.
I do nothing to hide that, quite the reverse, I actively encourage the expression of it, in the hope that by doing so, I give others permission to feel such things also.

In my interpretive schema, such things are created by entrainment of our models of reality (the things we consciously experience as reality) based upon context and observational minutiae. There are thousands of muscles in the human body that quite accurately broadcast our emotional state to those within visual range. Our movements create subtle sounds that convey a lot of information to those within hearing range, and we all produce a vast array of smells that do similar. Most of us are not consciously aware of such things most of the time, and our sub-consciousnesses have all of that information to work on.

The state of our mind can create sensations in our body. The feedback loops can get very extensive.

I do not have the hard boundary you do between opinion and fact.
In my schema, we have no direct and infallible access to any information about anything in the real world. All of our senses go through filters before becoming inputs to our subconscious models, and our conscious can only have access to the models.
That seems to be what the best sciences indicates is the systemic structure of being human. Not at all what most of us think.

I am used to programming computer systems, many of which have up to eight logical layers of code operating between the electrical activity of the CPU and what human beings get to deal with.
In human beings it is very different, and also similar in a systemic sense. We have less layers, but all of our systems are vastly more parallel and redundant, with vast numbers of votes taken between competing systems many times per second.
Our systems are truly amazing.

The systemic explanatory framework for our experiences is something vastly different from any cultural paradigm. And one can interpret any cultural paradigm through a systemic structure (one can model it in this sense).

I hope that helps give some sense of how I experience and interpret the world.

[followed by]

Hi Brian

I do not restrict myself to any sort of experience, at any level.
It is what I do after the experience, in terms of evaluating the experience, and linking it to other experiences (at whatever level), where we seem to differ substantively. And I acknowledge that experience can be multi-level, with a significant time span involved.

Abuses of ideas in the pursuit of power are not restricted to Darwin’s name, many a war has been fought in the name of Jesus or Buddha – and I am confident that none of the 3 would have supported any of them. Some people will twist whatever they can find to support their egoism, narcissism and greed. It is not a necessary outcome of Darwin’s ideas, and it is a common use of a superficial understanding of Darwinism, just as many Christians call upon Christ and God to support them in their wars against other people (who are often Christians also, just a slight variation on a theme). If you were referring to WW2, then the Vatican was closely tied to fascist regimes. Like I said – aspects of all systems of thought were used in justifications.

A thorough understanding of evolutionary principles shows clearly that cooperation is every bit as important as competition to the process. Such an understanding (supported by the mathematical discipline of games theory) also shows that secondary strategies are required to stabilise raw cooperation, as in the raw state cooperation is vulnerable to exploitation by cheats.
Thus it is clear to me that evolution requires us to cooperate at the level of all sentient beings, in a way that allows for maximum diversity and individual choice. This is clearly in the long term best interests of every individual – selfish or altruistic, it makes no difference.

The only reference I can find to “christos” translates as “anointed” and seems not to carry too much more than that (even by analogy).

In terms of power, as Bacon said “nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed”. The deeper the understanding, the more choice one gets in both obeying and commanding. Beyond any shadow of doubt, it is science that is giving us the greatest understanding, which is not to say that all scientists necessarily display wisdom in the application of that understanding – far from it. Scientists are people first.

And I acknowledge that there is much wisdom in the ancient cultures, and that wisdom is embedded in a matrix of myth that has now been superseded by a new set of much more powerful myths (the myths of science) – for science knows that it deals with probabilities and successive approximations, rather than any sort of absolute (a very different framework of understanding from anything in antiquity). Science is an infinite path of refinement and improvement, based upon a process of hypothesis, testing, and analysis.



[followed by]

Hi Sharon

Its seems that further discussion is not going to get us anywhere.
You made the statement “I have no interest in pursing your lower mind reasoning” which seems to me to clearly demonstrate that you are not interested in engaging with any ideas or evidence that challenge your own evaluation that your current belief set is “higher” and better.

That is a fundamental difference between us.
I will examine any idea against my evidence sets, and evaluate any new evidence against the concept sets I have available, and remain open to any new intuitions about new conceptual sets. In this sense, I do not have any “beliefs”. And in practice, I certainly operate using certain tried and tested paradigms most of the time (and sometimes I try out paradigms that are new and untested to me).

In the paradigms that seem to me to most powerfully model this reality in which we find ourselves, it seems clear that the paradigm you are using is a useful first order approximation in some situations (particularly where there is little knowledge of science and biology), yet it fails at the deeper levels. In this sense, the idea of god, or universal spirit, is an understandable mistake, a very common mistake, and a mistake none the less. [One mistake you made above: Spirit is a noun, and it is a noun that describes something which is non-physical and constantly changing.]

At this point, probably most useful to just agree to differ.
You seem to think your interpretation is “higher” and more valuable, and that mine is “lower” and not even worth significant effort to investigate.
Having spent a lot of time investigating both, both my logic and my intuition agree that it is the methods of science that deliver the greatest power and utility over time; even acknowledging that the system of science is one of perpetual refinement and occasional revolutions.
It seems that the domain of the possible is infinite, and that we will be refining our understanding of it for as long as we live (even should we manage to live for trillions of years). Science does not offer any sort of finality in respect of understanding, all it offers is a set of tools to use on the journey; a journey without end.

I can share those tools with anyone, yet I cannot make anyone choose to use them.



[followed by]

Hi Mendy

You wrote “My subconscious mind is, to me, a part of the Infinite Mind/system in me. How could It be finite?”
To me that is simple to answer.
Consider a simple switch, that can only be on or off.
Using that switch, we can transmit a potentially infinite range of possible messages in Morse code.
Human beings are very complex entities.
Our brains are capable of doing many things.
We can learn by copying, by mimicry, and for most of our childhood that is how we seem to do most of our learning.
We have other mechanisms for learning also. We are capable of making distinctions from our stored experiences. This appears to be essentially a side effect of the way in which our brains store and retrieve information as interference patterns, rather than in sequential fashion as computers do.
We are connected to reality by our sensory systems, so have a vast reservoir of data, continually updated, with which to connect to reality.
Our reality is filled with other people.
Every person is making their own distinctions, as well as learning the distinctions first discovered by others (in a sense, we all discover our own distinctions, and it is certainly much easier to do so if someone else is helping us to do so).
Thus we are connected to the vast and ever expanding pool of ideas and distinctions.

So it is entirely possible for our finite (yet vast beyond most people’s comprehension) minds, to contain links to infinite realms, and for our subconscious processes to thus present us with potentially infinite variability. The logic and mathematics of that is clear.

Most people use words like infinity without really having spent much time working with very large numbers.
I can write the number 10^220 in 6 characters, and what it stands for is a 1 with 220 zeros after it, which is roughly (within 10^10, and based upon best estimates from information we have at present) the number of quantum states that have existed since the universe began up until now. That is a vast number, yet I can represent it in just 6 characters, and it is a close approximation to zero when compared to infinity (as is any number we can come up with).
The reality in which we find ourselves is vast, beyond the ability of any human mind to comprehend, yet it is as nothing compared to infinity.

We splash around ideas like infinity very carelessly for the most part.

The best evidence I have indicates that the realm of the possible is infinite. Similar evidence indicates that the realm of the impossible is a larger infinity (infinities a like that- really mind bendy).

So I have no difficult with our subconscious minds being finite (and large) and also having access to infinite possibility. No contradiction there at all – all perfectly logical.

[followed by]

Hi Kathy

Couldn’t agree with you more.

I don’t deal in right or wrong.
I work with probabilities.

Integrity seems to demand of me that from time to time I do my very best to share what I have available with others. What they do with it is then their choice.
And I do need to occasionally make the effort, as part of being in integrity with possibility. Not to do so would be an intolerable hubris.

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
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