by mol smith 2013
Credits, Permissions & References     [Part 1: 1  2  3  4  5  6   ]  Part 2 [ 7  ]                                                                                


Introduction to Part 2

Part 1,  I introduced several threads (some based on observations with microscopes, some not) exploring the theme of spiritual and scientific mutuality. Whereas strong champions of science-centred views of our reality quickly become  polarised arguments to the equally strong spiritually-centred  advocates, I remain of an opinion that this kind of 'war' denies all of us an opportunity to consider facts and beliefs soberly and properly. A belief is not always founded on imagination and hope. For example, I believe I will not die rich. This is based on my knowledge of my lifestyle but not a knowledge of good fortune coming my way in the future, or a change of heart to pursue money as a goal instead of my own life-time bent of wanting to be useful, and to have time to consider just being. Science has beliefs too, conjectures based on evidence gained to date but also based on theoretical models of where evidence from different disciplines awaits further proofs as we extend our capabilities.

Science becomes corrupted just as spirituality has

I also believe that science was once a tool of enlightenment but is rapidly becoming a sword honed and gripped in the hands of military and corporate entities for competitive advantages, and is being wrestled from the neutral  hands of objective knowledge-seekers. I think the same happened to spiritual beliefs way back in the past when spirituality became institutionalised into something we now call religion. Microscopy, practiced as an enthusiast, allows the freedom of researching anything in the small-scale world (within the limits of financial constraints) and adding what you discover to your other ideas and learning. Science now only 'looks' in very narrow corners of our reality due to research budgets mostly coming from companies likely to benefit from whatever is discovered.

Spiritual exploration seeks the truth of being. Science seeks knowledge of being. These two things are not the same. Seeking truth means acquiring knowledge which can stand tests which prove that knowledge obtained is indeed true and remains so throughout unfolding time and the future acquisition of more knowledge. Science should be considered a knowledge-gathering device and spirituality should be considered a truth-determining device reaping in scientific, philosophic, and intuitive reasoning in a quest for that one goal.

As science stands today with its concepts and ideas about reality, forfeit of Newtonian and classical science when exploring the quantum seed of all reality - it is unlikely it will ever be able to realise absolute truth. Aspects of the quantum world, I feel, will always remain outside our capabilities to perceive and understand.

People dismiss spirituality too readily. It is something which has put morality and social structure into our reality since the first people looked at themselves and our behaviour and probably thought some things appeared inappropriate to our survival rather than not right with the gods. Caveman (I think not) are depicted as banging women over the head and having their wicked way with them, but who then will look after the resultant children? Maybe the first priests were scientifically-motivated and practical too, and maybe they also had a higher degree of empathy for others in their species. Who knows? We are no longer there and all evidence about the past has all the important edges missing from their puzzle parts so we conjecture and imagine the way the pieces fit together.

I will take on the role of a fresh torch bearer, not one who carries a torch to light this idea or that one, but instead someone to shine a bright beam on evidence and conjecture, and to consider these aspects in all kinds of novel and informed ways. I am not here to solve a puzzle but to demonstrate how the puzzle can be looked at from quite different and more positive ways. To make a fresh cake sometimes you have to break up the old one... disruptive Ideas!

About knowledge, facts, myths, detail, generality, and what we are all taught or think is true.

The Birds And The Bees
I would like you to consider a small experiment about the usefulness of knowledge. You can do it yourself, right now. I would like you to consider this: what is it in a bee or wasp sting which causes you to feel pain? You can start by 'Googling' the question and see where it leads. But be advised that is not the final question I will ask .

This may help:
  - Wasp and Bee venom are not the same regarding Ph factor.
  - Wasps and Bees can be considered part of the collective Ant-derived family of insects.
  - Wasps, Bees, and Ants all love honey.
  - Is their venom made from what they obtain from honey?
  - Internet-derived information is so often regurgitated generality and is not peer-reviewed.

This is the stinger of a queen wasp, Vespula vulgaris. It is contained in a vintage microscope slide set and dates to 1913. You can see the inner workings of a wasp's sting quite clearly at this resolution: two tiny barbs are contained in the tip. The first barb is thrust into the unfortunate receiver in order to stabilise the insect so it can deliver a second spike which injects the actual venom. The shot was captured through a 19th century Broadhurst & Clarkson microscope, with my camera set up on a tripod looking directly down into the viewfinder. The photograph can be found in full resolution at this address. http://tjblackwell.co.uk/lucid

Author TJBlackwell   Creative Commons licence granted.


The trouble with information. Most of it is inaccurate.
So how did you do? Ten sites saying venom. (What a laugh!). As many sites saying wasp and bee sting poison are alakaline or acidic based? (I didn't ask that!). Twenty sites at the top of your search telling you something but not the thing you need to know? A few suggestions regarding a pepetide called melittin (Bees) maybe?

No-one knows what all the real ingedient or ingredients are (chemicals) which cause the pain, and often a fatality in some people when they are stung. Some 60 odd proteins  are involved. The main component is melittin comprising 52% of venom peptides. Melittin is a strong anti-inflammatory agent and induces the production of cortisol in the body.

Apamin increases cortisol production in the adrenal gland. Apamin is a mild neurotoxin. Adolapin, comprising 2–5% of the peptides, acts as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic because it blocks cyclooxygenase. Phospholipase A2 amounts to 10–12% of peptides and it is the most destructive component of apitoxin. It is an enzyme which degrades the phospholipids which cellular membranes are made of. It also causes decreased blood pressure and inhibits blood coagulation. Phospholipase A2 activates arachidonic acid which is metabolized in the cyclooxygenase-cycle to form prostaglandins. Prostaglandins regulate the body's inflammatory response. The toxin from wasps contains phospholipase A1. Hyaluronidase comprising 1–3% of peptides dilates the capillaries causing the spread of inflammation. Histamine comprising 0.5–2% and is involved in the allergic response. Dopamine and noradrenaline which comprise 1–2% increase pulse rate. Protease-inhibitors comprise 2% and act as anti-inflammatory agents and stop bleeding. Tertiapin is also a component in bee venom.

Quite interesting how each of the identified components above seem to specifically target processes in mammals! What mechanism in nature do you consider transferred information relating to the critical biological systems of mammals (humans) to the design triggers of a bee sting venom manufacturing unit? One could argue that many bees with different venom were made in the past but only those carrying an effective attack-mammal venom survived:  the ones which are with us today!

Although that answer does not answer why life 'thought' It should defend its structural presence of life and  build a mechanism to defend its own existence as a design from other possible life designs wanting to protect their own designs and possibly mess, destructively, with Bees and Wasps designs to maintain their own in the first place. What? Life units know they may be disassembled by other life units? Where did that come from. Oh... yes.. the ones that didn't have such mechanisms are no longer are here... right? I don't think that answers the question. It creates another question: why create attack and defensive mechanisms and why create non-attack and non-defensive life forms unless a bias existed in the first place for creating living forms with and without systems of this ilk in the first place. Why not just create one set or the other? You only need the protective / defensive ones if you suspect or come to react to one of the life forms with this in place, in the first instance. Or, more profoundly, you were trying to build a living form with  design that was probing the best design to be to take on all other compound mixes of organic chemical packages to work through getting to an ever-surviving form of life. Once again we are suggesting that the process of evolution has an intent. Not a blind purpose but a profound aim, an intention, a bias.

But that is not the question I wanted to ask you. Why is it that Bees and wasps, also hover-flies, tigers, the  ribbon snake, the striped racer and garter snake,
and the Cinnabar moth all have yellow and black striped markings? Apart from the hoverfly (which mimics the warning markings of the others) each creature exhibits a strong predatory or aggressive feature. Not all are poisonous. The moth can turn cannibalistic.

Is this specific colouration a generic warning combination? Assumptions are made. Hoverflies express mimicry. Really? They don't fool me. Assumption by evolutionists? Tigers are striped for camouflage. What? Jungles and grasses are yellow and black... what happened to greens and browns?  Conjecture. They are striped as it is nature's way to warn you they are either dangerous or can hurt you. Anthropomorphising supposition.

The point I am trying to make is that I didn't want an answer really. I wanted you to see something the way I do. Some observations along with a little assumption or conjecture added, start to tie all kinds of things together in science just the same as it does with social prejudices, religion, health-care, historical truth, and so forth. Knowledge is not truth. Knowledge is a set of observations which may lead to some truths, but we each may add our own myths, lies, bent, and speculation to the information obtained. We work not on truth but on speculating truth from knowledge from ignorance. Nothing yet is an end game.

How many people believe a wasp can sting you many times but bees only once because their stinging mechanism is ripped away from them due to the stinging barbs catching in human flesh? The latter is not true of all bees - only some. Male drones have no stinging mechanism, for example.

Birds (I'll ramble here a bit)
I have not read anywhere that birds use near ultra-sonic emissions (like bats) to seek their prey. I have accidentally observed the behaviour of several birds. One lot,
Swallow-tails, House Martins,  or Swifts,  in the sky at dusk in England over my garden, make a lot of noise. They dart chaotically in their flight..The pattern is  one of a predator on the wing catching prey. It doesn't matter at this stage what bird I'm seeing. The point is this: are they are using sound to pin-point tiny prey? As my colleague and friend David Walker says, the best first microscope is the one-eye, close up to what you are observing. The second is the observer who thinks about the art of observing and what is observed. I have little doubt the tiny birds are using their high-pitched squawks as a sound echo-locating process to catch tiny insects, midges, flies, etc., being lifted up on rising warm air currents.

Pigeons all over the world swoop down readily for bread crumbs. I've tried throwing rice crackers, scrunched up pieces of paper the size of bread pieces., and other white bread looking stuff. Pigeons flying around only seem to come when I throw bread. Are their eyes really that good that from some several hundred feet up, they can tell the difference in texture of bread pieces from rice-cracker pieces? Their eyes are not telescopes. Ah, but their resolving power of detail is far superior to ours. Most birds have far more light sensitive cones per any given eye surface area than humans. It's like they have 16 megapixel ccds while we have only 4 or 8 megapixels ones/. So, it probably is the texture of the material telling them the white lumps are not bread.

So... as we hurdle headlong into a knowledge-centred society, and as the Internet and networking spreads knowledge more rapidly and to more people than ever before, bad knowledge, generalisations, biased points of view dilute its usefulness.

Living Forms Appear to Be Ruthless
To maintain themselves, all living things with but one general exception (creatures using photosynthesis as their only means of obtaining energy) appear  to consume other living things in one way or another. In fact, the idea that earth is a provider to life is itself a misnomer. Earth is a dead place covered with the dead remains of all living things from the past. We, the living of today, trample around on the earth's surface, a bed of broken down dust from our living predecessors - not just human ancestors, but all living entities of all species and of all sizes from macroscopic to microscopic.

The startling fact about the nature of evolution is that if we humans had evolved from an original puddle of near organic chemicals to be the first living creatures on the surface of the earth, or in the ocean, we would have died out immediately as there was nothing to eat. The first living entities had access to only one food source: sunlight. With this single energy source to power them, they were able to use processes to break down some other inorganic substances to fetch in material needed to maintain their structures and to reproduce copies of themselves before their own structures became disorganised through ageing and death. Each death led to a fine dust of organic material upon the surface of the earth, or beneath the ocean and upon the sea floor, a dust where tiny macro plants could evolve, grow and die, adding their bio mass to the thin layer. Millions of years pass and the number of plants and animals grow ever larger adding their dying mass to the thick layer supporting life.

And all  this life brought into being because a simple cell was able to convert sunlight into energy and exploit that source to reproduce itself.

Microphytes or microalgae are microscopic algae, typically found in freshwater and marine systems. They are unicellular species which exist individually, or in chains or groups. Depending on the species, their sizes can range from a few micrometers (µm) to a few hundreds of micrometers. Unlike higher plants, microalgae do not have roots, stems and leaves. Microalgae, capable of performing photosynthesis, are important for life on earth; they produce approximately half of the atmospheric oxygen and use simultaneously the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to grow photoautotrophically.

(wiki creative commons licence)

Well, that's one possibility of a mechanism for extending life into more forms on a lump of cooling plasma (Earth) racing around a star at 3 miles a second. Or... maybe life didn't start that way. Maybe a frozen snowball of ammino acids or even primitive organic molecules grazed past the earth when its atmosphere was thin and ill formed? We just don't know. What we do know, or think we know, is that the sun, the earth, comets, all derive from material present at the point of creation:  The Big Bang.  During expansion, the fiery fragments formed star systems, our own, planets, our sun and the comets too.  The fact that some of that material which doesn't at first add its own mass to that of the sun, but instead forms a lump of glowing plasma which cools to become a planet in orbit around a star,  has luckily settled just far enough away to offer a surface temperature within a range wherein life, once started, can function in.

That in itself is an occurrence that defies belief.

The odds against life emerging without the universe being an intentional place for that to happen

The earth and sun are approximately 93 million miles apart. The diameter of the earth is 8000 miles. You only have to witness travel from the North pole to the Equator to understand what a difference of being closer or further than just over a few thousand miles makes to the prevailing environment. If the earth were a little bigger, say - or just a little closer, or the atmosphere had less or more of that mix  so cosmic rays were not shielded sufficiently, or the sun had a little more mass and its diameter was a little bigger or smaller by just a fraction (it is currently 863,000 miles in diameter approx) could life have started and survived?

Our sun is a class G star. It could have varied in its size by a range of 0.96–1.15 its current diameter. What is that in say blocks of the earth's diameter of 8000 miles? The answer is 20. There are 10 classes of stars. The class relates to its size, its age through its own fiery life cycle, its current mass, and  brightness. The classes represent (among other things)  15 to 0.04 times the diameter of our own sun. How much variance exists in discrete 8000 miles blocks in this range? Sun diameter of 34 miles across to 12,945,000 miles across? The answer is 1617. There are roughly 1 x10 to the power of 24 stars in the universe. Planets range from 3,031 miles in diameter (Mercury) to

about 15 times the mass of Jupiter, 86,881 x 15 miles = 1,303,215 miles in diameter. Any larger, then nuclear fission will occur and it will become a star. Of course anything near the size of Jupiter is a gas giant and has no solid surface.

How many discrete blocks of 8000 miles can exist within this range? Answer 163. So 163 x 1617 (variances in 8000 mile blocks of sun  diameters to 8000 mile blocks of planet variances= 264,000. We have a 1 in 264,000 chance of being on a planet just the right size and distance of the right size Sun  at this period in the universe to be on a planet which can support our kind of life. And this is a very, very rough estimate. It does not include many other variables: planetary compositions, for example - abundance of water, age of planet and thus its period where it still has an internal plasma core, its protective atmosphere composition, its vulnerability to impact by meteorites and comets. Lets just make a rough assumption and say there are only 10 possible values for each of these named variables. Four variables, each with 10 possible values.. Thus 1 in 264,000 becomes 1 in 264,000 x 10 to the power 4 = 2,640,000,000 to 1 chance.  Two thousand, six hundred and forty million to one chance of the planet being around about right in place, composition, time, and distance from the right kind of sun!

Now, what is the chance of life developing on that planet? Let's have a stab, aye? Let's take the simplest basic cell. In fact let's simplify a cell to make it clearer.

Chemical Composition of Living Cells

Amino acids
There are around 500 different types of amino acids known. Twenty of these are required for a human cell. Proteins are amino acid polymers responsible for implementing instructions contained within the genetic code. Twenty different amino acids are used to synthesize proteins, about half are formed as metabolic intermediates, while the remainder must be provided through the diet.

So we need  a starting set of 10 specific amino acids from a possible 500! There is a one in 245810588801891098700 chances of selecting the 10 basic amino acids we currently use as life forms on earth. The amino acids are used to construct proteins via DNA instruction and RNA messaging. I'll keep it simple... the selection of the right 10 amino acids in the first place must be carried out. The DNA (program instruction code of a living cell)  could not have been responsible in forming the very first living cells as DNA had not yet been made. We are still at an 'uniformed' organic chemical mix to even get started in building an instruction set to build a cell.

Now, of course, there might be other amino acids we could use instead, but we don't seem to be doing that. So right away, based on this extremely rough set of an all-too basic set of numbers, our planet or some basic life seed has to mix together or select 10 amino acids out of a possible 500 just to 'think' about  making a structure (a program code of DNA)  to create the very first living primitive cell. So that now increases the odds of life to be 2,640,000,000 to 1 x 245810588801891098700 to 1.

Let's ultra simplify that number: {24 x 10 to the power of 18} + {24 x 10 (instead of 26) to the power of 7}. I might have cocked up a power or two :(

 Which makes... 24 x 10 to the power of 25
This one in the large number of possibilities is greater than the sum of all stars in the universe.

But we are only just getting started!

Shall I continue because the chances grow ever larger exponentially?

Most rational people will quickly see such odds are not very good. Very bright people would understand the chances are close to infinitely impossible unless... yes... unless some kind of bias was involved so that the universe, the way the original hyper plasma from the Big Bang separated into the right clumps here and there and the right stars out of some of that here and there, and the planets, and the atoms, molecules, on them and the way they can fit (sit?) together with water or a similar medium was 'spiked' to create a living cell!

I am not saying some supernatural being 'spiked' the primordial plasma of the ultimate singularity: I am just saying the dice have been loaded, that's all. But it does beg the question: why?

Human Intelligence
Most people believe human intelligence is advancing. I mean compare us to the historical evidence (and a lot of conjecture)  regarding our ancestors.

The opposite could not be more true. A unit of life which is able to negotiate its environment, its own wants in that environment, and to optimise its own survival and growth without resorting to external tools and devices, and to do that function well. That is individual intelligence. The unit of life, which relies upon an increasing number of external dependencies to accomplish similar aims, is not more intelligent, it is just reliant upon a greater variety of tools to achieve the same primitive aim. The collective intelligence of a species is a different thing. Whereas an individual within a species may be deprived from a set of external tools and therefore be vulnerable, a species is only vulnerable if all external dependencies are removed.

But this does not mean we, you and I as individuals, are becoming more intelligent than our individual predecessors. It means we are submitting individual intelligence to an evolving collective one.

Now there's a thing!

Evolution has now achieved a significant goal. After the start of life here on earth, a single species - driven by a basic evolutionary  process (accordingly to scientific theory) -  has given rise to a collective intelligence (favoured?) which is  developing faster than individual intelligence. This is not new. Original cells are not more intelligent than evolved cells, nor tigers, elephants, nor us.

But all of these units, atoms, molecules, organic compounds, living forms, and us, seem to be caught up in a single evolving thing, the generation of an abstract: intelligence? Perhaps intelligence itself is ultimately behind the origin and emergence of life? I am not suggesting here the much-attacked Intelligent Design theory muted by people labelled harshly as creationists by 'right-wing radical scientists' , I am hinting that the Universe itself may be intelligent. Equally, any number of other possibilities exist, including the one of creation by an intelligent being or beings.

Anthropic Principle
The way that  current scientific thinking combats the fact that life being here is as good as statistically impossible, is by 'dreaming up' alternatives to the un-thinkable. You may be familiar with the Anthroplic or weak anthropic principle? Both of these ideas postulate that there may be any number of universes (an infinite number) all existing outside of our abilities to observe them, and that this one just happens to me one where the right 'ingredients' and the balance of fundamental laws is just right for life to emerge. Of course, there is no scientific evidence of any kind to test this theory, and it's highly improbable there will ever  be any way of detecting one other universe let alone an infinite set.

Science has shifted from a strong position of teasing evidence from the universe we inhabit to determine some kind of truth-seeking based knowledge to one of creating impossible-to-prove theories to answer the nagging question of 'Why/how are we here?' Science, by this definition, is creating a fantasy reality.

What is reality?
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – Humanity’s God Drug {
more info...}
To answer the question of why life, us, exist - we must define and understand the reality we appear to be part of. The common reality, the one most of us share, is defined by what we all believe to be true. Our perceptions may be wrong at any given time if we do not have evidence that we can all (mostly) agree on to support our belief. I know the earth is round because we have photographs of it. Evidence supports belief.


Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
Image is public domain. See wiki commons licence.

Now supposing we all took each day, not a glass of water but a substance called DMT. This simple compound exists already in almost every living thing! It has a remarkable property when absorbed by humans. It shifts the mind in such a way, that reality is no longer the solid physical place, we believe it to be. In short, you visit God!

Most people taking DMT experience very common events. Depending on the dose and method of administration, its subjective effects can range from short-lived milder psychedelic states to powerful immersive experiences. These are often described as a total loss of connection to conventional reality with the encounter of indescribable spiritual/alien realms. Indigenous Amazonian Amerindian cultures consume DMT as the primary psychoactive in ayahuasca, a shamanistic brew used for divinatory and healing purposes. Pharmacologically, ayahuasca combines DMT with an MAOI, an enzyme inhibitor that allows DMT to be orally active.

The point I am attempting to make is not that we should all go out and take a Class A drug to experience a different reality. I am saying the only reason we experience the reality we share is because we possess a similar brain chemistry with each other. There are exceptions, but by and large, our mental experiences are similar unless we ingest chemicals which alter our brain's normal processes. However, just a tiny (very tiny) introduction of any one of a  whole range of mind-affecting drugs can completely alter the reality we perceive. And the reason for that is that we do not see reality at all: we see it's chemical shadow.

Our brains or minds (are they one and the same?) filter reality into a 'human-congestable' shape and form. Our brain is a chemical structure using chemicals to create electrical processes which we ultimately call thought. This allows us to interactive effectively with it... reality! Our reality outside our body sacks. It does not mean reality is there in the way we see it to be. And without different biological brains to see it a different way, I would suggest that we cannot experience its completeness.

An avatar in a computer game has a phantom existence. Even if we could somehow imbue the avatar with a profound degree of intelligence, it is unlikely ever to perceive it exists only as a phantom in a computer game. It might get better or become more advantaged in comprehending more about the game world it inhabits, but even if it intuitively suspected its reality was not completely real, but just part of a greater and more profound reality, it simply has no mechanism or process to alter its interactions with the lessor one it resides in to engage with or directly interact with the external one. It is stuck, by its very nature, inside the prison universe it is constructed in. Everything it is and will ever be is a component of that mini phantom universe. It may well grow its knowledge and discover bus-bars, computer code and bytes, digital pulses - all exotic elements at the fringe of the game it is programmed to take part in, but it will never escape, nor ever find evidence of an external influence. It may guess at it, even create belief systems for it - some which may border on truth - but it will never know for sure.

And this is exactly where we find ourselves too.

Our science, our probing, reveals to us an impossible-to-fathom set of circumstances for the reason we are here. It shows us we should not be here. The overwhelming odds against a reality where living (thinking?) forms exist in an otherwise dead universe, the lack of discovering an evidential process for the creation of life, the revelation of a ghost-like quantum world underlying our apparent solid macro world of atoms, matter, and energy.... all these things shout something very loud to a non-deaf ear. The evidence provided by scientific endeavour screams at us to say: you too could be a phantom in a phantom reality.

Now, with that all said, I'm off to contact my game controller because I want to get out of here :)

Like to think some more about this topic? Great, I wrote a book a few years back. It's here!
Mol Smith


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[Please note: my article uses images kindly allowed for me to use which were created by other people. By including them in this article, no author of those images is either agreeing or disagreeing with my conclusions or my article's publication. The position and direction of my work here is mine alone].