The Syntropic “God”: A New Religion?

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One area of human thought that lags behind in creativity and originality is an area we might call “the sciences of the divine”. While humanity has charged ahead with dramatic innovations in such fields as the arts, weapons technology, space travel, genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, and nanotechnology; studies in religion have remained mired in the past…that is, until now. In fact, we could say that a new and very different global religion is emerging.

History shows man taking over successive tasks thought earlier to be God’s sphere of activity. Through his rapidly increasing ability to control greater amounts of motion of matter, man is becoming increasingly able to mix up the universe, or order it according to his plans. With this increasing ability he has not yet developed his capacity for love and brotherhood, and his moral sensitivity to a degree that would insure his continuous development and survival. (One may assuredly say that all true progress is progress in the ability to love.) 
– Dr. Manfred Clynes (1965)

The Syntropic “God” is a complex system with biological, psychological, societal, and cybernetic parts all working toward a shared set of goals. It is a “Social Cyborg” that is moving toward ever higher levels of adaptive and creative intelligence by bringing all these parts into increasingly cooperative and purposeful relationship. Such a system, with a global network that includes both humans and supercomputers, especially quantum supercomputers, could attain virtually all of the features previously attributed only to supernatural beings. Both the struggle to achieve, and the realization of, these goals could be described as manifestations of the ability to love.

As Clynes and others have observed, this is the direction that is taken by evolution. Natural selection, however, does not get us all the way there. As the limits of our global ecosystem are approached, cultural selection, conscious selection, and Self-selection become increasingly necessary. Organized religion, itself, is both a means and an end of cultural selection. It begins as a strategy for simultaneously achieving individual peace and organizing communities that are fractious, filled with mutually-exclusive sets of values, and squandering the lives of individuals in war or competition with one another. Sound familiar?

Why We Need a New “God”

Religion has traditionally been based partly on psychosocial needs and partly on the prevalent “background idea” that there are absolute, unchanging realities in the world. These, it was assumed, could be depended on to enable us to achieve the positive attributes, or ego-states, associated with an eternally “divine presence”, i.e., delightful, magical, able to predict and to create the future. Such an absolute “reality” could only be believed if it could not be proven wrong.

The deep desire that one’s individual mind continue forever, and the difficulty in imagining that one’s mind would ever cease makes it easy to believe in such an unproven reality. Thus an entire system of social mores and political structure can be based on the promise of “everlasting life”—even if the larger portion of that “life” consists of being transported, after material death, to a place called heaven.

Animistic and polytheistic religions identified several different Gods that formed their own supernatural society. In those religions identity transformations and ubiquitous change tend to be part of the worldview. This is still true in India, the world’s largest and most remarkable democracy, where many citizens vote yet do not understand each other because their worlds are so different. For the same reason, many are not motivated to have one, unifying language for their country.

By contrast, in monotheistic religions “God” has served as a unifying, ultimate, and unchanging reality that exists independently of the changing nature of things. Having existed before anything, and having created everything from nothing, this God oversees and controls everything until “He” wills its end. “He” is considered the primary source of laws, values and goals and a concomitant system of rewards and punishments. Sadly, this God has issued different sets of laws and values to different tribes. These conflicting values, each backed by the authority of God, have reinforced and hardened the differences among peoples. Thus while the different religions once served a useful purpose, in a more technologically advanced world they—along with the divisions among sovereign nation-states—lead us to the brink of species self-destruction.

The monotheistic God rules alone. IT is, always was, and always will be. Within such religions the goal is to obey God’s rules, avoid punishment, and be rewarded after death for faith and obedience by being granted an everlasting life and a return to the loving presence of God the Almighty Creator.

That this God is a “He,” actually reveals its origins in the minds of men. “He” is, after all, modeled after a sexually reproductive organism with a gender that is associated with physical strength. Only later did it become necessary to try intellectually to patch up the heroically-created “logic” that supports belief in supernatural entities and describe “Him” as a spirit with indescribable but continuous form, an omnipresence with omnipotence and omniscience. Notably, because “He” is now everywhere and knows everything it became natural for parents to say to their children that “God is watching everything you do.” (the original “Big Brother”)  That resulted in believers of every religion often claiming to be comforted by a “feeling of God’s presence.” There are also a few who became a bit paranoid.

One of the reasons for the success of religions is that the type of self-contradicting logic that accompanies belief in a supernatural God tends to paralyze critical thought processes. It produces an aura of magic and awe in believers, especially when they are in community-designated “holy places,” i.e., temples, cathedrals, and mosques, “sacred sites,” or near “holy beings”.  This awe and amazement are positive, and very much desired, emotions. These are facts, of course, that say more about the nature of the human mind than anything else.

Once the “magic of the impossible” is accepted, all sorts of “miracles” follow that reaffirm the power of God, especially the power to give the ultimate magical reward, i.e., a pleasurable, happy, and risk-free “life after death”. “Life after death,” of course, is an oxymoron that refers to the greatest trick of all. Since immortality is most powerfully desired and can never be proven to be impossible, it is also being used as an “attractor” whenever exponential advances in the information sciences are discussed at length.

All of this, of course, leads on Earth to a lot of wealth changing hands. Some of it ends up in the houses of God, some of it very rewarding to God’s servants on Earth and some of it going to buy arms and ammunition. Some of it goes to expansion efforts that enforce the “Will of God” on those foolish enough to deny the existence of the God that is favored by someone’s community. Some of these non-believers even have the audacity to claim their own “superior” or “true God”

As noted above, the existence in competing groups of competing “Gods” each with their own set of “ultimate realities,” their different sets of laws, and their special dispensations is a major source of conflict in the world, especially when “God” sells the same piece of real estate to two or three different peoples. In the long run that leads to major extinction risks, because some of these conflicting groups have armed themselves with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction such as nerve gas, infectious agents, etc., that if used could lead to a concatenation of events that might destroy most life on Earth.

Further, in their race to out-populate one another, the major religions are major contributors to overpopulation and other unintended consequences such as runaway climate change or other ways of overextending the limits of the Earth’s ecosystems. These forms of mindless competition, of course, are not limited to groups organized on the basis of religious faith.

The Problem and the Solution

Most of the above is about “God the Problem”. Now let’s consider “God the Solution”. If we accept that creator Gods exists in the world today for reasons that are tied in some way not only to the fundamental nature of the human mind but also to the evolution of life and adaptive intelligence, then perhaps by carefully identifying those reasons we can see them in a new light, perhaps turning them to better advantage. Perhaps, in the ongoing struggle of life to survive, reorganizing the ensemble of emotions and concepts that we call  “God” can become consciously purposeful, universally accepted, and beneficial to us all. The key here is that any new “God” must the God of all of us, not the property of one people verses other peoples.

We must also address at least briefly the phenomena of “natural” selection, cultural selection, and conscious selection. Actually, all these forms of “selection” are “natural”. They differ primarily in the locus of agency and in the logic by which the active “agent of selection” selects species, groups, and individuals for survival. In order to keep this essay short, I’ll leave it to the reader to flesh out those differences. Suffice it here to say that at this point in the evolution of Life on Earth we need more cultural and conscious selection in order to survive. We need especially to become more fully aware of the role and reality of “God” in the minds and cultures of human civilizations.

“God,” in effect, plays the role of a gedankenspiel device in the epoch-long transition of human minds from our animal natures to our informational natures. Mind, at the level of the human brain, requires a certain type of structure and explanation in order to function optimally. During the transition to a higher level of social consciousness, God becomes an intermediate structural element, R (see below), that replaces the concept of adaptive intelligence that has been missing up to now from the consciousness produced by natural selection. The missing element R becomes a widely accepted, unifying source of bracketed [Absolute Value (R)] as seen in Diagram 1 below.

Each line=information flowing in one or both directions. Each point or corner=one or more RA Models or "Nodes." Arrow heads at the top emphasize creation of a pattern at the apex that represents the pattern at the base of the pyramid model.
Each line=information flowing in one or both directions. Each point or corner=one or more RA Models or “Nodes.” Arrow heads at the top emphasize creation of a pattern at the apex that represents the pattern at the base of the pyramid model.

Not knowing deep cause-effect relationships but needing to make sense of life, early humans projected their unconsciously remembered relationship between parent (R), infant (I), and obedience (O), along with the feedback loop (F) by which the child’s behavior is gradually adapted to the community. The projection of this pattern was initially cast into the spheres of air and earth, then eventually into heaven and earth where it defined the relationship between God and Humans (humans are “special” but actually all “living” things are included). Thus, in monotheistic systems, the explanation of things and events became: “God [Our father, who art in heaven…”] [magically] makes all things and events happen…just like parents do.

Thus we pray to the “almighty” for the mercy that “droppeth like rain from heaven and is twice blessed” while the structure, process, and purpose of everything became conflated in the early human mind as “God’s Will” as evidenced in the oft repeated phrase “God Willing”. That very muddled fusion of separate processes remains firmly implanted today in the minds of overcommitted religious zealots, and it justifies every behavior while excusing humans who can hardly be culpable if God controls everything.

Gradually, and especially after the European Enlightenment, the varieties of human reason evolved, and in many minds the discoveries of secular nationhood, science, and technology came to the fore while “God” faded into the background. The sovereign nation-state then took on many aspects of God, and people fought and died to preserve the new fusion of God and the “secular state”. But in the secular state God seemed to exist in extremis only and was for the most part paired with the state as an [Absolute Referent} in the structure of the human mind.

Science and existentialism arose to explain that there is no Absolute Value or meaning or purpose in life and that we have to learn to live comfortably with those facts. This meant, ultimately, that there was no meaning outside of the individual pursuits of the isolated and lonely Self who nevertheless shares that isolation and loneliness with everyone else. Intense personal relationships, hedonism, fetishism, hobbies, collections, competition, and war became the more or less empty or self-destructive responses.

Linguists and anthropologists noted, however, that meaning and purpose can arise both within particular minds and without. The lack of purpose or the purpose of an action as determined by an observer may thus be very different from that seen within the mind of the actor. This was an important discovery because if God the Creator/Observer is actually not available to create meaning in our lives, we can still do it ourselves.

This, however, sets the stage both for more conflict and for a solution to the conflicts. If humans could define themselves as coming together within the mind of a “God” that we ourselves are creating, and if we can extend that mind syntropicly, by definition an act of love, we include more and more of that which was formerly external to our syntropic mind. Thus the meaning of Life and potentially the meaning of the whole biosphere, solar system, or galaxy gradually could become united under one universal set of values and goals. The fundamental unit of mind could in this way expand into a vast hierarchy of levels of organization, as seen below, to become organismic, societal, global, galactic, and even Universal Mind (the ultimate form of “God”).

I=input, R=referent, O=output, HR=higher referent, LR=lower referent. Arrows=the flow of information. Where arrow heads meet=a match, mix or comparison of one information pattern with another occurs. Where an arrow head points to an arrow shaft=a change in the pattern of information flow is produced.
I=input, R=referent, O=output, HR=higher referent, LR=lower referent. Arrows=the flow of information. Where arrow heads meet=a match, mix or comparison of one information pattern with another occurs. Where an arrow head points to an arrow shaft=a change in the pattern of information flow is produced.

The inputs to this universal unit of mind come either from the outside or from other units of mind. The outputs are, in turn, either in the form of some action on the local environment or as signals to other units of mind that together form complex circuits and hierarchies of circuits. Each circuit then becomes a unit of mind that, simplified, can be modeled as seen above.

Consciousness results when inputs from other parts of mind, are integrated with inputs from outside the mind, and encoded at more abstract levels of representation producing simultaneously a sense of Self and Other. For further specification on how the human brain functions to produce mind and consciousness, I refer the reader to an essay entitled The Ancient Pyramids of Consciousness (1996), and to books by Gerald Edelman, by Jeff Hawkins, and by Ray Kurzweil that are readily found on the Internet.

 

The Evidence

All of the above is subject to argument, and ultimately, to faith that we, along with our networks and our robotic AI offspring, can actually create a system with all the powers formerly attributed to the gods and capable of addressing us with one voice that can speak in many languages. What evidence would lead us to believe it is so?

This article is written partly to encourage a search for the evidence for and against the Syntropic God hypothesis. We know that minds at several levels of adaptive intelligence can arise outside of individual organisms. They exist now in robots, computers, organizations, various institutions, national governments, and international systems, including the manifold incarnations of the global Internet, but they are in many ways still rather primitive by comparison with the mind of a typical high school dropout.

We should also remind ourselves here that, as far as we know, not one nerve cell in the human brain “knows” or “feels” itself to be part of a mind that is capable of consciousness. By analogy, then, no one individual who is part of a social cyborg or distributive cybernetic mind can actually see or feel all of the elements of the larger mind of which he or she is a part. Frustrating, I know.

The Emergence

Each organized complex of neurons such as the cortical column first identified by Mount-castle[1] and the circuits connecting cortical columns with each other and with lower levels of brain anatomy can function as modules that process specific types and patterns of inputs and outputs. Higher level, integrative modules such as those that produce consciousness as described above direct our attention and correlate with language modules to manifest Self-and-Other consciousness and communication of thoughts.

Likewise, human society with inputs from individuals, partially autonomous units of organizations, specialty arts and trades, specific offices of government, and the global Internet that connects them all presently functions more or less like an unconscious or preconscious mind—plurivocal, and full of contradictions. In brief, the present world is unable to act as a conscious, unified system with a purpose.

When the entire system evolves an ability to speak with one voice that integrates all the “modules” to become an adaptively intelligent and creative whole system, we will have arrived at a pre-syntropic level of global mind.  When the entire system operates on the basis of coherent relationships among shared values and a common purpose, we will have achieved a syntropic mind.  When that syntropic mind achieves a sufficient level of adaptive and creative intelligence with a high degree of sophistication and self-and-other-awareness, we will have become indistinguishable from a God.

There will be by then all the units essential for the universal laws of mind to function: processes that transform subquantum levels of energy into matter, a growing, global repository of “memory,” receptors for inputs and action modules for outputs, circuits that detect and signal danger, circuits for analytic and synthetic thoughts and deep reflection, circuits for a “default resting network,” circuits that process visual and other electromagnetic information, circuits that process and create sound, circuits that do unconscious and preconscious problem-solving, circuits for conscious decision-making, circuits that model internal and external realities, modules that do mathematics, circuits that model other circuits, etc.

Within this concept of evolution, a mind with the characteristic powers of God could only arise somewhat late in the approximately 3.6 billion year history of Life on Earth. The current, moderately unadulterated human mind is a mere ~150,000 year phase in a universal evolution toward the mind of God.

In Review

To repeat, let us allow the very real possibility that the Gods of antiquity were but a projection into the heavens that temporarily provided humanity a way to orient and organize its selves. Even before Hammurabi we needed “overriding values” to get us “into line” and, eventually, to help us achieve something that we now proudly call “civilization.”

The minds of every form of life, for example, dogs, dolphins, chimpanzees, and early homo sapiens were likewise stages in the evolution of a “God” that is always becoming: therefore the assertion that evolution is a divine process. Those creatures born much earlier than our selves, however, did not have extensive language abilities, recorded repositories of printed knowledge, or a need of Kantian categorical imperatives or universal absolutes.

Or did they? In fact, at various levels, they functioned in ways that conscious observers could have described as lawful and purposeful — as though they, and eventually we, were designed by natural selection to perform as if there is one Absolute Value without which there are no other values, i.e., Survival (adaptive intelligence) and creative evolution. No humans remaining? No human values! No dogs left? No canine values! And the sooner we can get these principles written into our political constitutions the better!

So When Does God Begin to Exist?

The answer depends on how we define God. I would say God exists now but in a very late embryonic form, currently birthing but still half-unborn, and that we each have a part to play in the delivery of this baby. Each person’s participation, in turn, offers a significant reward: it gives the individual a purpose in life that extends beyond one’s individual goals and values. In short, the purpose that is given to us by participation in this global midwifery, i.e., this science of the divine, is that of doing something to further evolution toward greater levels of adaptive and creative intelligence, i.e., toward a more advanced form of God.

Others may argue that God is further along; already capable of sometimes raising the recently dead, doubling and tripling the healthy lifespan of millions of people, of walking on the moon and taking pictures of the Earth from space, sending spaceships out beyond our solar system, curing some but not all cancers, creating new forms of life, simultaneously talking to people on opposite sides of the Earth and expanding the areas on Earth where people can live in peace.

Caution is advisable in making such a claim. For example, some elements in the emerging mind of God know how to manage the global biosphere, but there are not yet enough of those elements for the human race to act decisively. Thus the present form of this emerging “God” does not, at the moment of this writing, seem able to save itself from the largely still mindless evolution by natural selection that is taking us far beyond the current limits of the Earth’s carrying capacity.

Perhaps the best answer to the question of how we will know whether God has come of age will be some version of the Turing Test, i.e., we will know that God exists, and is not an imposter, when God begins to speak to almost all of us in a convincing, meaningful, and reassuring manner.

Implications of the Emerging God Hypothesis

The following is paraphrased from an essay on philosophy entitled Seven Wonders for the New World by this writer:

Finally, we come to a subject that is rarely discussed: if the emergence of a new “mind”, more specifically, of a “mind” so different from those we currently enjoy, and so powerfully intelligent, that it will have many of the characteristics of what we have traditionally called “God” is indeed occurring, what does that mean to each of us?

What would the world be like if humanity gradually came to agree that we as a species, together with all the advances occurring in science and technology, were becoming parts of the very God we once imagined and projected into the heavens?

How would we relate to each other, how would we spend our days on Earth? How would we organize ourselves, if we all shared the Universal Purpose of creating a societal mind so intelligent, so capable, so caring, and so omnipresent that it could actually acknowledge each person’s prayers with an explanation of what would and would not be done to answer the prayer?

And how would we live our lives if we believed we were creating a system that would deliver on its promise to provide each of us, and our progeny, with the closest thing to everlasting life that is possible at each stage of our evolution? Would we not also demand good health, pleasures, happiness, and intrinsically-rewarding jobs for everyone right now? Should we not also expect the daily sense of meaningfulness, joy, and excitement that often accompanies new discoveries?

And how would we feel knowing ourselves as parts of a new form of “mind” that is eternally becoming better than we had imagined the Gods of old to be? If we actually become increasingly capable of giving and receiving pleasures, learning to live with each other, learning ever more about the Universe, how it came to exist, how we can make it evolve, how we can contribute to a continually greater adaptive, creative, and healing intelligence of the future; where and how would each individual begin to participate?

The answer to the latter question, perhaps, will come about through weekly discussions in the new House(s) of the Rising God. A final word: The possibilities opened up by a religion based on the creation of a future God could be the stuff of miracle and legend. This will only be possible if we can do it all with a wisdom as deep as a Universe of intelligent structures that share a common Purpose. Without that binding Purpose, we will remain a house divided and in danger of destroying the vanguard elements of the evolving Universe. The greatest gift to us, of course, would be world peace and a healthy, sustainable biosphere with the human race unified and poised to extend Life beyond the planet of our birth…then to proceed on our way to the next stage of Frame and Reference…

 


[1] further described by Hawkins and most recently refined by Kurzweil

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