Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dr. Alexander and the Afterlife No. 5

Goedel's proof, the deterministic paradox, human
thought forming a higher energy level operating in tandem
with the electrochemical system of the brain

TOPICS:  Eben Alexander - heaven - afterlife - life after death - Dr. Alexander near death experience - cortex - neocortex - Goedel's proof - the deterministic paradox - human consciousness forming a wavelike energy system

Goedel's proof and the Deterministic Paradox

Kurt Goedel (1906-1978), an Austrian who obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Vienna, was one of the most talented mathematicians of the twentieth century. His two incompleteness theorems were published in 1931, when he was only 25 years old. At the beginning of the Second World War era, he came to the United States, where he and Einstein both held positions at the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and became close friends.

Now for a variety of reasons -- some of them actually laid out quite early in the development of modern science by the philosopher Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) -- there is no way that science can give a complete and comprehensive account of the reasons and causes of all things. The idea that it could be done is an illusion, but as Kant showed, scientists have no choice but to strive as though it were in fact possible to explain everything.

But Goedel's proof showed that in any sufficiently complex mathematical and logical system, forcing the system to ask a self-reflective question about itself would produce a situation in which two different equally logical answers could be given, without the system being able to specify which one was true. Both were true, even though mutually contradictory.

This means that in any elaborate scientific explanation about why thus-and-so absolutely had to happen as a result of such-and-such, we can always ask the question: "Then why couldn't we do so-and-so instead, which would produce a very different result?" And suppose we then ask, "Is there anything in our explanation of the "necessary" course of events which tells us that we absolutely have to do such-and-such instead of so-and-so? Why can't we just change what we do in such a way as to produce a different result?" Goedel's proof will tell us that our scientific analysis allows us, at least in theory, to do either thing.

So striving toward the illusory ideal goal of being able to give scientific causes for all events creates what I call the Deterministic Paradox, which is that every time we discover how certain natural events are caused, this immediately gives us at least the potential of being able to change those results. The discovery, for example, made in 1881 that it was mosquitoes which carried yellow fever, allowed U.S. government doctors to employ a variety of mosquito control techniques while the Panama Canal was being dug, so as to massively reduce the number of deaths from that disease.

Immaterial human thoughts and ideas change the course of physical events at the macro level by allowing us to think creatively about new ways of doing things, utilizing one of the paradoxical aspects of Goedel's proof.

Human thoughts shaping and changing
the shifting patterns in our brains

Our thoughts and ideas are able to change the course of physical events at the micro level -- at the level of the minute electrical charges and biochemical changes in our brain cells -- because in many situations pure ideas are in fact able to change the movements of physical objects. A space station which circles the earth in an elliptical orbit is forced to travel that path by the laws of nature, which are pure ideas -- and ideas which existed before the physical elements were created. The big difference between the laws of nature and my human ideas is that I can change my human ideas.

Human thoughts as a higher energy level

I give another possible explanation of how this could work in Chapter 15, "A Personal God: Love and Energy," in my book on God and Spirituality. Human thoughts contain a kind of higher energy -- forces of attraction and repulsion and so on -- which are different from crude physical forces like gravity and electromagnetism, but just as real. We might say that the attractive force of human love, for example, is a higher harmonic octave of the sort of physical forces which cause an apple to fall to the earth when it breaks free from its branch in the tree. And human anger is a higher harmonic octave of the sort of physical forces which cause two positively charged protons to repel each other, or cause a fire to cast forth flames and burning embers as it consumes the log in a fireplace.

If human consciousness is thought of as a kind of complex wave form, creating a fluctuating field around it (which can extend for various distances), this could explain how human thoughts could produce subtle alterations in the activity of the human brain cells.

In this kind of physical model, the energy in the human thought system resonates with the energy in the brain cells in a fashion similar to the way that a note played on one violin will cause the string of another violin, lying on a table nearby, to vibrate at the same frequency. Or there can be different kinds of energy involved in the two resonating systems: take the case of an electric guitar, for example, where the impact of the guitarist's fingers causes a mechanical wave to be set up in the steel string. This mechanical wave form oscillates in the magnetic field created by a tiny permanent magnet in the guitar's pickup, a magnet which appears as a little metal button down near the bridge of the guitar. The magnet has wire coiled around it, so the oscillating magnetic field causes an electrical current to be created in the wire, where the current oscillates at the same frequency as the mechanical wave in the sounding guitar string. The electrical current is then put through an amplifier and sent to a loudspeaker.

Other kinds of resonating systems could be given as examples of the way that two complex processes, taking place in two different media, can nevertheless be dynamically interrelated. But the point is that, although the direct physical effects produced by changes in human consciousness are very subtle, they are totally real. And if we compare one system (human consciousness) with the other system (the pattern of electrical charges and chemical changes in the brain cells), the only system which could potentially exist all by itself (after the other system was destroyed), is human consciousness, which is capable of being self-directing and self-referential.


Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (New York: Simon and Schuster, October 2012).

Douglas R. Hofstadter, Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (New York: Vintage / Random House, 1979).

Glenn F. Chesnut, God and Spirituality: Philosophical Essays, Hindsfoot Foundation Series on Spirituality and Theology (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2010), parts of which may be read online at http://hindsfoot.org/kgs1.html

In that book, see espec. Chapter 21. "Self-Transcendence," on the deterministic paradox and self-referential questions, may be read online at http://hindsfoot.org/g21selftrans.pdf

Also see Chapter 20. "Why the Future Cannot Be Totally Predicted," which may be read online at http://hindsfoot.org/g20future.pdf

Also Chapter 15. "A Personal God: Love and Energy," available online at http://hindsfoot.org/g15energy.pdf 

And Chapter 19. "The Nature of Grace," on the two planes of existence, apparent coincidence, synchronicity between two different processes, and so on. Read online at http://hindsfoot.org/g19grace.pdf 

As well as Chapter 13. "Modern Personalist Philosophies of God," espec. the material on Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. May be read online at http://hindsfoot.org/g13pers.pdf 

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