As Jesus Passed By

Nothing better exemplifies the  love of Jesus for humanity than his friendly encounters with people as he traveled about the cities and countryside. The following excerpt is from The Urantia Book version of the life of Jesus, which has far more details about his life as witnessed by celestial beings than the truncated and distorted Biblical version of his life, which covered events on fewer than 30 days of his life. It would be a much better world if most people had the attitude of Jesus described below derived from his Father’s love for mortals like us, despite our inability to be as extraordinary as Jesus. (I’ve retained the gender usage of the book, which may seem sexist to the modern mind.)

“Jesus spread good cheer everywhere he went. He was full of grace and truth. His apostles never ceased to wonder at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. You can cultivate gracefulness, but graciousness is the aroma of friendliness which emanates from a love-saturated soul.

Goodness always compels respect, but when it is devoid of grace, it often repels affection. Goodness is universally attractive only when it is gracious. Goodness is effective only when it is attractive.

Jesus really understood men; therefore he could he manifest genuine sympathy and show sincere compassion. But he seldom indulged in pity. While his compassion was boundless, his sympathy was practical, personal, and constructive. Never did his familiarity with suffering breed indifference, and he was able to minister to distressed souls without increasing their self-pity.

Jesus could help men because he loved them so sincerely. He truly loved each man, each woman, and each child. He could be such a true friend because of his remarkable insight–he knew so fully what was in the heart and in the mind of man. He was an interested and keen observer, He was an expert in the comprehension of human need, clever in detecting human longings.

Jesus was never in a hurry. He had time to comfort his fellow men “as he passed by.” And he always made his friends feel at ease. He was a charming listener. He never engaged in the meddlesome probing of the souls of his associates. As he comforted hungry minds and ministered to to thirsty souls, the recipients of his mercy did not feel that they were confessing to him as that they were conferring with him. They had unbounded confidence in him because they saw that he had so much faith in them.

He never seemed to be curious about people, and he never manifested a desire to direct, manage, or follow them up. He inspired profound self-confidence and robust courage in all who enjoyed his association. When he smiled on a man, that mortal experienced increased capacity for solving his manifold problems.

Jesus loved men so much and so wisely that he never hesitated to be severe with them when the occasion demanded such discipline. He frequently set out to help a person by asking for help. In this way he elicited interest, appealed to the better things in human nature.

The Master could discern saving faith in the gross superstition of the woman who sought healing by touching the hem of his garment. He was always ready and willing to stop a sermon  or detain a multitude while he ministered to the needs of a single person, even to a little child. Great things happened not only because people had faith in Jesus but also because Jesus had so much faith in them.

Most of the really important things which Jesus said or did seemed to happen casually “as he passed by”. There was so little of the professional, the well-planned, or the premeditated in the Master’s earthly ministry. He dispensed health and scattered happiness naturally and gracefully as he journeyed through life. It was literally true, “He went about doing good.”

 

 

An Appreciation of the Quaker Mystic Rufus Jones

A very great spiritual writer who has profoundly affected me is the early twentieth century Quaker author of more than 50 books, Rufus Jones, a minister from Maine who taught at Haverford College for many years. He was a man of great knowledge and wisdom, who presented his most inspiring thoughts in very poetic prose. His books can be obtained in some secondhand bookstores and from a small publisher in Whitefish, Montana on a print-to-demand basis: www.kessinger.net. I recommend the books of Rev. Jones for those who find The Urantia Book too strange to accept. Some of his fine books recommended are “A Dynamic Faith”, three books originally published by The Macmillan Company: “The Testimony of the Soul”, “Pathways to the Reality of God”, and “The Luminous Trail”, and  new editions of both “Studies in Mystical Religion” and “Practical Christianity” published by Wipf & Stock Publishers in Eugene Oregon..

Below is an example of his superb spiritual writing from an essay called “The Deeper Universe”. When Rev. Jones refers to the Christ I think of the uplifting vision of his life as depicted in 700 pages of The Urantia Book, rather than the brief, distorted version of his life in the Bible in which Jesus was not always depicted as a decent human being, let alone a Divine Son of God. (See Matthew, Chapter 15, verses 22 to 26.)

“But deeper and surer than all other invisible realities is that divine Spirit, not seen, but felt, who is the ground of our real being, the source of our longings, the inspirer of our larger hopes, the inner energy by which we live. Some persons think that he must be dead or asleep on a journey. They see such stalking evils, such collapses of civilization, such ugly shadows over the fair world, that they cannot hold their thin thread of faith any longer. It has snapped and left them standing alone in their dark cave. But he is there all the same, though they see him not nor know him. He does not vanish in the the dark in the storm. There is much love working still in these hard, dark, days. Grace abounds, often unsuspected, even though sin seems so potent. Courage and heroism never broke through and showed their greatness more clearly than now. Sacrifice, which is woven in the same warp with love, is moving like a radiant light everywhere through the storm. Faith in something still holds men and women to their hard tasks of endurance. All that Christ was and is still attracts the soul that sees it. If an eclipse dims or veils the sight of him for the moment, we may be sure that this warm, healing Sun of our life has not set. He is still there, and some of us continue to feel our hearts burn with his presence, which is as indubitable a reality as the rock-ribbed earth upon which we tread. What he needs is better organs to reveal himself through, richer, truer, holier lives to show his love through, more finely organized personalities for his grace to break through into the world. He cannot do his work without us. He cannot preach without our lips, comfort without our help, heal without our hands, carry the truth without our feet, remove the shadow without our faith and effort. The invisible works through the visible, the unseen and eternal operates through little instruments like us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom Learned at Chinese Restaurants

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.

Generosity will repay itself sooner than you imagine.

Success is never final and failure is never final. It’s courage that is more important.

Quality isn’t expensive. It’s priceless.

Avert misunderstandings by calmness, poise, and balance.

Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

To get respect from others, one must first give respect to others.

Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Sometimes advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer.

We find comfort among those who agree with us–growth among those who don’t.

Be curious always! Knowledge will not acquire you; you must acquire it.

 

Why is there so much Pain and Suffering in this Life?

Thoughtful people ask: If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?  Or, why is there so much hardship, pain, and suffering in the world?

The Urantia Book revelation of truth to the world provides insights which should prove helpful  in reconciling the co-existence of an omniscient, omnipresent and benevolent God with the presence of evil and suffering in the world.

(1) Part of God’s plan is for mortals like us to acquire strong characters by starting out on lowly evolutionary worlds and bravely experiencing the many challenges we encounter in our lives, although God doesn’t personally cause the pain and suffering we endure along our journeys lived within an immature planetary civilization with physical bodies that have evolved from animal origins and are subject to accidents, aging, disease, pain and of course, eventual death.

(2) Although it’s hard to believe, some of our planetary spiritual administrators (led by the prideful Lucifer) defaulted on their responsibilities by advocating total freedom for primitive peoples not ready for the sudden elimination of the cultural beliefs that maintained order and fostered progress in their societies, resulting in extreme confusion and chaos not found on worlds that have been faithfully administered by their planetary spiritual leaders. The defaulting administrators, some of whom were visible to mortals, have been removed from our planet and thus are no longer living proof  of  the existence of higher spiritual personalities. As a result, we have to rely on living faith as our “proof” of higher spiritual realities.

Our planet has also been spiritually isolated from universe broadcasts normally received on other planets that have been faithfully administered by their spiritual overseers. It’ll take ages upon ages for our planet to return to a more normal and orderly evolutionary path. Our consolation for such difficulties is that Jesus came to our planet.

With regard to Lucifer it should be noted that among the forms of evil, one of the most personally destructive is the betrayal of trust, and he led many planets into spiritual darkness.

(3) Our evolution was fostered by finite spiritual beings who have titanic intellects, but are still experimenting with techniques for improving the evolutionary races on the worlds of time and space through natural means. On our world their efforts resulted in improved methods for healing wounds, but they did not foresee the natural evolutionary regression of parasitic bacteria and viruses responsible for so many human diseases. What exactly they do in guiding evolution I don’t know. The UB does say that “they can manipulate the living units and maneuver the evolving organisms”, but are “not permitted mechanically to interfere in, or arbitrarily to manipulate the conduct and course of, either plant or animal evolution.”

However our bodies would have been easily able to defend us against destructive bacteria and viruses if the actions of the beings we know as Adam and Eve had been in accordance with the divine plan. According to The Urantia Book Adam and Eve were not the the first human beings on Earth. They were super-mortal beings whose mission in part was to uplift human biology by mating with mortals as they worked together for the welfare of the planet. Their super-mortal bodies were far more resistant to disease than the bodies of the evolutionary races. Their plan was to first increase the numbers of super-mortals on Earth through many years of procreation and then mate with the superior members of the native population to foster improved genetic strains in their progeny by the process of the beneficial hybridization of superior genetic strains, but they were impatient due to the dire condition of the world after the Lucifer rebellion. They began breeding with mortals before there were sufficient numbers of the direct descendants of Adam and Eve for the completely successful biological uplift of the evolutionary races.

And so Adam and Eve were found to be in default of their planetary mission and evicted from their beautiful garden home and sent home to their planet of origin, leaving us bereft of their guidance and superior life plasm. Thus succeeding generations have still been subject to disease-producing-bacteria and viruses due to their failure, as well as child births that are still painful.

I’d like to expand on reason (1) given above. Many commentators have written a great deal about how we are allowed to make errors of judgment because God thinks it important that there be creatures with relatively free intelligence such as lowly mortals. The only evolutionary world without error (the possibility of unwise judgment) would be a world without free will-intelligence. However we all reap the consequences of the actions of other members of our group. As The Urantia Book says, “Each member of a family profits from the righteous conduct of every other member; likewise must each member suffer the immediate time-consequences of the misconduct of every other member.”

We acquire character through overcoming life’s challenges and triumphing over adversity. This enables us to grow spiritually. Consider the many benefits which are the consequences of successfully making important decisions in our lives regarding what the UB calls inevitabilities.

“1. Is courage – strength of character – desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling wih hardships and reacting to disappointments.

2. Is altruism – service of one’s fellows – desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.

3. Is hope – the grandeur of trust – desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and constant uncertainties.

4. Is faith – the supreme assertion of human thought – desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe. [And in order to flourish most richly in this life,, we have to have a willingness to believe ideas we are not certain about, such as the truths of religious revelations and scientific discoveries based on their respective explanatory powers and superior aesthetic excellence.]

5. Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.

6. Is idealism – the approaching concept of the divine – desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.

7. Is loyalty – devotion to highest duty – desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.

8. Is unselfishness – the spirit of self-forgetfulness – desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.

9. Is pleasure – the satisfaction of happiness – desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.”

 I recommend a book I read by Viktor Frankl entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning” about how his truly horrible experiences in a Nazi concentration camp did not defeat his human spirit, and how he later found meaning in his life by being a psychotherapist, author and family man. Could a purely mechanistic human being have responded to such a terrible environment by acting with the grace and kindness he sometimes witnessed in a concentration camp? Shame on the cynical, mechanistic philosophers who ignore or disparage instances of man’s nobility!

Heaven and Hell

This blog offers my ideas and ideas from The Urantia Book about what happens after we die. Some  people believe that our souls go to places called heaven, hell or purgatory. Some of those who believe in reincarnation believe that we return to this planet or perhaps some other planet to start life all over again after death until after many lives we lead a life good enough to gain the approval of the Supreme Being, the Oversoul of Creation, whom our spiritual essences can join like a drop of water joining the ocean. (The extinction of our Father-bestowed, unique personalities sounds depressing to me after so much effort, but the idea appeals to some people who think that our personalities are just ego manifestations rather than wonderful gifts from God.)

Heaven is usually conceived of as a place where our souls are miraculously cleansed of all imperfections and we spend eternity worshiping God. Catholics believe that this cleansing occurs in purgatory unless sinners are sent directly to hell with no chance of a pardon. The cleansing was formerly believed to be accomplished through suffering, although now enlightened Catholics including the Pope believe that the cleansing is more therapeutic in nature.

This version of heaven is too simplistic for the modern mind. In reality God has a gigantic plan spanning eternity for the myriads of beings inhabiting the universe now or in the future. Mortal beings such as us have to evolve over perhaps millions of years to become perfect even as God is perfect, except that we’ll always be finite beings, while God is infinite. We’ll constantly be astonished by the unending revelation of the true, the beautiful, and the good as we ascend to Paradise with countless fascinating beings of diverse talents to comfort and teach us and stimulate our imaginations. Along the ascension path and perhaps afterwards, we’ll also teach others who are at a lower stage of development. Continual discoveries and unending wonder and delight are our rewards for our mighty efforts to understand God and become more like him as we traverse higher and higher spiritual levels of existence.

We can always opt out of this grand adventure. People who constantly refuse to be spiritualized will eventually be erased from existence after all efforts to save them have failed.This is the only “hell ” there is. Do you really think that a loving and merciful God would torture people forever? Catholics teach that unrepentant lustful thoughts can get you an eternity of suffering. What kind of loving God would do that? Would you treat your erring children that way? What a perversion of Divine justice! In addition, God’s loving mercy is always available to us as long as we exist here, or in the hereafter.

No possible crime could merit eternal torture. It’s time to get rid of the concept of hell. God does not delight in torturing people for purposes of “justice” as conceived long ago.by theologians who had erroneous ideas about the “wrath of God” and the sinful nature of man. Our destinies are far more glorious than they ever could have imagined.

Evidence for Intelligent Design of Universe Constants

This short essay is about the evidence for intelligent design due to the fine tuning of some physical constants in our universe – the fact that the constants of physics are such that life could not exist if the constants deviated by even a little bit from what they are. (As in my essay about intelligent design in Evolution, I’m no expert on this subject. I’m just pointing the way for the intellectually curious.)

The two arguments that materialist philosophers often use in refutation of the intelligent design of universe constants is (1) since we exist no explanation is needed, and (2) there are many other universes where the universe’s physical constants are different, the “multiverse” hypothesis. A few physicists also postulate that the universe constants are changing, although if they are changing they’re changing exceedingly slowly.

To me these arguments are weak, and even desperate, so that unless some evidence is shown that there are other universes with different physical constants, which may be impossible, since it’s doubtful we will ever know about other universes, the arguments cannot be seriously considered. It’s unlikely that the ‘multiverse’ theory will ever be proved, or disproved for that matter.

My information about the physical constants is from a book by Martin Rees entitled “Just Six Numbers”:

1. The number ‘N in nature, the strength of the electrical forces that hold atoms together divided by the force of gravity between them equals 10^36, or one trillion times one trillion times one trillion. If ‘N were a little smaller, “only a short-lived miniature universe could exist: no creatures could grow larger than insects and there would be no time for biological evolution.”

2. A number known as Epsilon, “whose value is .007, defines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together and how all the atoms on earth were made. Its value controls the power from the Sun, and, more sensitively, how stars transmute hydrogen into all the atoms of the periodic table. Carbon and Oxygen are common, whereas gold and uranium are rare, because of what happens in the stars. If Epsilon were .006 or .008, we could not exist as explained below.

“The sun is fueled by conversion of hydrogen (the simplest atom, whose nucleus consists of one proton) into helium (the second-simplest nucleus, consisting of two protons and two neutrons)…. A helium nucleus forms in stages. First a hydrogen atom combines with a neutron to form deuterium (‘heavy hydrogen’). Then two molecules of heavy hydrogen combine to form helium. The nucleus of a helium atom weighs 99.3 percent as much as the two protons and two neutrons that go to make it. The remaining 0.7 percent is released mainly as heat. So the fuel that powers the sun – the hydrogen gas in its core – converts .007 of its mass into energy when it fuses into helium. It is essentially this number, Epsilon, that determines how long stars can live.”

If Epsilon were .006, then helium could not be formed by the nuclear fusion of deuterium, and if Epsilon were .008, then two protons would have been able to bind together in the early universe instead of repelling each other in the absence of neutrons, and no hydrogen would remain to provide fuel in the form of deuterium for star formation or the existence of water.

The formation of a carbon nucleus from three helium nuclei in stars is even more sensitive to the value of Epsilon, which is so interesting that I’d like to explain it with some technical details from John Barrow’s book ‘The Constants of Nature.’  The three helium nuclei (alpha particles) have to interact at one place. This they manage to do in a two-step process. First, two helium nuclei combine to form a beryllium nucleus. Fortunately, beryllium has a peculiarly long lifetime, ten thousand times longer than the time required for two helium nuclei to interact, and so there is a good chance of the beryllium nucleus combining with a helium nucleus to produce a  carbon nucleus.

The astronomer Fred Hoyle realized that the only way to explain why there was a significant amount of carbon in the universe was if the production of carbon went much faster and more efficiently than had been envisaged, so that the ensuing burning to become oxygen did not destroy it all. This could only have happened if ‘resonance’ occurred. A nuclear reaction is said to be ‘resonant’ if the sum of the energies of the incoming reacting particles is very close to a natural energy level of a new heavier nucleus. When this happens the nuclear reactions are very quick. In the case of carbon, Hoyle realized that such quick reactions meant that the carbon nucleus possessed  a natural energy level of about 7.65 MeV above the ground level. This energy level lies just above the energies of the beryllium plus helium atoms (7.3667 MeV), so that when the thermal energy of the inside of the star is added, the nuclear reaction becomes ‘resonant’ and lots of carbon is produced.

Fortunately the ‘resonance’ level of oxygen is such that carbon does not quickly burn up to create oxygen. Thus there is enough carbon for carbon-based life such as us. The positioning of the  nuclear energy levels in carbon and oxygen is the result of a very complicated interaction between nuclear and electromagnetic forces in them.

3. “The cosmic number Omega measures the amount of material in our universe – galaxies, diffuse gas, and ‘dark matter’. Omega tells us the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the universe.” This number had to be extremely precise for the universe in its early stages not to have collapsed almost immediately or expanded so rapidly no galaxies or stars would have formed. “The required precision is astonishing: at one second after the Big Bang, Omega could not have differed from unity by more than one part in a million billion in order that the universe should now, after ten billion years, be still expanding and with a value of Omega” close to unity. [Of course maybe there never was a Big Bang as described by cosmologists.]

4. The fourth number, lambda, has to do with dark energy, about which nothing is known except that it is a force causing the universe to expand at an ever increasing velocity. Fortunately for us (and quite surprising to theoretical physicists), it is a much smaller number than physicists have calculated, and therefore allowed stars and galaxies and us to evolve.

5. “The fabric of our universe depends on one number, Q, which represents the ratio of two fundamental energies and is about one part in 100,000 in value. If Q were even smaller, the universe would be inert and structureless; if Q were much larger, it would be a violent place, in which no stars… could survive, dominated by vast black holes.” Q is explained in greater detail below.

Stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies are held together by gravity. “We can express how tightly they are bound together – or, equivalently, how much energy would would be needed to break up and disperse them – as a proportion of their total ‘rest-mass energy’   (mass times the speed of light squared). For the biggest structures in our universe – clusters and superclusters – the answer is about one part in a hundred thousand. This a pure number – a ratio of two energies – and we call it Q.”

6. The number of spatial dimensions is three. Life couldn’t exist if there were two or four dimensions.

“Perhaps there are some connections between these numbers. At the moment, however, we cannot predict any one of them from the values of the others.”

Evidence for Intelligent Design of the Human Body

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence for the intelligent design of our astonishingly complex bodies. This topic has been covered by professionals far more competent than I such as Michael Behe in “Darwin’s Black Box” and Stephen C. Meyer in “Signature in the Cell” and more in depth in a book by Fazale Rana entitled “The Cell’s Design”, but here are some of their ideas and ideas from an anonymous source (NK) who wishes to be anonymous for professional reasons.

There are many features of the human body that could be described as convincing evidence of intelligent design. but I’ll give one that is not as complex as many biological processes, but still very impressive if one as any doubts about intelligent design being used to guide the course of evolution.

Keep in mind that materialist philosophers believe complicated processes such as the one described below, depended on the laws of physics, chance mutations and natural selection operating on the mutated organisms by the differential survival of the fittest, and that this mindless process had no goals. In other words they believe that almost all mutations that occurred in evolutionary history did not benefit the organism nor advance an incomplete bodily process to a completed bodily function such as vision or the healing of wounds. Evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins sometimes postulate the steps that could have occurred in developing a complex biochemical process, but they use reverse engineering to do it. They ignore the chains of millions of accidental changes, both productive and nonproductive that would have to occur in a mindless development of even one complex biological process. Fortuitous developments involving many steps would have had to have occurred countless times to produce all the many complex biochemical process in our bodies. It has been argued by Stephen C. Meyer and others that even the age of the universe is far too short a time for all the complex features of evolution to have occurred without an intelligent designer. Dr. Meyer focused on the origin of life, which was unlikely to have occurred without guidance because of the minimum cell complexity needed for reproduction and survival of even the simplest organisms. Long chains of amino acids and nucleotide bases in the DNA in specific orders were required.

Most of the phyla of animals and many complex features of RNA molecules are now believed to have occurred in the Cambrian Explosion in the relatively short period of time between 520 and 530 million years ago. It’s likely that all of the 32 known phyla first appeared in the Cambrian Period between 488 and 542 million years ago. There has not been a single animal phylum added to the world since then. even though there was a massive extinction of life at the end of the Permian Period about 250 million years ago,

The relatively short period of 10 million years mentioned above has stimulated scientists to explain what cannot be explained by only the process of natural selection acting on random mutations while obeying the laws of physics. Scientist Sean Caroll has made an attempt to explain the great disparity of many different kinds of phyla appearing in a sudden burst of evolution of body types that occurred in the Cambrian Explosion in his 2005 book entitled “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”  and repeated in a book by  Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink entitled “A New History of Life” : (1) Nature sometimes uses the equipment at hand rather than waiting eons for mutations to produce something new and useful. (2) As Darwin himself knew, multi-functionality is using an already existing morphology or physiology to take over some second function different from that for which it was evolved. (3) Redundancy can be co-opted when some structure is composed of several parts of a function, and some of the parts are used for a new function, while the remaining parts are still able to function as before, (4) The final secret of evolution is modularity.   Animals built of segments such as Anthropods like insects and to a lesser extent, we vertebrates, are composed of some modules. The limbs branching off Anthropod segments have been amazingly modified into feeding, mating, and locomotion, and many other functions.

Following is an example of why some people believe why there must have been some design element in the evolution of incredibly complex organisms.

In the book “Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe”, Michael Behe gives an abbreviated description of  what happens when light photons impinge upon the retina of the eye:

“When a photon first hits the retina, it interacts with a small organic molecule called II-cis-retinal. The shape of the retinal is rather bent, but when retinal interacts with the photon, it straightens out, isomerizing into trans-retinal….When retinal changes shape, it forces a change in the shape of the protein rhodopsin, which is bound to it. The change in rhodopsin’s shape exposes a binding site that allows the protein transducin to stick to it. Now part of the transducin complex dissociates and interacts  with a protein called phosphodiesterase. When that happens the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability chemically to cut a small organic molecule called cyclic-GMP, turning it into 5′-GMP. There is a lot of cyclic-GMP in the cell, and some of it sticks to another protein called an ion channel. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions into the cell. When the concentration of cyclic-GMP decreases because of the action of the photodiesterase [in turning cyclic-GMP into 5′-GMP], however, the cyclic-GMP bound to the ion channel eventually falls off, causing a change in shape that shuts the channel. As a result sodium ions can no longer enter the cell, the concentration of sodium in the cell decreases, and the voltage across the cell membrane changes. That in turn causes a wave of electrical polarization to be sent down the optic nerve to the brain. And when interpreted by the brain that is vision.” (This description ignores how the system resets itself for the next visual stimulus and exactly how the brain turns electrical currents into what we see.)

A far more complicated biochemical process in our bodies is the healing of wounds described in “Darwin’s Black Box.” I won’t repeat it here, but it’s mind boggling. It’s also impossible to believe that wound healing occurred due to evolution by unguided natural processes. The healing of wounds is one example of “Irreducible complexity”.  In other words a wound doesn’t heal properly unless all the interconnected, component parts are functioning properly. It’s impossible for me to believe that gradual, evolutionary developments based only on chance mutations, natural selection, and the laws of physics would result in a functioning blood-clotting system during each beneficial step along the way to completion of the finely meshed system that works so well today. Wound healing is also mentioned in The Urantia Book as evidence of the work of intelligent designers called Life Carriers, although they didn’t actually bring life here; they created and guided it’s development here through the slow process of evolution.

There are many such examples of complicated, interconnected processes in the human body and can be found in books even by people who disdain “intelligent design” , such as the popular book “Life’s Engines” with the subtitle “How Microbes Made Earth Inhabitable” by a very good scientist named Paul Falkowski and a book called “The Vital Question” by Nick Lane, a biochemist. In the latter book the author describes a very complex nanomachine called ATP Synthase which synthesizes ATP, the biological energy currency used by all living cells and “is found in basically all bacteria, all archaea, and all eukaryotes {the three domains of life)”. It has a rotary motor which drives a crankshaft, which in turn rotates a catalytic “head that can spin at over a hundred revolutions per second”. The author says “it is hard to convey the astonishing complexity of this protein motor” and also says “This is precision nanoengineering of the highest order, a magical device….”, although he’s still not convinced that it was designed by God.

I would like to present some ideas here about intelligent design by an author (NK) who wishes to remain anonymous for professional reasons, but who has thought deeply on the matter and who believes in The Urantia Book teaching that says that life on our planet was especially created on our planet (Urantia) by extraordinary but also imperfect beings called Life Carriers, and the life forms they created for three different implantations in shallow seas that had the potential to evolve by strictly natural processes to produce the extraordinary diversity of life forms you see living today and in the fossil record. Evolutionary life was nurtured by the Life Carriers by manipulating the environment, but there was no mechanical interference into cellular structure and processes. They weren’t perfect: Certain primitive life forms regressed into disease-causing bacteria and their auxiliary virus bodies. Even human child-birth is much more painful than they would have liked.

I mentioned above the Cambrian Explosion of life forms. During that era new creatures seemed to appear suddenly with no evidence of a gradual accumulation of complex features. “Trilobites, for example. appeared all at once and had eyes, a heart and circulatory system, digestive system, nervous system, etc. The question arises as to how all these organs with all their dependencies and inter-dependencies arose as an ensemble without a trace. No one knows.”

NK also gave an example of intelligent design regarding the evolution of the eye that stated that “there is a control gene that initiates the development of the eye, and this control gene is common to all animals. Given this information, the principle of common descent requires that all eyes must have had  a common ancestor with a proto-eye, or a very primitive eye – little more than a light-sensitive spot. This is the most primitive eye known to exist prior to the Cambrian, around 540 million years ago. There would be no other explanation from a Darwinian perspective. So now Darwinists have to explain how it is that a master control gene, developed in a nascent eye, would just happen to be able to initiate the cascade of events for all other more more complex and diverse eyes that evolved subsequently.”

“Furthermore, it is now known that the control genes for all the various body plans introduced in the Cambrian are common among virtually all animals….Current research shows that the control genes for the development of organs in animals predated the origin of these animals themselves. The instructions for the building (some of them) existed before the building itself! These control genes are not large information-rich genes; they specify the high level structure and initiate the cascade of development. How can higher-level functions appear prior to the components they control and specify without invoking prior intelligence?”

Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink in their book say that the genetic tools and features used in the Cambrian Exolosion existed for 50 million years before they were needed. That’s what I call planning ahead! They also say that part of the reason for the Cambrian Explosion was low oxygen levels of between 14 and 16 percent, compared to 21 percent today. The history of evolution shows that low oxygen levels can stimulate organisms to start forming new taxa (new species) and even new phyla (new body types). as occurred in the Cambrian Explosion.

The success of the evolutionary plan is in part due to the endowment of adaptation in every living being. “In every living plant or animal cell, in every living organism…there is an insatiable craving for the attainment of ever-increasing perfection of environmental adjustment and organismal adaptation….” As part of this process is the hybridization of species, with the differential survival of those organisms with more creative potential for adaptation to stressful environments.

Beyond biological processes on the molecular level, which are amazing enough, how do Darwinists explain the existence of highly intelligent beings who can not only think coherently, but have genuine spiritual experiences and values? It’s time for all thinking persons to acknowledge the wondrous complexity of life and humbly admit that there is a very great intelligence being manifested in the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Discussion of Consciousness

Perhaps the most difficult subject to understand in all of philosophy is the explanation of the experience of consciousness. With the help of The Urantia Book and the philosopher John Searle of Berkeley, I’ll present a few ideas on the subject.

Professor Searle outlines ten features of consciousness in his book “Mind, Language and Society”:

1. Ontological subjectivity – All conscious states only exist as experienced by an agent. [Ontology is defined as that branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being, reality or ultimate substance.]

2. Consciousness is experienced in a unified form. This is the ability to bind together diverse stimuli and unite them into a coherent perceptual experience. As the UB says “Mind, in its essence is functional unity; therefore does mind never fail to manifest this constitutive unity, even when hampered and hindered by the unwise choices of a misguided self.”

3. Our subjective states have intentionality. These states include beliefs and desires, intentions and perceptions, as well as loves and hates, fears and hopes. It is a general philosophical term for all the various forms by which the mind can be directed at, or about, or of objects and states of affairs in the world, even imaginary objects such as pink elephants and unicorns. These states, known as “mental representations” are also “self-intimating”, that is, a person in such a state knows he/she is in that state.

4. We experience conscious states in a particular mood with a certain color or flavor, from elation to depression.

5. We structure our conscious states into coherent wholes, seeing meaningful patterns, even where there may not be any actual coherence, such as seeing a picture of a face in a cluster of toothpicks.

6. We focus our attention on certain aspects of what we are experiencing at any one time, although we can freely shift our attention to other aspects of the experience.

7. Our conscious states have an awareness of the sense of our location in space and time, even though the location itself is not an intentional object of our consciousness.

8. Our conscious experiences have varying degrees of familiarity. We experience things on a continuum, a spectrum, that goes from the most familiar to the most strange.

9. Our conscious experiences often remind us of other experiences stored in our memories. We put them into a meaningful context.

10. Our conscious states are always pleasurable or unpleasurable to some degree.

II. Before discussing the Urantia Book’s comments on consciousness, I would like to comment briefly on the attempts of some philosophers to explain consciousness without resorting to mind as an independent entity (the ghost in the  machine). They believe that the real world is made up entirely of material or physical entities, and therefore consciousness as a mental phenomenon does not exist except perhaps as a “property” of matter. They trivialize the inner subjectivity of consciousness by saying that it is an illusion or at best an epiphenomenon, which means that consciousness accompanies certain neural processes but has no influence on subsequent events, which are determined at the molecular level. In other words we have no conscious free will.

Recently there have been attempts to explain consciousness by saying it’s a computer program or a mathematical form of information containing bits of data in symbolic form. Refuting all these arguments requires careful thought and analysis by professional philosophers, often by Professor Searle. Nevertheless the above features of consciousness combined with the revelations of The Urantia Book listed below have convinced me that our conscious thoughts are far more self-directed than a mechanistic computer program or simply bits of information generated by the physical brain. An appropriately programmed computer, or any form of data in symbolic form, has a syntax but no semantics: the symbols generated by computers have meanings that can be interpreted by an observer (“objective relativism”), but the computer itself can only manipulate the symbols as instructed by the programmer without really understanding them. Computers have no beliefs, desires or intentions. Indeed a top neuroscientist named Stanislas Dehaene has said that “Neuroscience … has long rejected the computer metaphor… With its massively parallel, self-modifiable organization, capable of computing over entire probability distributions rather than discrete symbols, the human brain departs radically from contemporary computers.” The quotes are from his excellent book “Consciousness and the Brain” about the latest empirical studies on what happens in our brains when we have conscious thoughts vs. what happens when our brains process information on unconscious levels.

I also admire the respected Mr. Dehaene for his arguments strongly advocating the idea that we have relative free will: “But our decisions are genuinely free whenever they are based on a conscious deliberation that proceeds autonomously without any impediment, carefully weighting the pros and cons before committing to a course of action. When this occurs, we are correct in speaking of a  voluntary decision — even if it is, of course, ultimately caused by our genes, our life history, and the value functions they have installed in our neuronal circuits.”

People who don’t believe in free will have also made a big deal about the fact that our thoughts start being formed one-half second before our conscious awareness of them. However, our thoughts are based on our knowledge of language, and the words to convey the thought start being formed based on our memories of language for such thoughts before our conscious awareness of the fully formed thought one-half second after the process begins. Once we become aware of the words in our thoughts we still have the evaluative option of changing or rejecting the words. We can also reject any actions that are prompted by the words. For instance if our subconscious brain starts directing us to walk across the the street half a second later, we can cancel the idea if we see that we’ll be hit by a bus.

III. So who is the self who is having these conscious experiences? According to The Urantia Book each of us is given a unique personality by none other than God the Father himself. “Personality is defined as that feature of an individual which we know, and which enables us to identify such a being at some future time regardless of the nature and extent of changes in form, mind, or spirit status. Personality is that part of any individual which enables us to recognize and positively identify that person as the one we have previously known no matter how much he may have changed because of the modification of the vehicle of expression and manifestation of his personality.”

The UB does go on to say that human personality is distinguished by self-consciousness and associated free will. Self-consciousness includes the ability to recognize our own personalities and to recognize the existence of other personalities. In fact man’s own personality awareness, self consciousness, is directly dependent on this very fact of innate other-awareness, this innate ability to recognize and grasp the reality of other personalities. Self-consciousness is in essence a communal consciousness: God and man, Father and child, brothers and sisters.

Self-consciousness also connotes recognition of the actuality of mind ministry and the realization of the relative independence of creative and determinative free will.

I’ll discuss two different manifestations of mind ministry. The first  manifestation is the “cosmic mind”. “The fact of the cosmic mind explains the kinship of various types of human and superhuman minds. Not only are kindred spirits attracted to each other, but kindred minds are also very fraternal and inclined towards cooperation with each other. Human minds are sometimes observed to be running in channels of astonishing similarity and inexplicable agreement.”

“There exists in all personality associations of the cosmic mind a quality which might be called the “reality response”. It is this universal cosmic endowment of will creatures which saves them from becoming helpless victims of the implied a priori assumptions of science, philosophy and religion.”

The cosmic mind unfailingly responds to three different domains of reality which are self-evident to clear reasoning and deep-thinking mortals:

Causation – the reality domain of the physical senses, the scientific realms of logical uniformity, the differentiation of the factual and nonfactual. This is the domain of mathematics.

Duty – the reality domain of morals in the philosophic realm, the arena of reason, the recognition of relative right and wrong. This is the domain of ethical judgments.

Worship – the spiritual domain of of the reality of religious experience, the personal realization of divine fellowship, the recognition of spirit values, the assurance of eternal survival.

These scientific, moral, and spiritual insights make it possible for man to to function as a rational and self-conscious personality in the realms of science, philosophy and religion.

Other manifestations of mind ministry originate in the mind circuits of the Infinite Spirit that enable us to sort and process the associations of consciousness that make intellectual and spiritual growth possible. As Jesus said per the UB and slightly paraphrased: “The human self is not merely the sum of the successive states of consciousness. Without the effective functioning of a consciousness sorter and association processor there would not exist sufficient unity of mind to attain the conscious levels of human status. If the associations of consciousness were just an accident, the minds of all men would then exhibit the uncontrolled and random associations of certain phases of mental madness.” Mind ministers make it possible for us to have a unified conscious experience and to put our conscious experiences into a meaningful context.

Following is a description of the seven different types of mind ministers who help us evolve into mature personalities of survival potential. Such spiritual influences were revealed in part in the Bible in Isaiah, chapter 11, verses 1, 2 and 3 if we equate “might” with courage and the “fear of the Lord” with worship, which many do. Only the spirit of intuition is missing from the Biblical list.

“1. The spirit of intuition – quick perception, the primitive physical and inherent reflex instincts, the directional and other self-preservative endowments of all mind creations…including the lower orders of animal life.”

“2. The spirit of understanding – the impulse of co-ordination, the spontaneous and apparently automatic association of ideas. This is the gift of the co-ordination of acquired knowledge, the phenomenon of quick reasoning, rapid judgment, and prompt decision.”

“3. The spirit of courage – the fidelity endowment – in personal beings, the basis of character acquirement and the intellectual root of moral stamina and spiritual bravery. When enlightened by facts and inspired by truth, this becomes the secret of the urge of evolutionary ascension by the channels of intelligent and conscientious self-direction.”

“4. The spirit of knowledge – the curiosity-mother of adventure and discovery, the scientific spirit; the guide and faithful associate of the spirits of courage and counsel, the urge to direct the endowments of courage into useful and progressive paths of growth.”

“5. The spirit of counsel – the social urge, the endowment of species cooperation; the ability of will creatures to harmonize with their fellows; the origin of the gregarious instinct among the more lowly creatures.”

6. “The spirit of worship – the religious impulse, the first differential urge separating mind creatures into the two basic classes of mortal existence.”

“7. The spirit of wisdom – the inherent tendency of all moral creatures towards orderly and progressive attainment….This spirit is the secret of that inborn urge of mind creatures which initiates and maintains the practical and effective program of the ascending scale of existence; that gift of living things which accounts for their inexplicable ability to survive and, in survival, to utilize the co-ordination of all their past experience and present opportunities for the acquisition of all of everything that all of the other six mental ministers can mobilize in the mind of the organism concerned. Wisdom is the acme of intellectual performance. Wisdom is the goal of a purely mental and moral existence.”

“These mind-spirits send forth their influence into all the inhabited worlds as a differential urge, each seeking receptivity capacity for manifestation quite apart from the degree to which its fellows may find receptivity and opportunity for function.”

As I typed this list I realized that thinking is a lot more complex than anybody had thought before the arrival of The Urantia Book. The “urges” described above were thought to be just the product of self-reflective thinking or the manifestation of animal instincts. We didn’t know that we were being encouraged to grow intellectually and spiritually by specialized mind ministers, without conscious awareness of their encouragement. Of course we still have the freedom of will to ignore these sirens of the mind, but not many people refuse the helpful directions of the mind ministers. Most people, even atheists, deal bravely with the many challenges in their lives, despite almost paralyzing fears at times, and grow in character and wisdom as evolving sons and daughters of God progressing toward glorious destinies.

Of course we still have to explain how our conscious states, “the ghost in the machine”, can convert abstract concepts into physical actions. I once saw an explanation that seems to have some merit: There could be a cascade effect in which a slight nudge by a slight amount of energy associated with a thought can cause a chain reaction in our physical brains that eventually results in physical movement. Details unknown

Finally a quote from the UB: “Man’s greatest adventure in the flesh consists in the well-balanced and sane effort to advance the borders of self-consciousness out through the dim realms of embryonic soul-consciousness in a wholehearted effort to reach the borderland of spirit-consciousness – contact with the divine presence”.

 

 

 

The Origin of God

Christians believe that God is eternal. How is that possible we ask? If we say that God had a beginning, then we have to ask who or what created God? How was He created from nothing with infinite and absolute properties?

We could say that a Being equal to Himself created God, but then who created the Being who created God? This chain of reasoning could continue as an infinite regress with no enlightenment after all our efforts to understand His origin. We are forced to concede that God either is an imaginary postulate or that God exists but had no beginning, even though that is not comprehensible to finite beings familiar with the laws of science who believe that every effect has a cause. Primitive people who believe in magic would probably find it easier than us to believe that God popped into Being at the dawn of Eternity.

The Urantia Book says that instead of envisioning universe realities as events on a linear timeline with a beginning and an end, we should envision universe realities on an ellipse with no beginning and no end. That implies that events repeat themselves, unless we conceive of the ellipse as infinite* in length, so that we never return to the position on the ellipse where we entered the eternal adventure. This concept of an infinite ellipse would not only solve the problem of history repeating itself on a finite ellipse, but it also suggests that only a Being with infinite powers could comprehend fully “the great circle of Eternity” at every moment in time. In other words, God foresees the end from the beginning**, although I doubt that even a God could foresee all the individual decisions to be made by all His created children throughout the long evolution to universe destinies.

* If the idea of an infinite ellipse is too difficult to comprehend, then think of the ellipse as being almost infinite as stated at the beginning of Paper 105 in The Urantia Book.

** We are speaking of a relative beginning before the Infinite I AM created the universes, and there began an outpouring of spirit beings to minister to the children of time, and a relative ending defined by the Urantia Book as the Cosmos-Infinite where God the Absolute becomes fully manifest beyond time, beyond space, and all potentials are realized as actual realities, although some universe philosophers postulate that all potentials may never be fully realized.

 

Higher Concepts of God as Presented in The Urantia Book

Question one: Is there a Trinity? Yes. The Trinity of the Universal Father, the Eternal Son and the Infinite Spirit frees the Universal Father from the limitations of unchanging perfection, eternity, universality, absoluteness, and infinity. It also allows the Universal Father communication with other equal personalities.

The Universal Father is the First Source and Center of eternal reality. He is universal spirit, eternal truth, infinite reality, and Father personality.The Father is infinitely more than reality idealized or the universe personalized. God is not simply the supreme desire of man, the mortal quest objectified, nor is He a psychological focalization of spiritual meanings, nor a synonym for nature, nor nature personified. God is a transcendent reality.

The Eternal Son is the eternal Word of God, the Father manifest in the universe as an absolute spirit personality, the divine administrator of the spiritual government of the universe. The Universal Father is first a creator and then a controller; the Eternal Son is first a co-creator and then a spiritual administrator.

The Infinite Spirit is the God of Action in the universe. The Infinite Spirit represents not only the Father-Son, but is also as a universal manipulator of forces and energy and brings into being the universal and absolute mind. He dominates all reactions with mind, wields great power in the spiritual world, and exerts a mighty influence over energy and matter.

Question two: Is Jesus the second person of the Trinity, the Eternal Son? The answer is no.  Jesus acts for the Eternal Son in our local section of the universe. He does have the infinite qualities of the Eternal Son but operates in a finite section of creation. Jesus demonstrated in his brief, eventful life on our planet the love of the Father and the mercy of the Eternal Son.

The members of the Trinity uphold and control the universe. It was not possible for one of its indispensable members, the Eternal Son, to leave His eternal responsibilities and come to this planet to begin life as a baby. Jesus is called a Creator Son in the Urantia Book, because he was in charge of creating and ruling this section of the universe.

Jesus came to our planet to experience a human life, much like our experiences of day-to-day living, as well as to reveal the loving nature of the Father of all to mortals, which He was so successful at doing because of his Divine spiritual origin so close to the Source of all reality. His ordinary human experiences here made Him more sympathetic to the difficult challenges all humans have to face. He suppressed knowledge of his divine powers while very young by a process nobody below the level of Deity understands, but gradually realized who He was as He matured into adulthood, finally becoming fully aware of His Divine nature about the time of His Baptism by John the Baptist. The Urantia Book gives a very detailed account of His life and teachings in over 700 pages, especially His adult life, before and after He started His public career.

After He died He sent His spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who works with other spirit influences in our lives such as the Holy Spirit, and the indwelling spirit of the Father to impart to us a craving to find God and to become more like Him.

Question three:  Did Jesus come here to atone for “Original Sin” by beings we call Adam and Eve and subsequent sins committed by mortals with free will.? The answer is no. That belief was mentioned by Paul the apostle, but reached its full theological development under Saint Augustine, who believed in the God of Wrath and that humans are very sinful by nature and needed to be redeemed by a high universe personage, a Son of God. For a holy man he was surprisingly unaware of the spirit of God the Father, who indwells us and is ultimately responsible for so many of the wonderful qualities of human beings, fashionable cynicism to the contrary.

“The barbarous idea of appeasing an angry God, of propitiating an offended Lord, of winning the favor of Deity through sacrifices and penance and even by the shedding of blood represents a religion wholly puerile and primitive, a philosophy unworthy of an enlightened age of science and truth.

What a travesty upon the infinite character of God to teach that the  fatherly heart in all its austere coldness and hardness was so untouched by the misfortunes and sorrows of his creatures that his tender mercies were not forthcoming until He saw His blameless Son bleeding and dying on the cross of Calvary.” (UB)

Jesus willingly died on the cross to show His great love for all mortals, even His enemies. It was His ultimate act of ministry. He did not suffer agonizing torture to atone for the sinful nature of lowly mortals, as ordered by his Father.

In addition, justice is always applied to individuals by the Divine courts; there is no such thing as racial guilt. It is absurd to think that a whole race of human beings could be deprived of the Father’s love and mercy for crimes committed thousands of years before Jesus by their ancestors.

Question Four:  Should an advanced religion provide for conscientious self-examination?   The religion of Jesus made no provision for an examination of conscience, nor for a philosophy of religious introspection, but all Christian religions that followed Jesus have taught that we should frequently examine our past behavior for possible violations of God’s laws as we understand them, and for which we are taught to beg for Divine forgiveness. Some people feel guilty their whole lives and never feel they’ve been completely forgiven.

However, a simple, transient consciousness of wrong-doing is more than adequate to earn God’s forgiveness  He forgives us even before we ask. Prolonged feelings of guilt can seriously harm our ability to love and serve others when so preoccupied with ourselves. As Jesus taught, character growth is desirable, not character building. It is better to be like a tiny mustard seed slowly growing in qualities of mind and spirit. Self respect is desirable, not self flagellation. We should strive for a spiritual lightness of being, which feelings of guilt make impossible. This can be a difficult concept to accept for those of us brought up in religions with lots of guilt, but since Jesus himself told his apostles and disciples not to harbor feelings of guilt according to the UB, I have finally accepted this teaching.

Question Five: Where did contemporary Christian religions err the most? In addition to the Atonement doctrine mentioned above, another significant error is that the teachings of Jesus were overshadowed by an emphasis on the glory and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, the miracle worker. As a Detroit minister named Reverend Ike said however, what Jesus said over and over again, what he said a thousand different times in a thousand different ways is that God is our Father, all men and women are our brothers and sisters, and the force that unites and binds us all is love. Love is the desire to do good to others.