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work/opus/oeuvre.title:With Angels in Mind
chapter.title: Active Intelligent Agents In Nature
type/genre: Prose Non-Fiction
role: author
name: Gladney Oakley
copyright © 1999 held by: the author
original language: English
date: October 1979 to February 1999
what: Iterate (inspiration, confirmation, transcription)
edition.statement: November 1 1999
media: electronic; no paper edition exists.
provenance: There is no original manuscript. The work was composed on electronic media from the outset. About half of the images as slides were used to illustrate a short lecture series which touched on the iconography of the disembodied.
release: In HTML format on the Internet July 2000

name: waim_aia.htm
structure:       Table of Contents - Links
  1. This file, the only portion of the work mounted on the web, contains
    1. This Header
    2. The Thesis
    3. Twenty Objections considered
    4. A Cyclic History of Man's view of Nature
    5. An ancient anecdote
    6. Table of Contents With Angels in Mind
  2. The portion that remains unmounted on the web contains sixty-eight chapters which include notes, explanation and commentary (keyed, forward and backward to the Thesis, the Twenty Objections, and to the cited References). The longest chapters are:
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acknowledgements: to the Librarians of Rome, Sydney, the two Cambridges, London, Madras and Alexandria, and to the trustees of the MT Foundation.


call them what one will(s)

The Thesis

  A four hundred year old taboo on regarding
active intelligent agents as legitimate
theoretical elements of the natural sciences
is nearing the end of its useful life.

The author does not intend to present or to argue a claim that angels[-1] exist, nor to present evidence for their existence, nor is it his intention to present a review of the literature[0], but as the usefulness of one of the initial, foundational concepts of science fades and we experience an end to a historical period[1], the topic may hold some relevance[2].

It seems as if an agreement[3] was entered into during the course of the seventeenth century[4] that in effect said we would no longer allow disembodied beings to be among the primitive notions, the undefined terms, the fundamental concepts[5], in our investigations of Nature[6]. Reference to them was no longer to be thought to have explanatory value. The time-honoured explanations of antiquity were to be discarded[7]. Mythic, pre-theoretical notions of minds and wills embedded in natural phenomena were not to be taken up into the new venture. We began to mathematize phenomena, while treating their causes as inanimate.

We have kept to that presumptive constraint for some four hundred years. Beginning with intuitive notions of: spatial location, ordered moments in time, and various perceptions of force, we have conceived, elaborated and refined physical instruments, conceptual tools, and our understanding of portions of Nature.

During this period we have increasingly regarded as forbidden[8] the thought that there might actually be active intelligent agents hidden in, under, or behind[9] the phenomena of Nature[10]. We have become familiar with a few of the friendly lanes in our parametric neighbourhood. Science itself, however, has in its foundations the premise that all other paths, wherever they may lead, whatever they may contain, are not to be explored. (Some scientists have been known to say no other paths exist.) This premise, that Nature is at root disanimate, is not science, is not a scientific view. It is, literally, pre-scientific.

In hindsight it is plausible to suppose that such agents, whether called nature spirits or archangels[11], were conceptually set aside for two[12] interrelated reasons, associated with superstition and testability. There had accumulated over many centuries, continents and cultures a great mass of disordered speculation, of superstitious belief[13] concerning the operations of Nature and the notion of causality[14]. As reference to angels was treated as out-of-bounds for explanatory purposes, this great mass of traditional folklore, untested, unverified, perhaps unverifiable, but increasingly seen as irrational, was excluded, allowed to lapse, set aside[15]. There was a problem with Superstition[16].

More importantly, how was one to make predictions[17], test propositions or reach reliable conclusions, if there existed unobservable minds of some grade of intelligence and perhaps a degree of free and possibly ill will hidden in natural phenomena? As we came to reject the seemingly untestable[18] we came to reject statements about disembodied spirits.

In the beginning of our scientific era angels et al[19], were only gently set aside. Now, three to four hundred years later, we have forgotten that Copernicus, Brahe, Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, Harvey, Mersenne, Hobbes, Descartes, Boyle, Locke, Hooke, Leibniz and Newton[20] (and many others[21]) found no need to cease believing in angels[22], but only a pragmatic need to stop using them as explanations[23] for natural phenomena. The effort of maintaining this fine distinction has been too much for many of us who have gone from mechanistic theism to materialistic atheism; from not using them for explanatory purposes to believing they don't exist. This is, generally, an unexamined belief[24]. They are only supposed or thought, not known, to be fictitious, mythological. Whether they exist or not is a problem that few scientists have addressed.

Although the presentation of evidence for the existence[25] of angels may be premature[26] at this stage, with the appropriate and inevitable refinements[27], the concept of active intelligent agents in (or as) natural phenomena will be found to have significant theoretical utility. Perhaps it is no longer appropriate that we continue to regard this topic as forbidden, meaningless, without potential merit, too difficult or undecidable.

It was the dream of Copernicus that one could uncover “a scheme for the movements of the machinery of the world”. Bacon wrote that “The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, the secret motions of things, the enlarging of the bounds of human empire to the effecting of all things possible ... until the mind shall arrive at a knowledge of causes in which it can rest”. Barrow wrote that the aim of the new philosophy was to “search Nature out of her concealments, and unfold her dark Mysteries”. Galileo proposed “a new science of motion”. Newton wished “to establish the true motions from their causes, effects and apparent differences”, ... to “demonstrate the frame of the System of the World”. A search for order behind the irregular facades of Nature continues to motivate many.

Some scientists today seem to be suggesting that they are finding more order in the world than they can account for within the (now fading) system of traditional disanimate scientific explanations. While natural systems may appear to be built solely from inanimate components, the degree of order or functionality contained in the components does not appear to be sufficient to account for[28] the degree of order or functionality displayed by various wholes. How can (disanimate, mechanical) systems as complex as biological organisms or ecological systems possibly exist?[29] These systems sometimes demonstrate far more resilience (creativity) than can be accounted for presently. The usual cybernetic concepts of communication and control don't appear to be sufficient. The pathways which have been found are too few, their bandwidth is inadequate, and there is no evidence of the type of messages necessary for the amount of inter/intra-process co-ordination which is required, to say nothing of traffic volumes. Something (cybernetic) is missing[30].

There are also those who, limited by the animate/disanimate taboo, yet perhaps unaware of the constraint they allow it to exert, are turning to increasingly convoluted (vibratory, recursive, chaotic, fractal) explanations for the phenomena they are encountering. (Many of these have this form: a sufficiently complex arrangement of inanimate phenomena may result in a reduction in entropy.) Here is one widespread (pseudo) explanation favoured by students[31] of “complex adaptive” or “almost conscious” systems: additional order “emerges from complexity”, out of chaos, by means of disorder, through fluctuations, assisted by noise, (invigorated by reduced funding and widespread misunderstanding?)

This is not an explanation[32]. It is an evocation of the difficulty, a sketch of the problem being mistaken for a solution, an attempt to conjure an explanation out of a description in advance of an intuition. To say that additional system-wide order[33] “emerges from complexity” is to say no more than saying that when natural systems become complex, extra functionality peeps out through the system components. One might as well say that when a mineral-microbe-mushroom-plant-insect ecosystem gets really diverse, interactive, and complex, mammals begin to poke their heads out from between the leaves, and then accept that as an explanation for the origin of mammals[34]. (If one is essentially in kindergarten, that may be an acceptable explanation.)

Science, our almost four hundred year old programme, can be seen as an exercise resting on a single supposition. While one may feel a little disoriented at the (unkind and unnecessary) thought that we have been asking the wrong question, perhaps we will not have to start from scratch. A mid-course correction may be sufficient. Intelligent agents in Nature[35] may have been under scientific observation for some time, in many disciplines, under many names, without our being aware of the true nature of what was being observed. Entire collections of observational data may be relevant[36], although some (habitual disanimist) working methods may need rethinking.

We have reached a point in the development of scientific practice[37] where the taboo of long-standing against supposing that there might be intelligent agents “behind” the phenomena of Nature is nearing the natural end of its usefulness. (It was useful for a time.) We are well into a zone of diminishing returns[38] and headed for a region where it will be increasingly counter-productive for this taboo to be unconsciously retained.

Once unable, with our young, undeveloped minds, to examine Nature objectively, impersonally, without hypothesizing that there were no minds in natural phenomena, no minds in physical, chemical, biological or ecological systems, we have arrived some four centuries later at a point where what was felt at the time to be a necessary initial condition, a developmental requisite[39] for the very possibility of scientific work, has hardened into a denial, a “suppressed and suppressing premise”, the handling of which in some instances tests positive for dogmatism (often inflated, masked and presenting as a smooth cool schooled, foolproof skepticism). Let[40] us in appreciation set this dogma gently aside. Let the adventurous freely conjecture that there may be minds in (or as) the physical structures of Nature. Let the serious go on to test[41] this.

Twenty (+) Objections Considered

1.  the thoughtful technician

A strong objection, the question that seems to raise serious technical difficulties for the view that Nature may be “of minds inhabited, of minds constructed”:

“Where is the hardware? There isn't evidence of a plausible (requisite) biophysical substrate to support minds in ‘inanimate’ natural phenomena, neither in earth, air, fire, or water, nor in the quantum vacuum, or zero-point field”.[42]

Indeed. There doesn't seem to be any plausible candidate. We commonly recognize two possible substrates for “mind”: carbon/protein (C,N,O,P,S) assemblages (“neurons”) in living organisms, and silicon (Si) logic gates in electronic devices. These two do not appear to touch the problem of a “substrate” in Nature for active intelligent agents. (It would, presumably, have to be something underlying, ontologically anterior to the 92 chemical elements.) The consideration of this objection may reward the persistent[43].

2.  the occasionally fearful

“We risk calling[44] back upon ourselves that great mass of superstition and so great a variety of ‘hysterical emotions’ which we put behind us some four hundred years ago. There might be some risk of a ‘collapse into prescientific modes of thought’. Our standards of rigour, our refined fundamental concepts, our control of Nature, science as-we-know-it would be under threat”.[45]

It is a matter for some considered judgement as to which superstitions, active or potentially active, from whatever source, are in fact latently capable or actively productive of the most harm. There are issues here of the greatest importance for the welfare of humanity.

It is possible to dissolve harmlessly superstitious beliefs, taken either one at a time or collectively at their root, with an open hearted, clear minded, dispassionate exploration into their origins, examining relevant facts, subjective and objective. Hasn't this been an essential part of the curriculum for the last four hundred years?[46] Finally, we didn't successfully “put behind us some four hundred years ago so great a variety of hysterical emotions”. We excluded them from concern partially on the presumptive assertion that their causes were fictions. They were not studied.

3.   the tree-dwelling Darwinist

“If genuine animism were possible (or probable) it would be obvious, as the consequences, evolutionary advantages conferred through natural selection, would be evident”.

This is a relatively unevolved objection. Its core, the first eleven words, gains no advantage from a decorative twelve-word tail. Yet underneath this objection lies a fairly deep philosophical question, neither dumb nor trivial: Why isn't the possible or probable obvious?, or, in another language: Why didn't the Universe come with a menu, context sensitive help, "Esc", unlimited depth undo, a system properties browser, and perhaps an intelligent compiler which, when individuals, families, institutions, organizations and civilizations know failure, refers us back to our own source code, with a cursor quietly blinking on the offending intention? If the universe is so equipped, why isn't that obvious, or at least suspected?[47]


“If our brains had not given us a fairly reliable picture of the world as it really is, we would probably have been eliminated by natural selection in favour of a species possessing brains that did” (give such a picture).

“If telepathy and psychokinesis are possible, why are they not widespread and evident?”

“You would think, if the supernatural really plays the powerful and pervasive role in our lives so many people claim, its existence would have been obvious to all of us by now[48], as obvious as the fact that the sun lights the sky during the day”.

Or as obvious as the fact that the earth rotates about its polar axis?

The least-evolved objections, coming often perhaps from reincarnates from Amsterdam in the 1690s, are those which use the word “dualism” as if its meaning were single and obvious. For example: “Accepting dualism is giving up!” or more to the point: “Get thee behind me, Dualism!” One is sensitive to the evident frustration and pain, presumably due to the concern that a buried-as-solved problem has returned in a contagious form, but until there is an articulation of the usage by the user that shows some sign of contact with the real problem, one is unable to prepare a helpful response.

“Dualism The Perceived” is always inevitably a function of the instrumentation, the “perceptive capacity or functionality or talent”. The solution (which in modern terminology amounts to an upgrade), is in the literature (Matthew 25:15–28).
“Dualism The Cosmological Reality” is a fictitious object. As long as one doesn't distinguish the two in one's model of Actuality, there is a standing potential for a degree of confusion.

4.   the practical bureaucrat, type 1

“If we are to fit in, learn and profit, where are the new analogies, exemplars, paradigm instances, examples, precepts, types and specimens, the warrants, images, models and metaphors? They seem neither to hand nor obvious nor immanent”.[49]

Wherever they “are”, their detection and identification would seem to require, as a prerequisite, the acknowledgment and relaxation of what has been called “two Great Denials; the restriction of ordinary faculties as sympathy and intelligence to humans and to a remote Deity, and the relegation of the extra-ordinary faculties to the realms of the nonexistent or insignificant”.[50]

Relaxation may not be enough. A disciplined cessation may be necessary. (It is a matter for experiment.) Then when the student is ready, perhaps exemplars and precepts are abundant, visible when the conditions governing what can be perceived (and described) in nature, change[51].

5.  the taxonomist

“The laboratory practice of science is not concerned with ideas that, a priori, cannot be experimentally confirmed”.[52]

While there exist incoherent and foolish ideas, it is doubtful that there exists any working scientific method / instrument / algorithm / goddess of the “A Priori” that is able to distinguish broadly what can be experimentally tested and what cannot. To be successful, such would have to incorporate a comprehensive list of possible tests. No such list is presently in the possession of the scientific community. A claim that such a method exists might interest those who have produced results on Turing's “Halting Problem”.

6.  the thin-lipped explainer

“Ockham's Principle of Parsimony[53] says Chance is a simpler explanation than Intelligence for any natural phenomena, including the origins of the Universe, Life, Mind, and Consciousness”.

One's reply to this objection must partially depend upon the objector. If the objection expresses the feeling of being unable to cope with the richness, perceived as complexity, of multiple minds and wills behind natural phenomena, one grants its personal appropriateness. In such a situation its content is little more than “Hey, please stop. I can't cope with as many variables as I'm imagining there are in Nature. I'd really rather pretend that the only relevant wills are human, something I am already having sufficient difficulties with, thank you”. While the objection has therefore psychological and humanitarian relevance as a plea against cognitive, or emotive, overload, its reliability otherwise as a methodological principle cannot be assumed[54].

Should the objector claim no feeling of cognitive distress but instead express an aesthetic or logical distaste, then several points seem worthy of note:

that Ockham himself used his Principle of Parsimony to dispense with: “relations, which he held to be nothing distinct from their foundations in things; with efficient causality, which he tended to view merely as regular succession; with motion, which is merely the reappearance of a thing in a different place; with psychological powers distinct for each mode of sense; and with the presence of ideas in the mind of the Creator, which are merely the creatures themselves”.[49b]

that Ockham, as doesn't seem to have been widely recalled, found no need to use the Principle of Parsimony to dispense with angels: “For a multiplicity of Divine agents does not involve any incongruity or impossibility”.

Ockham's Principle is widely used as a Standard Issue Animist Swatter; when the annoying buzz of a pro-animist idea or assertion is detected one swats it with the Ockham Swatter. This step is thought to be superior to thinking about the question. Can one safely presume that Chance is a better explanation than Intelligence as an explanation for the common usage of the Ockham Swatter?

One wonders how in the context of Ockham's Principle one ought to define the concept of “Natural”?

7.   the angelicly challenged

“What Literature?”

If one took the question seriously, with less ‘attitude’, one would be more likely to find it.

“It's probably anecdotal, vague[55], unreliable, spurious, incoherent, unintelligible, uncorroborated assertions, fantasies, untested, porous, sparse, diffuse, vacuous, logically inconsistent, largely false. The signal-to-noise ratio is probably appalling”.

Yes, it is often appalling: degenerate, deteriorated, corrupt, deformed, petrified, confused, a caricature, with little remaining operational articulation; coarse grained and getting coarser with each unthinking cynical or gushing repetition. If its existence upsets you, perhaps you also find upsetting the existence, at the earth's surface, of large bodies of metallic oxides and sulphides (ores is what economic geologists call them) ? However, as with ore bodies, the s/n isn't zero. To imagine that it is zero is to start with a self-imposed handicap; for it can readily be partitioned into signal-rich and signal-poor sets, with a little practice.

“But you wouldn't call it hypothesis-testing literature, would you?”

No, one wouldn't. Nor would one stand on a great undeveloped mineral deposit of silicon, selenium, iron, nickel, copper, titanium, cobalt and chromium and say “Look at all the sensitive laboratory equipment and delicate surgical instruments in the ground just waiting to be picked up!” Nor would one readily call Bacon, Blake, Boehme or Bruno's works hypothesis-testing literature. Everything that has ever been written is just ore; without the mind's fire it remains no more useful than rubble. (Don't undergraduate T-shirts say “Text is Ore” (philosophy student) and “Ore is Text”? (earth sciences student)?

8.   the disappointed enthusiast

“If science has been wrong on this issue, how could it have been so eminently successful?”


“How could science work if its methods and procedures were not about the real world, independent of mere beliefs about it?”

See Kant's “maxims of inquiry” [56]

9.   the socialite

“But how can one become actively interested in such a subject, write up proposals, receive grants, submit for publication, without risking peer respect, reputation, career, prospects, tenure ... ?”

Little hope of it. One is either seriously interested in, perhaps dedicated to, Truth or one is fodder for the social canons. If you wish a deep answer to a Question, master the material on your own. Wasn't that the original point of higher degrees?

10.  the practical bureaucrat, type 2, devotee of the principle of least action

“Thy views disturb and unsettle our slumber (... while our repose is tabooed by anxiety). The proper and accepted procedure is to do as we do, to assume their nonexistence, (spirits, angels, whatever) with the expectation that someday it will be found, by someone, that this null hypothesis is insufficient[57]. We shall be told if this happens”.

Odd; that isn't how pioneers, reformers, explorers, humanitarians, inventors, artists, prospectors, activists, statesmen or poets of the first order are known to proceed.

“We are none of the above. What action we take is primarily to guard what we have already gathered for ourselves. There does not seem to be sufficient evidence to warrant action, nor is it evident what possibilities for action would cause us the least discomfort. You have not convinced us. In any case we take the absence of evidence to be evidence bordering on near certainty of non-existence”.

One is reminded of a remark by Newton: “These are things that cannot be explained in a few words ...”

11.   the blindfolded night creeper, the epistemically undeveloped

“We have looked. There are no gaps, no niches. The interstitial spaces of Nature are fully booked”.


“If there were in nature a progressive force, an eternal urge, chemistry would find it. But it is not there”.[58]

“We don't detect angels”.

Perhaps the spectral bands they frequent are outside the present operational capability of your instruments; or if slightly within, perhaps unsuspected in the incoming signals. What wavelengths have you searched with angels in mind?
The non-scientist would have more trust in your conclusions if he could rely on the idea that you aren't filtering out relevant data as noise or re-labeling it as a mechanical effect, or as an artifact of the apparatus.

“Our multispectral anomaly thresholds are set for the best compromise between missed detections and false alarms”.

Yes, one can describe some simple detection arrangements in that manner. About other, more complex arrangements, one might choose to say that programmatic presumptions (and taboos) are significant in determining when a signal is treated as affirming an erroneous expectation or correcting a misunderstanding.

12.  the lazy historian

“We have already tried that way of looking at the world”.

No, we haven't. Animism as a hypothesis, as best as I can gather European history, wasn't tried on any significant scale, nor was it supported by any public institution. The institutionalized Christianity of the middle ages wasn't given to genuinely hypothesizing about this aspect of Nature[59a]. The question of the existence of disembodied spirits wasn't a question for pondering. Nature was animate (or disanimate) by received tradition. (The superstitions of the uneducated bothered the early Christian Church then as they bother Scientists now; Clerical Christianity did prepare many for the coming Scientific Revolution.) Whether or not Nature was animate has never within recorded history been a question that Tribe, Ruler, King, Church, State or Science has regarded as an open question for the members. There exists a taboo[59b]. (There may have been historical exceptions. If so, the author has missed them in his studies.)

13.  the keen young scientist or graduate student

“But our model says nature is inanimate, and our data shows that it is. Right?”

Not quite. The incumbent model says nature is inanimate-mechanical (the two thoughts are seldom separated, but they are separable) and our data only shows it to be mechanical (up to the relevant quantum mechanical constant). We have neither looked to see if it is animate appearing as inanimate, nor do we have any data that shows that it is (at root) inanimate. (If any scientist currently imagines that he has data that conclusively shows that Nature is ontologically inanimate, one certainly wishes him well with his studies.)

New ideas are constrained by their assumptive base. The new idea of four hundred years ago was mechanical order in nature. The assumptive base was that it was inanimate order[60]. (That Descartes wrote (Sebba 1985) of receiving this mechanical hypothesis from a “spirit” is probably taught laconically in Humanities and Theological courses, while being forgotten or actively suppressed in Engineering and Science.)

14.   “But how could it (Nature) be animate and produce mechanical effects, regular, precise, measureable, to many decimal places of space, time and intensity?”[61]

Good question. Rare question. Is this a question you want another person to answer for you?

15.   “Can you show me one? Show me one and I'll believe (in them, in you, whatever), reconsider, study, repent, throw my hands up in exasperation, take a holiday”.

If you mean, show you an apparently inorganic phenomenon in Nature, with either a will or mind at its root, there are two difficulties. Firstly, it is likely that what you mean is this: you'll believe if you can be presented with an object. Yet we may be talking about subjects[62], and (secondly) they may not (choose to) be subjects to you.

16.   “But you offer no proof. At no point in either your thesis or in the following 67 chapters do you provide a specific reference to nontrivial experimental facts”.

Iwis, alas, indeed[1.53 Proof] Otherwise, what is known about spontaneous reduction in entropy?

Every body continues in its state (of rest or of uniform motion) unless compelled (or motivated by information) to change that state. {Newton}

Change of motion is proportional to the applied force, (but not proportional to the impressed information.) {Newton}

All nontrivial theories are underdetermined[63] by data.

All nontrivial evidence is a matter of "DIY". There is no such thing as a “pioneer sheep”.

Mark, I feel it in my Water!

Rutherford qby Oliphant

17.   “A significant proportion of the theoretical results and the practical outcomes of science are essentially insensitive to the choice of assumption re animate/inanimate matter. One is tempted to think a switch to an animate matter assumption would make little difference to the science on which the engineering disciplines, for example, are based”.

That is an interesting thought, and a testable one.

18.   “Why wings?”

The iconography of the disembodied is not simple. While portrayed in European art as winged, other “markers” can be found in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Far Eastern and aboriginal religious iconography. As students of captionless cartoons know, there is some possibility for amusement in the likelihood that a given angelic representation, from any tradition, may in fact have been rendered from a description; between the artist and the object stands an encoding. This textual detour, while it may be humorous, is thought to be of little scientific value. There are mixed cases where a final graphic is composed of some observational elements and one or more textual detours. Iconization may be in the eye of the beholder; more precisely, may be a function of the preconceptions (ideas) through which the “objects” are viewed.

There are iconographic traditions from non-western cultures in which angels are represented as having other distinguishing features than wings. In the cases that the writer knows of, most such graphic elements represent “stream flow”: “maqor chay mayim” (Jeremiah 2:13 - “fountain of living waters”) is no mere poetic fiction.) Given the assignment – with some powdered mineral pigments, a botanic resin, an appropriate solvent and a brush – to represent on a cloth surface torrents of streaming, likely multi-coloured “force”, and limited perhaps more often than not to secondary source material (to a text or a visionary's sketch) rather than a vision of one's own, it is understandable that many artists have chosen to draw ”wings“ as an indirect symbolization, and “scarves” or “ribbons” or “floating belts of light” as a less indirect representation, and “flames”*, to name the five most common.
(* Descartes: 5th Objection to the Third meditation: “But when I think of an angel, what comes to mind is an image, now of a flame, now of a beautiful child with wings”.) (see Closing Note .2. in the Glossary)

19.   “Under a rational epistemology, conservatism with regard to established theory is highly desirable. Even replicable data that fail to fit established theory do not and should not call for theoretical modifications”.

Newton's Sleep[51.56] and Cultural Relativism do not exhaust reality. Take your time,

20.   “It seems appropriate that scientists refuse to acknowledge a field of potential research if it is thought that entry into such a field would be almost inevitably misunderstood, regarded as tampering with the sacred, opposed by ones colleagues, or likely to lead to public disquiet, social confusion, or civil disorder”.

No one wishes inadvertently to elicit either injury or laughter.

21.  the n dimensional omnivorist pausing between feeds to survey his n+1 dimensional estate from his high-chair

“If there were an approach, a method of thinking or discovery superior to that now in use by Science, my fellow High-Chaired associates, Science would incorporate it.”

(His mother was looking for his copy of The Mosquito who tried to Drink the Ocean Dry when she noticed he had fallen asleep. Perhaps tomorrow would be a happier day for him.)


A Cyclic History of Man's view of Nature

1 vaguely thoughtful It appears inanimate, given our senses.
2 17th-C sea change Let's assume it is inanimate, and see whether it has laws.
3 pride, forgetfulness It is inanimate and here are its most important laws.
4 taboo, institutionalization, bureaucracy It is forbidden to think that it isn't inanimate.
5 Not so much rigorous as rigor mortis. All our predictive success (our gains, profits, accomplishments, certainty, ability, self-satisfaction) would be lost if we ceased to pretend that Nature is inanimate.
1' vaguely thoughtful, heretical Maybe it isn't inanimate?
2' 21st-C sea change Let's assume it's animate, and see whether it has laws.
3' pride It is animate, ... etc.
4' predictably It is forbidden ... etc.

An ancient anecdote

The very ancient anecdote about an inebriate searching under a street lamp[64] for dropped keys, although he dropped them elsewhere, because this street lamp supplies the only (or the best) light, is being rightly and increasingly applied to the practices of scientists.

For some four hundred years it has seemed to many of us that within the circle of yellow light under the street lamp of the assumption that matter is lifeless and mindless was first an appropriate and subsequently the only place to search for our 7777lost keys to the universe.
Now there are those among us who say:

  1. there are no other street lamps, or
  2. this is the best of all possible street lamps, or
  3. this no-mind no-life assumption is the light of choice, of custom, of best practice, of the scientific tradition, or
  4. all the people I admire are on their hands and knees under this light, or
  5. the people that pay my salary only pay for work done under this light.
  6. Even should this light go out, this is where my friends are. You want that I should go off into the dark by myself?

No, the author is not suggesting that you try something that is beyond your native abilities. Nor, in spite of appearances to the contrary, is one suggesting that there is another street light somewhat closer to where the keys were dropped, which may prove, if tried, more reliable in the long run than this one has proved over four hundred years. There is little need for an artificial source of illumination when:

  1. one remembers just where one dropped the keys,
  2. the day dawns.

One may have been up all night but one has had an opportunity to learn something.

It is odd that scientists should have in their foundations any unconscious assumptions. As assumptions can and do routinely cascade into practices, methods, choices of instrumentation and calibration techniques, and the interpretation of data, unconscious assumptions seem particularly problematical. Yet their presence at the root of science is evident from a study of the history of the 16th and 17th-C origins of the Scientific Revolution. Scientists seem less than fully conscious of the origin and function (not to mention the consequences) of this mindless, lifeless, disanimate assumption at the root of their chosen discipline. Modern science may have other problems but this one seems foundational.

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META NAME="KEYWORDS from the complete work" CONTENT=" Beauregard Einstein Bohm Leibniz Pauli Bohr Bacon Boyle Emerson Wheeler Kuhn Kepler Schrödinger Cohen Hartshorne Holton Jaynes Newton James Polanyi Shakespeare Whitehead Aquinas Besant Darwin Descartes Peirce Poincaré Shimony Sperry Aristotle Bennett Bergson Bruno Bunge Glanvill Griffin Gödel Heisenberg Rosen Smith Weyl Wicken Burgers Crombie Harman Holland Hoyle Kant Langton Margulis Peebles Planck Ravetz Sennert Sheldrake Sober Steiner Stewart Whiteman Anderson Birch Feyerabend Green Hanson Harvey Jahn Jeans Jones Maxwell McGuire Mersenne Midgley More Neumann Oldershaw Pattee Popper Ross Slater Spinoza Taylor Trevor-Roper Wesson Yates Zilsel Adams Agassi Alexander Allen Appelquist Benacerraf Blavatsky Boehme Boyd Bridgman Brillouin Butts Campanella Campbell Casaubon Clark Clifford Cochran Collins Cremmer Davies DeWitt Deutsch Donne Eigen Ellis Evans Feigl Galilei Gregory Hempel Jordan Josephson Kerr Langmuir Leadbeater Leclerc Lewin Lewis Locke Maes Miller Moore Nagel Patrides Plato Plutarch Porphyry Prigogine Rothstein Royce Schilpp Spiller Stapp Szilard Turing Vickers Weber Weinberg Weiszäcker Westfall White Jr Wigner Wilber Williams Wilson Yockey Ziman Zurek Agazzi Agrippa Apuleius Augustine Ayala Barbour Barfield Barnes Barut Baxter Ben-Dov Blake Broad Brush Burks Cantor Capek Cardano Casti Chargaff Cicero Clarke Colodny Croll Cusanus Davis Debus Dee Denbigh Dionysius Dirac Drake Dresden Duhem Dyson Eddington Epicurus Faraday Fernel Feynman Fontenelle Fox Fraser Freund Frye Garrett Gassendi Ghirardi Gonda Goodwin Gray Greenberger Gross Groves Hall Hanen Harnad Heidegger Hobbes Hooke Husserl Hutchison Jammer Jantsch Jefferys Jung Kafatos Kierkegaard Kitchener Klein Klir Kockelmans Koestler Koyré Kurtz Lahti Lamb Landauer Laudan Laurikainen Leach Leff Lenzen Libet Lovejoy Lovelock Lucretius Maddox Malpighi Margolis Marshall Mayr McMorris McMullin Mead Meehl Mehra Merton Milton Mishra Mobius Montaigne Nicolis Nowotny Oresme Parmenides Peacocke Pearson Penrose Pepper Peters Pietschmann Polya Pomponazzi Proclus Psellos Pugh Putnam Reid Rensch Rescher Russell Salam Sarton Schmidt Schweber Sealts Shearman Simpson Smart Spencer Sprigge Squires Stenger Stout Strong Takahashi Temple Thomson Toulmin Walker Weiss West Westman Whicher Whitman Wisdom Witten Wittgenstein Wolfson Woodhouse Woolf Wright Young Aharonov Albert Alfvén Appleyard Averroes Avicenna Barrow Bechler Bekker Boltzmann Bosanquet Boscovich Brahe Cassirer Cazenave Cesalpinus Chalmers Charleton Chew Coleridge Compton Corliss Crookes Cudworth Dallaporta Dante Demers Democritus Diogenes Eccles Edelman Eliade Farrington Feferman Ficino Fludd Fresnel Gamow Gell-Mann Gopi Krishna Hadamard Hamming Hartle Hawking Hayek Heraclitus Hesse Hestenes Hippocrates Hodgson Hodson Horace Kaluza Krishnamurti Kühlewind Leucippus Levi-Strauss Maimonides Minsky Monod Naess Ockham Origen Philo Pico Pliny Plotinus Ptolemy Rucker Rutherford Scaliger Schopenhauer Shah Sherrington Silk Simplicius Smuts Spedding Sprat Tacitus Thoreau Thorndike Tipler Tritheim Virgil Voltaire d'Espagnat Fraassen"

With Angels in Mind
Table of Contents
# Title, keywords
[Aia] Active Intelligent Agents in Nature, the thesis (this document)
[-1] angels (for that is one of the labels we used)
the shallow end of the pool of historical context
[0] (not a) review of the literature
[1] we experience an end to a historical period
[2] the topic may hold some relevance, evidence of the waning of a taboo, missing builders, decay, error, fraud, hoaxes
[3] as if an agreement (Dance) was entered into
Some Seemingly Unproblematic Phrasings
[4] during the course of the 17th-C (for some Europeans)
New Paradances
[5] the primitive notions, the undefined terms, the fundamental concepts
Ontological Axiomatics, Iron Posts and Papier Mâché, Avoidance
[6] in our investigations of Nature. (What was Nature: World Machine or Whirled Mind?)
[7] the time honoured explanations of antiquity were to be discarded, The Scientific Revolution
[8] we have increasingly regarded as forbidden the thought that there might be active intelligent agents, God's Dice
[9] hidden in, under, or behind (a linguistic problem)
Quantum Mechanics, Panpsychism
[10] (fear and repression of some of) the phenomena of Nature (natural, anomalous, unnatural, atypical, ordinary)
[11] whether called nature spirits or archangels (the terms are generic) Demons and Illness Ref To 19 A) 2.B.
[12] were conceptually set aside for two interrelated reasons
(there were other reasons: fear, sanctity, respect)
[13] a great mass of disordered speculation, of superstitious belief (More of [-1] and [00]
[14] concerning the operations of Nature and the notion of causality, 2nd Law Of Thermodynamics and Teleology
[15] was set aside
Islands of truth, waves of superstition, Unconscious
[16] There was a problem with Superstition (There has always been a problem) Witches
[17] how was one to make predictions, test propositions (given hidden wills)? Order or Disorder
[18] As we came to reject the seemingly untestable
The Existence of the Supernatural and Testability
[19] angels et al
Lists of, Numbers of, Iconography of (Ca)
[20] Bacon Boehme Boyle Brahe Bruno Conway Copernicus Descartes Galileo Gassendi Gilbert Harvey Hobbes Hooke Kepler Leibniz Locke Mersenne Newton Spinoza
[21] and many others, from 1450 - 1750
[22] found no need to cease believing in angels (precursors to Kepler) Conventional Believing
[23] but only a pragmatic need to stop using them as explanations (never 100%) Tooth Fairy, Sprite, Maxwell's Demon
[24] This is, generally, an unexamined belief
Problems of Assumptions
[25] the existence of angels (and the term "occult") (the Gods exist, but they are not understood) Occult Objects
[26] the presentation of evidence ... may be premature at this stage, Danger
[27] with the appropriate and inevitable refinements
[28] does not appear to be sufficient to account for "co-operative phenomena in physics" (Margenau refers to examples in optics and electricity)
[29] How can systems as complex as biological organisms ... possibly exist? De-wondering
[30] Something (cybernetic) is missing. constructive empiricism: heuristic, operational, pragmatic)
What Is Waving? sqrt-1, Higher Dimensions: Kaluza-Klein
[31] explanation(s) favoured by students of "practically conscious systems", Euphemisms, Gaps, Self-organization, Solar System Stability
[32] (Chaos) is not an explanation. It is an evocation of the difficulty, the 2nd law and emergence
[33] To say that additional system wide order "emerges from complexity", uncertain, unknown
[34] (no) explanation for the origin of mammals, Lucretius Feigl Darwin Bergson Spontaneous Emergence of Order
[35] Intelligent Agents ... may have been under scientific observation for some time, Object Oriented
[36] Entire collections of observational data may be relevant
Ontology, Forces
[37] We have reached a point in the development of scientific practice, reverse engineer
[38] We are well into a zone of diminishing returns
“Universe”? The Sea of Superstitions and Breakdown
[39] a developmental requisite for the very possibility of scientific work, scaffolding
[40] Let us in appreciation set this dogma gently aside
first principles, pioneers, hermeneuts
[41] Let the serious go on to test this
[42] neither in earth, air, fire, or water, nor in quantum vacuum or massless ZPF
[43] may reward the persistent. (and the able) (ZPF with mass), concept of mass, gravity drenched words
[44] We risk calling back upon ourselves that great mass of superstition, illusions of choice
[45] science as-we-know-it would be under threat
Ecological Paranoia and Prejudice, Fears
[46] an essential part of the curriculum for the last four hundred years? our detour through matter
[47] why isn't that obvious, or at least suspected?
[48] would have been obvious to all of us by now
(eleven of Stenger's Propositions) Sceptics
[49] They seem neither to hand nor obvious nor immanent.
[50] two Great Denials
Quantum Mechanics and Volition, Twin-slit Experiment
[51] visible when the conditions governing what can be perceived (and described) in nature change, intuition, instrumentation
[52] ideas that, a priori, cannot be experimentally confirmed
in principle, apriori, outside physics
[53] Ockham's Principle of Parsimony
[54] its reliability as a methodological principle cannot be assumed
filtering algorithms; noise, tools and data thrown away
[55] What Literature? It's probably anecdotal, vague, ... incoherent ...
Handcrafting Drivers for anomalous Inputs
[56] How could science work if its methods and procedures were ... Why any success, if science is wrong?
[57] someday it will be found, by someone, that this null hypothesis is insufficient
Stories of the interference of unseen agents
[58] But it is not there.
[59] Animism as a hypothesis wasn't tried. There exists a taboo
the unit "pole", hunter-gatherer, whence ideas?
[60] (inanimate order confused with mechanical order)
[61] to many decimal places of space, time and intensity?; the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places.
[62] we may be talking about subjects
Wilson Searle Harnad Steiner Coleridge Bacon Charleton James Clifford Pascal
[63] All nontrivial theories are underdetermined by data
Induction explained at length by Bacon, and misunderstood by most of his readers
[64] Modern Science, a semi-conscious collective attempt; Channeling
[65] Bacon nowhere gives a systematic exposition of his theory of spirits; Farrington
[66] Notes written after reading Sagan 1996
[CdB] the work of Costa de Beauregard, from 1964-1996
advanced waves initiation and psychokinesis
[Glo] [Aigi-Coat] a long specialized glossary from the literature of science and classical mythology.
[Kep] Johannes Kepler gave a rich set of reasons in 1609 as he ruled out Intelligent Movers of the planets
[Leibniz] 2 translations of The Dream of Leibniz
[Obs] Observation, Measurement, (Un) Consciousness and Occultism
John Archibald Wheeler anticipated by Nicholas Cusanus in 1450
[Ref] Cited References and Bibliography

to the Table of Contents - Links for this File March 22, 2001


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