Saturday, September 11, 2010

False Enemies & The Pursuit of Intelligence

The possession of knowledge is not intelligence, but intelligence is essential to turning information into knowledge. Knowledge is the "storage" of experience, facts and patterns. We mistake the ability to quickly recall this type of information and to synthesize it in some productive way as being "intelligent". Intelligence is the dynamic and robust acceptance and understanding of that which is most basic, timeless and immutable. As a result, there is very little difference between the quest for scientific knowledge and a spiritual journey. They differ in terms of approach, and perhaps ostensible motivation, but I believe they both lead to the same place ultimately. As their expeditions reach the pinnacle, they might very well be met by the "opposing team" coming up the other side of the mountain.

Knowledge is just a database, intelligence is more akin to Linux, Wikipedia or other ever-evolving software and/or information "hubs". Intelligence is not the number or size of entries in Wikipedia, or the lines of code in Linux, at a given time, rather it is the constant process of organizing, rationalizing and inter-connecting of insights and capabilities. Intelligence is the process itself and therefore quite fragile, much like life itself. Life and intelligence are more defined by energy than matter, but while energy is never lost, it can transform into forms not supportive of intelligence. It is the degree of order or chaos that defines energy as being intelligent or merely possessing the potential for intelligence.

The internet can be perceived as the natural result of scientific development, or it can be part of God's "grand design" (you can choose your desired phraseology), but I do believe it is part of the sequence of events leading to our becoming more intelligent as a whole. Presently, the internet is better at gathering and providing access to information, but the process of well-intentioned cooperation, "truth distilling" and "co-educating" is just being.

Man is not remotely "intelligent" at present, and we are laughably arrogant to think that we are. At present, our rudimentary intelligence is housed in a culturally-conflicted, biochemical/hormonal laden, reptilian brain-based "House of Mirrors". We don't know where we are, we don't know where we are going, we don't know if what we see is real or just a reflection of our own imaginations. Worse yet, we are paying for the experience and even if we successfully navigate the maze of our own self-delusions, we will likely just end back on the thoroughfare of the carnival. Yet, if you take a step back and observe the progress of mankind over many centuries, you will see that the internet is not just a technological milestone, but an evolutionary one that marks the initiation of the stage of development where individuals, and civilizations as a whole, can learn about each other, share knowledge and generate the momentum required to achieve the critical velocity needed for man's potential for higher order intelligence to take flight.

Intelligence is the motion towards the core of existence, creation and universal purpose. Intelligence is not a state of being, it is the intense and committed struggle to maintain objectivity, increase one's awareness of all things, to discard no scenario without fair and informed investigation. Human intelligence is not just motion, but commitment and sacrifice. The sacrifice comes in the form of having to abandon that which is most familiar and comforting, and the pain of having to admit that past decisions were made out of ignorance.

The pursuit of knowledge, in all of its forms, and the commitment to a better understanding of God, is not at odds, mutually exclusive or contradictory. If God is the creator of all things, then to know more of all things is to better appreciate and understand God. So the bickering between atheists and "believers" is really quite juvenile and counterproductive. The more we learn about the universe and the phenomenon that constitute its existence, the more fascinating and visibly intricate it becomes. The "creationists" try to use this information to "prove" the existence of God and the "secular rationalists" take the same information and support the notion that God had no hand in it. I truly hope the "rational secularists" and the "faithful fundamentalists" can reconcile their adolescent grievances and just accept the fact that we know very little, but we are learning, and that the "truth" will be revealed in due course. We can all carry our personal "hunches" in our backpacks, but let's agree that the exploration is worthwhile and that we can help each other along the path even while we are trying to prove how "right" we are.

If God exists, and nothing pre-existed God, and he created the universe, then thought must have surely preceded physical existence as God must have been aware of his own existence and had a notion of what he intended to create before he created it. So from a faith-based perspective, in the beginning there was God and his thoughts, and from that all matter and energy emerged. While we humans need "energy" to think, God's thoughts may not have needed such a device and I suspect that one of the greatest surprises that lies before us is the realization that thought has more "substance" than we can ever imagine. Man was supposedly created in "God's image" and so it should not be surprising that despite the many earthly desires and distractions that we, and every generation before us, grapple with each day, that we always find time to think, wonder and ponder as thought is the ultimate primordial substance and the primary thread that is woven into the fabric our very being. We are most "with God" at those moments of reflection, even if we do not believe in him. If there is in fact a God, I believe him to be a "loving" God because true love has order, promotes order and has a lasting quality and beauty, much like the physical universe, but like aspects of the universe, it appears at times to erupt in violence, explode, and/or dissipate, only to re-emerge in another elegant form. Hate is chaotic, destructive and transitional. Hate is the "evil" emotion, but only through it can the power and persistence of love be demonstrated. Love appears to be the name we assign to the unique quality that energy possess, indestructibility. Perhaps our intellectual "restlessness" is a form of "hate" born out of intellectual immaturity. Perhaps our efforts to know more will just result in us returning full circle to the realization that true intelligence is not based in knowledge, but is "movement" in thought without physical dimension or energy dissipation, the ultimate perpetual motion machine.

I am not taking either side of the argument as to the existence of God. What I am maintaining is that the differences of view may be much more subtle that most would believe and that our current differences of opinion should not be used as a rationale to obstruct each other from seeking knowledge, refining our intelligence and/or rising above our current limitations.

I believe knowledge conquers hate and we live in a world where information, a key ingredient to knowledge, is becoming more abundant and accessible. Yes, it isn't always used for the most virtuous pursuits and the shear quantity of information is making the location of the "right" and most useful information difficult, but it is getting harder and harder to keep anything secret or to avoid global scrutiny. Perhaps our journey is all about truly understanding that biting into the "apple of knowledge" will never sustain us for an eternity. Perhaps it is gaining the wisdom to understand the difference between intelligence and knowledge. Perhaps the reference to man as "children" of God is not just about lineage, it is about our humble intellectual beginnings and our destiny of intellectual growth and evolution into beings that can have the capability to grasp the greatness of the Creator or of the Cosmos, wherever your loyalty or interests reside.

The real question is the whether genuine "purpose" truly exists. For now, we have a lot of work to do just to become adequately intelligent, and part of that process is finding purpose in promoting cooperation, tolerance and understanding between scientific, religious, business and political leaders and their constituencies. These categories have no universal purpose or meaning. They are "earthly" and therefore of little relevance in the context of the full dimension of time or space. Human energy needs to be conserved and focused on achieving a better understanding or our world, our universe and our existence, as well as addressing the problems that prevent many from having the luxury of pondering such abstract goals.

Knowledge can only strengthen those that know the "real truth" so even though we disagree on what that is exactly, the end result of a successful effort would be to prove one side correct and enlighten the other. Either way, a worthwhile or sought after goal would be achieved by everyone.

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