April 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm (By Amba)

All within the last week:

  • my cell phone [under warranty, but AT&T is sucking]
  • the land-line phone [cheap; old; replaced]
  • the windshield wipers (in the rain; fortunately, not on the highway) [replaced]
  • the passenger side mirror [actually was duct-taped into holder; duct tape disintegrated.  Re-duct taped.]
  • J’s hospital bed [repaired, on Medicare]
  • the toilet [plastic strap connecting flush handle to flapper; replaced]

What else?  We both had a cold for a week [gone now; immune systems not broke].  The water gets shut off for repairs just when we’re getting ready to go out.  J has ill-timed accidents.  It’s all small stuff.  We should be (and are) grateful that if we have to have a run of bad luck and breakdowns, it’s so small-bore.  But it’s a little unnerving when it all happens at once.  Things of completely different type, material, age, and provenance all choose the same week to break down??  What’s next?  Me?  I’m fine but frazzled, feeling behind the curve, stumbling over myself trying to get up to speed as the little things around me break down, both demanding my attention and spitefully sabotaging me.

Change of season shaking things up?  Transition from hibernation?  Adjustment to underemployment?  Full moon?   Why would duct tape and toilet flappers get drawn in to these things?

Jungian psychologist Arnold Mindell thinks he knows.  As Stephan Bodian explains in the intro to an interview with him, Mindell came up with the theory of “the ‘dreambody’ — the unconscious as an active agent constantly expressing itself in our lives.”

Dreams, physical symptoms, relationships, accidents, altered states of consciousness — all are manifestations of the dreambody in action. […] Mindell believes that what happens to us in each moment is exactly what was meant to happen. Our task is to learn to follow this process as it unfolds and thereby help it to reveal its deeper significance. A physical symptom, for example, may force us to deal with a relationship issue, get us in touch with a mythological figure, resolve an old childhood dream, or guide us into a profound meditative state.

Mindell himself says:

There’s a flowing or dreaming process at the bottom of it all.  This process manifests itself in many different ways, depending on the channel in which we perceive it. One of the channels is proprioception — you feel things inside your body in terms of temperatures, pressures, pains, aches, joys, sexual stimulation, and so forth. Or you experience things in terms of visual imagery, or in terms of auditory phenomena, like voices, or in terms of movement — the way you trip over your shoelaces or make certain kinds of gestures — or even in terms of relationship processes. Other people can act as sensory channels for you; you can experience yourself in terms of the behaviour of others. And the process also manifests itself through extrasensory or parapsychological channels: The trees do things; the sky appeals to us.

I remember reading Mindell’s book River’s Way decades ago and being particularly struck by the notion of the “world channel” — the idea that apparently unrelated things going on in the world can manifest your own state of mind.  That may sound pathologically narcissistic (it’s clearly related to Jung’s famous concept of “synchronicity,” or significant coincidence), but have you ever had a burst of anger just as two cars collided or thunder exploded outside?  It’s sort of the poltergeist effect.  (Coincidentally — or not! — the Word A Day for April 2 is “poltergeist.”)

Bodian says, “What you’re referring to here, if I’m not mistaken, is what you call the ‘dream field’, in which people and objects take on the qualities of our dreaming process.”  Mindell responds:

Yes. We dream up the world around us to behave like our own dream field. […S]ometimes things happen synchronistically that can’t be explained in terms of simple projection. For example, you dream that a huge bird speaks to you, and the next day you’re walking down the street and for the first time in your life a huge bird actually bumps into you. […] The world sometimes does literally behave as if it were a sensory channel, as if it were a part of your dreaming field.

Warning:  it gets pretty woo-woo and new-agey, talking about a sort of conservation of the ignored, denied, and repressed:

[I]f you’re a good ecologist, you have to wonder where your signals and processes — the parts of you seeking expression — go when you disavow or let go of them. […T]he negativity doesn’t just disappear. It goes into your body, into a less tractable process, maybe a cellular or metabolic or cancerlike process. Or it goes into your partner, who hates you. Or it goes into accidents on the street corner or into the collective, for you and me to pick up. Devaluing certain perceptions and just letting them go is like tossing wastepaper onto the street. Somebody has to clean it up eventually.  […C]ompassion also means having compassion toward all your perceptions, even the unhappy or unfortunate ones, and trying to process them.

Wow, like, quantum, man.  I lose patience with the tone of this interview, and particularly with the new-age notion that your cancer is trying to tell you something (other than “Die, motherfucker!”).  But there’s something to the “world channel.”  We don’t interact with things (much less people) like another thing bumping into them in a straightforward Newtonian way.  The observer bends and warps the experiment.  We recruit duct tape, windshield wipers, and toilet flappers into our field of dreams.


  1. CGHill said,

    This seems to follow John Muir’s dictum: “Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.”

    I suspect I need a new filler valve – I’ve replaced the flapper and the handle, and the throne is 35 years old anyway – but I’m trying not to say so out loud.

  2. amba12 said,

    I’m glad you’re reading me again! (For that matter, I’m glad I’m writing again.)

    Puns are certainly a channel, and perhaps the title of this post is the message all those little breakdowns were trying to send me.

  3. realpc920 said,

    I have been observing, all the time, for years and years, that my inner state of mind is reflected in what happens to me outwardly. Things can be really lousy but if I intentionally change my state of mind everything can suddenly turn wonderful. Not just because I act differently. The world around me actually changes.

  4. Ron said,

  5. William O. B'Livion said,

    There was a study several (many?) years ago that purported to show that grumpy people were better problem solvers than those who were cheerful–the grumpy (or “un-cheerful”, or whatever the opposite of “cheerful” is) tend to actually think about problems rather than just assume everything will come out all right.

    What you described is what is basically a normal work day for me. I spend my entire life, both on the clock and off, finding broken shit and fixing it.

    You’re familiar with the 4 laws of thermodynamics, right:
    You must play the game.
    You can’t win.
    You can’t break even unless it’s really really cold.
    It never gets that cold..

    Systems fall apart. The only thing your mental state state has to do with it is either that you don’t pay attention and hence miss signs that a system is wearing out and needs to be fixed or repaired before it breaks, or you’re in a state where you notice the little things.

    Failures are also stochastic events, and with any such event you occasionally get clumps (see “Cancer Cluster”) that look like a pattern.

    It’s not.

    You don’t notice the weeks when nothing fails because that’s the way our brains works. (This week, at home I noticed that a closet door handle (the inside) was missing, that a window didn’t have a screen (this is a rental, and it’s my first spring here etc.) Nothing to do with my mental state.

  6. amba12 said,

    It’s good to have that point of view as an antidote to the gooey woo-woo one. That said, I will split the difference. The pattern and meaning of events may well be nowhere but in our own minds, but reading the entrails or the accidents can focus our attention on our own minds, where something may need fixing. We usually look right through them and forget they’re there, like smudged glasses.

  7. Ruth Anne said,

    Re-duct-io add adhesium

  8. wj said,


    Good one, Ruth Anne!

  9. Donna B. said,

    Ruth Anne wins the internet today!

  10. amba12 said,

    As usual!

  11. realpc920 said,

    “the gooey woo-woo”

    Everything is connected. We are sinking ever more deeply into an age of the illusion of separateness. . Our culture is becoming entranced by a powerful priesthood. They insist that most of what we experience and know are illusions and delusions. They have proven, they say, that the human mind is defective, a misshapen product of a haphazard process. There is only one way of knowing, and it is through the priesthood.

    Although their minds are as defective as ours, they are trained in a method for divining truth. The method is slow and expensive and fallible, but it ultimately reveals all truth. If your experiences and perceptions have not been verified by the Method, then they are hallucinations and delusions.

    Your sense of connectedness, of mystery — all these are products of your random broken brain. Your poor little isolated brain machine.

    But that priesthood is wrong. I know that we are fallible and constantly being deceived, but it is not for the reasons they think. It is not because a mechanistic process did a poor job of designing us. It’s because we are limited creatures in an unlimited universe.

    I value the scientific method. That is not the problem I have with the priesthood. And I am not generalizing about all scientists and scientific people. I am talking about the ones who use the word “woo” to describe everything that doesn’t fit into the materialist ideology.

    And I am not a starry-eyed Deepok Chopra follower, or anything like that. But he is correct in saying that materialism is an untrue philosophy.

    You can always look at a coincidence that appears meaningful and explain it away. You can do the same with every little miracle. If you really want to, if you really trust the priesthood.

  12. amba12 said,

    Real, I lose patience with the tone of Mindell more than the content. If someone could talk about this stuff with some toughness of tone, I would not be so likely to tire of it. There’s a certain solemn, entranced reverence, a Candide-like assumption that all is as it should be. This is a tough universe, but I have the feeling it’s fiercely rooting for us even as it has to destroy us. I’m aware that that’s my feeling, I neither take it as thumbsucking self-delusion nor as objective gospel. I’m a nearly pure agnostic, I really don’t know what’s up, but it’s awesome and I think good keeps at least a nose ahead of evil.

  13. amba12 said,

    Anyway — beautiful strong comment, real.

  14. realpc920 said,

    “There’s a certain solemn, entranced reverence, a Candide-like assumption that all is as it should be.”

    I would have a problem with that also. All may be as it should be — how could we possibly know? — but that wouldn’t mean all is always pleasant for us.

    “This is a tough universe, but I have the feeling it’s fiercely rooting for us even as it has to destroy us.”

    I have a similar feeling. It’s a scary place and it wasn’t made just for our little species. Btu we aren’t separate from whatever it is that generated everything. We are part of it, so it must care about us.

    “I’m a nearly pure agnostic, I really don’t know what’s up,”

    So am I. But I have complete trust in whatever it is that I don’t know anything about. I just decide that, ok, I don’t know what the heck you are but I will go along. Instead of always struggling to feel separate.

    “I think good keeps at least a nose ahead of evil.”

    It’s hard to know what is good or evil, because we always look at things from our limited perspective. But I think whatever infinite source generated us loves us in some way we can’t imagine.

  15. PatHMV said,

    When it rains, it pours.

    I had a week like that once, a year ago.

  16. amba12 said,

    You sure did. Only more so.

  17. courtney haynes said,

    You are so right about ATT – it sucks HARD. I won’t elaborate here.
    Sorry to hear about the many things that went wrong for you. It does sound excessive in such a short time span. It seems you are now due for a spell of smooth sailing, just to balance things out.

  18. William O. B'Livion said,

    The “connectedness of all things” is both trivially true, and deeply, deeply false.

    There was a lot more to this post, but I think this pretty much says it:

  19. wj said,

    If you want to get all rationalist about it, consider how statistics work. And the fact that, if just one thing goes wrong in a week, you hardly notice (unless it’s massive, of course). Then consider how few people you need to have in a room for it to be overwhelmingly likely that two of them have the same birthday.

    In short, the weeks when a bunch of things go wrong are really, really noticeable, while the weeks with just one or two are much less so. But the odds are pretty good that any of us will have one really bad week occasionally. No outside influences required.

  20. amba12 said,

    Blinded in the headlights of vacuous crap — pretty good!

    But, wj, it’s not about “outside influences.” It’s just about seeing patterns that are meaningful to you. No one disputes that that’s something our brains do. You can find perfectly Darwinian explanations for it.

    I’ve had a handful of significant people in my life who turned out to have the same birthday as me. Of course, the odds of anyone having the same birthday are about one in 365 (“about” for leap years) and no doubt I have encountered a number of people insignificant to me who also had the same birthday. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me whether this is just my brain playing tricks in a universe of whirling dead matter or whether the thing is in some sense alive and responsive. We perceive it that way and I suspect significant coincidences warm the hearts of even the hardest-core skeptics for a moment before they can stomp on the feeling and classify it as a pathetic survival-related brain trick. Who cares? We mostly see the world through our natural perceptions and conceptions. Science gives us a way of peeking outside that envelope. It’s a very powerful kind of knowing for understanding and manipulating the material world, but we’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter, whether there is “meaning” outside our envelope.

  21. realpc920 said,

    [we’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter, whether there is “meaning” outside our envelope.]

    It does matter, and I think we will know. I think a lot of us already know. The logic and the evidence are all against materialism. Materialism has a long history, but it’s still just a human-centric fad.

  22. realpc920 said,


    It would be very hard to study coincidences scientifically. There have been people who kept detailed notes on synchronicity though. It might be possible, if carefully done, to make a good case for meaningfulness.

    Of course we notice odd things because our brains work that way. Apparently meaningful coincidences are odd so we notice them and we ignore all the meaningless coincidences.

    So yes we over-report meaningfulness. But that doesn’t prove the synchronicity theory is wrong.

    Materialists use the same kinds of arguments against all kinds of things that seem to defy their philosophy.

  23. realpc920 said,

    The question of whether or not the universe is alive and meaningful is hard to frame in a way that could be answered. It’s hard to come up with obvious proof one way or the other. Still, each side feels certain its philosophy has been proven. Mainstream science has, in general, taken the materialist side ever since Darwin’s theory of evolution was, supposedly, proven correct by modern genetics in the mid 20th century.

    However Darwin’s theory was not proven (evolution is proven, but not Darwin’s theory which says it can be entirely explained by chance and natural selection.)

    The scientific majority settled on the side of meaninglessness. How could the majority of educated intelligent scientists be on the wrong side? The fact that they are a majority — NOT scientific evidence — brings them new converts, so they become an ever bigger majority.

    Non-scientists who are intelligent and educated naturally tend to believe the scientific consensus. How could they all be wrong?

    But science is not what people think it is. It is merely a formalization of the way human beings — and all creatures for that matter — learn about the world. The formal method can help us answer certain specific questions. However, for most questions the formal method is impractical. Even science can only use it in limited contexts.

    For example, if you want to know the long-term effects of a medical treatment it will cost millions of dollars and possibly a decade to find out. And if you strongly suspect the treatment is effective you will not be allowed to do the experiment, because that would mean depriving the control group of medical help.

    People also confuse science with technology, and they are not the same thing. Most of the so-called scientific progress we have been experiencing is really technology, not science. For example, medical imaging technology lets scientists observe brain activity in ways they never could before.

    Understanding of how the brain actually works is not increasing, only our ability to observe it. Facts about the brain are gathered, but those facts usually just show us how little we really understand.

    Anyway my point is that whether you side with the materialists or the non-materialists is unrelated to scientific evidence. It is a matter of personal preference and faith. If your faith is in human reason and in the intelligence of the world’s scientists, then you are likely to put your faith in materialism and meaninglessness.

  24. wj said,

    Amba, I’d never down-play the importance of pattern recognition. After all, it’s what allows experts in any field to reach tentative conclusions “intuitively” — we see a pattern that we recognize before we are conscious of the reasons for the conclusion. (Mostly, I can go back after the fact and work out the chain of reasoning. Very handy for explaining why to managers. ;-))

    But pattern recognition is subject, as any methodology will be, to occasional false positives. The only test is to go back and see if the pattern of events has anything that would constitute a common cause or characteristic.

    If you can, you have a rational explanation for the pattern. If you can’t, you can either conclude it was a random occurrence, or attribute it to something unknown: God, the devil, karma, bad thoughts, good thoughts, etc., etc. Personally, I sometimes pick one, sometimes the other — consistence is not the great virtue it is sometimes made out to be.

  25. wj said,

    Real, technology is, in many respects, the test of science. If you can take a scientific theory, and use it to develop a technology which works reliably, it suggests that the particular theory is closer to reality than an alternate theory which says it can’t work.

    No scientist worthy of the name thinks that any given theory is the last word. Science merely moves thru a progression of steps which, with luck, are increasingly correct. As with any road, there is plenty of room for sidetracks and cul de sacks. And there have been more than a few over the years.

    It helps to remember that science is a process, not a truth. As a process, it comes up with ideas based on data of some kind — sometimes not very much data. Then it tests them by experiment (or even just additional data from outside the original set). And, depending on how well the theory fits with the new data, either accepts, modifies, or rejects the original idea.

    If you can’t test the idea, it isn’t science. That doesn’t mean that it is wrong, necessarily. But it does mean that accepting the idea is, at its heart, a matter of faith.

    Technology, in contrast, isn’t concerned with why something works, just with getting something that does work. “Why” is nice to know, but only because it suggests other things that might work. Technology can go forward because of ideas from science. But it can also go forward from someone tinkering blindly along and stumbling across something that works.

  26. wj said,

    For an example of science in action, somewhere with very little emotional content (which helps reasoned discussion), consider plates in the earth’s crust.

    If I recall correctly, in the 1700s reasonably accurate maps because available. Some (German?) guy looked at the outline of Africa and Europe, and the outline of North and South America and said to himself “Gee, looks like they fit together. Like they were once right next to each other.” Presto! The theory of Continental Drift. Obvious nonsense, of course.

    But eventually, someone says, Well, if they are pulling apart, what’s happening in between? Should be a tear in there somewhere, right? And found the mid-Atlantic ridge. And someone else said, Well, if the continents are drifting apart there, they must be pushing together somewhere else, right? And that should be making a crumple — i.e. mountains…. And looked at the Andes and the mountains along the west coast of North America. Hmmm….

    So, after a century or so of being dismissed as nonsense, Continental Drift begins to look like it fits the data better than totally static continents. (Of course, now we can put up GPS systems and actually measure the (very tiny!) sideways movements that are occurring.)

    Which, in turn, causes someone else to figure out that the edges of continental plates banging together should show a combination of faults and mountains, like on the western edge of the Americas. Where else might we see that? Ah, ha! India is a plate, smashing north into Asia — hence the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. And, later still, GPS allows us to measure the rate at which the Himalayas are getting higher, as India continues northward.

    Like I said, a process. Not a smooth or flawless process. But one which allows gradual corrections to eventually accumulate.

    To get back to an emotional scientific issue, consider evolution. As someone mentioned (perhaps on another thread), that evolution occurs is a fact. We can see evidence in both the fossil record and by watching changes that occur before our eyes. Darwin’s explanation for evolution, is a theory. It allows some testing: see the currently visible changes, and see which variations are successful and which are not, and what characterizes the successful ones. That doesn’t eliminate the possibility of alternate explanations, of course. But nobody has come up with one so far which a) explains the visible evidence as well or better, and b) is testable.

    At least, if such a theory has been proposed, I haven’t heard about it. If there is one, no doubt someone will correct my ignorance . . . and this thread will get even further from its origins. ;-)

  27. wj said,

    Wow, I really got wound up on a slow Sunday morning. Sorry.

  28. realpc920 said,


    You’re just talking about the standard definitions of science, as an abstract ideal. That is not the same as what occurs in the real life scientific establishment. The scientific establishment is political. Even with no evidence whatsoever for or against the Darwinian theory of evolution, the scientific establishment has accepted it as fact, and has accepted as fact the materialist philosophy that it implies.

    The same kind of thing happens in other areas. In AIDS research, for example, the idea that AZT and other antiretroviral drugs are good for AIDS patients was accepted on flimsy, probably nonexistent, evidence.

    But once a majority consensus has formed on any scientific subject, that theory is considered to be based on solid evidence. Even if there is no evidence at all for the theory.

    A scientific consensus can be overturned but it’s hard. Research is very often extremely expensive, and the scientific mainstream monopolizes funding sources. And just because a theory has no evidence for it doesn’t mean it’s easy to find evidence against it.

  29. amba said,

    No, this is fun!

    The big question is not about evolution but about the origin of the DNA code, a digital code that contains instructions for assembling the very proteins that repair it. Is it possible for something like that to come into being, bit by bit, without any intelligence? I know that most of the people who are considering this question already believe God did it and so can be accused of rigging the game to reach the outcome they already “know” is true. But that still does not invalidate the question.

    There’s a book on this called Signature in the Cell which I plan to write about at PJM when it comes out in paperback in May-June.

  30. amba said,


    I don’t think “no evidence at all” is accurate in either case.

  31. wj said,

    Concerning the origins of DNA, I seem to recall reports a while back (could it have been 20+ years already??) of some experiments from taking some simple organic molecules (i.e. 2-3 carbon atoms; nowhere near DNA) and treating them to conditions reminiscent of what we think the early earth was like. They found some organic molecules that were quite a bit bigger and more complex than what they started with. I don’t believe that they got all the way to DNA (or even RNA, which I believe current theory has coming first), but they got some pretty complex organics.

    Seems in principle like it ought to be possible to repeat that experiment and run it longer. Now that we know that more complex organics appear even in places (e.g. comets) where they are not from (or, if you prefer, intended to become) life, the experiment could even start with more complex initial molecules. At some point, you ought to be able to get something at least as complex as a virus. From which, it’s not such a big step to something that is arguably living, and/or RNA. Anybody know if it’s been tried? And how long it took to get there?

  32. wj said,

    real, yes the scientific establishment is different. But that’s like saying that the folks that do things and make things are different from the middle and upper management of the big corporations that employ them. Management, in any area, is different from the people who do things.

    I think that a case can be made that some kind of management is necessary for a large group which is trying to coordinate their efforts to accomplish something. But typical management is, as you say, full of people devoted to very different ends — mostly having to do with the politics of getting ahead in management, rather than anything to do with what the people who work for them are actually accomplishing.

    And yes, mistaken ideas can become entrenched ion science, as in any field of endeavor. Evidence to the contrary can have a hard time getting a hearing. But that is not the same as saying that the methodology is flawed. Rather, in the case of science, it is saying that the methodology isn’t always followed.

    Sometimes the obvious way to come up with evidence against an accepted theory involves very expensive equipment. But a) sometimes the results of experiments with that expensive equipment don’t produce the expected results, and b) sometimes enough thought produces a much cheaper way to generate conflicting evidence. All of which is to say that the process of self-correction isn’t always as fast and efficient as it might be in a perfect world — but it does happen. See the overview of Continental Drift above.

  33. amba said,

  34. realpc920 said,

    [I don’t think “no evidence at all” is accurate in either case.]

    There is no evidence at all that evolution happened the way Darwin speculated it might have. We know that evolution happened, and we know that random variations probably occur, and we know that natural selection acts on these variations. Biologists have put those facts together into the idea that random variations and natural selection caused new species to evolve from older species. No evidence for that idea exists. Really none. It just seems very plausible to a lot of people, especially if they prefer a materialist (or as they like to call it, naturalist) philosophy.

    It does sound plausible, doesn’t it? And it has convinced the scientific establishment. But if you think about it from a skeptical point of view, you will see that it’s completely empty.

    The opposing idea, that there is some kind of meaningful intelligence operating in the universe, seems plausible also, if you happen to not be a materialist. But ID is also difficult or impossible to prove conclusively.

    So neither side has a real scientific basis for their arguments. Based on all the alternative science stuff I read over my whole life, ID is the obvious winner, to me. Materialism looks like sheer idiocy when you approach it with true skepticism.

  35. realpc920 said,

    “The big question is not about evolution but about the origin of the DNA code, a digital code that contains instructions for assembling the very proteins that repair it. Is it possible for something like that to come into being, bit by bit, without any intelligence?”

    No the DNA code did not just fall together by chance. The fact that so many people believe it did is hard to believe. But as they discover more about DNA and its complexity they will probably start to wake up. Chance doesn’t DO things like that.

    Amba, they want it to be simple and they want to have an explanation. Scientists used to be awed by nature’s beauty and unfathomable complexity, but now they say it’s poorly designed. Implying they could do a better job!

  36. realpc920 said,

    “Seems in principle like it ought to be possible to repeat that experiment and run it longer.”

    You don’t think they would have done that, if they could have? We would have heard about it, but we didn’t because they could not create life, or anything resembling life or even a small fragment of it.

  37. amba said,

    an interview with Miller.” His experiment was suggestive, but he himself says there are still huge gaps.

  38. wj said,

    Intelligent Design may be the most plausible answer. It may even be correct. But, as you say, how would you go about testing it? And, as noted above, if you can’t test it, it isn’t science. Correct, perhaps, but not science.

    Obviously, we are approaching the point where we can design a particular DNA strand from scratch, so ID is obviously (to me, at least) possible. But determining that it actually did happen? (Not to mention who or what did the designing.) That would seem to be a whole lot more difficult to do.

    By the way, on new species: I saw something recently (in the last 6 months, I think; no doubt Amba will have the citation for us before the day is out!) on a case where something looking very like a new species was developing. Not sure it had reached the “can’t interbreed” point yet, but it was getting close, IIRC.

  39. amba said,

    One thing that seems to differentiate species is chromosome number. Sometimes part of a chromosome breaks off and gets stuck to another. The bearers of such an error may not be viable, but they can be. The difficulty is how the “new” chromosomes created by the rearranging of the old one can manage to pair up when two gametes fuse.

  40. wj said,

    The best response to the “you couldn’t get there by chance” argument that I have come across was very brief: “Do you know how long a million years is?” With enough time and enough trials, some wildly improbably things can happen. Getting from “wildly improbably” to “impossible” is a much bigger step than is generally appreciated.

    Now, if you wanted to argue that we couldn’t have gotten from Go to today in a few thousand years, then yes, no argument. Pretty much impossible for that to have happened without outside intervention. But in several million years? Whole different story.

  41. realpc920 said,


    I never criticized anything about the scientific method. I am just saying it isn’t magic, it’s not really different from the way people have always learned about life and nature. And science is self-correcting, but so is all human knowledge.

    The scientific establishment is trying to claim it has the only valid way of knowing. That’s why it has become a priesthood. And they assure you that science is open-minded and self-correcting. They are contrasting it with religion and all other ancient “superstitions.”

    So you might start from the assumption that human beings have been delusional fools from the beginning, and the only exception is modern science. Modern science is self-correcting and therefore we can trust it in the long run.

    We know that some mistaken scientific ideas have been corrected. We don’t know that all will be. And we don’t know how long it might take to correct any particular wrong idea. If it takes ten thousand years, what good does it do us now?

    The dramatic progress we have seen in the past hundred years has been the creation of machinery. Sometimes science and technology influence each other, but most of the time they are probably separate.

    We are impressed by computers and what they accomplish, and we credit modern science. But what scientific knowledge was really involved in creating computers? Understanding of the natural world did not contribute much at all.

    But the great success of technology inspires people to trust the scientific priesthood.

  42. realpc920 said,

    ” if you can’t test it, it isn’t science. Correct, perhaps, but not science.”

    Darwin’s theory hasn’t been tested. So why do you consider that science?

  43. realpc920 said,

    “we are approaching the point where we can design a particular DNA strand from scratch”

    No I really doubt that is true. Maybe they’re saying it, but they always say that kind of thing. According to what I have heard, the more they learn about DNA the less they understand it. And you would have to understand it completely in order to create it.

  44. realpc920 said,

    “case where something looking very like a new species was developing.”

    Yes it is possible for a species to break off and become separate. That is taken as proof of evolution by chance. But the examples never involve increasing complexity or really new features.

  45. wj said,

    real, you are correct. Science is merely the systematization of the process by which human beings learn. Which actually makes it more impressive, rather than less — at least to me.The hardest part of learning for individuals has always been accepting that a previous belief/understanding is wrong. Anything that lets us do that more effectively is, to my mind, a Good Thing. Not, as you note, magic. But a good thing nonetheless.

    Darwin’s theory involves two parts: random changes and natural selection. Nobody argues that random changes do not occur. And nobody argues that natural selection does not happen. Both of those can be, and have been, tested. The argument, if I understand correctly, is that Darwin’s theory is not sufficient — that natural selection among random variations isn’t the whole story. Which is a very different discussion.

    Showing that something is not sufficient is never going to be easy. Assuming it is even possible in any particular case.

  46. wj said,

    Why do you think DNA from scratch is impossible? Can we make individual nucleotides (the 4 bases which make up the backbone of a DNA strand)? Yup. Can we insert a nucleotide into a DNA strand? Again yes.

    What we don’t, yet, know how to do is predict what a particular set of nucleotides will produce. We have progressed to the point where we now realize that it isn’t as simple as 1 gene = 1 characteristic. Alas lost innocence! But eventually, we will have a dictionary of genes and other DNA features, and how they work together to produce particular effects. At which point, DNA from scratch (i.e. start with simple stuff and create some DNA to produce something new) is possible. In the next decade? I doubt it extremely. In the next century? I would be unsurprised.

  47. realpc920 said,


    I have never said there is anything wrong with the scientific method. I have never said it isn’t good. I am only saying that like anything human, it is limited. Scientists are not all-knowing magicians who possess an infallible oracle. But that is how the public sometimes perceives them, and how some of them see themselves. It is wrong. The scientific method is useful but very often impractical, and always difficult.

    Materialists try to claim that religion is invalid because it doesn’t use the scientific method. But there are other ways of knowing. And furthermore, religion is not necessarily unscientific. When we take our own inner experiences seriously and learn from them, we are being rational, even if we can’t do controlled experiments on those experiences.

  48. realpc920 said,

    “natural selection among random variations isn’t the whole story.”

    It is a very small part of the whole story. To settle on one little part of a story and ignore and deny all the rest is irrational and unscientific. Species can change because of random variations and natural selection, but these changes are always within the pre-existing potentials of the species.

  49. realpc920 said,

    ” eventually, we will have a dictionary of genes and other DNA features, and how they work together to produce particular effects.”

    That is an assumption that is not based on anything in reality. Anyone can say they will be able to do something some day, but those claims are meaningless. This kind of thing has been going on for decades. Scientists, and people in general, confuse science fiction with scientific fact.

  50. realpc920 said,

    “With enough time and enough trials, some wildly improbably things can happen.”

    That is the best argument Darwinists can give us. Given enough time anything is possible. Or given an infinite number of parallel universes, everything must eventually happen.

    Now how scientific does that sound to you, really? If something explains everything then it explains nothing.

    The theory cannot be tested because it takes millions or billions of years and possibly an infinite number of universes. So it can’t be refuted.

    And this is supposed to be rational? Materialism is NOT science and it does NOT respect the scientific method.

  51. realpc920 said,

    “The big question is not about evolution but about the origin of the DNA code”

    Evolution is also a big question. It’s just that they believe they have explained evolution (even though they haven’t), but they can’t claim to have explained the origin of life. They are both big unanswered questions.

  52. amba said,

    The observation of one’s own mind in Buddhist meditation has been described as “subjective science.”

  53. realpc920 said,

    And, again, I have nothing against science. I just try to remind people that humans are limited. We have a great tendency to forget that. Science gets mixed up with science fiction. The scientific establishment gets intoxicated with power. All to be expected from our species, We have to remind ourselves to be skeptical of ourselves.

  54. amba said,

    The latest field of discovery is epigenetics — the study of how genes are turned on and off and how their expression is modified. What was formerly called “junk” DNA — the long sequences that do not code for amino acids — may be playing a role in this.

  55. realpc920 said,

    [The observation of one’s own mind in Buddhist meditation has been described as “subjective science.”]

    William James called it empirical religion. We can’t do controlled experiments on our inner experiences, but we can be rational observers.

  56. realpc920 said,

    “What was formerly called “junk” DNA — the long sequences that do not code for amino acids — may be playing a role in this”

    I love it when they call everything they don’t understand “junk.”

  57. realpc920 said,

    ” the long sequences that do not code for amino acids ”

    They discovered that DNA codes for proteins, and jumped to the conclusion that ‘s ALL it does. But it will probably turn out to be just a very small part. And of course this reminds me of Sheldrake again, and his observation that DNA is a crystal. And crystals resonate and can receive information.

  58. amba said,

    The point of contention between evolutionary theory and ID may come down to probability — how much time would be needed for an information-dense system like DNA protein synthesis to come about by unconscious, accidental processes. I think this is what is taken up in Signature in the Cell.

    I don’t know yet but I have the impression that the problem with the ID point of view is that it assumes those things must have come into being full-blown, rather than increased in complexity bit by bit, building on earlier, simpler events. The problem with the neo-Darwinian point of view is that is overly optimistic that there has been enough time for such elaborate complexity to come about blindly, if indeed it ever could (like monkeys with typewriters producing Shakespeare).

  59. wj said,

    That is an assumption [that ”eventually, we will have a dictionary of genes and other DNA features, and how they work together to produce particular effects.”] that is not based on anything in reality.

    real, I have to disagree. It is based on a) the progress which has been made so far, b) the rate at which further progress is currently being made, and c) [more tangential, I freely admit] the rate at which progress in other fields has spiked when it hit the critical point of being able to look at all the pieces. It may be an incorrect belief. But it is not pure fantasy either.

    As you correctly say, science is limited. But for something like this (figuring out how DNA relates to specific traits), it is the best tool currently available. And (due in part, I suspect, to the current rate of change/progress in the field) at the moment there is a lot less scientific orthodoxy to fight against when something new turns up. At least compared to some other fields.

    Sure, there is a lot of science fiction on the subject as well. But I think it is possible to ignore that and come up with some expectations about what will happen and when. (I note, without comment, that most of the science fiction I see which discusses the subject seems to foresee things taking a lot longer than I expect them too. So maybe I’m wrong about how soon something will happen. Only time will tell.)

  60. realpc920 said,

    “the problem with the ID point of view is that it assumes those things must have come into being full-blown, rather than increased in complexity bit by bit, building on earlier, simpler events.”

    No I don’t think that’s what they mean. And in any case, ID is mainly a criticism or neo-Darwinism. It doesn’t really assume anything. There might be some ID researchers who claim to know things they don’t really know. In general, no, that is not what they say. Probably what their opponents accuse them of saying.

  61. realpc920 said,

    ” how much time would be needed for an information-dense system like DNA protein synthesis to come about by unconscious, accidental processes.”

    Common sense tells us that mindless accidental processes do not write complex computer programs, such as DNA. Materialist science tells us to ignore our common sense, and our skepticism, and trust the priests. If we cannot learn to ignore common sense, we are labeled ignorant woo-believers.

    But common sense will definitely win out in this case, because DNA looks ever more ingenious and baffling. When it was considered to be mostly meaningless junk, it may have looked like it just piled together by accident.

    I have always predicted the “junk” will gradually disappear, as more is learned about DNA. The code will never be deciphered, but we may get some glimpses into its hyper-intelligence.

  62. realpc920 said,


    How much longer before they discover the ultimate components of matter? Can you predict based on the progress so far? As physics goes deeper everything gets stranger, and the same is happening in biology.

  63. amba12 said,

    Real — common sense can be wrong. Common sense told us the sun goes around the earth and maggots appear spontaneously in rotting meat.

    The scientific method is properly skeptical of common sense, but not contemptuous of it. Common sense isn’t always wrong. But it’s good to test other explanations that aren’t so intuitively obvious. At one time, who would have thought a table was full of empty space?

    I agree with you that science has become dogmatic about the materialist explanation for everything. Obviously there is enormous intelligence, maybe even some form of consciousness (morphogenic fields?) inherent in biological, if not chemical and physical, processes, however it got there. And I agree we’re finding out that everything is far weirder than we knew. However, I would prefer not to jump to any conclusions — including New Age ones.

  64. wj said,

    Definitely a point. On the other hand, for putting things together, knowledge of atoms (for elements) and how they can or cannot fit together is sufficient for a lot of technology. I would put designer DNA (at least as I intended the term) on the same level.

    Sure, we won’t know everything then. What we will have is how to put together DNA for various characteristics we have already seen; not how to predict what characteristics we would get from a piece of DNA than doesn’t occur in nature. But just as we can do a lot with atoms, without knowing the ultimate components of matter, we could do a lot with DNA without knowing everything about the ultimate meaning of every possible combination of bases.

    Putting feathers on a lizard, for example, would involve DNA for feathers (vs. scales) and DNA for a lizard. Not something we have seen in a currently available set of DNA. But still, it is only a combination of known traits.

  65. realpc920 said,

    “I would prefer not to jump to any conclusions — including New Age ones.”

    I understand Amba. I have “jumped” to my conclusions, but it took decades. My conclusions are not based on common sense alone — yes you are right, common sense can often be wrong. What I mean is that materialists are twisting and shoving facts to fit their ideology, and expecting us to believe them and to doubt our own sanity. I based my conclusions — and would always change them if I saw contradicting evidence — on the convergences of common sense, personal experience, ideas from non-materialist science (which has a long history, by the way, and has been shoved aside for no good reason), and from ideas and experiences that are common to all known human cultures.

    The current materialist priesthood asks us to ignore our own experiences and the experiences of countless humans in all times and places, and to ignore our common sense. That would be ok if they had any evidence for these bizarre claims. But they don’t! They just assume that the ultimate answers must be in agreement with their ideology!

    But I can see why you are ambivalent and I am not trying to convert you. Well, maybe ….

  66. realpc920 said,

    “we could do a lot with DNA without knowing everything about the ultimate meaning of every possible combination of bases.”

    I didn’t say we won’t find out the ultimate meaning of every possible combination of bases. I said we won’t break the code. Maybe we’ll get a hint of a trace of understanding. There is a big difference between what I said and what you heard.

  67. wj said,

    “There is a big difference between what I said and what you heard.”

    It’s a common problem, at least in my experience. Thank God for civil discourse like this — at least that means there is a chance to spot misunderstandings. And maybe even achieve a common understanding of where each other are coming from and what we actually believe.

    The biggest problem I see with “discourse” in the wider world is that people all too often misunderstand, and then start screaming objections and invective on that basis. And true understanding has no chance at all.

    Thank you for your patience with me.

  68. realpc920 said,

    Yes you’re right wj, there is no understanding without patience. We may be coming from opposing perspectives, but we are not opponents.

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