Friday, May 27, 2005

Churchianity Today

Chip Brogden has written a very devastating, and very accurate article on the current state of Christianity in America. If you want something to really challenge you out of mediocracy, then look no further than here: " Churchianity Today"

Highly recommended. Thanks to Marc Van Der Woude (and his blog!) for alerting me to this article.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Entropy, Evolution, Matter and Spiritual Direction

Last week I visited a quaint little Catholic bookstore in a town just north of me. It is run as a ministry, not a business, and because of this it almost completely unknown outside of the people in it's parish.

While browsing their small but very interesting selection of books, I found one with a title that intrigued me immediately: "The Way of Spiritual Direction." So I bought it, brought it home, and began reading it immediately.

Upon reading the first few chapters, I encountered something I had never, ever read before in a Christian book of any type: a theology of spiritual direction that includes evolution, entropy, and matter! I could not believe what I was reading! I knew someone, somewhere must have done something like this, but how strange it is that I should come across this while only recently debating these things on the Free Republic web site.

Here are two short excerpts from the book I found most intriguing:


There exists two contradictory, all-pervasive forces within creation: entropy and evolution.

Entropy turns creation in upon itself and tries to reverse its spiritual development. Entropy is innately "fleshy." It is regression into matter, scatteredness, the multiple. In the human sphere, entropy is selfishness, self-centeredness, the sin of the world. (Jn 1:29) [Like a black hole! -Ronzo]

Evolution, on the other hand, is specifically the aspect of becoming within creation. It is from God and to him. God's creative activity is the very core of evolution. In the human sphere this energy is none other than love, the gift of self.

Theoretically at least, evolution could proceed in a variety of possible directions. As a matter of fact, however, there is only one direction of evolution: towards the point of ultimate consummation -- Christ, Omega. Thus, evolution is in genesis (from the Greek ginomai: to become). The Word became flesh and bestowed upon us the power to become children of God (Jn 1:14, 12), so that in him we become a new creation (2 Co 5:17).

In more technical terminology, we say that the evolution of the world--cosmogenesis--is in fact Christogenesis. For Christ himself, God, is becoming "all in all" (Col 3:11; 1Co 15:28). And since God is Spirit (Jn 4:24) we are becoming spirit, spiritual, spirified ( 1 Co 15:44). Because of Christ, therefore, evolution has only one direction: spiritual.

Evolution, or genesis, proceeds by way of a dialectical process. [Hello Hegel! -Rz] Each threshold in our personal lives as well as each threshold of evolution as a whole comprises three elements: divergence, convergence, emergence. Divergence is the expression of the inner need within genesis to search out in every possible direction those avenues which are compatible with our becoming properly the persons we are called to become. After certain experiences, however, we realize through a process of elimination [Natural selection? - Rz] that only certain avenues are in fact compatible with our development [state vector colapse? -Rz] Things begin to converge. Finally, these converging avenues reach such an intensity of concentration that we emerge through a threshold to a more mature and interiorized state of being than previously existed. At this point, the dialectic begins all over again, but always towards heightened being becoming.


Matter is the matrix of the spirit. Matter for each of us is that complex of energies, influences, persons and things which surround us inasmuch as they are palpable, sensible and "natural." Matter is the concrete milieu in which our becoming is effected and affected.

As such, matter has two faces. On the one hand, it burdens. It fetters. Matter is a prime source of pain and sin. It weighs us down. It wounds us, tempts us, makes us grow old. Who will deliver us from this body doomed to death (Rm 7:24)? But on the other hand, matter is physical exuberence, ennobling contact, virile effort, the joy of growth. It attracts, renews, unites, blossoms. In matter we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Who will bestow on us this spiritual body (1 Co 15:44)?

Matter can be likened to the mountain up whose slope a climber scales. At any given point along the way, space is divided into two zones: the summit which lies ahead and the abyss below. Only the person moves up or down. Matter provides the support for the movement. The person is drawn irresistibly toward the goal, regardless of obstacles or difficulties.

Thus, matter for each of us has two conflicting meanings: the burden of the flesh and the matrix of the spirit. Matter is the womb out of which spirit evolves. Matter does not produce spirit. Only the Spirit can cause spiritualization. But it is produced out of matter, not just in the sense that a glass holds the water which is poured from it, but rather in the sense that matter itself is transformed by the Spirit into spirit. Spirit is the spiritual form of matter. Thus, spiritualization is not anti-matter, or extra-matter, but trans-matter.

From the book The Way of Spiritual Direction; By Fr. Francis Kelly Nemeck, O.M.I. and Marie Theresa Coombs, Hermit; A Michael Glazier Book, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Purpose of Life

Finnally, I now understand the purpose of life:

The entire purpose of life is for a man to use his God given talents to bring happiness and joy into his life, and then to bring it to others.

Of course, the means by which a man might be able to bring happiness and joy into his life, is by relieving other's suffering (bringing them joy and happiness!)

Isn't that simple?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Vision

Marc Van Der Woude posted a wonderful prayer/poem/prophecy by Peter Greig on his blog. The title is simply "The Vision" Here are the first few stanzas:
The vision is JESUS:
obsessively, dangerously, undeniably Jesus.

The vision is an army of young people.
You see bones?
I see an army.

And they are FREE from materialism -
they laugh at 9-5 little prisons.
They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday. They wouldn't even notice.
They know the meaning of the Matrix,
the way the West was won."

Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production.

In an online forum at the Free Republic web site, we are having an ongoing discussion/debate about the nature of reality and evolution. One of the members of the forum, "betty boop" (not her real name!) posted an article by R. Swenson that deals with evolution from a cosmological standpoint, and also discusses the false dichotomy of the Cartesian split.

In our discussion about how the Second Law of Entropy plays into this problem, "betty" helped me to better understand how life itself is an expression of the 2nd Law, not a contridiction of it. Here is what she has to say in full:

Oh, so that's the big deal with entropy...we living creatures so badly wanting to avoid it! We are living contradictions to the 2nd Law.

Actually Ronzo, I think Dennett had it all wrong to speculate that living systems somehow contradict the second law, that they have some way to "beat" its application to themselves, by maybe "paying the entropy tab." I rather think that we living creatures are in a certain way the fulfillment of the second law. Consciousness (sentience, awareness, self-consciousness) is the key that turns this lock.

But in order for this insight to be valid, Boltzmann's model would need to be recognized for the restrictive view that it is. Boltzmann himself recognized that his analysis pertained to "perfect gases" only; extrapolating from there to living organisms is fraught with peril, cosmologically speaking. :^) Or so it seems to me.

Swenson writes (in "Thermodynamics, Evolution, and Behavior," 1997):

"In Clausius' (1865) words, the two laws thus became: "The energy of the world remains constant [first law of thermodynamics]. The entropy of the world strives to a maximum [second law]," and with this understanding, in sharp contrast to the "dead" mechanical world of Descartes and Newton, the nomological basis for a world that is instead active, and end-directed was identified. Entropy maximization as Planck first recognized provides a final cause, in Aristotle's typology, of all natural processes, "the end to which everything strives and which everything serves" or "the end of every motive or generative process" (Bunge, 1979). … The active, macroscopic nature of the second law presented a profound blow to the mechanical world view which Boltzmann attempted to save by reducing the second law to the stochastic collisions of mechanical particles, or a law of probability."

I am so struck (awestruck is more like it) by the profound resonances of these two laws to Heraclitus' (c. 500 B.C.) philosophy. Swenson writes [ibid.]:

"The first and second laws of thermodynamics are not ordinary laws of physics. Because the first law, the law of energy conservation, in effect, unifies all real-world processes, it is thus a law on which all other laws depend. In more technical terms, it expresses the time-translation symmetry of the laws of physics themselves. With respect to the second law, Eddington (1929) has argued that it holds the supreme position among all the laws of nature because it not only governs the ordinary laws of physics but the first law as well. If the first law expresses the underlying symmetry principle of the natural world (that which remains the same) the second law expresses the broken symmetry (that which changes). It is with the second law that a basic nomological understanding of end-directedness, and time itself, the ordinary experience of then and now, of the flow of things, came into the world. The search for a conserved quantity and active principle is found as early as the work of Thales and the Milesian physicists (c. 630-524 B.C.) and is thus co-existent with the beginnings of recorded science, although it is Heraclitus (c. 536 B.C.) with his insistence on the relation between persistence and change who could well be argued to hold the top position among the earliest progenitors of the field that would become thermodynamics. Of modern scholars it was Leibniz who first argued that there must be something which is conserved (later the first law) and something which changes (later the second law)."

Heraclitus, sometimes called the “Riddler,” could say: “The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one” [Fragment 54]; for “Nature loves to hide” [Fragment 123].

A. Grandpierre’s observation [2005, WIP] that, “the realm of the Finite [existence] cannot exist without the realm of Infinity, since the Finite can change only by its connection with Infinity, and it can maintain itself only through continuously changing” is a profound recapitulation of Heraclitus’ central insight about the Universe: That it is a One that can maintain itself and “evolve” only by undergoing a process of ceaseless change.

Grandpierre refers to what we might call the “cybernetic concept of Life”: “Life is the basic activity of the Universe that continuously sews together the existing universe with the universe of possibilities. Life sews together the actualized possibilities and generates a much larger set of new possibilities.”

Entropy maximization is the universal process that connects existent reality to the non-existent (not yet manifested, but potentially manifestible) "realm of possibilities." And thus the universe has a "future" to evolve into (so to speak). I have a deep suspicion that biological self-organizing processes -- which are seemingly informative or information-based processes -- have a critical role to play in universal entropy maximization.

Just some thoughts....

Thanks so much for writing, Ronzo!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

W more conservative than John Paul II

Is President Bush more conservative than Pope John Paul II? According to David S. Oderberg in his article Teaching Tradition, President Bush's philosophy and theology are more consistent with traditional Catholic thinking than that of John Paul II!!! Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Opposition to abortion and euthanasia on the one hand, and support for just war and the death penalty on the other, are not conceptual enemies. They aren't even uneasy bedfellows. They belong together, and in a way each side justifies the other. Together they provide the traditional ethics at the heart of all mainstream moral thinking until the 1960s cultural revolution. It is clear that George W. Bush has made that thinking his own. It is the late pontiff, on the other hand, who struck off in a novel direction. When it comes to applying tradition to life-and-death moral issues, Bush 43 wins hands down over John Paul II."