Bible Freedom Science NetworkCopyright © 2008 to 2012, Charles Henry Johnsen, III

An Incomplete* Glossary

Glossary for Bible Freedom Science Website

(*No Professor or wife of mine will be surprised.)
Defining Glossary
I use some words oddly (cf person). Others are neologisms that baffle even my own editorial personality (cf reducted). Sometimes I have a short essay on a topic that does not fit anywhere else (cf dumbdamentalism). And specialists in one field may not need a glossary in their specialty but require one for the other guy's field (cf me and meme). Also, I repeat myself and linking to a set of definitions instead makes for better prose (cf Geshua). For all of these reasons I will maintain this glossary and link to it often.
All entries have at least a sentence or two but some are longer, up to about 250 words. Past that, I will link you to an essay which is in a file separate from this document, although still in the glossary directory.
I am not trying to replace the Wikipedia but to offer alternatives to official or conventional wisdom. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes I am wrong and conventional wisdom is right. It really, really hurt to write that. In that humility, a stranger to me in most circumstances, please also see how others define these terms. Yahoo is a good place to start because it is not Google.
The Abzu or Apsu is the hide out of the god Enki of Eridu in the most ancient civilization, Shumer of Mesopotamia. For more about Enki, Shumer, and the Abzu go to Abzu Central. Also, see Kramer and Maier's excellent book or read my definition of The Western Abzu.
AhAh! Experience
Intellectual Orgasm. Go to gyro.
Asherah: Did The Lord have a Consort?
Asherah is the name of a Canaanite goddess whom a few professors believe was the wife and consort of the God of Israel. While some Israelites may have taken Asherah for His wife, I do not believe He consented to this union. More here in an essay called Did Ha Shem have a Wife?
Elements like hydrogen and carbon are no longer believed to be the smallest units of matter but we still call them atoms. I call them virtual atoms. Go to virtual atomics.
BCE vs BC, CE vs AD: Who are we?
Before the Common Era or Before Christ?
Common Era or Anno Domini, Year of the Lord?
This is more important than it first appears. For a very long time now Christendom has referred to the years as BC or AD. This recognized that He was the pivot of history, which He is for all but especially for our culture. The division of eras was secular as well as religious. Other cultures have different calendars and different starts for the counting of years. The Chinese, the Muslims, and the Jews are examples.
Because of self loathing, some in the academic community use BCE and CE instead. They wish to exclude Geshua from history but somehow understand that the count of years will stand until our civilization is replaced. Instead of waiting until they are long dead, the professors use this clever replacement.
I use both, only occasionally paying attention to the context. Truthfully, other than a bit of sarcasm, I cannot get too excited about it. Not because I do not agree that the lord is the center of history. He is. I just do not think BCE and CE will be around very long. It suits me to irritate everybody enough that they look at this glossary entry. Besides, while the fancy people want us to read these acronyms as Before the Common Era and the Common Era, I can just as easily read them as Before the Christian Era and the Christian Era. So there.
Black Box
Sometimes troubleshooting requires the isolation of cause and effect. For example, if the TV is not on, the first order of business is not to get out the schematic diagrams and study the operation and characteristics of a driver transistor. Instead we ignore everything inside the box for a moment and think of it as a functional or virtual black box. Now we can ask about input and output only and the questions arise, Is it plugged in? Is a signal source live and attached? Is the power switch on? Only after those questions have been answered do we open up the TV set and divide its internal parts into a whole set of black boxes with nothing but inputs and outputs.
When I think about the universe I use the same troubleshooting technique. I may not understand how iron and other alloyed atoms combine their characteristics to become an anvil. What is inside an anvil from the view of physicist is immaterial to its function, at the moment, of a flat surface to pound on. I have put all of physics and chemistry into a black box and labeled it anvil.
I call the major black boxes that I see frames. Atomic physics has an input, quantum mechanical particles and forces, and an output, molecular and bulk materials physics. Even if I do know and understand what goes on inside the frames that define atomic physics, putting all of it into a black box with a label enables me to grasp the overall relationships and structure of the material universe. Our minds work better if we can isolate some parts and ignore others until it is their turn to be isolated and considered. The only mind that can comprehend the whole in any detail at all is that mind that has first divided the whole into parts, black boxes, where the principles and characteristics can be simplified.
Canon, The
List, The
A list of books in the Bible. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all have their own canons. All share the first five books (The Books of Moshe: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) and add others of their own. The Jews add the Writings (books like Psalms) and the Prophets (books like Kings and Isaiah). Islam adds the Qur’an. Christians accept the Jewish additions and add the New Testament. Unlike Islam and Judaism, Christianity's canon varies a little from branch to branch and time to time.
I will use the word canon loosely and generally, usually following the Christian canon without specifying which one. Do not suppose this is due to lack of opinion or study. Nor may you say that I do not care one way or the other. My reason for having a canon with a somewhat blurry edge is that the history is blurry, the theology is blurry, and the texts are blurry. But the blur is only at the edges, only that little bit of imperfection that the most perfect things acquire when they become a part of the real world. A canon delivered by an angel is as useless to a world of living men and women as frozen food that cannot be thawed.
More here in the essay Not done yet.
chaos and determinism
Not Random!
Determinism is the theory that the present physical state of the universe is generated by the previous physical state of the universe. Although such a statement can never be more than a thought experiment, determinism is often explained thus: If the properties (mass, charge, etc.) and location (velocity, coordinates) are known for every particle in the universe, and if the physics (mathematics, mechanics, relativity, vacuum, etc.) are good, we could in principle predict the properties and location for every particle in the universe in the next moment.
While many would agree with this form of determinism, most scientists also keep in mind the Uncertainty Principle and the probabilistic nature of the results. This limits how specific we can be, even given a computer outside of and larger than the universe. Even for a single liter of gas science uses methods that treat material behavior in bulk, averaging the movements of all the particles. Yet the universe is still determined, only now in average and beyond our complete single particle view.
Chaos theory introduces the idea that initial conditions which vary by tiny amounts, often unnoticed and unmeasurable, can lead to a great variety of large variations in outcome. As another technique of mathematics for the analysis of real phenomena, chaos is helping us to understand and predict many natural events and states.
In practical terms chaos theory limits determinism to narrowly defined situations where all beginning properties and locations are known and the smallest unit of interest is macroscopic. Just as quantum mechanics before it, chaos theory disciplines our ability to know and predict.
But philosophically none of the new methods contradict determinism as a general and universal principle. For the real usefulness of determinism in science and thought is as a discipline to utterly reject miracles and purpose as generators of reality. In other words, determinism is not mechanics nor mathematics. Determinism is just another way of saying we live in a universe of physical cause and effect. Period.
It is particularly galling to read that quantum mechanics and chaos theory allow a dualist or verbalist view. Nonsense. These two refinements of our methods and understanding in fact push metaphysical theories further away and make such ideas less useful. There is no gap at all in the cause and effect universe for the intrusion of the immaterial or the miraculous. People who claim that because we can never know completely in every detail the state and location of every molecule of gas in a single liter, there must be some mysterious force sneaking into the tiny are mistaken. This is sleight of hand, not science or philosophy.
It is also galling to hear the claim that unpredictability means that everything is finally random. Random is like infinite, a useful concept to balance equations and good human language, but nothing is actually either random or infinite. One may not dodge real problems by simply calling them random. Uncertainty, probability, chaos, and virtual atomics have enough spaces between them to allow a real universe to be both deterministic and unpredictable in any useful sense.
And now for something completely different. Please read how I really feel about determinism in this essay, Breaking Determinism.
CHesed חסד
Covenant, Reciprocal Love
חסד, CHesed, resists any single word translation into English. The King James Version uses two words, mercy and loving-kindness. The Revised Standard Version translates חסד steadfast love, kindness. or loyalty. The cloud of meaning here surrounds the Covenant and the mutual loyalty and faithfulness to that relationship of mercy and gratitude. One meaning or the other, or a meaning half way between two, or somewhere among the many. What we need is an English word that also means both, or half way between, or can mean only one of the meanings. Instead we debate meaning. Nonsense. When we select one meaning or the other we are forcing a mental vocabulary on to a language system that does not share it. We cannot even leave it ambiguous if the English ambiguity rests between different poles of meaning. And, to push this out, finally, far enough: the very concept of meaning is utterly linguistic and utterly channeled by the language we speak. There is no such thing as a Platonic Idea or meaning that exists prior to or outside of or beyond language or the words that express that meaning.
Perhaps every time the word חסד appears in the Original Testament we should write in the whole two verses that the lord Geshua used You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. A little clumsy in a single poetic line but it encompasses the whole concept of חסד. Maybe this is one of the dozen or so words we should not translate but instead learn.
Creatio ex nihilo?
This phrase is one side of an interpretive argument about the first few words of Genesis.
First, read the glossary entry on the Hebrew language.
ברא, bara, is the Hebrew word in Genesis One One usually translated create. I would argue, but without any academic support, that it could also be translated form, shape, build, construct, and design.
Whenever this word is used in biblical Hebrew it always has our God as the subject and always refers to His acts in Genesis One. As that text is received, it does seem as if the earth and the heavens, unformed and chaotic, were raw materials for His creative Word. There also seems to be a deep and an ocean before the Word is spoken. And in chapter two, where the word create is not used, He does use a raw material to create Adam: clay.
For centuries, since Alexander of Macedon, Israel and the Church have understood the word ברא as requiring the concept of creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. Despite the text, with an earth and heavens already in place, there has been universal, catholic agreement on this understanding of ברא, bara. But creatio ex nihilo leaves in place the possible Platonic and pagan understanding of creation as an unwilled and automatic outflowing of the material from the immaterial, from idea to substance. In the Platonic view, God is not an active, living personality, but rather a sort of force of nature, or force of supernature, that just lays there or hangs there and emanates or oozes the physical universe. It has no will or love or consciousness or ability to speak to us. It is a part of the universe, a supernatural part for sure, but nevertheless within the concept of everything. Rather than creating things, this Platonic god allows stuff to happen and other things to exist. It is a rather passive deity.
Dualism is of two minds on the unity of the universe. On the one hand is the One, the so-called divinity, which encompasses all, the natural and the supernatural, into one system of existence. On the second hand, there are two natures, the material and the immaterial. They are twisted by this contradiction into weasel words, ideas that both generate a seen universe from an unseen and yet keep the pure supernatural world from contamination by the evil natural world. It sounds like this: The Perfect One is completely unknowable by our animal minds. Now let me tell you about It. Did you bring my fee?
The biblical God is altogether different. This Creator has a will and an actual personality. And a Name! This Creator, in using raw materials, separates Himself completely and utterly from that which He creates. Once again the biblical blows apart the pagan myths.
The mythic world understands apparent reality by believing that there is an invisible reality behind it, driving it. Like our earthly families, there is a heavenly family. The god has a consort or wife, they breed like we do, and there are divine children. The pattern in the heavens, like astrology, determines the pattern on earth. They see everything this way. The dry land is the dead body of a primordial sea monster that the high god killed in a great battle that began time. The fertility of the land depends on the fertility of the divine family.
The Greek philosophers made a big deal of their rejection of the mythic gods. Logical, they said. Obvious, they said. But the god they replaced Zeus with is not different at all. For there is still a magical connection to the apparent world of one kind or another. The source of the material universe is the invisible universe. The god of Ikhnaton is the same. The monotheism is clear but it is not the Holy Monotheism of the Bible. The Greco-Egyptian god is one end of a chain of being from the bits of dirt to animals to the women and slaves to the men to the patrons to the king to the lesser gods to the higher gods to the One Perfect Light. Not so much one god as one chain of being. The Judeo-Christian God has no connection whatsoever with the universe, natural or supernatural, except His Word. He speaks to the world and to us. He is not talking to Himself nor does He divide Himself into parts to have conversation partners. He is not a link in a chain of being, He is as close to a child as He is to a king. There are no layers or laws above Him or below Him because He is not a part of anything. He is something else. The only laws He accepts are the disciplines of language and reality He choses to follow in order to communicate, and create, us. The pagan gods, including the inventions of Pythagoras, have no choices. The corrupt material world flows out of it by some pattern or idea set beyond even its power.
Some new physics sees information as prior to physical objects and events. For example, an electron has a charge and even when that electron is annihilated in association with a positron the information, or characteristic, of charge remains, now tied to the characteristics of a different particle or force particle. However, this is using the word information in a different sense that I am using the vocable word. The difference is encoding, which is never seen except in living systems. There is nothing encoded about the attibute of spin or mass or charge or momentum, etc. But DNA encodes information that is meaningless until it is decoded. The sort of information that is charge or spin cannot be created or destroyed because it is actually a physical attribute and follows the ordinary rules for the conservation of mass and energy. Smash up a proton and all of its attributes remain sorted into different particles and forces. But smash up a DNA molecule and that recipe to make a snail or a man is totally annihilated. That kind of information, encoded information, is not conserved. The same goes for language, but in an even more ephemeral way.
I am making this point as strongly as I can in this entry on ברא, create, to prevent confusion. I do not mean to say that encoded language of any kind, spiritual or physical, precedes or preceded the physical universe. Information in the sense of physical characteristics has nothing to do with Genesis One or Two. Information in the sense of names, verbs, and memes is my meaning and that sense is all that is needed to understand the text as it is written. In view of the fact that the international physics community misuses the word information in this way, I will certainly have to find a different word for what is going on in Genesis One. I will get back to you about that.
I hate paganism because it trivializes Hashem. No longer a self, no longer the Great Initiator, no longer able to speak to us and hear our prayer; pagan ideas, including the Supreme Being, push Him out of our lives, out of reality, out of the universe entirely. He cannot be described or discovered or proved, only known by His Voice, by His own personal revelation. And that is solely by means of language, by the Means of Grace: His Word.
Unlike all of the pagan gods and forces, the biblical God is all will and choice and selection, even to the point where He repents of some actions. So, when the story of the creation of the world is told in Genesis One, the myths and ideas of other religions are not plagiarized but parodied. There is a sea monster but now demoted to just one more created creature. There is a sun, like Egypt's Aton, but now demoted from the first day and source of all light to the fourth day and just another ball in the sky. And there is stuff already available to name and form and create with. So that no mistake could be made that He is wholly apart from the ordinary universe, this stuff is wholly apart from Him. It is not another god or goddess, it is not stuff that flowed out of Him, nor did He allow it to be. The earth and the heavens are utterly ordinary and unmythical. The earth and the heavens were available for His Word. That is all that matters to us and to Him.
Where did the stuff come from? Who cares? As a scientist I do care and spend a lot of time trying to figure that out. But those questions, important questions, are beside the point when He speaks to us and offers His Covenant of grace and gratitude. The age of the universe is an interesting and important question. But the most important question of all is Is His tomb really empty?
Our God creates by naming and ordering the chaos of the material universe. And to drive this point home even more, the events of creation are ordered into a scheme of seven days, the Holy Sabbath week. His order, His Torah, His Word, His Will, and His love.
And His empty tomb.
DeMorgan's Theorem
The Eyes Have It.
If you look this up in a large dictionary you will see a string of words so formal that it sounds like an incantation to summon the Devil. I hate that stuff because I am poorly trained in parsing it. Especially in this case because I used DeMorgan's Theorem at work daily, even hourly, for several years. Operationally, it is almost automatic with me so the formal logic of the dictionary twists my bits all around.
Now it is my turn to confuse you. Computer chips are designed using logic gates. The chip is actually transistors. No, even more basic than that, the chip is made of regions and connections of metal and semiconductors able to control electric current and charge. The designers use the regions of semiconductor, insulating oxides, and metal connections to create transistors and these transistors are connected into logic gates. A logic gate is a virtual device that is able to combine one or more signals (those electric currents and charges), apply a logic rule to them, and provide an output that can in turn drive other logic gates. For example, an inverter monitors a signal voltage and provides its opposite as an output. In the world of computer logic, there are only two numbers, two states, one and zero, 0 and 1. An inverter changes a 0 to a 1 and a 1 into a 0. An AND gate takes two or more signals and has a one on its output only if all of the inputs are one. An OR gate, surprise, will have a one as an output if one or more of the inputs is a one. There are other gates used by logic designers. We work at the logic gate level because it is easier than working at the semiconductor region level. We let a router turn the logic design into a chip design.
DeMorgan's Theorem is very useful because it can eliminate layers of logic gates. Since it often takes fewer transistors and less silicon real estate to make a NAND gate than any other kind, I liked to use mostly NAND's in my designs. An OR gate is an inverted NAND gate. A NAND gate is an AND gate that seems to have an inverter on its output, i.e., if all of the inputs are 1, then the output is 0. Or, the output is 1 if any input is 0. If I invert all of the inputs into a NAND gate the logical output will be OR. If I invert the output of a NAND gate the logical output will be AND.
Now if you cannot think of dozens of uses for this in your daily life, you are not trying.
There are several places in the non silicon world where this sort of upside-down logic is used. One is in the eye. Light is signaled to the brain as no signal, an inactive neuron, and dark is signaled to the brain as an active neuron. This has clear advantages to the nervous system in seeing through noise, finding edges of things, and working at very low light levels. Pain in not like that. More signal means more pain, not less. So what we see when we see red is not a signal that red is present but the absence of the signal that there is no red present. Simple, huh? Well, we do it all the time, millions of times per second. Unconsciously. Another area where this negativity may be used by the nervous system is in generating sentences. It is not that a word is pushed up out of the brain but that all of the other words are suppressed. To me this has huge implications for the mechanization of thought, language, and verbal memory.
It seems that thought is more about editing and pruning than recalling and inventing. To be sure, the recalling and the inventing is important, but only as raw material for the sentence machine which operates, at least in part, by forgetting and suppressing. For example, when I think of pretty girls there are too many faces that come to mind. The most important function my brain can perform for me, and for our common survival, is the selection of the right one at the right time. A daughter is present? Two of them? An aged and beloved wife? Pals in a bar bragging? An ex girl friend's new husband? Some will need to be encouraged into consciousness by some unconscious process and some will need to be suppressed, quickly and completely, if a marriage or this evening's date is to survive.
I believe that we will find out that the human language engine in the brain is mechanized by inhibition as much as by excitation. It may be that autism is the failure of the inhibition systems. I also believe that wisdom, the wisdom of age especially, is the working of this system so well that some pathways and alternatives are lost as nerves and nerve endings. Our habits of mind and habits of speech are as much about control and ignoring as they are about routines and consciousness.
These ideas are completely within the world of biology and logic but do not fit with a spirit point in the human mind. Language and our existence as a person is as much about destruction as it is about creation. Art is the cutting away of that which obscures and so is a clarifying conversation. And the total entropy of a system is actually increased by life; only the bits life selects out of the stream are reduced in entropy; creation snatched out of destruction. We are filters, kidney and brain together.
The alternative to dualism is monism.
Dualism is the theory that there are two universes, one the normal material world we can see and measure, and the other a spiritual world we cannot see or measure. Dualists vary in their theories of how the two universes are connected, if at all. For example, some Dualists believe that the only place the two worlds touch each other is the human mind or soul which is bound to a human brain and body. Others believe that every rock or atom has a spiritual part. Others believe the connection between the two worlds is only in the First Cause. In modern terms, some non-material entity or force created the Big Bang but has had nothing to do with us since then.
As far as I can determine, all Dualists believe that the non material world is the cause and the material world is the effect. This is profoundly wrong. It would suppose that words or concepts precede and cause physical events without themselves being caused by prior physical events. But clearly all thoughts, ideas, words, and intentions are mediated or encoded on to some physical system. This does not mean that ideas and language are caused by physical events, only that they are mediated by physical bits and changes.
Please note that the classic Christian Creeds use the words visible and invisible instead of material and ideal. I have no quarrel with this language because even under my rather odd way of looking at things, there are invisible things which are still real. These everyday expressions, such as invisible, are more useful than the sophisticated but hollow expressions of the platonic philosophers.
Dualism is sometimes used to refer to the battle between good and evil, light and dark, God and Satan. Greco-Roman Christianity sucked up this sort of dualism but never gave up the biblical supremacy of the good. Some other religions refuse to give either side dominance. But dominant or not, such a dualism is fundamentally opposed to the biblical God. He alone is Holy, He alone defines good and evil, He alone speaks the words that create good and evil, He alone speaks the Law. To believe that everything, including different gods, can be divided into good and evil ones is to believe that abstractions and words and language like good and evil precede and generate everything, including the biblical God Himself. The whole point of the story of חַוָּה (Eve) and her sin is just that: we do not get to decide what is good and what is evil, only He who made us defines us.
When is a Creed Not a Creed?
This is that branch of Christianity which brags about not thinking. Do not call fundamentalists by this pejorative. See my definition of fundamentalism for plenty of names to call them that fit their particular heresy. But they are not dumbdamentalists.
Dumbdamentalism is fundamentalism without purpose, religion without content. Heresy, in its terminal stage, is the replacement of all other doctrines of the church with a single doctrine, even one otherwise considered true and important. So dumbdamentalism is the terminal heresy, in fact the sin of Eve. Where a fundamentalist begins with the doctrine of the primacy of the Bible, dumbdamentalists end with that doctrine.
For example, if you inquire about the Virgin Birth or the Creation, a fundamentalist will ask "What does the Bible say?" and the dumbdamentalist says "I believe the Bible." That's no answer. You can argue with the fundamentalist about what the Bible says and have, at least in theory, a hope of coming to a new conclusion. But the response, so-called, of the dumbdamentalist gives no quarter to discussion or explanation and cannot lead anywhere. I believe that the dumbdamentalist religion is no religion at all, but merely a strategy for cutting off conversation about religion.
I take wicked joy out of teasing dumbdamentalists. My favorite is to respond to their "I believe the Bible." by quoting Hezekiah 3:9, "The Bible believeth in you." Go look it up. None of them do.
If you believe what the Bible says but cannot list the books in the canon, you are a dumbdamentalist. If you believe but cannot tell anybody what it is that you believe, you are a dumbdamentalist. If you believe in a few basic doctrines but claim to have no creed, you are a dumbdamentalist. People not endowed with enough wit to speak in complete sentences are not my target here. Such people should be admired for any expression of their faith they can attain. I am speaking about people who display sophisticated political ideas, can make change at a cash register, or who have brought up families but refuse to give any thought to their religion.
And, of course, the identifying characteristic of dumbdamentalism is the expression I believe it because it is impossible.
Good Growth Amid Eternal Decay
Eutropy is the opposite of entropy, but not exactly. Entropy is the mixing and leveling of matter and energy in the direction of a static, motionless, cold, and uniform universe. Suns burn until they burn out and go dark, people die and decay, coffee cools in the cup to room temperature (actually, usually a little lower as the water evaporates), and uranium decays to stable lead in fourteen steps. While occasionally some contingency will reverse entropy for a moment, the dominant direction of time's arrow is from a warm quilt to a frozen bore.
Eutropy is an increase in organization, a separation of things, a sorting out and selection that leaves a local area full of distinctions and differences in energy level, temperature, color, shape, and position. Eutropy is only associated with life. Life knows tricks that enable it to snatch organization from chaos. Life is able to store energy, sort molecules, and grow.
Most processes in the universe are determined within a set of probabilities. Eutropic systems break the determinism. They are freer than the particles that form them. But eutropic systems are only eutropic locally and continue and grow only by some entropic process that sheds heat and particles into the rest of the universe. For example, the human brain creates a sentence which may end up causing a bridge to be built but burns sugar while it functions. The sugar, a highly organized packet of energy, is entropied back into water and carbon dioxide dumped back into the environment. Overall, the entropy wins. But the tricks life knows gives it eutropic powers locally. Ultimately the bridge will collapse into the river. But living systems do not care. They live by building a new bridge. Like an eddy in a stream, eutropic systems do not change the direction of the arrow of time, only exploit the movement of energy and material from highly organized states to cold slag.
Eutropy is not eutrophy, which is an over growth. Too much algae in a pond, too much fat in a belly are eutrophy. Eutropy is growth that does not make a new chaos or a new uniformity, but that increases the diversity and distinctions.
Back to the Bible.
Fundamentalism is a recent (In theology recent is the last century or two.) Christian movement with adherents in many denominations which takes a literal interpretation of the Bible as the primary doctrine of the Christian faith. All other teachings of the church derive from this principle.
It is popular to call a fanatic of any religion a fundamentalist. Although some violent people and some fanatics claim to be fundamentalists, nothing in the basic teaching of this movement encourages such personal flaws. And the movement is Christian, not Jewish or Islamic or political (although, like any philosophy or religion should, it has political effects). If other religions or political parties want a similar primacy for their literature they should invent their own word.
Perhaps those who misuse this word are unable to make distinctions beyond the simple-minded political division between left and right, with conservatives naturally being the violent, fundamentalist, fanatic, mean, stupid, old fashioned, believing, church goers. Liberals are naturally (in their odd view of the world) charming, tolerant, smart, generous (with other people's money), and open minded.
In fact fundamentalists are universally good people, full of virtue and kindness. If it were otherwise they should be called hypocrites because the Book they claim to honor encourages virtue and kindness. As for the true characteristics of American liberals [SIC] and socialists worldwide, I have nothing but bad things to say, but not here.
It is always a danger, which we name heresy, that an important doctrine becomes the most important doctrine and finally the only doctrine. Fundamentalists are at the most important stage, pretty far along the heresy highway, but for the final stage, see my entry dumbdamentalism.
Fundamentalists think of the Bible as a bit of God left on earth and I think of it as a bit of earth where my God lives.
I agree that Scripture is the Word of our God and that it should serve as the standard by which we measure prophets and doctrines. I am even more radical in my claims for the importance of the Word than the fundamentalists are, but in a different way. For they see the Book as a revelation, the medium which the Supreme Being uses to tell us what to believe and what to do. Such a view, if one believes there is a Supreme Being, is not irrational at all. Fundamentalism is a reasonable method of sorting doctrines and weighing ideas, as long as the theories of divine revelation and dualism stand. I was trained to be a pastor by such men (clergy of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod) and have nothing but respect for their faith and their faithfulness, even though I no longer agree with them.
If only fundamentalists did what they said they wanted to do, start with the Word and then proceed to other doctrines! Honestly, that is my own method, even though I fail too often. What actually happens more than it should is that some doctrines are prior to Scripture and color translations and interpretation and commentary and sermon and Bible class.
For example, many who call themselves fundamentalists rely on extra biblical authorities to define the first few words of Genesis, BA RASHETH BARA ELOHIM… (At the head, Elohim formed…) or (In the beginning, God created…) Read more here. If Scripture were truly the standard and norm then these words would be defined as they were used in this chapter, as an artist crafting a thing of beauty out of raw clay or canvas. Instead, in dependence on the political monotheism of the Greco-Roman Empire, the definition is drawn from later sources, much later sources, as creatio ex nihilo, out of nothing. I know there are other arguments about these words and meanings, I am only trying to make a point. Fundamentalism is as fundamentalism does. It is not enough to claim that Scripture is the Word and prior to all faith and doctrine, such a method must rule over even the most cherished ideas of Christendom, including the Creeds, monotheism, and childish picture books about how cows were made. Do not take me to reject monotheism, Creeds, and picture books. My only point is that we must believe what we find in the Bible, not find what we believe in the Bible.
Too often, it appears to me, the problem is that Christian Fundamentalists take as their Bible the English, even the King James Version English, as their literal and primary source of doctrine. Sorry, Hebrew and Greek in the autographs, such as we can recover them, is the real Bible. As much as we love our native expressions, the standard text must be a critical text tracing as close as we are able to the first edition of each book.
The fundamentalists are not fundamental enough. For our literature is not universally, or even in majority, dualist; nor does it require a Supreme Being. Yes, it always allows a Supreme Being. But remember Abbot Occam: don't invent ideas you don't require. The best method is not to hunt for loop holes that permit a theory to be possible, but to eliminate every theory not essential to understand our literature. And yes, this does leave out a few books which cannot be read without a Creator-god or a god who runs the physical world. Job is such a book. Well, I never liked Job anyway. (Ops. I take it back, my nasty comments about Job. To read about my current views, see the entry on Job in this glossary.) All those books and essays written about Job bored me and helped me with nothing in my life or faith. And even there, in Job, if we eliminate the rambling nonsense added by later commentators, we find a short fiction with a good lesson that does not teach monotheism. Go on, read Job 1:6-12 in an honest version.
There are many more examples. If we truly set the Bible first and all other doctrines second then our views of the resurrection, souls, immortality, heaven and hell, the last day, the Son of God, the Ascension, and many more might change. The religion we would be left with would get the nod from Abraham, Moshe, Geshua, and Paul but a loud “No!” from the church of our own day. Remember, be careful what you wish for. You may receive it.
A Village Boy's Name
Yehu-shuah, or YHWH Savior, was the original Name in the Hebrew dialect of ancient Canaanite. To hide Ha Shem (YHWH) it was shortened to Yo-shuah. We see it in our King James Version as Joshua. The closest Koine Greek could get was IHCOYC (Iesous) because, like Latin, they had no sh sound and they liked to end a man's name with –s. That's how Moshe became Moses. In Latin the Name was Jesus and the Germans often call Him Jesu, which isn't too bad. But what about His mother? When she leaned out the window to call Him in for supper, what did she call? In Galilee, a pair of thousand years ago, she would have spoken Aramaic at home. Most people, especially the men, probably knew Greek and a little Hebrew as well. But calling the kids in for supper, that was in Aramaic, which was probably also the language of Abraham. The Name in that language was Geshua (g as in gift) or Yeshu (j as y in young). Nobody knows for sure how they pronounced it. If you hear me say the Name it sounds half way between the g and the y, as if the two sounds were not not differentiated.
And now we have the evidence of the ossuary, or bone box, of Yaakov, or James, the son of Yosaf, the brother of Yeshua. Yes, I believe it is Bishop James, the brother of our Lord. We still do not know for sure how they pronounced it but I am now inclined to spell it this way and not as what may be a childhood abbreviation.
Elitism and Secrets
Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge. Gnostics claim secret knowledge of an unseen universe prior to and more real than the ordinary, material universe. We call this dualism. For a few centuries around the beginning of the Common Era (200BCE–200CE), Gnostic ideas and religions owned the Greco–Roman Empire. Pythagoras and Plato are responsible for the doctrines of these cults, often called Mystery Religions, because they taught that the material universe was caused by and generated by the ideal or thought world. They even believed that the ordinary world of people and objects was an illusion created in the supernatural mind, which was the only true reality. They were elitists because they lived in the world of ideas and slaves, women, and ordinary people lived in the world of flesh and blood. Read more in this essay: The Greco-Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Goal, Malady, Means
Preaching for the Church
This is a method of organizing and ordering a sermon or homily which helps the preacher focus the Law and Gospel of the text on the congregation. more Whatever misses the mark in my preaching I owe to my own failure to follow this discipline. Whatever hits the mark in my preaching I owe to Richard R. Caemmerer, professor of Homiletics at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO; especially his book Preaching for the Church
What's Up?
You may have noticed that I seem to have had a lot of turning points in my life. Most folks have only one. Or none. Reading and experience in different worlds exposes a person to new aha events. People who change careers have more aha events than those who work the same job for thirty years. When a person changes religions we call aha experiences conversion experiences. I find them exciting, almost addicting, like some find sports.
Turning Points
Too few turning points leave a person frozen and stunted. Too many turning points might make a person unstable. But if there are enough of them and you get spinning fast enough, there is a gyroscopic effect. We all know that the most stable directions are those pointed to by a gyroscope. The axis of my mental gyroscope points at lord Geshua and, to the reverse, science. Only in the freedom of the spinning do the two points remain stable.
From the hymn 'Tis the Gift to Be Simple, 'Tis the Gift to Be Free comes the line: …till by turning, turning, we come round right. Apparently I am not the first one to have felt this way. And it also brings to mind how a melody goes around, through changes, and remains the same for all time. Am I making too much of this? Yes. But deep below our conscious words the gyroscopic effect and free will balance and are balanced by our trust in Geshua Resurrected and reason. Thinking is testing without test tubes, probing without a stick. Therefore we are able to think about things that cannot be tested.
But finally, remember that the Greek word for repentance is μετανοια (metanoia). It means change your mind. Do an about face and forward march. With Luther I repent daily, because I also sin daily, which means I am spinning like a gyroscope and my axis is trust in Him and the centripetal force is the freedom (life) He gives us.
.Hawwah, חַוָּה
Adam's Wife
In English this is Eve of Garden of Eden fame. Fr. Theron Walker, the priest at my church, Emmaus Anglican Church, has been helpful in assisting me to pronounce this name correctly. Easy for him to say, with a degree in Semitic languages. I had always thought that the first letter, the H, was pronounced like a hard German ch, as in ich. Theron tells me the sound is the same except it is made further back in the mouth than the German (or the Greek, for that matter).
I am still searching for a good way to display this on a web page. Standard browsers do not have a character for this sound. Even the Jewish Publication Society, who managed to print an H with dot under it in their TANAKH, seem unable to force browsers to do the same. So, the best I can do is an H with a dot in front of it, like this: .H
As for the International Phonetic Alphabet, never mind. No help, no example pronunciations, no tables of character entities for web pages, little web presence.
The Hebrew Language
Do not collapse the wave function.
It hard to move from Hebrew to English. English has a rich vocabulary (many, many words, each with a different shade of meaning) while Hebrew has few words but each one has a rich cloud of meanings. Take the Hebrew word ראש, rosh, for example. ראש is the word in Ros Shoshana, the Hebrew for New Year's Day, the Head of the Year. Rosh means head. But not so fast. It also means leader or chief, top, section, part, number, summit, principal, capitol, sum, foundation, and basis. As the first word of Genesis, it means beginning. Wow.
Like the particle/wave question in quantum mechanics, it is only the translation into English (or Greek) that demands a choice, a precipitation of one rain drop of meaning from the cloud. For a Hebrew speaker the cloud of meanings is collapsed into one, or at least a smaller cloud of them, by the context of the sentence. For example, ב ראש (first) you lay the ראש (foundation) of the building and you finish by putting a ראש (top, roof) on it. But notice that the collapse is only as it is translated into English. The Hebrew speaker is quite happy to leave the meanings in the cloud, even if he is laughing at my odd sentence. (I do not have a clue if such a sentence using rosh in those senses is possible in real Hebrew. Perhaps some one who actually speaks the language would correct me or offer a better example? The vocable cloud of meaning translation problem remains notwithstanding my linguistic poverty.)
Normally translators have little difficulty in meaning because the resolution is practical and everyday. Context. But sometimes theological and philosophical debates get in the way and the translators automatically assume that they can select only one meaning and come down hard on only one side of the debate. For another example, the Hebrew word חסד, CHesed, resists any single word translation into English.
Noam Chomsky, Derik Bickerton, and William Calvin seem to have a different view. Meanings are attached to sounds in the language learning process as if the Platonic Idea existed prior to the expression of it. That is, of course, nonsense. I do not mean that Chomsky has that view. After all, few of us can figure out what view he has from his writing. But please read the later two more closely, The acquisition of language included the action of social language on the brains of individuals and drives the evolution and creation of those brains, which in turn provides a medium for the further evolution and creation of language itself. That process appears to have left some native, genetic language tools like verb and noun and making new words by mimic. In computer talk, this is bootstrapping, tech talk for creatio ex nihilo. Wherever else that bit of Latin may be true, it is certain truth here.
It seems to me that the language a child learns also molds and grows the brain itself into the connections and patterns most necessary for that language. The vast difference between the Hebrew verb forms and English verb tenses points to a different set of biological equipment for their mechanization. Now, there is no genetic difference in human brains. But clearly there is a grown or developed difference in language engines. Apparently the genetic body sets up the neural conditions to develop any brain into any human language. But that once develops, those brains, at least in the language engine parts, function differently. That is not to say that there are not some genetic preset linguistic patterns that form a sort of default programming unless over mapped by a living language. That is Chomsky, when I presume to understand him, and Bickerton. I gather from my reading that the native language patterns are more grammar and syntax and less vocabulary. If a Platonic Idea is a noun or a verb, then pre existence is the nonsense I spoke of above. But even if the pre existent is syntax encoded into brain connections, this is still not pre existent to our biological history or to our creation. In other words, these three men must be read as naturalists and not supernaturalists.
Here is another example of how modern philosophy and science is opposed to the outdated spiritualist theories of Marx, Freud, and Hegel. Actually, most of post Reformation Europe. But the convergence of new science, biblical values, and the American founding is clear. The topic here is not particle physics but human nature: Do we all share a set of endowments and gifts and rights that add up to a consistent human nature? My answer is yes and language science is adding to my confidence in that thesis.
All of this means that translations might be good enough but perfect translations are impossible. Period. The best we can manage is a commented paraphrase. Or to consistently force the thought (language) patterns of the new language on to the old. The only other alternative is to keep certain words and phrases untranslated, only transliterated, and let the reader absorb the native's clouds and precipitations of meaning. See more in my essay on translations and versions.
A Different Place
Holy refers to that world which is not the ordinary reality of stones and flesh, but which is the linguistic, mental, and cultural place where such abstractions as personality, character, and moral sense are real. In the Original Testament Holy was the local effect of the Presence of YHWH. In the New Testament, read the story of the Transfiguration for a definition of Holy. Holy is ritual, not moral, except insofar as the ritual requires and motivates moral goodness. The common meaning assigned to holy is moral perfection but that is due to the theory that ordinary people could become holy in the invisible sense by being morally perfect. In other words, if you are good you will go to heaven and get your wings, a euphemism for becoming a disembodied spirit. It has never been clear to me why anyone would want such a tragic outcome, especially since it flies in the face of the orthodox and biblical teaching that creation is good. This is the fault of popular Christianity which too often uses fear of hell to motivate moral behavior and finds it easy to blame our biology rather than our characters. It is, however, clear to me that corrupt human beings believe they are able to achieve such moral perfection that merits heaven.
The modern superstitions are probably a reaction against the ritual holiness of the previous era. It all seems so impersonal to those of us who find interesting and meaningful only what we find in our hearts. Whatever heart should mean. I rather like the ritual holiness. First, it is outside of ourselves, which is another way of saying objective. I know that Objectivists will be repulsed by that view. But wherever they are now, Randians must acknowledge that humanity's first glimpse that there could be objective truth came from that God who stood apart from nature. Until the biblical God spoke to us, all religions, philosophies, and gods, especially Plato's, were forces of nature or mythic expressions of nature. The trap for Objectivists is that without an active, separate (Holy!) personality there is no axiom except internal, personal judgment. Collective or individual, human judgment is without a gyroscope.
The second attraction for me to ritual holiness is that it always involves other independent individual human beings formed into a single organism. The feelings of awe at the sight of mountains or green trees is a wonderful thing but it is not an experience of the Holy. Lit candles in an empty church are not an experience of the Holy, no matter how much emotion this induces. Holy is the Presence of the lord and that promise is made to two or three gathered together in His Name. Only.
The Image of God
So God created man in His own Image…Genesis 1:26-28
May I translate it? So Elohim created man as His own Image…
YHWH-Elohim made His own idol, His own Image: us. That is why He gets so upset when we artificially place other statues and objects and ideas between Him and us. We are not able to make an idol of Jehovah, WE are already all the idol He wants.
Internal Imperialism
A phrase from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, The Catholic Moment
Internal Imperialism is the conquest of local and individual activities by the federal government, especially in the United States. Examples are education, banking, retirement, medical care, insurance, business, unions, and criminal justice. Seen in this way, the socialists are an army of occupation. They even insist that they get to define the relationship between church and state.
This entry was prepared a few days after the death of Fr. Neuhaus by Charles Johnsen, who graduated from the same seminary as he: Concordia in St. Louis. Both of us since have moved on, he across the Tiber and I across the Themes.
Koine Greek
To keep yourself from embarassment, do not quote New Testament Bible passages in Greek, which are written in Koine Greek and pronounced in the ancient way, to a speaker of modern Greek. He or she will correct you or even claim not to understand at all, or even ask what language you are speaking. Few Greek are aware of the changes in their language sounds and, since they can read the words in the NT just fine, they think you are nuts when you try and explain it to them.
The Virtual Universe of Language
Just like the atmosphere (air) and the lithosphere (rock), the logosphere is the realm of words. While other spheres are physical and layered, the logosphere is virtual and mediated. The logosphere is not a frame like language is because it encompasses all the frames that are mediated by language: memes, persons, incorporations, and cultures. It is the mental space where we mostly live.
People of The Book
I do NOT mean that there is a religion named Judeo-Christian. Goodness sake, the different Jewish factions are barely the same religion and many who call themselves Christians, which they are welcome to do, have no theological connection with orthodox Christian faith at all. The theologies and philosophies are often very different.
What I do mean is that there is a common culture and value system carried by these two great traditions. The expression Judeo-Christian refers solely to the values and way of life, not the theologies. We share a history. All of these traditions have at least these in common: respect for the natural world, learning, and science, the Bible (without listing which books it contains), the Ten Commandments, monotheism, and a covenant understanding of religion. Unmediated by minor gods, kings, or Zeit Geist, each human person is equal before this God and free to do good or evil. Together this is called ethical monotheism and is altogether new in human culture. One more thing: the God of most, but certainly not all, of these traditions is a person with a Name, a will and a Voice. And yes, this also includes Mormonism, not completely monotheistic or trinitarian but certainly true to the values and moral codes of the Christian West.
Many in science and politics do not include themselves in the Christian West. But those who see the world as independent of any deity, essentially free under the laws of nature, owe everything to the books of Genesis and Job. Those who believe that people have rights independent of governments, that markets are natural and work best when free and undomesticated, owe everything to Leviticus and Matthew and the letters of St. Paul. Those who abhor slavery and totalitarianism owe everything to Philemon and I Samuel 8. Those who believe individuals are above governments owe everything to Exodus.
I cannot include Islam because Allah is very different from YHWH. One is a impersonal blank, the other a Person with moods, loves, hates, regrets, and plans. Islam has no free will. The biblical God grants freedom to His universe. History is contingent, open, and goodness depends on His active engagement with us. Allah is in total, deterministic control and all human freedom is an illusion.
El Shaddai created a contingent universe.
Until a few days ago ('10JAN25) I disliked the book of Job beyond all others in the Original Testament. I thought that every argument brought up to explain Job's trouble was bogus. Honest, I could not keep reading the poems his friends recited, nor could I accept the God at the end of the book who was no more than a bully.
Then I read the book, The Art of Biblical Poetry by Robert Alter. He pointed out that THIS El Shaddai (Creator God, traditionally God Almighty) made a contingent universe. Life is eat and be eaten. Wind and rain come to all places, even where there are no people. And the challenges to Job's conception of the world are made with questions, not claims of power. The whole argument ends up with this: See, I have not made a moral universe. I have made a contingent universe.
For now this brief note will have to do. When I have time I will write a longer essay about Job and the real world. If I find them all I will change all of my nasty comments about Job or refer them by link here.
Who Has What?
Materialism is often used to label avarice, as in He doesn't care about anything but his house and car. He is a materialist. The idea seems to be that objects which can be purchased and owned are material and people, nature, and anything outside of commerce is not material. I do not believe I have ever used the word materialist in this sense. While I do believe that many people put too much stock in their possessions, I also see that some put too much stock in their rejection of property, a flaw which is far more dangerous to society than obsession with possession. For example, communism and socialism reject private property.
The Marxists claim to be materialists but they certainly are not in any sense that I recognize. There is nothing material or physical about thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Like so much in Marx, the three words and dialectical materialism are rhetorical hand waving, mere bummer sticker sloganeering, without any actual referent in the real world. This is the sort of thing that vitalists and spiritualists claim and, indeed, Marx is nothing more the latest and most violent expression of Platonism. Marx also claimed science as an ally which makes as much sense as a murderer seeking the company of cops. All of these determinists believe that matter and energy are not the medium of life but instead believe that matter and energy are generated by outside, unnamed forces.
By materialism I mean that all things are the effects of physical causes. I include in the words all things even those objects which have traditionally been thought of as immaterial: self-awareness, consciousness, conscience, personality, gods, words, thoughts, ideas, and natural law. This priority is the reverse of the Greco-Roman order which dominates our language and culture. Most people believe that natural law and immaterial forces preceded and generated the physical universe and that an idea moves and operates the machinery of speech. Actually, the organs of speech in the brain precede and cause the experience we have named idea and thought. Natural laws, so-called, are found by examination of the physical events and not by internal speculation.
But my sort of materialism is not deterministic in the Nineteenth Century sense. The difference is mediation, the idea that networks of cause and effect are mediated by another such network. For example, life is mediated by organic chemistry. No chemicals, no life. But the chemicals do not generate life, nor do they cause life, nor are they alive. Instead the chemical environment provides a chaotic medium which life can select and build from. While the reaction between two specific organic compounds is determined in the strict sense, life follows its own cause and effect networks, mediated but not controlled or driven by organic chemistry.
The description of this materialism and realism is what Bible Freedom Science Network is all about. See the index of essays about mediation and frames here.
Some may see in my strict materialism a rejection of all that is holy in the Christian religion. On the contrary, I understand the Bible to reveal a God who is not removed from us and isolated in a dualist system of material or spiritual existences. He is bound by no human system, dualist or monist. We are. But He is not. Far more important than omnipotent and eternal is this: He speaks to us and listens to us. He saves us from the house of bondage and makes a covenant of grace and gratitude with us. The rest is mere theology and philosophy, interesting and important, but secondary to His living Presence with us on this earth, the only earth. For now.
me and meme
Selfish Sumer
An Ecology for Memes is a Box for the Me.
About 5,000 years ago in Shumer the 94 talents, arts, and crafts required to keep a city functioning were listed in a myth recorded on clay tablets. They were called Me. While the goddess Inanna was visiting her father, the god Enki, in his underwater fortress, the Abzu, father and daughter got really drunk. Enki, full of beer and generosity, gave her the 94 me. When he sobered up he claimed she stole them from his city, Eridu, for her city, Erech. Thus the secrets of civilization were passed from the first city to the second, from father to daughter. Myths are like that, heavenly goings on determine ordinary events. The Greek myth of Pandora's Box is probably a 2,000 year later version of this story.
Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his book The Selfish Gene to refer to linguistic objects that behave like infectious agents in human culture: reproducing, evolving, and competing with each other by a type of natural selection. Our language and culture provide the sea in which these abstract squid live and swim. Garage is a meme, paper is a meme, paint and frying are memes, eating is not a meme, a meal is a meme, running is not a meme, a foot race is a meme. Together the population of memes form a sort of mental ecology. Meme reproduction is asexual and occurs when the meme infects a new individual or a new culture. A kind of sexual reproduction happens to memes when two or more of them combine into a supermeme such as army, city, or computer. They can then divide into different associations or combine further into super memes like France or science. Since this linguistic space, the logosphere, is limited, there is competition between memes. Those most useful, which is tested by the success of the cultures they inhabit, live on. Those that cannot compete go extinct. Buggy whip is a classic example of an extinct meme. One prays that socialism, born in the same era as the buggy whip, will follow soon into that dustbin. I know it will, it so damages the societies it infects, but I pray it be soon, sooner yet.
Actually, these ideas about language units have been floating around for a long time. Here is a reference from 1965. It is from Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Volume II, p. 354, 355:

It is, of course, extremely important that the language of the New Testament is Greek and not Hebrew. Nevertheless, almost because of this difference, we are soon made aware that in a deeper sense the language of the Old Testament and the New are the same…

…This is a very bold assertion; for each word has a specifically hermeneutic function in that it gives a place in the general world-picture to the thing it represents. A word–at all events in an ancient language, and we are not here concerned with modern ones–does not stand by itself as a descriptive label, which can if necessary be replaced by another. Rather, it lives in its linguistic and conceptual province as if this was a living organism, and it has its indispensable place therein. It is woven into the linguistic organism to which it belongs by a thousand threads.

The Me of Sumer tend to be crafts or roles or jobs, the assignments for people in an economy and society. And memes, a little different, tend to be individual thoughts and ideas, much smaller units of mental stuff. Perhaps the best way to use the two is to think of me as a special case of meme, a whole virus (the me) instead of just one gene (the meme).
The connection between me and meme is more than a doubling of syllables. Both are the tricks and habits, myths and sayings, of human societies. But what a difference in context. One set defends the powers that be, the other evolves naturally from ordinary people. One set is fixed for all time, the other set evolves to meet new situations. One set was obtained by theft or tricks, the other set retailed to the public.
Although I am quite certain that no Sumerian knew that Dawkins would invent the word meme, I do not know if Dawkins knew about the Sumerian usage.
All of them depend on a civilization and culture, on language and art and communications. For us that ecology of ideas, the box for our me, is the West.
Therefore my first name for this web site was The Western Abzu, where I and me become meme.
I believe this is how the West was One.
media, medium, mediation
Soil and Soul.
I am not referring to middles, people who settle disputes, or spiritualists. I am referring to water colors, pastels, and oils.
Language is mediated and encoded. The sounds that make up the word cellardoor have no meaning themselves but only encode a meaning on audio compression waves in air, a meaning only when decoded from air sounds into neural pathways, a new encoding. Sometimes language is encoded as strokes of ink on paper or patterns of light bulbs, even scratches on clay tablets. In fact, language is never unencoded, it is a set of virtual objects and cannot exist without a medium. Thought is language not encoded on compression waves or an alphabet but, like all language, it is encoded on something: brain tissue. An electro-chemical event in a brain cell has no inherent meaning. Nothing has an inherent meaning. All meaning is virtual because meaning is a term of art referring to the objects language refers to and all language is virtual reality.
This view utterly contradicts Idealism. It is Nominalism on steroids. As is Genesis One and Two.
In the case of spoken language the media are layered. Objectively we have those compression waves. Their medium is air. Language is encoded as changes of frequency, pace, and order. The medium for these sound characteristics is the compression waves, in turn mediated by air. At one end there are nerve endings in an ear connected to neurons in the brain, forming a network which changes the language medium from air to brain cells. At the other end is a set of vocal cords and associated mouth regions and tongue that generate the sounds. Those body parts are directed by a network of brain cells which assembles words into sentences.
That's all there is. What meaning and communication is here begins and ends with mediated language. It is enough to live on.
At Bible Freedom Science Network the words media, medium, and mediation are used for more than just language. Throughout the universe networks and objects are mediated by other networks and objects. For example, an atom is more than just composed of electrons, neutrons, and protons, it is enabled to exist because these particles, and their characteristics and interactions, first exist and are present. No proton in this specific quantum of space and bit of time, no hydrogen in this specific quantum of space and bit of time. (Yes, I know I am using the word quantum in a difference sense than the classic usage of physics. Yet my usage is connected with that more rigorous usage and it does convey the point marvelously.) This also works backwards, of course, but only in the frames that are not alive. Once we are in the living frames of reality backwards does not work. In other words, there are instances of soil without flowers but no flowers without soil.
So then, a proton, an electron, etc., form up into a substrata or carrier or medium for an atom. At the edges there are collections of particles that are nearly atoms, a fully ionized helium atom, for example, but not atoms in our defined sense of electrically neutral (In other words, with a full compliment of electrons.). A subatomic particle is in a network of forces like the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force, electric charge, and electromagnetic radiation. There is spin, there is mass, there is attraction and repulsion. The atom, made of these forces and particles, is in a different network, a network where the nucleus is a given and electrons are for sharing and trading with other atoms. Valance means nothing to a proton and a neutron next to each other. But their association in the nucleus gives the number and orbit of the electrons attached to this atom, and that set of positions and counts binds atoms together into molecules and bulk materials. The bulk materials, even the molecules, do not feel the strong nuclear force directly, but the effect of that force that makes a nucleus and therefore an atom and therefore electron orbital, is felt. So the cause and effect chain is never broken, only blurred by the way the nucleons interact into a substrata or medium for a new kind of object, an atom. Think of it this way. There are protons and electrons loose in the universe not associated with any atom. But there is no such thing as an atom without at least a proton and an (temporary) electron.
There is nothing magical or special about this sort of vocabulary. It preserves the cause and effect chains and networks of all physics. It does not call on any non physical forces or powers. You may even believe that these mediations are trivial, obvious, and why bother naming this stuff? But think of how many times non scientists have claimed that some out of range and out of sight force, like quantum weirdness or Jupiter's gravity well, produce their specific brand of religious or political nonsense. Think of the deterministic thinking that dooms some people into zombiehood and others into elitist mentalities. This system of mediation and frames breaks those irrational theories without contradiction of any principle of physics or science. Coming to theology and philosophy, there are contradictions, not with reason or Scripture, but with conventional wisdom.
There is too much of this for this glossary entry. Here is a whole index of essays on Frames and Mediation.
The Riddle of Means.
It is easy to say, I believe in miracles. So does Satan. So does H.G.Wells. The trouble comes in the definition of miraculous. The descriptions range from tricks to supernatural powers.
Most of us are a mix of childhood daydreams of magic powers and adult skepticism that anything good will ever happen to us. Perhaps even more common is the concept of fate or luck. In any case, many believe in miracles without giving a moments thought to what a miracle is. Also among the thoughtless are many who do NOT believe in miracles.
The traditional idea is that a miracle is supernatural power altering the course of the ordinary cause and effect universe. For example, a man is cured of cancer after a prayer service. There was medical evidence of disease before the service and there is no evidence of disease after the service. Sometimes this is softened to improvement or lessened pain. In any case, the prayer (or, for more classically trained Christians, the One prayed to) is the cause of the cure or improvement.
In the classical formulation, but not the traditional, I agree with that. But we are still far from agreement on the definition of miracle. For some the extraordinary claims of a supernatural power, of spirit controlling matter, are essential to their definition of miracle. Not for me. As I have been taught, the biblical God is able to act and alter the course of the ordinary cause and effect world without extraordinary claims or supernatural powers. Yes, this means that we must first agree that He speaks and acts from Frame Eleven in my system of Frames and Mediation.
If the natural world is flat, in other words, without networks of tessella and frames, but instead just a projection and illusion of the ideal world, the spirit world, then the definition of miracle is a simple one. The traditional view will do just fine. But if the world is as complex causally as I suggest, then what a miracle is dissolves into different questions: Who or what is making the miracle? and How does it (for Christians and Jews: He) work its (His) will on the world?
In other words, where is the interference? Say in the case of a tumor. Does the miracle interfere with the brain of the healed? Or the invisible mind? Does the change from before to after take place in some cells dying and other multiplying? Is there an effect at the molecular level where some protein or other is unfolded, or lower, where some particle, billions of them at once, switch polarity to effect the change in the tumor? You see, the trouble is we tend to think in only two spheres: natural and supernatural. That which we can see and touch is natural and that which is invisible is supernatural. No other steps or frames or levels or choices are available. And that hides the real question of miracles: what are you talking about?
Think again about this problem of mechanism. If there is a supernatural power working its will on a physical system, what would we see in a before and after shot? Do tumor cells simply disappear, matter turning into non matter, breaking the conservation laws? Do they die, removing some spiritual living juice, turning living matter into dead matter? Or, was the presence of a tumor an illusion in the first place? Chain determinists will have the roughest time. They will have to trace the cause of the sudden disappearance of the tumor to events during the Big Bang or the First Cause that predetermined it. The praying as well will have to be caused by first causes. We do not have to pin down this point of entry to believe in miracles but we do have to pin it down to speak about it or argue about it.
Those who believe that the real world is actually an illusion produced by the ideal world have no problem. Spirit things do not have to follow the rules of the physical things. They may flip in and out of existence without consequences or time. It seems to me that such a world is incompatible with the Bible. But if the real world is to maintain its integrity the question of mechanism must be answered.
Life is able to alter the cause and effect chains of the physical world without supernatural powers. Life acts by selection, filtering, and ordering. Life is able to locally reverse entropy. For example, out of a chaos of amino acids, an RNA molecule is able to chose each one in order to build a specific protein. If we define life as those physical systems that are able to reverse entropy within a favorable environment, then such an RNA molecule is alive. It is not alive in exactly the same sense as a cell because the cell has a broader range of environments in which it is able to function. And then, a cell is not alive in the same sense as an organism, or a human personality. The last one may have no limits on the physical environment that its cultures and technologies enable it to live in.
If life can do these things, in other words live, without extraordinary claims, then so can the biblical God. He too will use media. Not cells, RNA, chemistry, etc. His media will be first of all His Images, us, we human beings. This is especially true of those He choses (There is that selection, filtering, and organizing thing again.) and calls to gather around His Word and Sacraments. St. Paul calls us the Body of Christ. Just so. And this selecting and gathering are also mediated. Dr. Martin Luther insisted that there were Means of Grace: Word and Sacraments. Taken to my own personal extreme, the only contact our God has with us today is through the medium of His Word, spoken and written. Does this exclude prayer as a Means of Grace? Yes. For prayer is our response to His grace, not the source of it or the means of it. He comes to us in Word and Sacraments. Period. And prayer is not a sacrament. If we pray for grace it will come through His Word, not through our prayer. But sometimes prayer is His Word, spoken to ourselves, drawn from the teaching and preaching of the Word by the Body of Christ. You do not have a choice about this. No matter how spiritual you think your prayers are, they are your words and not His. This is why hermit Christianity is dangerous to personal faith. Instead of the constant and intimate reflection within a corporate setting, a mass or Bible class, we drift away from His Word into the open ocean of our own fallen hearts and die of starvation.
So, in my view, miracles do happen and they are acts of the biblical God. They are first mediated by His Word, which had better be the content of our human prayers. Nothing is required for this beyond ordinary events and objects in the human social world of language. He acts, again, through the means of His Word which is human language, on the physical brains of the people praying in faith, and by the same sort of selection, filtering, and ordering processes we use ourselves to effect changes in our brain chemistry and organization, He changes the physical. The language brain is a part of the physical body and interacts with it constantly. For example, the hope and faith engendered by the prayers and conversations with others may motivate a person to ask a physician. Perhaps that physician has a new treatment that will cure. (Science is clearly caused by the Judeo-Christian culture, which is caused by Scripture, which is the Word of God.) Or, it may be more immediate than that. Perhaps stress and fear removed will allow the immune systems of the body to cure itself. Prayer can do that. Perhaps pain is more nerve than bruise and the comfort of His love will relieve it. Does anyone pray that a broken bone be healed in moments before our eyes, the break invisible, the skin smooth, the blood gone? No. We know better than that. He will heal the break but in His due time, according to the medium He uses. He will use biology. He always does.
Someday I will write a book listing and discussing every miracle or apparent miracle in the Bible and maybe some in other parts of history as well. This will not be intended as a defense of the traditional view or a debunking of all miracles. My goal will be to illuminate possible methods and means that the lord uses to carry out His Will in the ordinary world. It will turn out, I believe, that His whole connection to us and the world will be mediated by His Word. This goes for His acts of creation as well.
Finally, an observation. Modern science and technology could accomplish all of the miracles recorded in the New Testament. Perhaps one will have to wait a little for new knowledge and skills, but they will come. So, if these things are possible for we who have such little faith, why invoke supernatural powers for Geshua and His followers?
Another final observation. At the creation Elohim pronounced all of the parts of the physical universe as Tov! Good! Seeking to found a universe He did not Will and create is a great sin.
One is more than Zero.
The alternative to monism is dualism. Monism is the theory that there is only one universe and that all events and experiences, even internal mental experiences, are the effects of causes that are purely physical. Every effect has a physical cause and every cause has a physical effect. Every effect is also a cause and every cause is also an effect. Every state and condition is a physical state and condition. Language and other coded information is always mediated by physical systems (DNA, paper, sound waves, nerve firings). Will, design, intent, purpose, and meaning are useful concepts for local and limited living systems, much as life is able to locally reverse entropy. But the underlying physics and chemistry (or electronics) that support such local prescriptions are determinate and chaotic.

Monism implies and requires reductionism. Reductionism is the method of linking cause and effect across frames. A frame is best defined by giving examples: physics, chemistry, biology. Within the boundaries of a frame a rule set is valid that may not be useful in describing other frames. For example, predicting the composition and actions of a molecule requires valance rules for the elements it is made of. But chemical valance is not a useful concept in the gravity balance of stars nor in the evolution of snails. While chemical valance depends on the count of subatomic particles in an atom, the chemist–except for native curiosity–can safely ignore the particle physics and use valance as if it were a real object. Within the boundaries of the chemistry of salts valance orders cause and effect, a virtual Natural Law. (All Natural Law is virtual.) All frames but one have dependences like that of chemistry on physics. Biology depends on the working of coded DNA and RNA and enzymes, which in turn depend on the rules of organic chemistry, and that on chemistry, and chemistry on physics, etc. For example, all chemical reactions and substances are the effects of the interactions of atoms and molecules, which are themselves the effects of still smaller and simpler subatomic particle interactions. Chaos theory does not contradict reductionism. While it is indeed impossible to calculate or describe every event at molecular and picosecond scales and that exhaustively predicts what a liter of gas particles will do, no one doubts that the physical states and motions of every particle, when combined, determines the bulk properties of the liter of gas.

Because it comes up so often on these pages, let me list the chain of reducted cause and event frames. Nations, corporations, teams, and gods (The biblical God is a special case that I discuss elsewhere.) are caused by the corporation of people into a functional entity. People, as functioning persons, are caused by a brain learning, from a cultural environment, how to be a person. A cultural environment is caused by language, itself an effect of a genetically equipped brain taught by previous culture. Brains are the effects of electro-chemical events in a organized group of specialized cells which have developed according to a genetic program. The cells and the genetic program that organizes them into a functioning brain evolved from cells and genetics for brains that were unable to use language. Evolved from simple to more complex forms, cells are the effects of biology. Biology uses the medium of organic chemistry to encode and carry information about its structure and function. Biology uses an environment of non coded chemistry. Organic chemistry is a branch of chemistry. Chemistry is based on atomic physics, which is based on subatomic physics, which is based on particle physics, which is based on quantum mechanics. A better expression than based on is mediated by.
To my horror, I have found that the term monism also refers to a completely spiritualist understanding of the universe; that the material universe is god and that this odd god is the material universe. This is repulsive. Such a god is polar opposite of the Judeo-Christian God in every way. Genesis One, whatever other understandings we have loaded into it, must first stand for a separation between Elohim and stuff, between Elohim and everything else. When He made us as His Image, He created a link for Himself to everything else. We are His stand-ins, His idols, His agents, His gardeners, His representatives. But in this blighted system, the apotheosis of matter, human beings are just another animal that has no relationship with its creator. We are not even a pet. In fact, there is no creator at all, only a single unit of existence.
This is NOT what I mean by monism. It is the opposite.
Plato was dead wrong.
Nominalism is the set of ideas which utterly destroy the phony and life hating philosophy of Plato and Pythagoras. William of Occam was the first to state these ideas in a reasonable form. First, ideas are not real, but only language. Objects are real. A name is a name, a rose is a rose, by any other name. Second, categories are not real things. For example, animal is a word we use (variously) to refer to dogs, cats, and spiders. The only reality is this spider, that dog, and the yellow cat in the tree.
How wonderful it would be if we came to a political Nominal ism. For example, there is no such thing as the middle class. There are people who are neither wealthy nor poor. Yes, there are people and they have attributes and interests. But there is no such being or object as a middle class.
Palestine and Philistia
I did not think of this but it tickles me to pass it on to you.
This is from an article by David Jacobson in Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol 27, No. 3, page 42. Jacobson lays out the case that the Greek (the source of the Roman and ultimately English) name for the Land of Israel was Palaistinê (παλαιστινη), from the Greek word for wrestler, palaistês. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestles all night with Ha Shem and received the new name, Israel (Yisra’el, ישרל in Hebrew) because he wrestled (sarita’) with El. In other words, both English names, Israel and Palestine, mean wrestler. If this is true, and I believe it, then Palestine is a translation of Israel and not a transliteration of Philistines. Palestinian is not an insult to Jews but a proud reference to the founder of their nation, Jacob, the Wrestler with God. In fact, the Philistines may have received their name because they settled in the land of the Wrestler. But then that brings up a whole set of questions about their early associations with the tribe of Judah. Wasn't David the military leader of a Philistine city at one point?
The fundamental unit of awareness.
A person is an artificial object, a virtual being. There is no being that is not virtual. Any language code handling system able to generate and parse sentences, names, maps, symbols, events and sequences of events can create a person. Generally one such virtual person is assigned the name of the system and in conversation the person and the system are virtually identical. Other persons the system creates or mimics will usually be assigned other names, points of view, and memories.
Some of the systems that are able to generate a person are: homo paidion, a few other primates and social animals in some small ways, and electronic information coding systems of sufficient complexity.
The mouth of the Voice.
The charisma which mechanizes the Voice of the lord. Not a spirit medium, nor possessed, nor an audio speaker, a prophet participates with the biblical God in the formation of words and sentences to proclaim warning and comfort.
Claims made by other religions for prophecy and prophets are false because they claim to replace the consciousness of the prophet with the mind of the deity, who then speaks without human limitations.
Read more here: Prophet.
Qere is not in even the largest English dictionary I own so I will define it here. In the Hebrew Bible there are, occasionally, places where the text contains an obvious error. Rather than do the unthinkable sin of changing the text, the scribes made a marginal note with the correct spelling or word and those who read the text aloud read the note, the qere, instead of the consonants of the text. The consonants in the Hebrew text are called the kethibh.
Applied Reductionism
I have not written this entry yet.
Satan as a Dramatic Character
It is interesting to compare and contrast the person and evolution of Satan and the Logos. I sometimes suspect that Satan has become an important figure in the West, unlike in ancient Israel or Sumer, because our official God lacked any personality or emotional connection. Milton would be a good example of what I mean.
The Sin of Eve
The Primary Error
Eve's (and mankind's) first sin is not eating the apple but misquoting the Word. She adds the words neither shall you touch it to the warning that if they eat of that tree they will surely die. And the Snake does not lie, Eve does not die the same day she eats the fruit. In fact it was YHWH–Elohim who did not keep his promise to kill them the same day they ate.
J, the prophetess who wrote for YHWH in this section of Genesis, loves this sort of irony. The first sin, the error that ruins everything, the source of all other human sin, is misquoting our God. And, to make it more pointed, the misquote makes YHWH—Elohim sound even more harsh and strict than he actually is. Ya gotta love that sort of spit-in-your-eye story. It is just like Geshua's parables. (I wonder why?) The barb hooks us, we believers, not the pagans or atheists, and of believers the story hooks the most demanding and perfectionist among us.
One step further and the source of human misery is clear. Hawa decides, not between good and evil, but what is good and what is evil. It is one thing to chose to eat the forbidden fruit. Bad enough, under threat of death, but less of a crime than what she actually did. .Hawa took it upon herself to decide that it was lawful to eat the fruit, to reason out good and evil, to become her own law giver (which is say, her own god). It is an extension of misquoting YHWH-Elohim, of making up things we think our God would say instead of hearing or reading what He actually does say. Today we trump Hawa's arrogance with majority rule on such things as abortion, gay marriage, and revoking the death penalty for murder. You do not have to be a Christian to understand that majority rule cannot change human nature, biology, or physics. Yet daily our oppressors in the federal government decide what is good and what is evil on their own without reference to either nature or nature's God.
Defining Ourselves
My father would occasionally say He's a smart one. I took him to mean intelligent and took the object of his remark as an approved example. But my father did not mean smart-intelligent, he meant smart-devious. He meant not to praise the smart guy but to warn me about the smart ass. To me Einstein was smart, Newton was smart. To my father Nixon was smart, con artists were smart. One day, when I was about twenty-five. he referred to William F. Buckley, Jr., as smart and it hit me that he must not mean that word the way I did. He did not like Buckley. To test my new theory I said that FDR was smarter. His anger proved my guess right. A few moments later we were actually laughing about it even though I don't believe he ever forgot my insult to FDR, nor did I forget his insult to WFB, Jr.
Smart, indeed!
Please read about the Theory of Mind to better understand both definitions: Know Thyself
University Arrogance
Stephen Jay Gould is first a teacher but also a wonderful example of the importance of going to the primary sources in literary research. Time and time again he reads an original document in its original language and then debunks modern myths about their authors. Too many of us just repeat things about the Bible or other old books that we have heard or read without checking for ourselves. It is a sloppy habit that comes from the so-called research papers done into secondary sources.
Once I wrote a paper about Hamlet that failed because I could not cite a single secondary source that agreed (or disagreed!) with me. Dozens of quotes from the play itself counted for nothing. (I think Hamlet delayed because of the tension between the pagan ethic of revenge and the Christian ethic (at that time) against regicide. He did not want to go to Hell. I think that what happens in the death scene proves it. But not one of the fancy ass professors or literary critics thought further than Jung or Freud. Distracted by the …to be or not to be speech and the navel gazing that passes for ethical philosophy today, that blindness to religion is no surprise.)
I always thought research was pouring two liquids together to see if they changed color or something. Every time I hear some one say I did research on the Internet. I reach for a weapon. Say I read about this. or I found an article about this. But save the word research for counting birds or recording the spectral characteristics of stars; and, allowances be made, for analyzing the vocabulary of original sources. And do not get me started on studies! The words …studies show… are a sure warning of bullshit in the rest of the sentence.
Tessella, plural Tessellae
See also Virtual Atoms
This is my word for virtual atom, the indivisible bits from which the universe at every level is made. Tessella is Latin. It is the diminutive of tessera, the tiles of a mosaic. Virtual atom is nearly perfect for my usage but may confuse some who use the word differently in science. For them I found this neat replacement and will use it as often as I can.
Briefly, tessellae are the smallest bits of each frame of the world. For example, phonemes are the tessellae of language, nucleons and electrons are the tessellae of neutral atoms, bricks are the tessellae of buildings, and individual people are the tessellae of corporations. Thus, we live in a tessellated cosmos.
Obviously, like mosaic tessera (tiles), tessella are not literally atomic. They are virtually atomic because within the logic and function of a frame like physics, chemistry, or biology they perform as if uncutable. If you take one of the tiny glass shards from the mosaic and smash it with a hammer there will be ever finer bits of glass and, given the proper sort of hammer, atoms of oxygen and silicon and then electrons and protons and then gluons and quarks, etc. But in the mosaic none of this matters because the characteristics of silicon and quarks are contained and balanced within larger and larger tessella until a little square of colored glass becomes one tessella of a beautiful picture on a Roman floor.
Notice that the tessellae are many different colors and materials in the mosaic. We can make a mosaic with tiles of all the same shape and color and sheen but such a mosaic would have no picture, no symbolic content, and therefore little different from the concrete floor under it. We need an assortment of sizes, colors, shapes, sheens, in the tesserae to allow the coding and ordering that mediates image and content. So it is with the cosmic tessellation. At every scale there are membranes of stability where an assortment of assemblies are the tessellae of the larger scale. Chain determinism would require identical tessellae to prevent freedom.
This method of analysis of the world is helpful for many reasons. First, it utterly destroys chain determinism and Idealism. Second, it maintains a strong cause and effect universe that remains predictable within the limits of a frame. Third, it allows chaos while disallowing random, infinity, and zero in the physical world. Fourth, it brings order to our thinking about things. For example, it prevents quantum astrology, which is my name for the goofy theory that human free will is caused by so-called random quantum events in the human brain tissue. It also prevents planet and star astrology, because planets are also in a different frame from people.
I am not unaware of the appearance of connection between my ideas of tessella, topology, mathematics, physics, and Nominalism. So far it is only an appearance as I hunt for vocabulary.
The Theory of Mind
The theory of mind is the idea that we are able, to an astonishing degree, to figure out what other people think or believe. Born of our ability to get inside the mind of the game we hunted, trained by our mimicry, and made necessary by our close societies and families, a theory of mind is central to our personalities. Without this universally and exclusively human ability, traffic (think about it), marriage, trade, and work would be impossible. It does require trust but also includes mental tools of suspicion and caution. Actors are particularly good at getting inside another person and thinking like them. The expression, “It takes a thief to catch a thief,” illuminates the skill and the necessity for the skill. Gone bad, a theory of mind will propose that the CIA, the Roman Catholic Church, or Communism are responsible for my unemployment or poverty. Only a person whose mind worked in the same way could believe that others are conspiring against him.
Examples in the other direction are the theory of mind malfunctions which attribute human motives and states of mind to non human animals and even inanimate objects. Micky Mouse wants to help Mini Mouse The baby bird wants to be with his family when they fly south for the winter. My doll wants to play.
Everyday experience illustrates what happens when this theory of mind is not functioning. I was headed into the mens room at a retail store. A small boy blocked my way, his father to one side with a cart. The boy gazed up at me without a word or one bit of consciousness of what I was doing. He saw me, noticed me, watched me, but had no recognition of my state of mind or purpose, and did not move a muscle. His father put himself in my place, saw my discomfort, instantly knew why I was trying to get past the boy, and reached out to pull his son out of my way. The father had a theory of mind, the boy did not.
This mental gadget, the ability to stand in someone else's shoes, provides the raw material out of which we create our own personalities. We love to mimic, we love to play, we love to tease each other. All of these require a certain acting ability and that ability depends first on a theory of mind. Especially as children, but also in adulthood, we construct ourselves, our person, out of the bits of personhood we plagiarize from others, even from fictional others and tall tales. Peter Pan and Wendy are not accidents. No comedian would be funny unless he or she were able to lead us into a certain identity, inside the skin of the butt of the joke. Such browsing in the pasture of social and personal rolls and identities is necessary, fun, and entirely human.
Self Conversation
Thought is generating a sentence with the sound making equipment inhibited. It is said that throughout antiquity reading was always done aloud, never silently. Reading silently, even if your lips moved, came only in the very late Roman Empire. I wonder if some of the new genes that are supposed to be invading humanity in the last ten or fifteen thousand years are the ability to think without vocalizing. In a way, reading silently and thinking without speaking are the same thing. I also know for myself that I think much better when I am speaking or writing but that most of my great leap forward insights have been when thinking without either writing or speaking. I think we need to study this.
One thing is very clear: animals do not think because they cannot talk. To the extent that they do talk, even sing, to that extend we may grant them the ability to think, but still not silently. That is WAY too human. So what is my dog doing when he pokes around the compost pile (other than enjoying the smells)? Why, the same thing I do when I poke around the compost pile—not much. I am looking, I am smelling, I am probing, I am active mentally and may be deciding to do something. But no words form, no sentence, no thought that requires language. Just because I am able to name smelling does not mean the word forms whenever I smell. And, at least when I was younger, I was able to explore a compost pile at the same time I was forming sentences in anticipation of a conversion to come. Two parts of my brain were engaged, one not so very different from my dog's mental activities and the other a newly evolved engine that entrains sounds, words, sentences, and paragraphs into a virtual reality no dog will ever live in.
It is a common fallacy that thought in the form of eternal ideas preexisted language, or at least human talking. But any such information would not be encoded on any media. It would have to exist in some way not connected to the material universe. That is another way of saying that something does not exist.
Turning Point
Oh, oh! AhAh! Tisk, tisk.
Go to gyro.
In the Beginning…
Verbalism is my term for the idea that word proceeds and generates event. As if there were a king of the universe who orders each atom to each new vector by speaking, in some nonphysical way, the command, "You there, move there, now!"
The attraction of verbalism is strong. For in our ordinary human lives, the social universe we actually live in, the words purpose, design, plan, desire, meaning, order, and command serve us well. At our scale of time and space, in a living system, we commonly reverse entropy and reverse cause and effect. A careful analysis that probes the very small and very large, which are normally outside of our consideration, shows that the universal rules of cause preceding effect and entropy always increasing still hold. Our language and usage is true only locally and specifically. The error of verbalism is to imagine that the physical universe on scales very large and very small operates like a human person or society, that our invented laws are superior to our discovered laws.
As a living organism, we are hardwired by the genetically controlled development process to follow both paths of cause and effect: the physical and the social. The social cause and effect chain includes verbalism. Here is an example with cause and effect chains which are only true or useful in human society: Son, I have measured the fire wood. We are almost out. Go and chop down a tree, cut and split it into fire wood, and stack it up out back. Actually, a real father would be more likely to say, Son, we're almost out of fire wood. and let the son figure the rest out from his role in the family.
Why does the tree fall? Gravity causes the tree to fall in physical reality. To be sure, other conditions (trunk cut through caused by wood fibers torn in a straight line, caused by steel teeth moving back and forth, caused by the muscles of the woodman contracting and relaxing, caused by the release of nerve chemical messengers on the fibers, caused by other nervous activity in the woodman, caused by the burning of food fuel in the body of the woodman) must apply. But why does the tree fall? To keep the family's house warm and cook their food. But such causes cannot be physical causes because they run backwards in time, as if the effect made the cause happen.
Aristotle claimed that there is a Final Cause, the sort of cause that warming the house is in our example. It is not clear to me which way he meant such a cause, as a physical reality or a social reality. But whatever Aristotle meant, too many since his time have taught that the physical universe supports a Final Cause in the same way it supports any cause and effect connection. Thus we are afflicted with Omega Points and other silly notions.
But life, especially intelligent life, can locally reverse the cause and effect chain. For example, burning wood warms the house against the cold outside–an decrease in entropy, the opposite of the natural and universal direction of entropy. But some of the heat escapes up the stove pipe and some through the windows and the total entropy increase of the system–house, woods, and the air around them–is greater than the entropy decrease inside the house. And don't forget that as soon as the family stops burning wood the house will loose all of its heat to the environment, resulting in even more entropy.
A living cell can be seen as a sort of tiny house, chopping down trees (food) to keep warm and move. It also reverses entropy as well as cause and effect locally and temporarily.
There are several ways to analyze the social cause and effect chain for our family, house, and tree. One is the ordinary experience of living in a social universe that can virtually ignore the underlying physical universe. We cut and burn trees to keep our house warm and cook our food. Therefore, winter weather and hunger cause us to cut down trees. Or, therefore the father causes the tree to be cut and burned by his words, his orders to his son. Or, therefore families have sons and train them to cut trees and obey their fathers. Or, therefore we create large societies that can sustain steel and saw making and marketing.
Here is a therefore of my own. Therefore it seems to me that verbalism is a sound and useful method of analyzing cause and effect in human society. It answers why questions. But it does not answer how questions. For that we must turn to chemistry and physics. The instant that we leave the universe of language and living systems we must leave verbalism with it. No word spoken or thought by any person or device can cause so much as an electron to move, even inside the nerve cells or silicon crystals thinking the thought.
One Frame's Reality is Another Frame's Fiction
See also Virtual Atomics
If you buy a sink and counter top for a new lavatory one of your best choices is cultured marble. Cultured marble is manufactured from calcium carbonate and an organic resin. Natural marble is calcium carbonate, or limestone, compressed by geology and millions of years. Cultured marble is, in many ways, superior to natural marble for a lavatory counter top and sink because it does not have veins of contaminating minerals or weak points. The sink is molded into the cultured marble counter top, a range of colors and finishes are available, they look nice, they are easy to take care of, and they are a good value. But they are not marble. They are virtual marble.
Now, it is possible to build a natural marble counter top for the bathroom. But it is expensive, not terribly strong or durable, and very hard to maintain. For some the authenticity of unpredictable natural stone is worth the price and trouble. It is beautiful. For others, a virtual natural stone is not only acceptable, it is preferable.
I use the word virtual to describe things like personhood, the observation that a human person is an artifact of language and society, not anywhere an actual lump of stuff or a particle of physics. There is a difference between a virtual person and a virtual marble: choice. We may chose to install virtual marble or natural marble. But all personalities are virtual objects, there is no other kind. That does not mean a personality is not natural, we are all evolved and created. Virtual personhood is an attempt to express the fact that we are mediated artifacts. The raw material from which we are formed as social personalities is language which is mediated by brain biology, which is mediated by chemistry, then quantum particles, then fields and strings. Knowing the physics and chemistry, even the biology, of the brain that carries and implements a human personality is not enough to explain or create a personality. Important bits of what makes a person real and functional are encoded on more fundamental systems and particles. The brain is not a virtual person, it mechanizes the encoded memes and information from which a virtual person is built and created.
Virtual does not mean it is any less real. After all, if you drop the virtual marble counter top on your foot you will discover how real it is. All it means is that the functional, important characteristics of the counter top and the human person are part of the frames of existence where we live and move and have our being. That frame of existence is the logosphere, human culture, and almost everything we mean when we say our life.
Words and thoughts are virtual objects, not physical objects like a nitrogen atom. To say words are air compression waves or ink on paper misses what a word is, a virtual object just as real as the paper or the air but encoded, mediated, and in a different frame. In fact, in very many ways that nitrogen atom is a virtual object because it is now, as we discuss it, a word and concept in our world. I can prove to you the nitrogen atom is a virtual object. Tell me, which single, specific, non virtual nitrogen atom are you referring to? And…where is it? Now?
We live almost entirely in a virtual world. Yes, we are biological organisms (which, it can be argued, are themselves virtual objects) and yes we must contend with everything from gravity to hard brick walls. Ah. Once again, the virtual world is the same as the physical world because the hard brick wall we just hit is a virtual cliff, an physical object that is not a natural rock cliff but might as well be in its effects on our face. But we are occupied every moment, awake or asleep, with virtual objects that compose the world we live in. Cars are virtual horses, horses used to be virtual feet, so cars are virtual feet once removed. Houses are virtual caves, forks are virtual fingers, jobs are virtual hunting and gathering parties, so is shopping but differently, fiction books are virtual lives and non fiction books are virtual investigations. We inhabit a universe build out of language, words, and the social interaction they enable. The physical world of biology and chemistry mediates and enables the fabrication of a virtual universe.
Such power this grants us! Such freedom of action! With these virtual tools we are able to break determinism, seek new paths through the universe and history, and live in a sense that no nonspeaking organism ever dreamed of. Virtual does not mean pretend and it does not mean imaginary. It is a trick, like the trick life is, a sleight of hand, which leaves an unexpected and undetermined outcome. A trick is virtual magic, the only kind of magic that works, and that is also true of our virtual reality of language: it is the only nonphysical reality that works. To see life as more than a trick of virtual design is to watch the hand waving instead of the cards.
So, we have a soul. It is virtual soul. It is a center of our being (being is itself a meme without any referent in the non virtual world) but exists only in the software of our minds, an artifact build of language and cultural memes. As such it is useful in our thinking about ourselves, especially in religion and marriage. And it certainly is immaterial, as the philosophers imagined. It better be good enough for you because a virtual soul is all the soul you will ever have.
Virtual Atoms
Atomic Linguistics
The meme of a virtual atom is important for understanding frames. First, see the entry virtual.
When the Greeks invented the meme atom it meant uncutable, as in α=not and τεμνω=cut. When the science of Christendom named the elements they were thought to be atomic and the name stuck. Even after particle physics found protons, neutrons, and electrons inside atoms, we still use the word for what had been the indivisible particle. My proposal is to expand the usage to other virtually indivisible particles like phonemes, amino acids, molecules, a single human ego, and the proton itself (which turns out to be divisible into quarks). Examples of virtual fundamental forces are evolution by natural selection, heat, the genetic code, and the price mechanism of markets.
As far as a iron atom is concerned, the proton is atomic. As far as an anvil is concerned, the iron atom is atomic. As far as the workshop owner is concerned, the anvil is atomic. Sometimes life breaks down amino acids into other molecules. But mostly life uses amino acids as fundamental units of construction, like to a building a brick is atomic. And the human ego? To a nation state, a family, a business, a church, etc., the individual human being is atomic, the smallest bit of stuff these organizations and incorporations are made of.
Each of the ten knowable frames has virtual atoms. They are certainly built from smaller and faster bits that belong the frame below. But cause and effect events proceed as if the virtual atoms of the frame were really indivisible, really the fundamental particles of the universe inside the frame. The physicist or biologist or historian may know very well that a nitrogen atom, an amino acid, or the Abraham Lincoln contains parts but they can safely ignore that divisibility when analyzing their subject.
Notice how close this is to naming things, the very creative power of Genesis One and Two. There is another example from language. As I write these words attempting to create and pass on memes and modifications to existing memes, I pay no attention whatsoever to what the words sound like. The phonemes are virtual atoms for words and words are virtual atoms for memes. Except for poetry, and a bit in sermons, where sound and rhythm become, along with words and meme, virtual atoms in expressions.
The Word
Ha Davar, Ho Logos, The Word
I have not written this entry yet. Rather, I have written too much on this subject and have not edited it into legibility yet. Actually, at the end of the day, the entry here may be short and the topic off loaded to an essay. In view of the supreme importance of this topic, that essay may be longer than most.
The Glossary's (temporary) End