It Snowed Steadily the Past Four Days
And it didn’t let up until just before dawn this morning, leaving us under a foot of snow and the north-end of town buried in eighteen inches.
I chose to trudge up our road a mile each of the past four days instead of trying to drive to a trailhead.
Good Time for Reflection
At my age there’s not a lot of days left, so best I get all the thinking in as soon as I can.
And I’m thinking software. Like the software that operates this bodily machine of mine.
Don’t laugh. It’s not a bad analogy. And it’s not original.
I got the idea from Frank J. Tipler, the Mathematical/Cosmological Physicist at Tulane University.
Tipler is a really creative intellect, thinks way out of the box.
Consider it this way. Until a couple of decades ago, not much was known about the information stored in our DNA, which is truly microscopic!
Even more microscopic than data on a digital thumb drive.
Now, today for a few bucks you can get a print-out of a lot of the information in your DNA. And your chromosomes contain volumes more information than is on your print-out. It’s all carefully encrypted so as to mystify the most brainy biologists.
About thirty years ago we might know intuitively that a lot of that information had to exist “somewhere out there.” But we had no idea that the decoders would come up with the story in so much detail so quickly.
Could the Soul Be the Software of the Body?
OK, I’m going to use the analogy of software to talk about the programming within us that we call personality or soul or spirit, or more pejoratively, “the ghost in the machine.”
We know it’s there intuitively, though we have no more way of proving it than you can prove how much you enjoyed your last banana split.
One of the founders of Evolution Theory, Alfred Russel Wallace, spent a good bit of his scientific exploration on this aspect of human nature, the spiritual.
He tried to get other scientists to join him in this research. But none would come along.
In fact, he was ridiculed for studying spirits.
But he studied spirits with the same critical methods he used in eight years of studying hundreds of thousands of birds, insects, bugs, and over fifty tribes in the jungles of Borneo in the Malaysian islands as well as the Amazon. He lived among these tribes all during his eight years of field work.
Today at least, the genetic encryptions of chromosomes has revealed aspects of our spiritual software which Wallace called “intelligences” at work in human beings.
Today we take for granted the practical use of computer software, coded to provide the “spirits” of our machines — our iPads, iPhones, laptops, desktops.
And now they’ve cracked the coding of our biological DNA strings.
How imaginative do you have to be to make the comparison of DNA strings to software?
We already do take it for granted that a good bit of us survives our bodily death in the form of videos, film, our email and social networking blueprints and so on. Back in Wallace’s day people would have believed you were dealing with spooks if you said you’d send such information to folks after your death.
Back in Alfred Russel Wallace’s time thoughts that we would be able to communicate with other people on the other side of the world instantaneously would likewise have seemed preposterous. And dismissed as so much telepathy.
Today the dead are routinely communicating with the living after death — through recordings, videos, film and a host of other electronic ways. True, it is only what they say while still alive sipping their coffee.
But, it would have been inconceivable to 18th century folks. All they would have been able to imagine would be leaving the written word — in wills, books, diaries and such.
Einstein unwrapped the time-warp thing with his Relativity Theories — just a hundred years ago. SciFi folk have had a party with this. But, it is serious business.
The new deck of time-warp cards is making it difficult to speak any longer of NOW, without a lot of qualifying. We see stars that sent their lights to us hundreds of thousands of years ago. And we see them now — as if their lanterns were just lit today.
I know, I’m mixing a cocktail of many threads, weaving them together willfully.
Yes, but that’s life. It’s actually the way we live it — rather haphazardly.
James Joyce got lots of admirers for creating something of a fabric of it. Check out Finnegan’s Wake.
So, if that’s the way of Joyce, then why not the way of BackpackerBill!?
With that then, if you’re game let me continue.
Is Consciousness the Brain’s Mirroring What’s Out There?
Another popular scientist, Douglas R. Hofstadter gives another argument for the software of the brain in his book, Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.
“. . the ‘teetering bulb of dread and dream’ that nestles safely inside one’s own brain is a purely physical object made up of completely sterile and inanimate components, all of which obey exactly the same laws as those that govern all the rest of the universe, such as pieces of text, or CD-ROM’s or computers. Only if one keeps on bashing up against this disturbing fact can one slowly begin to develop a feel for a way out of the mystery of consciousness: that the key is not the stuff out of which brains are made, but the patterns that can come to exist inside the stuff of a brain.
“This is a liberating shift, because it allows one to move to a different level of considering what brains are: as media that support complex patterns that mirror, albeit far from perfectly, the world, of which, needless to say, those brains are themselves denizens — and it may be, that the strange loops of consciousness start to swirl.”
Now this argument for consciousness mirroring the world around us in patterns in the brain, implies that this consciousness would be the software that governs our thinking and our body’s behavior — or our personality at least, if not our soul.
What Happens to Our Software When We Die?
For lack of future-time words, I’ll still call human personality the software of the mind and body. Or, choose your own word — Self, soul, spirit, ghost in the machine.
But whatever it is — like gravity, elecro-magnetism, weak and strong forces — it is immortal. Cannot be destroyed.
As for our lifetime on earth, this body is capable of churning out an amended version of our software package. Our decisions and actions are likely encrypted into our software while we shuffle on past the ticking clock.
And, by some powers, yet not fully understood, our software will be uploaded into another body with an ego of its own, sometime down the line.
Yes, I’m talking re-incarnation.
You don’t have to accept the idea. It’s either true or not.
If not, no worry.
If true, it will have consequences.
As Alfred Russel Wallace argued, all actions have consequences — even more than we realize.
One old French scientist, Blais Pascal, said we continually make wagers about this during our time on earth.
If we bet we don’t have immortal software then we can’t win if we bet wrong and there is life after death. And of course, if we bet right, that there isn’t life after death, we still lose. So betting that way is a lose-lose bet.
On the other hand, if we bet there is immortal software in us, and it turns out that this is so, we are winners. And if there isn’t — well we’re in the same boat as the other losers. So this is a win-lose bet. Why would you not want to go for the better odds?
What If There Is No Soul?
Another big question is, why would someone who bets there is no after-life to his software want anything but carpe diem?
Why live for anything other than self-centered wine, women and song with no concern for the future?
Just a simple logical question for the soul-less.
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