[FutureBuddha (Hunches III)] Even Further Hunches

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  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39471

    [FutureBuddha (Hunches III)] Even Further Hunches

    Today’s hunches and speculations build on my previous essay, entitled “Further Hunches” (LINK) in which I proposed a few wild things (if you have not yet, I would suggest you to read it before today's even further wild things). The premises of that essay can be summarized as follows:

    • There is something special, deserving special explanation, about the fact that, in a seemingly wild and largely random universe, you find yourself to be a self-aware being able now to imagine and contemplate any point in time in the history of this universe, beginning from a moment after the Big Bang, continuing on through 13.7 billion years to the moment of your conception when, according to our currently accepted notions of physics, chemistry, stellar and planetary development, biology and evolution, the intricate sequence of events headed in precisely a direction necessary for your eventual existence despite the seemingly far greater likelihood time-and-time again that any single event amid the ages-long unbroken chain could, it would be thought, have turned in another direction among the vast set of directions which would have foreclosed your eventual existence, all as proven by the simple fact that here you are, alive and pondering your existence and all it required.

    • Although the same unlikelihood could be claimed for any sentient being, creature or thing that has come into existence at this now current moment of universal history, the fact that the contemplator is not just someone or some creature or something, but rather, you yourself now subjectively contemplating your own personal fortune is a special phenomenon deserving special explanation.

    • You are not the winner of a single lottery (something not particularly amazing), but the always and each-and-every time winner after winner of a string of constant lotteries within lotteries, one after the other in sequence and often entwined in complex parallel, stretching through all time from cosmic expansion to sperm meets egg, which unbroken chain of a googol of wins resulted in you, no step skipped or tripped over, bar none, not a single miss as proven conclusively just by your present contemplation of the most personal outcome.

    • This outcome, if more than brute fact, may point to a mechanism, as yet unknown but open to conjecture, which has served to weight nature’s dice, tilt the roulette wheel, limit the possible results, fix the game. If such a mechanism exists, it need not always remain unknown, its nature can be the subject of theory and, hopefully, testing and demonstration.

    • Though beings identical to you, or extremely close, may have appeared time and again in an infinite universe or ensemble of universes where like circumstances endlessly happen, their existence would not explain your existence, here and now, in this place and timeline where you apparently need to find yourself to be this you right here and now. The others might be doppelgängers or twins, but that would be different from this very you which you need right now in order to be experiencing you.

    • Not only are you the lucky beneficiary of an intricate tangle of billions of years-long chains of individual and interacting happenings involving physical forces and elements, galactic, solar and planetary formation, atmospheric chemistry and the first appearance of simplest life, ancestral births, survivals, matings amid deaths and defeats in every generation now reflected in your own DNA, plus countless more contributing factors and events, all without a single miss … in addition, those events have left you (though seemingly it need not have been so) as the heir of certain bodily structures, including neurological structures and characteristics, all necessary for you to be here considering how that need not have been. You find yourself alive on a planet with air sufficient to support life in a body with lungs evolved to suit that air, each breath of which sustains the brain which now ponders why you personally bubbled up to breathe at all on such a suitable planet, a world with chemical properties sufficient to sustain the structure and workings of your many working cells, some of which form a digestive track adapted to the nutrients present on this world sufficient to power those cells as fuel, eyes acclimated to the light frequencies needed to catch or grow the food with those nutrients, all as pondered by a brain itself the product of the physics, chemistry and biology of this planet (the physics and chemistry of which stretches back in time to the structure of this universe from its earliest moments) fueled by the nutrients which allow deep thought regarding all the parts and their functions which had to happen to evolve within the narrow range of possible outcomes to allow you to be you.
    If you do not accept those earlier premises concerning the unlikeliness of you, you should stop reading now: You are also unlikely to accept these next suggestions which I propose today, to wit:
    • You are not just the lucky product of physical, chemical and biological processes, and the twists and turns of natural evolution, which have all combined by hook or by crook to allow you to be you, however unlikely it was at each and any single step. You are also the product of similarly unlikely intangible events and personal qualities which each has had (individually and in complex interrelationships and combinations) seemingly indispensable roles in rolling around to you. Given our understanding of the course of history, social-political events and biological evolution, few of those intangible events and qualities would seem to have been inevitable.

    • One such grouping of events which played a causal role in giving rise to the circumstances for your own subsequent birth is (not merely cosmic, planetary or evolutionary-biological history, but) human political and social history. As strange as the proposition may first sound, it is also undeniable that a narrow chain of intricate happenings, relationships, disasters and conquests, peace pacts and wars, immigrations, invasions, discoveries, recoveries, revolutions and other major and minor social convolutions had to happen pretty specifically just as they happened … (and not some other way included within a much wider set of seemingly potential “anti-you” happenings, relationships, disasters and conquests, peace pacts and wars, immigrations, invasions, discoveries, recoveries, revolutions or other major and minor social convolutions) … through thousands of generations of pre-human then human history over hundreds of thousands plus millions of years. If it had to happen it did happen (or did not happen lest it forestall your happening), all as evidenced by the fact that you have now happened. All that despite the assumed wildness and unpredictability of human events, choices and doings. In those chains of events spanning generations and generations, are found events largely within human control and events largely left to nature and beyond human control, moments both monumental and those mundane, some earth shaking (literally so in the case of earthquakes and eruptions leading to the dry land on which we now stand) or little more than individual grains of dust blown by a wind which set avalanches rolling, beautiful developments yet many which are ugly and violent, extinctions of species (if there existence would have stood in the way of our species now), wars and suffering refugees, people dying, hoards raping and pillaging, children crying, in other words, all the complexity of human history which stood each and all as a priori causal or enabling factors enabling human you … such that, as the combined result, you stand at the tunnel exit looking back. Apparently, countless human beings struggled and died on the road leading to your doorstep, and the doorsteps of all of us who live now.

    Are you just an unlikely outcome of all that bounty and blood? Or, given the ridiculous unlikelihood of it all, is it something of a set-up or nature’s loaded game (and, if so, was it necessary that it be so frequently cruel?) Perhaps there is some way to see the death and destruction beyond surface appearances (the Buddhists and some others believe so, that the sometime horrors seen by the eye are not the full reality to be found behind the screen. For Buddhists, even birth and death and loss are not the whole story.) Those are questions for another time, not for speculation here. Whatever the case and cause, if one single event of history would have prevented or, on the contrary, was required for your standing here to weigh history’s course right now … one tiny amphibian crawling or not crawling up onto a shore in a certain minute, one neanderthal discovering fire, one crusade or single plague victim or mass of victims, one thin arrow hitting or missing its target … I can guaranty you that such precisely happened (or, if needed not to happen, did not happen) given your life now, your personal bullseye within a bullseye in a most unlikely (virtually impossible) series of sequential bullseyes.

    But that is not all.

    There are aspects of your self-hood in body and mind, each apparently a higher emergent property which popped up from the simpler reactions and ingredients which set their stage, each of which individually and in combination had to emerge (with very little deviation from what they are) for you to be you. These are more abstract properties, qualities and abilities of the body and mind rather than just the physical structures of body and mind themselves. They are qualities which cannot be held in the hand but, nonetheless, are as necessary for “you to be you” as are your lungs, heart, brain, bones and hands themselves. Assuming that you are glad that you exist as you (as opposed to your wishing you did not exist at all, or were instead a coconut palm, a beetle or bird) you should consider yourself fortunate that these more abstract properties arose as they did because, without them, it would be nearly impossible to define you as “you.” Yes, there might be some living creature somewhere sharing many of your qualities, even built of the atoms you now call your own, but without all these qualities inevitably very different from you. Much as a lifeform otherwise sharing all your physical characteristics, but without bones and bowels, would thus be very different from you (although perhaps perfectly at home as a jellied cellular mass), a lifeform without the more intangible qualities, even if somewhat resembling you in outward appearance, would also simply be incapable of being much like you at all.

    What are those more abstract qualities which, nonetheless, seem indispensable in enabling your being “you”?

    While the list is long, it will suffice to note just a few key characteristics central to all homo sapiens, both on an individual and species level, without which we simply could not be homo sapiens as a species, nor you as “you” on most personal level. Furthermore, when we examine the amazing variety of other life forms on this planet, including other species of animals including primates, who appear to lack these key qualities wholly or in significant part, it is possible to conclude that none of these qualities had to evolve as they did (given that they did not do so for the others.) In fact, these qualities seem incredibly rare, given the degree to which we are far outnumbered by earth creatures without them. Putting aside all that had to happen from Big Bang, to planet formation, to simple life first bubbling up as ooze in a primordial pond … going far beyond all that … somehow millions of years of evolution, generations of change, trial and error, left you and me with these particular qualities indispensable for us to be us. These include, among others:
    • (1) A sense of personal self: Namely, your sense of your own self-identity which places you apart, self-identifying yourself and experiencing yourself as yourself distinct and quasi-independent from all else in the world which you judge not to be yourself. Without such a sense of personal self, you would not be experiencing yourself as you.

    • (2) A sense of time, memory, and the power of imagination, all vital to human life, without which … at the very least … you would be a very dull, present imprisoned and unimaginative version of you, a “you” unable to do all you can do in imagining the future and past, learning from events and planning for tomorrow, including to mentally model and contemplate all the biology and other factors which played a role in getting your senses and thinking to such point.

    • (3) A sense, even if illusory, of a degree of free will coupled with a capability for some measure of decision making according to personal preferences, driven by selfish aversions and attractions, even if greatly circumscribed by the surrounding life circumstances in which you find yourself. Whether free will is illusory or not, your feeling that you have it, and that you are able to choose between your likes and dislikes, is central to your sense of “youness.”

    • (4) A personal moral sense of right and wrong, coupled with the capability to regret, mourn, celebrate gain and victory, feel loss, be driven by longing and dozens of similar qualities. While it may be possible to (and some do) live as a human being while lacking a few of those wholly or to some degree (e.g., as the true psychopath without moral sense or feelings of regret, or the alzheimer’s elder or brain trauma victim who has forgotten all her yesterdays), I assume that, reflecting on it, you would feel yourself missing a key part of “you” if such qualities suddenly were stripped from your psyche.

    The bottom line is that somehow … by brute outcome and incredible happenstance upon happenstance or (as I propose as more likely) due to there being more to the madness even if still not well understood … the evolution of the brain, senses, human abilities and character, a sense of self, free-will, memory and morality, all spun around and spun up, mutation by mutation, generation upon changing and surviving generation, to leave you personally with the self-aware, temporal measuring, historical, imaginative, choice making, wishing and mourning qualities indispensable to make you to be you right now … all carried about town hosted by your just as fortunate eyes, gut, heart, skin, bones, legs and hands.

    I hope, deep in your bones, that you realize what an incredible outcome you are, how the card hands were dealt and played out hand after hand … right to the structure of stars, world, body and mind which has placed life in your hands.

    Is there something more to the process, might there be more to the story?

    If so, what might it be?



    In a wonderful book entitled “A Perfect Vacuum,” science fiction author and social commentator Stanislaw Lem wrote a story detailing what goes into somebody's life. It is not only the physics and chemistry of the universe, but historical events, including many so tragic. Last time I related a little of the story "without which Professor Benedykt Kouska would not have come into the world." Here is a little more:

    Let us imagine that, a billion years before its genesis, an observer wishes to compute the chances of the Earth’s coming into being. He will not be able to foresee exactly what shape the planet-making vortex will give to the nucleus of the future Earth; he can compute neither its future mass nor its chemical composition with any degree of precision. Nonetheless he predicts, on the basis of his knowledge of astrophysics, and of his familiarity with the theory of gravitation and the theory of star structure, that the Sun will have a family of planets and that among these planets there will revolve about it a planet No. 3, counting from the center of the system out; and this same planet may be considered Earth, though it look different from what the prediction has declared, because a planet ten billion tons heavier than the Earth or having two small moons instead of one large, or covered with oceans over a higher percentage of its surface, would still be, surely, an Earth.

    On the other hand, a Professor Kouska predicted by someone half a million years B.C., should he be born as a two-legged marsupial or as a yellow-skinned woman, or as a Buddhist monk, would obviously no longer be Professor Kouska, albeit—perhaps— still a person. For objects such as suns, planets, clouds, rocks, are not in any way unique, whereas all living organisms are unique. Each man is, as it were, the first prize in a lottery, in the kind of lottery, moreover, where the winning ticket is a teragigamegamulticentillion-to-one shot. Why, then, do we not daily feel the astronomically monstrous minuteness of the chance of our own or another’s coming into the world? For the reason, answers Professor Kouska, that even in the case of that which is most unlikely to happen, if it happens, then it happens! And also because in an ordinary lottery we see the vast number of losing tickets along with the single one that wins, whereas in the lottery of existence the tickets that miss are nowhere to be seen. “The chances that lose in the lottery of being are invisible!” explains Professor Kouska. For, surely, to lose in that sweepstakes amounts to not being born, and he who has not been born cannot be said to be, not a whit. We quote the author now, starting on line 24 on page 619 of Volume I (De Impossibilitate Vitae):
    “Some people come into the world as the issue of unions that were arranged long in advance, on both the spear and distaff sides, so that the future father of the given individual and his future mother, even when children, were destined for each other. A man who sees the light of day as a child of such a marriage might receive the impression that the probability of his existence was considerable, in contradistinction to one who learns that his father met his mother in the course of the great migrations of wartime, or that quite simply he was conceived because some hussar of Napoleon, while making his escape from the Berezina, took not only a mug of water from the lass he came upon at the edge of the village but also her maidenhead. To such a man it might seem that had the hussar hurried more, feeling the Cossack hundreds at his back, or had his mother not been looking for God knows what at the edge of the village, but stayed at home by the chimney corner as befitted her, then he would never have been, or in other words that the chance of his existence hung on a thread in comparison with the chance of him whose parents had been destined for each other in advance.

    “Such notions are mistaken, because it makes absolutely no sense to assert that the calculation of the probability of anyone’s birth has to be begun from the coming into the world of the future father and the future mother of the given individual. Making that the zero point on the probability scale. If we have a labyrinth composed of a thousand rooms connected by a thousand doors, then the probability of going from the beginning to the end of the labyrinth is
    determined by the sum of all the choices in all the consecutive rooms through which passes the seeker of the way, and not by the isolated probability of his finding the right door in some single room. If he takes a wrong turn in room No. 100, then he will be every bit as lost and as likely not to regain his freedom as if he took the wrong turn in the first or the thousandth room. Similarly, there is no reason to assert that only my birth was subject to the laws of chance, whereas the births of my parents were not so subject, or those of their parents, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, grandmothers, greatgrandmothers, etc., back to the birth of life on Earth. And it makes no sense to say that the fact of any specific human individual’s existence is a phenomenon of very low probability. Very low, relative to what? From where is the calculation to be made? Without the fixing of a zero point, i.e., of a beginning place for a scale of computation, measurement—and therefore the estimation of probability—becomes an empty word.

    “It does not follow, from my reasoning, that my coming into the world was assured or predetermined back before the Earth took form; quite the contrary, what follows is that I could not have been at all and no one would have so much as noticed. Everything that statistics has to say on the subject of the prognostication of individual births is rubbish. For it holds that every man, howsoever unlikely he be in himself, is still possible as a realization of certain chances; meanwhile, I have demonstrated that, having before one any individual whatever—Mucek the baker, for example—one can say the following: it is possible to select a moment in the past, a moment prior to his birth, such that the prediction of Mucek the baker’s coming to be, made at that moment, will have a probability
    as near zero as desired. When my parents found themselves in the marriage bed, the chances of my coming into the world worked out to, let us say, one in one hundred thousand (taking into account, among other things, the infant mortality rate, fairly high in wartime). During the siege of the fortress of Przemyśl the chances of my being born equaled only one in a billion; in the year 1900, one in a trillion; in 1800, one in a quadrillion, and so on. A hypothetical observer computing the chances of my birth under the eucalyptus, at the Mala Strana in the time of the Interglacial, after the migration of the mammoths and their stomach disorder, would set the chances of my ever seeing the light of day at one in a centillion. Magnitudes of the order of giga appear when the point of estimation is moved back a billion years, of the order of tera, back three billion years, etc.

    “In other words, one can always find a point on the time axis from which an estimate of the chances of any person’s birth yields an improbability as great as one likes, that is to say, an impossibility, because a probability that approaches zero is the same thing as an improbability that approaches infinity.
    Last edited by Jundo; 10-22-2023, 06:30 AM.