New Plans


In the interim since my last musing, my thoughts and plans have changed substantially. There seems to be a welcome convergence.

I recently finished reading Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. It was my first experience reading anything written by Nagel and I was impressed. He and I think alike up to a point. That point is nicely expressed by his subtitle.

Where Nagel and I disagree is on the prospect of developing a theory that will convincingly replace the Neo-Darwinian conception of nature. He is pessimistic on that score and I am optimistic.

As usual, I took notes as I read his book and for the most part, those notes contain my answers to the questions he raised about points of disagreement between him and me. In preparing to write this present musing, I read through those notes and was surprised at how logical and coherent they were. They very nicely stand alone. That is due to Nagel's systematic way of organizing his book and presenting the questions in a logical sequence. What it did was to draw out of me my proposal for a theory that I think is exactly what Nagel is looking for and which he despairs of finding in his lifetime. Somehow I would like to get his attention.

My attitude toward the possibility of writing and publishing my ideas has also converged. For a long time, say from early childhood up to 10/8/99, to be very precise, I was reluctant to share my deepest personal views about reality with anyone. I dutifully went through the outward rituals as prescribed by my Lutheran upbringing without ever discussing my doubts and personal beliefs with anyone.

As I got older, I could see the wisdom of not discussing religion at the Thanksgiving dinner, nor in any other polite company outside of a dorm room in the wee hours of the morning.

As I learned a little about history, it was clear to me that the establishment of religions had brought with it untold misery to humanity and that to this day it is the source of some of the worst strife in the world. This convinced me that the last thing I ever wanted to do was to found a religion, or even to try to convince anyone to change his/her beliefs to conform to mine.

So, as time went on, I kept my beliefs pretty close to my vest—until 1999, that is. In that year, I was asked by a respected and respectful colleague to read and comment on C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. He considered that book to be the best logical argument for Christian belief that there was, and, since he respected my logical abilities, he wanted my opinion.

After reading it, my response was that the book hardly qualified to be called "logical" at all. It was specious at best. This shocked my friend and it precipitated a serious, in depth series of discussions during which we each tried to better understand the basis of the beliefs of the other. The format was that each of us would pose questions for the other and answer questions sent by the other, all done on paper through the US Mail. The efforts were largely unsuccessful.

In exasperation, rather than simply respond to questions, I decided to organize my thoughts and write an essay expressing them. As a result, I wrote an essay titled "My Beliefs about God" and I published it on my website on that memorable date, 10/8/99.

My feelings were ambivalent about making my views public, but I rationalized that by doing so I would hardly start a religion which would then go on to damage the world.

Since then, my feelings on the subject have remained ambivalent, but they have gradually softened and converged to the present moment when it now seems OK for me to present my ideas to the world.

A coincident convergence is simply my age: I am now 76 and of course I don't know how many more years I have to go.

Reading Nagel also revealed another coincident convergence to me. It became clear that I had harbored unanswered questions since childhood, that I had made attempts to speculate on answers to them for myself, and that I had despaired of anyone, including me, actually coming up with cogent answers. Nagel's book changed that.

Nagel, himself, despaired of finding a cogent theory of mind in his lifetime. His book systematically showed how the current Neo-Darwinian theories were inadequate, and he presented the bare outlines of what an adequate theory would be like, but he admitted that he was unable to devise such a theory.

It dawned on me while taking my notes that I had a proposal that I believe would satisfy Nagel and the conditions he spelled out. It now seems to me that my search for truth has converged to the point where I believe that I have come up with a novel proposal to extend philosophy, religion, and science with a theory that will establish a new paradigm and open up new insights in our attempts to understand reality. My long search for answers seems to have found some. This all seems very heady.

In my nearly weekly conversations with my son Dave, I have been overjoyed to learn that he is interested in understanding my ideas. Over the recent years, those conversations have given me the opportunity and the challenge to convert my ideas into language that makes sense. He has been a great sounding board which I very much appreciated.

In our last conversation, I mentioned that I have decided to begin writing up my ideas with the objective of publishing them, possibly in book form. He encouraged me and said that he is eager to read the chapters as they get written.

Aside from my age, the demands of the log home project are promising to relax enough so that I can devote more time to thinking and writing.

And, of course, speaking of convergence, these musings fit right into the mix. The musing just prior to this one, titled "A Summary of How I think Consciousness Works", is a nice starting point for an outline of the book, or at least of the core ideas.

I am about as excited as I get about this sort of thing and I feel really good about my plans for the future. I plan to continue this musing format, which is simply a stream of consciousness dump, to keep interested readers abreast of my activity, and to give me the opportunity to reduce ideas to print for the first time in order to try them out. I look forward to continuing, but right now I am hungry so I will stop.

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