Notes on light, truth, glory and intelligence

Some relevant scriptures:

“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67)

“Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.” (D&C 88:49–50)

“…the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light precedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.” (D&C 88:11–13)

“(Jesus Christ is) He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.” (D&C 88:6–10)

“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one.” (D&C 93:36–37)

Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” (D&C 93:30-31)

“For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Moses 1:39

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (D&C 93:24)

What I get from all this is that:

  • “truth” refers to the facts of existence – reality as created, defined, perceived and revealed by God. It is absolute as far as it matters – as far as it pertains to us.
  • “Light” refers to the innate know-ability of truth. If there was such thing as truth without light it would be a fact of existence which was undiscoverable or unknowable to us. There is no such truth. Light is that which makes all truth knowable.
  • “Intelligence” is the capacity, which we inherit from God, to use light to discover truth.
  • God uses his superior (perfect) intelligence to accomplish his work which is to bring to pass our exaltation.

The word used to describe our essential being, that from which our spirits were organized, is “intelligence”. Our essential characteristic, therefore, that which distinguishes us as humans, as children of God, from all other things, is our capacity to detect, discover, recognize truth. Our ability to perceive reality and understand what we perceive. This capacity utilizes light, or the light of Christ, which seems to refer to that which permits truth to be known, comprehended. We all possess, or have access to, this light. It is inherent in our nature as intelligences.

God says that to see us, his children, exhalted to his quality of life, is his work and his glory – or, it is the work of his glory. That is, the work to which he puts his supreme intelligence.

A knowledge, even an imperfect one, of how committed our all-powerful creator is to our success is faith-promoting.

Technology can bring people back to church

I was recently reading some articles about why church attendance is generally in decline. One of the main factors cited was that churches are failing to provide for people’s need for community. Interesting. What is a “community” in this age of instant, free, global communication? Geographic proximity is fast becoming irrelevant. Yet churches are nearly invariably organized around a geographic sense of community. Think instead if it was organized around a community of interests, ties of friendship or family, etc.

My perspective is that of an LDS Christian. Picture a typical Sunday. Members from our local area get out of bed, get washed, dressed, travel and arrive to sit and listen to 3 of their fellows (usually a youth, a less experienced speaker, and a more experienced speaker) speak on assigned gospel topics. Each talk might or might not be relevant or interesting to those in attendance, but each speaker takes his or her turn addressing the entire congregation.

Now consider what it would be like to use technology to transcend the limitations of a geographic organization. I can picture excitedly rolling out of bed each Sunday morning to explore that day’s interactive, customizable itinerary. Thousands of members all over the world have indicated their willingness to accept speaking assignments. A few dozen, of varying experience and abilities, have been selected to present talks on assigned topics. I choose from among these, which I am most interested in. I can watch, listen, and/or read these talks. I can avail myself of the latest virtual reality technology if I wish to experience something close to a traditional setting. I can interact with others doing the same thing or choose to participate from more of an arm’s length. I can experience these “talks” in any order and at any time and in any manner I choose. Repeatedly, throughout the day, I have to option to participate in discussions with others on the same subject as the talks. I can see the choices made by my friends and families so I can factor their choices into my own decision about which talks and discussions to join and when.

In this way my church community is now much more relevant to me. It is based on freely chosen associations with friends and family and base on my interests rather than the increasingly irrelevant factor of geography. A global resource pool exposes me to speakers from around the world and to their varying perspectives. This makes me more a part of a worldwide family than an insular community.

Another factor in declining attendance was said to be the “quality of the preaching”. Extracting volunteer speakers from a global pool on varied topics almost assures both quality and relevancy. The quality of the virtual reality experience can provide as much or as little of the traditional feel of going to church as desired. And again, the global resource pool assures that there will be a community of others with whom to share whatever that level of interactivity might be. Physical limitations due to age, infirmity or distance are no longer relevant. People who like to sleep in can do so and still participate when they wish.

Most traditional pastoral care can be offered by members irrespective of distance. Again, with virtual reality increasingly able to simulate the personal touch proximity permits. Certainly there will be some needs where actual physical proximity is necessary but geographic community will not become anathema, but merely relegated to a subordinate role to more relevant bases for community.

As technology inexorably progresses, especially virtual reality, I expect to see all churches evolve along these lines offering greater opportunity for increased and improved participation. I would hope, and expect our church to be at the forefront of progress.

A line of thought on Theogeny

Nothing to see here folks, move along.

This is really just a “note to self” regarding something I just read and pieced together. I was reading John Leslie’s, “The End of the World”. He reminded me that given a large enough collection of black holes, a fully formed intelligent being might emerge as Hawking radiation. He raises this to illustrate the point that the anthropic principle as understood by it’s discoverer, Brandon Carter, and Leslie himself, contemplates situations where it is more likely to find oneself and not situations such as the one I mention which, while possible, are highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, it got me thinking that if an intelligent being could thus emerge, why not a virtually omniscient and omnipotent one? Could this be the mechanism by which Leslie’s “Divine Mind” is created by his “creatively effectual ethical requirement”? If so, the only “requirement” would be John Wheeler’s oscillating cosmos – an ever-cycling expansion from and collapse to an infinitely small and dense point of potentialities. Obviously such a point fulfills the role of Leslie’s black hole and the emergent universe the role of Hawking’s radiation. So then, from an infinite number of such cycles, there would be an infinite number of intelligent beings, covering the full range of intelligence right up to, and including, all the knowledge capable of having.

But, recalling the anthropic principle, shouldn’t we expect our cycle to have produced, either no intelligent children of the Big Bang or at best, one whose intelligence falls far short of virtual omniscience/omnipotence? Well, one should expect that only a being of at least close to omni-intelligence would survive long enough to form a thought, let alone survive proximity to a Big Bang singularity. It seems reasonable for us to consider such a being at least virtually omni-intelligent – close enough for our purposes.

But would such a being be omni-benevolent too? Again, anthropic reasoning suggests so. We should expect that such a being would value life, since without life, value is impossible. If such a being did not value life, presumably we would not need to concern ourselves with it as it would soon fall to the considerable life-threatening environment proximate to a big bang. If it did value life, it seems reasonable to attribute seemingly obvious virtues such as consistency to it. It seems to me that a virtually omnipotent/omniscient being which consistently values life is as close as we need to come to describing one of Leslie’s Divine Minds being radiated from one (or more) of an infinite number of big bangs. Attributing to it the inclination to reproduce seems a reasonable extrapolation and so Leslie’s Divine Mind becomes Mormonism’s Father of the Gods.

How do these fortuitous circumstances come to be? For that we must leave the anthropic principle far behind. We need to first accept that nothing in the world can answer the question of how to get the above something from nothing. At least nothing we typically think of as being in or a part of the world as any such thing posing as the ultimate explanation is subject to the question, “Well then how did THAT come to be?”

So the ultimate cause must be something that we don’t usually think of as existing in the sense that we think of most/all other things as existing. 1 + 1 = 2 in base 10 math. Wouldn’t that remain true even if there were no things to count or do the counting, or even to contemplate its truthfulness? The statement really is just a way of restating the law of identity (but what isn’t?). If you have one thing, and you have another thing, then you have both things (which means you have one thing and another thing). This is an abstract truth that doesn’t depend on the actual existence of anything we ordinarily think of as really existing. This abstract truth doesn’t prompt us to question it’s origin or seek a deeper explanation. The ultimate explanation must be something of that same nature.

Restating Leslie’s suggestion in the above context leads me to suggest that there is a creatively effectual ethical requirement that a singularity subject to quantum fluctuation exist. That might be all it took.

An accommodation

As reported on KSL.com the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made it official policy today to call for the state to restrict the right of individuals to deny employment, housing, etc. to gays. Unfortunately the statement is couched in terms of “protecting rights”, which this most assuredly is not. No one has a right to someone else’s property. The idea is an absurd contradiction. If you have the final say over a thing’s disposition then that thing is yours – your property. If someone else has the final say, then it is the property of that other person. We can speak of multiple persons each having an “interest” in property such as when two people each hold an equal 50% undivided joint interest in a property. But that is different than saying that any random unspecified person has a right to march into your residence or business and demand a bed or a job you would otherwise deny to him, and threaten to bring the power (armed force) of the state to bear against you if you refuse. That is the “right” being “protected” today. The right to initiate force against another to prevent him from using his property in a way you don’t agree with. It is the right to use violence to get your way. It is the right to be a beast, an animal, an uncivilized barbarian. That is the right that is being protected by all non-discrimination legislation.

Now of course I am personally opposed to irrationality, which to me includes any discrimination on the basis of irrelevant facts. I cannot see how a person’s sexual orientation would even come into the conversation over terms of lodging or employment. If it did, somehow, the innkeeper or employer who turned away an otherwise acceptable customer or employee on that basis alone is irrational and irrational means bad. But I would so much more want to live in a society where everyone respects the right of every other person to be free.

Free to live as they choose and to do what they choose with their own property. Free from violence, or the threat of violence, from another or others. When the violence is threatened by one person acting alone we call him a criminal. When it comes from a group of individuals we usually call them a criminal gang. But when it comes from a group (police) who were hired by another group (politicians) who persuaded another group (voters) to place lead filings next to their names on a piece of paper (voting) then we call that “The Law” and we bow down and worship it as thoroughly as the idolatrous image of any other false god ever fashioned.

The extent to which we allow others to do with their own lives and property what we would prefer they didn’t, without using violence or threatening violence against them for so doing, is the extent to which we are human beings and not animals. Violence is the way of the jungle where beasts have their way based on their power to violently impose their interests over that of the other beasts. It is how they eat, procreate and otherwise survive. But humans, when acting as humans, as sons and daughters of God, do no violence toward one another unless it is in response to the violence of others. They never initiate violence. And when they do retaliate, it is only reluctantly, taking care to do so only to that level required to quell the violence and redress the wrongs it brought about. This is what Jesus taught. It is a part of the higher law. But it is not because He taught it that it is right. It is because it right that He taught it. The right to be free from the initiation of violence is the only political ethic consistent with the fact that man relies on his own individual capacity to reason for his survival. The extent to which you are forced to comply with another’s judgment is the extent that he has deprived you of the capacity to survive and made a poor substitute for it – his judgment.

One can only judge based on what he knows and all that he knows is contained within his mind. Words are imperfect symbols which stand for the concepts we hold within our minds but are not those concepts themselves. Words must always fail to convey a portion of what we mean by them since the meaning we attribute to them is informed by all we have experienced and come to believe. To take an extreme example, what does “red” mean to someone who cannot see? A better example is to consider what concept the word “beauty” might conjure in the mind of an adult raised and educated with access to the finest art ever produced. Now consider what “beauty” would mean to a starving and impoverished child. It is impossible to learn enough about another through words or ancillary forms of communication to justify imposing our judgment over their own as their means of survival. And even if we could, we would be denying them the right to live their own life by living it for them. No amount of having their best interests at heart can justify denying them the opportunity to live a life of their own. The right of the individual to live his own life as he freely chooses, so long as he respects that same right of others, is the only appropriate political ethic for human beings.

So why would the Church announce this policy?

The Church’s official position on legal matters is not doctrine nor part of the gospel. It is not revelation nor necessarily inspired. It is not an exercise in ecumenical authority but administrative. That is why whenever it makes such comments, members are always “encouraged” (or such similar undemanding language) to comply with it.

I am sure that the Church’s official policy is to obey all the laws of all the jurisdictions where the Church is found, and to “encourage” all members to do the same. I think if the Church had been organized at the time of the American Revolution it’s policy would have been the same. But revolutionary leaders are rightly considered righteous men and heroes and were all baptised by proxy and said to have accepted the saving ordinances performed on their behalf.

I think the interests of the Church as an administrative body, a corporate legal entity, are not necessarily identical to the interests of any specific individual and that in all cases the individual must look to the scriptures and the Holy Ghost as the most important external guides to inform his own rational judgment. No one has properly discharged his moral agency by simply mimicking what someone else has done. Everyone’s circumstances are unique and that is why salvation is the result in the proper discharge of individual moral agency.

Personally, I remain opposed to investing the state with greater authority to interfere with the decisions of individuals as to who they employ, who they house, or whatever else they do and for whatever reason with respect to their own lives and property. I would divest it of such authority as it presently usurps by force.

So this isn’t an inspired decision?

I think this is not necessarily inspired, but may be, but the main point is that this statement is what it is and nothing more – the official position of the Church, based on the Church’s interests as perceived by those who have stated this position for it. I certainly don’t believe every statement, position, or policy taken by any man or group of men is infallible and as members of the Church we are not bound to accept anything for doctrine that has not been sustained in General Conference as such.

This is not a statement of principle or doctrine but a statement of policy. They are saying that the Church (the legal entity) is taking this position in light of all the present cultural, social, legal circumstances and how the Church’s interests may be best pursued in that context.

The Church is not in a position to ignore the law or the state. It must accommodate both. Historically, and this may be another instance of it, its greater interests require that it accommodate social-cultural norms.

In the 1800s it accommodated slavery with policies of not allowing slaves to join the Church without their master’s consent. During the period where racial segregation was culturally prominent it barred blacks from the Priesthood and the temple, although exceptions were made that proved that this was not consistent with eternal principles but only temporary policies. To accommodate sexist cultural norms women could not be baptised or endowed without their husband’s consent. It was worse in Paul’s day when women were forbidden to speak in church.

These are all temporary expedients designed to secure the Church’s position within the existing legal-cultural milieu. They were not declarations of moral principles. They were attempts to ensure that strong social forces did not distract from the real mission of the Church. The Church has always been spiritually revolutionary but rarely politically. Think of Christ’s time. Personally he lived as he knew best and accepted the consequences but he never counseled the Church as a whole to oppose the state authorities. He counseled Peter to put away his sword.

Consistent with eternal principles the Church readily accepts the emancipation of slaves, the equality of the races and sexes. But it was individuals, including individual Church members, and not the Church as a body, which brought about these changes.

Sure, I’d prefer not to see the Church take this stand, but if those whose calling it is to make these decisions know something I don’t that requires them to go to this length to accommodate the gay lobby to minimize them as a distraction from the Church’s mission, then I can accept it. But only for what it is and that is not a constraint on my own judgment.

Strong and Equal

A better translation of Genesis 2:18 reveals the true stature of woman in the eyes of God.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

The Hebrew word rendered as “help” is “ezer” which has two roots. One means “to rescue” or “to save” and the other means “to be strong”. It is used several times in the Bible and the majority of time it is used to describe God with reference to the kind of help he provides. Consider the kind of “help” God provided to Moses and the children of Israel in crossing the Red Sea. He opened the sea and let them cross on dry land. That’s the kind of help we’re talking about here, not the kind of help as in, “she helps out around the house.”

The word translated as “meet” is “k’enegdo” which does not mean “meet” as in “fit” or “appropriate” but “equal”. So to convey the intended meaning of the phrase accurately probably requires more words than what the King James translators used.

“I will make a strong companion for him who will be his equal.” Or perhaps, “I will make an equal to him to be a strong companion.”

Whatever the wording, the original intent is clear and ought to inform our view of the proper relationship between man and woman.

See Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell for this insight and more.

Take that Krauss

I really like how John Horgan put that bigoted, pseudo-scientific, anti-religious tag team of Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins in their place. The idea of offering the fact that quantum fluctuations can result in virtual particles becoming real as an answer to the question of why there is something instead of nothing is an insult to the intelligence of their audience, or worse, an appeal to their anti-religious prejudice as being sufficient to blind them to the absurdity of the proposition. As Horgan correctly rejoins, just where or where do the quantum fields that can give rise to virtual particles come from? Surely quantum fields are something and not nothing. Krauss’ thesis would be just plain silly if it weren’t so clearly intended simply as a rallying point for equally rabid atheists whose own pseudo-religious fervor trumps any appeal to reason and quest for truth.

I disagree with Horgan’s view that science is incapable of discovering an answer to that question but only, I think, because I prefer a broader conception of science than he apparently does. If by science we only include testable hypotheses then of course this question will always remain outside because there will never again be, if there ever were, a condition where literally nothing exists. Even if everything that is, ceased to be, there would always remain the fact that it had been. Besides, it would surely leave any test without anyone to observe the results.

I prefer to characterize science broadly as the search for knowledge about the nature of the world and that would include philosophy. I think if you construct a hypothesis which does not allow for testing but does permit you to make a reasonable assessment of probabilities, perhaps by eliminating the alternatives, or at least assessing them to be less likely, then that counts as science – especially if more narrowly scientific procedures can provide evidence that helps you make relevant assessments.

Thoughts on a transhumanist interpretation of the King Follett sermon

I am a member of the organization called the Mormon Transhumanist Association. The group is fortunate enough to have an articulate and highly intelligent founder and spokesperson, Lincoln Cannon.

I just read this excellent essay where Lincoln interprets Joseph Smith’s famous King Follett sermon. Through this literary device Lincoln reconciles the vital doctrine Joseph Smith taught on that occasion with both transhumanism and Lincoln’s adaptation of the simulation argument which he calls the New God Argument. Such a reconciliation is easy because, as he and I agree, Mormon doctrine mandates transhumanism.

I do want to comment on something he says at page 9.

“Imagine a posthuman child. Using the tools of quantum archeology, she traces backwards through time and space from effects to causes. Sampling a sufficiently large portion of her present, she rediscovers you. Attaining a desired probabilistic precision for a portion of her past, she recreates you. The future-you is distinguishable from the present-you, but only as the today-you is distinguishable from the yesterday-you. As if awaking from a night’s sleep, you are resurrected, and you learn to do the same for your parents. “

I commend and agree with his attempt to conceive of how we will play a role in the resurrection of the dead, which I have heard taught, will be a Priesthood ordinance for us to perform and so, obviously, will have some role to play. I think everything he says here is plausible and consistent with what has been revealed and accepted as doctrine. Not just not inconsistent, but consistent, as Lincoln does a great job of tying family history research, performing proxy ordinances for the dead, and the actual mechanics plausibly at play in the actual resurrection process.

However, as in most things God lets us do, I think that here too there is a part which only he can do. I think that a posthuman’s quantum archeology, no matter how impressive, could not discover all the nuances that constitute a human mind.  To think it could suggests a deterministic view of how the world works which I believe we can avoid thanks to the inherent indeterminism of quantum mechanics. Also, to think that one could resurrect ancestors many generations removed at the end of a long series of resurrecting all those in between, one by one, and relying in part on their memories of their ancestors is wildly optimistic. The results could only bare a superficial likeness to the actual person.

I have trouble believing that a process like the one Lincoln describes would not be a part of the resurrection. Even as posthumans we will have much to learn and the best way to learn is by doing. As humans, and as posthumans, I don’t believe God will simply do for us anything we are capable of doing  for ourselves, even after much trial and effort. It is in achieving results through trial and effort that we learn to become like Him.

However, being believers in God, we need not postulate a resurrection wherein He plays absolutely no part at all.

The New God Argument is an adaptation of the Simulation Argument for Mormons. I made this adaptation for myself long before I encountered Lincoln’s statement of it. I discuss it in another post so here I’ll skip to the conclusion. The reality we experience is actually a “virtual reality” just like we can envision ourselves creating in a not-too-much-more technologically sophisticated future. No doubt such virtual realities require powerful computational processing and impressively large storage capacity.  In other words, vast intelligence and perfect memory. Initially we might think of the posthuman creator of our reality (virtual reality to Him) as sitting down at a powerful desktop and typing away. But surely a second’s contemplation of progressive miniaturization and improvements in brain/computer interfacing should prompt us to replace this image with one closer to the actual God whose omniscient mind produces the thoughts memories which represent the code upon which our reality relies for its existence.

Surely after the nascent posthuman’s ability to recreate her dead ancestor through quantum archaeology has been exhausted, He whose thoughts originally organized the information that became her ancestor could add the final touches and produce a perfect likeness.

I believe God’s continued contemplation of the dead’s consciousness, His awareness of precisely what it is like to be that person, is sufficient to maintain identity between the quantum bits that were the deceased and those constituting the newly resurrected person. According to Mormon doctrine, that consciousness is not even inactive between bodily death and resurrection, but remains engaged in a course of learning and growth toward godhood.

I find it extremely satisfying and intensely faith promoting that Mormon doctrine is so easily reconciled with these scenarios as they are not arbitrary science fictions but logical extrapolations from clearly discerned technological trends.

State Censorship Objectifies the Human Mind.

I wrote this in response to an invitation to sign a petition to request government censorship of pornography.

I am 100% opposed to pornography. I am also 100% opposed to state censorship. If people are forced to choose the right we are no longer moral agents, no longer things that act but things to be acted upon and we can make no progress in developing our moral character through freely choosing the good over the evil.

No individual person has the right to make decisions like this for another. When you ask the state to do it for you, you are neither exercising nor delegating a right, you are simply resorting to brute force and asking the state to wield that force on your behalf against others who think differently. By advocating the initiation of force you the aggressor, the perpetrator of a crime against these others.

You perpetuate a war that has been going on for a very long time, between liberty and slavery. Even if the slavery is to what you consider the good, it is still slavery and slavery is always wrong.

I consider the advocates of this petition to be the same as had they shown up at my door with a gun to decide for themselves what liberty I was permitted to exercise with respect to my property. I recognize the right of all persons to defend their lives, liberty and property and to use force to do so.

That is the level to which you who support this petition descend. You are seeking to use force against those who have decided to treat as children, incapable of making decisions for themselves. In your pride you have established yourselves as their moral superiors and seek to strip them of their moral agency.

You have admitted that your beliefs lack the power to persuade and thus you give up persuasion and resort to force. This is intellectual laziness as the case against choosing to view pornography is persuasive and ought to be made, to free individuals, not to political tyrants.

Pornography objectifies people. What do you think your attack on their moral agency does? You are every bit as guilty as the pornographers of the very same thing. Where their is no moral choice, their is no moral development.

The Second Coming will be in the 2040s

Many Christians look forward to the literal return of Jesus Christ to usher in a thousand year period of peace called the Millennium. This is certainly a part of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Scripture says no one knows the time of this event but God the Father but that believers should watch for the signs of its coming so they can be prepared. The scriptures are replete with signs but remember that most were written by people who were totally unfamiliar with modern technology. Sure they were inspired and received revealed truth but they still struggled to express it given their lack of experience with today’s (let alone tomorrow’s) technology. I must have been like writing in a foreign language with which they were almost totally unfamiliar.

So let’s step away from scriptural interpretation for a minute to see if there is anything that a little logic and common sense can tell us about the possible timing of the second coming. I think there is and that it points to a date somewhere around 2045. Here’s the argument:

1. For thousands of years people have been born, lived and died without the need to be ruled directly by the Lord. It is reasonable to suppose that something must be going to change that will require a more direct intervention by God. If we can guess what the change is and when it is likely to occur it should give us a better idea for the time of the second coming.

2. The pace of technological change is exponential (2×2=4, 4×2=8, 8×2=16, 16×2=32) rather than linear (2+2=4, 4+2=6, 6+2=8, 8+2=10). The more time passes the more change that takes place over the same period. Experts predict that by the 2040s the pace of change will be so great that it will completely outpace our ability to adapt. Before we can make up our minds about what to do next, the options we were considering will have changed. Borrowing a term from physics they refer to this as a technological singularity. The period from now to 2045 will see more change to the way we live than has taken place throughout all of human history until now.

Some of this technology will enable us to enhance our mental abilities so that we can keep up with the pace of change. Many will, some won’t. Those who don’t will be as helpless in the world of 2045 as a deer in Times Square. Those who do will have almost godlike powers. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, the technology of a sufficiently advanced civilization would be indistinguishable from magic. By 2045 most of us will be able to perform magic.

3. To have godlike power does not necessarily imply that one will have godlike virtues. To some degree I do believe that ethics is related to intelligence but not in direct proportion. It is easy to see that we are not progressing ethically at the same pace as we are technologically. By 2045 we may find ourselves in a situation analogous to unsupervised toddlers in possession of loaded weapons. As Uncle Ben said to Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. The power is coming. Are we ready to exercise it responsibly? To avoid using it to hurt ourselves and others? perhaps some are, but are all of us? By 2045 most of us will not have developed sufficiently godlike virtues to avoid exercising our godlike powers irresponsibly.

4. By 2045, with most of humanity possessed of the combination of godlike power but without godlike character, only direct divine intervention will prevent us from doing great harm to ourselves and others. Thus the second coming and the millennial rule of Christ.

I do not believe the millennium will see everyone sitting around learning to play harps. It would take a lobotomy or something like a drug-induced coma for me to be able to tolerate that for much more than 5 minutes. My gratitude and respect for God’s greatest gift to man, his reasoning mind, can not allow me to believe that he will destroy that gift and call it “salvation”. If I am to be saved, that which I refer to as “I” must not first be destroyed. Without a mind with which to reason, I am no more. Without the freedom to act according to reason, I would not wish to be.

I do believe that, crudely put, upon arrival the Lord will basically tell us that collectively we’ve done a good job using our minds to develop technology but that we’ve got a lot to learn about ethics. He will need to teach us as he has always taught us. First, that we need to be humble enough to be willing to learn. Second, we need to be obedient because we only learn (acquire a new skill, talent, ability, characteristic, etc.) by successfully imitating an expert, not by trial and error as many people mistakenly believe.

The third thing we need to learn is really the first substantive thing as the first 2 just make learning possible. This third thing incorporates everything else that he’s ever taught us. Technological progress comes to us naturally, as we require it to have power to act in accordance to our reason. But this third thing does not come to us as easily. We do have the capacity to develop it, it is a part of our nature, but so many of the challenges and distractions of daily living tempt us to neglect its development.

What I am speaking of is the capacity to love. Not just the family members from whom we receive so much obvious return for our emotional investment, but everyone. Christ taught us that we have the capacity to so identify with our fellow beings that we can experience their happiness as our own. The emotional state associated with our awareness of this is love – a biochemical motivation to pursue what is best for someone else in order to share in their resultant happiness.

Without developing our capacity to love our happiness is severely confined to just that which benefits us directly. With a fully developed capacity to love we expand our potential for happiness perhaps infinitely. In scriptural language this is a “fullness of joy”.

To bring this full circle, godlike power will maximize our ability to achieve whatever ends we pursue. A godlike capacity to love will motivate us to pursue the best interests of all our fellow beings and share in their resultant happiness, which thanks to our power, will all but inevitably be achieved.

To substitute a fullness of joy for a miserable world of power without ethics is why I believe we can anticipate His return sometime around 2045.

Death

There’s a few things I’m fairly certain about. I believe I have an accurate, though imprecise, appreciation for the degree of uncertainty we have to deal with. (So I’m fairly certain about uncertainty.) The claim to possess absolute knowledge is a fairy tale. The claim, “I am absolutely certain that this (any) statement is true” is either naive, an exaggeration, or a lie. The only source of information about the external world our brain has is what it gathers from our five senses. We are all to familiar with the many maladies that can interfere with the functioning of the senses as we are of disabilities, temporary or chronic, that interfere with the brain’s ability to process sensory information. Hallucinations are real – they are real hallucinations.

It is the nature of a hallucination that we are tricked into believing what we hallucinated to be as real as that which we accurately perceive. Therefore, there is no way, no absolutely foolproof way, of distinguishing what is real from what is imagined. I could be hallucinating the experience of typing these words, or indeed, of having truly experienced every single one of my memories. But giving serious credence to that is no way to live. Indeed logic and experience tell us the opposite is true and that we should always trust the evidence of our senses as the basis for rational judgment. That our senses may sometimes be tricked, or that our judgment may sometimes not be all that rational, just remind us that we are not perfect and that absolute certainty is not a part of the human experience.

As usual, that was simply a long preamble to provide the context for stating that I am sure that there is life after death. I am convinced, for reasons I have written about, that our identities will survive what we experience as physical death and will continue to enjoy an even broader range of experiences hereafter. I base that belief not on blind (hence irrational) faith, but on a rational judgment informed by the evidence of my senses. The evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen which are true. I am not absolutely sure, but I believe it to be true. If it turns out that I am right, I can then say that I knew it. Anticipating that I am right, I can now say that I know it (but I just don’t absolutely know that I know it).

I have always liked Roger Whittaker’s version of The Last Farewell. Some of the lyrics are:

“I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow.
But how bitter will be this last farewell.”

These words express my feelings very closely. The process of dying may be quite unpleasant but that is different. I am speaking of death itself. I don’t fear it. But interestingly, not for the reason of my very strong belief in (anticipatory knowledge of) an afterlife. Many years ago, albeit when my belief in an afterlife was not so strong, I admit that I did have a fear of death. What if there were no afterlife? I certainly had to acknowledge the possibility then and still have to now. Then, if I were to die, I would no longer be able to enjoy all the things that bring me happiness. I would miss them.

It was roughly 20 years ago that it suddenly occurred to me that I was mistaken about this and implication has eliminated all fear of death. I can truly say that I have never experienced the fear of death since that time. I don’t understand why anyone would, as the logic is surely unassailable. Without an afterlife I would not miss my family, my friends, or the pursuits I enjoy because I would not be and in order to miss these it would be necessary for me to be. But if I were to be, after I had died, that would constitute an afterlife.

So, in death devoid of an afterlife, it is not as though I will be somehow aware of all that I was missing and would never again experience. I would not be aware at all because I would cease to exist.

This might sound morbid but this realization should actually be a welcome relief to any who have a lingering fear of death (remember I distinguished “death” from “dying”). If I were to die, I would do so convinced that I would imminently be experiencing an afterlife but also knowing that if that confidence was misplaced, I would never know it. I would simply cease to be and never be aware of it.

Now it occurs to me, in the interests of thoroughness, that I ought to address the alleged possibility of an unpleasant afterlife – one in which one experiences endless sorrow. The pain to be inflicted on the infidels by a god who rewards terrorists for blowing up buses full of children, or the eternal flames inflicted by a god who would punish those who never had an opportunity to know him, seem to me to be so far outside the realm of possibilities as to warrant no attention whatsoever. I would put it this way – I have no fear that God is my moral inferior, as such a god as these would necessarily be.

I know myself enough to know that I am far from perfect, but I am also far from being deserving of eternal suffering by any rational code of morality. Thus, I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow.

What can and does bring sorrow is life – and because of this it is life that ought to be feared. In the song, the bitterness of the last farewell is the emotional consequence of actions taken by the living and experienced by the living. But despite occasional tears of sadness, life affords more occasions to shed tears of joy. It is this that makes life worth living. One ought to fear the consequences of a life based on incorrect principles. By consistently applying correct principles in making life’s decisions this fear can be dismissed and the love of life can determine one’s attitude.