The Arts (Art)

by dhw, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 13:57 (5726 days ago)

We've spent a good deal of time discussing suffering and the horrors of evolution, which seem to support the case for an indifferent universe. I'd like, though, to redress the balance a little by focusing on another aspect of life which I find very difficult to understand. If the decisive factor in natural selection is survival, how do we account for phenomena that have absolutely no practical function and yet appear to play a crucial role in the fabric of human life? - David Turell drew our attention to the work of Pim van Lommel as well as to his own knowledge of patients who have had near-death experiences and returned with accounts of an extraordinary light, warmth, sense of peace and love, euphoria etc. Such emotions are not, of course, confined to NDEs. People experience them all the time, even without recourse to hallucinatory drugs ... through the arts, sport, nature, human relations. To set the ball rolling, I'd like to focus on music. I want to know why Beethoven's 9th, Mahler's 2nd, Sibelius's 5th etc. have such a profound effect on me. If they don't do the same for you, then substitute anything that does. Music is a universal language, and yet it has no definable meaning of its own and no discernible function. Experts may "understand" it, and it involves the mastery of many techniques, but its appeal is purely aesthetic. The great composers, writers and artists are looked up to as giants of the human species, although generally their work has no practical value, does nothing to advance or even assist evolution, and has no bearing on our survival. - Atheism presupposes that there is nothing beyond the physical world, which is why it puts its faith in science (i.e. the study of the physical world) to explain everything. But quite apart from the mystery of life's origins, there are other mysteries that seem to me to defy physical explanation. Perhaps contributors can add to the list, explain the effects, or provide an answer to one of the questions most frequently asked when writers and artists visit schools: "Where do the ideas come from?" - .

The Arts

by BBella @, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 14:31 (5726 days ago) @ dhw

Atheism presupposes that there is nothing beyond the physical world, which is why it puts its faith in science (i.e. the study of the physical world) to explain everything. But quite apart from the mystery of life's origins, there are other mysteries that seem to me to defy physical explanation. Perhaps contributors can add to the list, explain the effects, or provide an answer to one of the questions most frequently asked when writers and artists visit schools: "Where do the ideas come from?"
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For me, I find the answer in a simple explanation: sound/vibration. The universe and everything in it vibrates, and vibration gives off waves of sound. EVen colors give off sound/vibration. After my NDE or OBE, whatever one might call it, I became ultra aware of the vibration of all things. I wrote a poem in commemoration of this finding, altho I had not written a poem before, and this first poem began writing poetry, as well as drawing, painting, and/or anything that allowed me a creative expression. Altho I had been creative minded as a child (most children are), I'd never taken the time to create artistically since. I know too it was my taking the time to create (express my own vibration) that enhanced my physical as well as emotional healing. So, I would say whatever emotional level a person is vibrating at they will be drawn to those things around him that either soothe or effect them at their level of vibration, as well as be drawn to create, express, etc., within that level of vibration.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 16:36 (5726 days ago) @ BBella

After my NDE or OBE, whatever one might call it, I became ultra aware of the vibration of all things. - Ever since a dozen or so of my patients described NDE's and OOB's to me I've been fascinated by the phenomenon, and the ultra-awareness that occurs afterward. I hope that you will be willing to describe your experience to us, the actual events in the NDE.

The Arts

by BBella @, Thursday, September 04, 2008, 07:05 (5712 days ago) @ David Turell

Ever since a dozen or so of my patients described NDE&apos;s and OOB&apos;s to me I&apos;ve been fascinated by the phenomenon, and the ultra-awareness that occurs afterward. I hope that you will be willing to describe your experience to us, the actual events in the NDE.< - I&apos;m still not exactly sure what the experience could be called, but probably an OBE (Out of Body Experience). I had become very ill and was confined to bed for all of the late 90&apos;s (about 5 yrs). I was in an inflammatory state of Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis. Nothing I did medically or naturally seemed to be able to cut thru the pain to give me any relief. I decided I could take the suffering no more and began to will myself to die. I wouldn&apos;t eat or drink I told myself and I would just go into myself and find that door to death and open it and walk thru it. Simple as that! I began by imagining myself on the otherside of death and cremation. I imagined I could see my family walk to the bridge where I had asked my family to throw my ashes into the rushing river below. I imagined myself becoming one with the flowing river rushing toward the sea I had so loved to visit but hadn&apos;t been able since my pain had become so severe. I could feel the joy of the flow and felt truly happy for the first time in so long, until the waves of the sea began to push be back onto the shore. I at first felt disappointment but then watched as my ashes began to form a new body from the golden sand on the beach. My body sparkled as the sun reflected the golden sand I was made of. I was really shining brightly!!! At that very moment one of my children entered the room and brought me abruptly out of my peaceful state. - The first thing I noticed was that my body was no longer in pain! I got up and walked around effortlessly and felt like something very extraordinary had happened to me that I couldn&apos;t explain right at that moment to my daughter as I didn&apos;t really understand just what or how it happened. At that moment we both felt a miracle had happened...like one of those things you read about but find hard to believe. Eventually, after several days passed, I did begin to feel the pain start to creep back in...but, it never returned to the level of pain as it was before the OBE, or whatever it was. - Nevertheless, it dawned on me that that I had within my own mind an untapped resource which had brought hope and excitement back into my life. My passion for living was renewed as I felt a whole new world had opened up for me to explore....the unknown world within me. Before this, nothing outside me had even brought a moments relief of pain, except for sleep. Yet, within my own mind, I found what nothing else could give me...relief, hope and an endless space to explore possibilities. Also, I began to feel and experience the world around me in a totally different way. I became more sensitive to sound and almost felt as if I never really heard or felt the world around me before. My mind may have been so loud before that my senses to the world around had become numbed. As I explored my mind I felt my body slowly begin to awaken and I began to notice how everything that happened around me effected me physically as well as emotionally. Eventually I found a link between my reactive emotional state and my physical pain. - After the initial experience, I began to record my journey within thru creativity. It just seemed like the most natural path to take at the time. I&apos;ve read a lot of other people&apos;s experience since, and it does seem that many of these experiences tend to lead a person toward a more creative path. It&apos;s like a side effect or something. I also began to study to understand more of just what happened to me from a scientific and even spiritual standpoint. So far, it seems the connection between mysticism and quantum physics seems to come closest to my own experience...which is how I came across certain books that addressed these connections, like: The Holographic Universe, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and others like them. - Hope this wasn&apos;t too long and boring and sorry it took me so long to respond.

The Arts

by dhw, Thursday, September 04, 2008, 13:12 (5712 days ago) @ BBella

BBella has given us a personal account of an Out of Body Experience. - There have been many fascinating and thought-provoking contributions to the website, but this one really takes us into a new dimension. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. One of the problems when we read about such experiences is that normally there&apos;s a certain distance between reader and text, but your account is so direct (you are one of &quot;us&quot;) that it opens up all the emotional as well as intellectual avenues. You&apos;ve presented us with very special insights into a different plane of reality, and the connection you&apos;ve established between creativity, mysticism and quantum physics is one which begs for more exploration. - I&apos;d like to link it with a comment George made under the Atheism thread (21 August at 18.13): &quot;What does it mean to talk about something &apos;beyond the natural, physical world&apos;? If it is something we can sense in some way, perhaps using special hitherto undeveloped senses, then surely it must be natural or physical.&quot; None of us know where the borderlines are between the physical, the natural and what we tend to call the spiritual, but what you have described is the living proof that even within our own limits, we still have a vast area of untapped potential. - May I finish on a note of admiration. You have clearly survived the most terrible ordeal with extraordinary courage and not a trace of self-pity, and I&apos;m sure your story will be inspirational to everyone, whatever their beliefs.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Thursday, September 04, 2008, 16:44 (5711 days ago) @ BBella

I&apos;m still not exactly sure what the experience could be called, but probably an OBE (Out of Body Experience). > &#13;&#10; &#13;&#10; &#13;&#10;> So far, it seems the connection between mysticism and quantum physics seems to come closest to my own experience...which is how I came across certain books that addressed these connections, like: The Holographic Universe, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and others like them. &#13;&#10; &#13;&#10;> Hope this wasn&apos;t too long and boring and sorry it took me so long to respond. - Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experience and giving it in such rich detail. From my reading in the literature on meditation, OOB and NDE experiences, it seems to me you reached a deep meditative state. The books warn that one should have training to do this, but obviously the first meditators learned how to reach that state on their own. In OOB&apos;s generally the person leaves their body and observes events around it or &quot;flies&quot; around and observes other events nearby. One friend of mine described leaving her body in the operating room during her hysterectomy; she went to her priest to get reassurance that she had not done something wrong, and discussed it with me for reassurance also. In one famous story corroborated by a third party, the woman was having a heart attack in the ER, left her body and floated up outside the third floor of the hospital, and through a window saw a tennis sneaker on top of a high filing cabinet with one shoelace tucked under it. The tennis shoe was found a few days later, just as described. - I agree with you that the most apparent connection with mysticism is quantum physics, and it is why I believe our consciousness arises at a quantum level in the brain.

The Arts

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 15:33 (5726 days ago) @ dhw

I don&apos;t see that appreciation of art in any of its forms has anythng to do with atheism, theism or agnosticism. It is just part of human nature to appreciate visual and audible pattern and colour and variation. Being an atheist doesn&apos;t prevent me from appreciating the music of Bach, though I do find his religious cantatas a bit wearing after a while, especially if you understand the words.

The Arts

by dhw, Thursday, August 21, 2008, 09:27 (5726 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George wrote: &quot;I don&apos;t see that appreciation of art in any of its forms has anything to do with atheism, theism or agnosticism.&quot; - &quot;Being an atheist doesn&apos;t prevent me from appreciating the music of Bach.&quot; - Of course it doesn&apos;t. Being non-believers didn&apos;t stop Brahms or Berlioz from composing their masterpieces either. But I&apos;m not looking at the influence of religion/non-religion on the appreciation or production of art. I&apos;m trying to understand the provenance and impact of something that seems to defy explanation in terms of the physical, natural, evolutionary world. Art has no practical function of its own, so why is it important to us? The fact that it&apos;s &quot;just part of human nature&quot; is already known to me, but doesn&apos;t explain why certain sounds, images, shapes stimulate my emotions (and of course I also struggle to understand the origin of those emotions). Theists might claim that there is a connection with God, atheists might come up with a more earthly explanation, and as an agnostic I have put out my appeal for whatever anyone cares to offer me. - My thanks to David, Carl and BBella for their comments. BBella&apos;s posting suggests a fascinating natural explanation, and I&apos;d love to hear more!

The Arts

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Friday, August 22, 2008, 12:11 (5725 days ago) @ dhw

dhw asks: &quot;I&apos;m trying to understand the provenance and impact of something that seems to defy explanation in terms of the physical, natural, evolutionary world. Art has no practical function of its own, so why is it important to us?&quot; - I see no problem here. Art and sport enrich our life. I can easily imagine a small tribe gathered together round a fire on a dull winter&apos;s night and relieving the boredom with drumming and dancing and chanting and shadowplay and story-telling. Obviously this is a function of our having large and active brains that need to keep active. A stone-age Mozart would no doubt have been valued for his rhythm on the drums, and stone-age Picassos have left their impressions in still surviving cave-art.

The Arts

by Carl, Friday, August 22, 2008, 18:57 (5724 days ago) @ George Jelliss

In art, I am drawn to realism, which prompted an artist friend to ask &quot;Why don&apos;t we just use photographs?&quot; I originally thought that abstract art was like the Emperor&apos;s new clothes, and people just pretended to see something there. I have since accepted the fact that other people see things I can&apos;t and know things I don&apos;t. It seems I&apos;m an agnostic in art, just as I am in religion.&#13;&#10;In music, I must hear a complex piece many times before I began to enjoy it. I think I need to learn it well enough to anticipate the music. Simple tunes that are initially pleasant began to wear after a few hearings. Of course, there are exceptions in both categories.&#13;&#10;Both art and music are subjective, but that does not mean that they are arbitrary. There is a method to every school that is the cumulative product of talented artists applying the best of their creative abilities.&#13;&#10;This touches a point of interest, and that is the effect of cumulative knowledge on humans. We are the first species that we know of that can pass knowledge to future generations in any manner except through direct observation. We can experience the words of Newton or Shakespeare directly. This allows us to leverage the benefits that we already receive from evolution, and explains the exponential curve of human progress.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Friday, August 22, 2008, 20:38 (5724 days ago) @ Carl

This touches a point of interest, and that is the effect of cumulative knowledge on humans. We are the first species that we know of that can pass knowledge to future generations in any manner except through direct observation. We can experience the words of Newton or Shakespeare directly. This allows us to leverage the benefits that we already receive from evolution, and explains the exponential curve of human progress. - Another way of looking at this observation of Carl&apos;s is that we are the first species that doesn&apos;t have to work primarily at the instinctual level, and this is because of &apos;words&apos;. We have language, the ability to think with word meanings. We are &quot;The Ape That Spoke&quot;, the title of John McCrone&apos;s book, 1991, in which he discusses the development of the human mind, and his opinion that the development of language is what made our mental capacity grow as it did , just as Carl observed.

The Arts

by Carl, Saturday, August 23, 2008, 03:14 (5724 days ago) @ David Turell

David in response to my post about language,says we are the &quot;first species that doesn&apos;t have to work primarily at the instinctual level, and this is because of &apos;words&apos;.&quot;&#13;&#10;I also have in mind more concrete benefits. A mother cat must let her kitten follow her to learn. The kitten can only learn what it observes. A baby chimp must learn the cumulative knowledge of chimp&apos;s by observation. But a human can say something like the following. &quot;Sometimes it doesn&apos;t rain here for years. If that happens, follow this stream for fifty miles and it will lead to a lake and food to last until the rain returns&quot;. Thus, knowledge can be passed on from generation to generation without direct experience.

The Arts

by dhw, Monday, August 25, 2008, 08:00 (5722 days ago) @ Carl

Carl wrote, in relation to human language: &quot;Thus, knowledge can be passed on from generation to generation without direct experience.&quot; &#13;&#10;David wrote: &quot;We are the first species that doesn&apos;t have to work primarily at the instinctual level, and this is because of &apos;words&apos;.&quot; - This is a fascinating subject, to which I&apos;d like to add a few thoughts. Before the invention of writing, knowledge could only be passed on by word of mouth. That in itself brings us a lot closer to the world of other animals. Although I don&apos;t think anyone would dispute the infinitely greater complexity and range of our language systems compared to those of other species, I&apos;m not sure that the principle is any different ... though as is so often the case, there may be a problem of definition. If we confine language to words, syntax, grammar etc., then we are unique, but if we define it more broadly as a means of communication, then we&apos;re not. We all know that animals, birds and insects communicate, and studies have shown that they can pass on extraordinarily complex information. The dance of the bees is the most obvious. I recently read an article describing an experiment in which bees from different parts of the world were brought together. Their dances were different, but they quickly learned each other&apos;s &quot;language&quot; and were able to follow directions accordingly. Elephants emit a deep rumbling sound which is inaudible to human ears and can travel over distances that vary between two and thirty miles, according to different researchers. Whales &quot;sing&quot; to each other over hundreds of miles. Scientists believe these sounds contain information ... and it&apos;s hard to imagine that they would be much use if they didn&apos;t. Dr Con Slobodchikoff at Northern Arizona University has done a study of a type of prairie dog, and it appears that not only can these dogs send out extremely detailed information about approaching predators, but their calls have to be learned, i.e. passed on from one generation to the next. See http://www.grandin.com/inc/animals.in.translation.ch6.html &#13;&#10;Many years ago, I recall reading a similar study on wolves. - I&apos;m suggesting that our uniqueness lies not in language itself, which like so much of our human culture is only an extension of the animal culture from which it has evolved, but in the written word, which alone enables us to communicate directly with past and future generations. This clearly gives us a huge advantage in the fight for survival (through what Carl calls, &quot;the effect of cumulative knowledge&quot;), and so fits in perfectly with the evolutionary pattern. But I&apos;m still scratching my head over how to fit in Beethoven&apos;s 9th!

The Arts

by Carl, Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 03:31 (5720 days ago) @ dhw

Dhw says that language fits in with fight for survival, &quot; But I&apos;m still scratching my head over how to fit in Beethoven&apos;s 9th!&quot;.&#13;&#10;When I wrote the post about language, I intended to tie it into music, but I abandoned the attempt because it seemed a little forced. However.....&#13;&#10;Both language and music began as an aural ability. Music used drums and flutes and chants. Music and legends went together. Songs of Homer, tales of Native Americans and Jewish psalms were meant to be sung. I&apos;m sure the music was intended to have an emotional impact, just as it does today. Religious, martial, romantic, disco all have their target emotion. I remember, from my youth, missionary tales of African natives weeping when they first heard religious hymns and rushing to convert. &#13;&#10;When written music was developed, it had the same advantage as written words do for knowledge. Works of the masters could be passed along intact instead of being learned aurally, so we get the direct benefit of their genius. New geniuses could build on the accomplishment of the old geniuses.&#13;&#10;This music is carefully selected and cultivated and enhanced to produce the emotional effect you feel from Beethoven. If it doesn&apos;t work, it isn&apos;t passed on. It is not surprising that music would move, since it was specifically selected for that. Exactly what neural networks are being tapped and why they work is beyond my knowledge however, and that is probably the question you are asking.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Thursday, August 28, 2008, 00:20 (5719 days ago) @ Carl

Dhw says that language fits in with fight for survival, &quot; But I&apos;m still scratching my head over how to fit in Beethoven&apos;s 9th!&quot;.&#13;&#10;> This music is carefully selected and cultivated and enhanced to produce the emotional effect you feel from Beethoven. If it doesn&apos;t work, it isn&apos;t passed on. - If I may comment for dhw, I don&apos;t think he meant what Carl&apos;s answer addressed. The issue is if we evolved to produce Beethoven, how did that aid our survival and selection through evolution, if survival by natural selection, the Darwin approach would have to reason that Beethoven&apos;s talent was necessary for our survival. Is Beethoven just a fortunate offshoot of our obvious intellectual advancement, as Darwin&apos;s theory would be forced to suggest?

The Arts

by Carl, Thursday, August 28, 2008, 04:01 (5719 days ago) @ David Turell

David says of music, &quot; if survival by natural selection, the Darwin approach would have to reason that Beethoven&apos;s talent was necessary for our survival. &quot;&#13;&#10;I cannot see that evolution requires that every aspect of an organism must contribute toward natural selection, only that it not impede it. But natural selection began ceasing to apply to humans when they ceased to be hunter-gatherers, and it was not much a factor in the time of Beethoven. Modern society with its emphasis on protection of the weak and ill prevents natural selection from operating, with the partial exception of immunity from disease.&#13;&#10;We tend to forget the second part of natural selection, which is reproduction. It is at least as important as survival in passing on our genes. If one survives without reproducing, then the best one has to contribute is the genes of one&apos;s siblings. So, if the Beethoven effect improved reproduction, it improved natural selection.&#13;&#10;Language and music must have grown from the same source, animal calls. Calling is used for normal communication ,for territory marking and for mating. All of these contribute to natural selection. It would be interesting to know at what point music separated from language, but most of the primitive hunter-gatherer cultures had music in some form when they were discovered. There may have been a group bonding effect that aided natural selection. Also, some species seem to make noise just for the pure joy of it.

The Arts

by dhw, Thursday, August 28, 2008, 19:42 (5718 days ago) @ Carl

Carl wrote: &quot;Language and music must have grown from the same source, animal calls. Calling is used for normal communication, for territory marking and for mating. All of these contribute to natural selection.&quot; - David wrote: &quot;...the Darwin approach would have to reason that Beethoven&apos;s talent was necessary for our survival.&quot; - Earlier Carl wrote: &quot;Exactly what neural networks are being tapped and why they work is beyond my knowledge however, and that is probably the question you are asking.&quot; - It is indeed. The fact that music itself has evolved is clear, and if it didn&apos;t have the effect that it does, it wouldn&apos;t survive. But although it&apos;s easy to see why flight, hearing, language, eyesight etc. should convey advantages, there&apos;s no advantage to be gained from a pleasing collection of sounds. I find the mating link hard to swallow (except in the realm of musicals and opera, where the handsome [fat?] tenor woos the gorgeous [wobbly?] soprano!), but in any case that&apos;s not what I&apos;m concerned with. People don&apos;t write symphonies in order to attract a mate ... except possibly Berlioz in his pursuit of Harriet Smithson. We know that music can be used for therapeutic, religious, martial, romantic purposes etc., as you say, but the question is how can pure sound (let&apos;s forget about music with words) create such effects? - Carl says that &quot;some species seem to make noise just for the pure joy of it&quot;, which gives us an aesthetic link to other animals, but has this ever been proved? We need the input of a zoologist here. I was interested in BBella&apos;s ideas on vibration, which fit in with the extraordinary story of Evelyn Glennie, who as a deaf percussionist apparently senses the music through its vibrations. Beethoven himself went deaf, of course, and never even heard some of his greatest works except in his head. Nor for that matter did Schubert, although for different reasons. Composers, performers and listeners all link up to this extraordinary world of meaningless sound, all agree that it has a certain effect on them (albeit one that varies according to the individual), and yet no-one can explain why. Nor can they explain why ideas, forms, themes come into someone&apos;s mind. Music and the other arts satisfy our aesthetic sense; they emanate from and appeal to what we like to call the subconscious. (Automatism and to a degree Surrealism actually made art out of precisely this mystery.) But the fact that we have found linguistic terms to designate these regions of ourselves does not provide an explanation. If an idea has a practical or tangible connection, the source may be obvious, but for many artists the origin of ideas is as mysterious as the impact of their work. Michelangelo once said that the statue was already in the marble. His task was to find it. As I&apos;ve pointed out earlier, not all artists/composers are religious, and I certainly wouldn&apos;t want to read any sort of divine inspiration into the mystery. But it is a mystery, and it would be a bold man who claimed that it can all be explained in physical terms. If not physical, then what?

The Arts

by Carl, Sunday, August 31, 2008, 02:59 (5716 days ago) @ dhw

dhw says of creativity &quot;it would be a bold man who claimed that it can all be explained in physical terms&quot;. We have bumped into the mystery of mind. Materialists claim it is just complex chemistry, the religious claim it is our divine soul and some of us are satisfied just to call it a mystery.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Sunday, August 31, 2008, 05:10 (5716 days ago) @ Carl

some of us are satisfied just to call it a mystery. - It is an absolute mystery, and is best described as an emergent property of the brain. Roger Penrose, in his book, &quot;The Emperor&apos;s New mind&quot;, states that Artificial Intelligence research will never create a mind in a computer. I&apos;ll bet he is correct. I suspect our &apos;mind&apos; is a holographic quantum effect that extends beyond the simple reality of three dimensions seen upon examining a brain at autopsy. PET scans, MRI&apos;s and CAT scans may light up some functioning areas during thinking, but they cannot show &apos;thinking&apos; as it really is.

The Arts

by jwarshawsky @, Thursday, September 25, 2008, 13:32 (5691 days ago) @ dhw

I&apos;ve just been reading a text by the German artist Gerhard Richter, in which he posits that &apos;music ... creates moods because the sounds are similar to real tonal expressions of sadness [and] joy...&apos;. If true, this would explain how, for example, we &apos;know&apos; that a sad song is sad - its tonality echoes some atavistic vocalization of, say, mourning. This strikes me as both plausible and beautiful. - In dhw&apos;s posting of August 25, he writes about &apos;the written word, which alone enables us to communicate directly with past and future generations&apos;. Maybe - if conditions remain in place for listening to recorded sound (or even if parents continue to sing soothing lullabies to their children) - music, too, can be said to enable direct communication - of emotion, at least - from generation to generation. In this way, perhaps its status in human evolution can be said to run parallel with that of language.

The Arts

by dhw, Friday, September 26, 2008, 09:15 (5690 days ago) @ jwarshawsky

Jwarshawsky has offered us two interesting observations about music: 1) It &quot;creates moods because the sounds are similar to real tonal expressions of sadness [and] joy&quot; and perhaps &quot;its tonality echoes some atavistic vocalization of, say, mourning.&quot; 2) Since music can link generations, perhaps &quot;its status in human evolution can be said to run parallel with that of language.&quot; - Other animals also vocalize their emotions, and we ourselves continue to emit screams, howls, moans, squeals of horror, anguish, grief, delight etc. The difference, though, is that these are spontaneous responses to outside stimuli, as part of day-to-day living. Music is created for its own sake ... as an aestheticization of emotion ... and it&apos;s still hard to pin down what function it serves in the evolutionary pattern. Why do we aestheticize, and why is it so important to us that we do so? - You&apos;re right to query my comment about the written word being the only form of direct communication between the generations, because in fact all the arts achieve this. But the written word passes on articulate thought, experience, ideas, knowledge, all of which enable us to learn directly from past generations. Music itself evolves (the chanting monks would never have envisaged Beethoven, and I doubt if Beethoven ever envisaged Philip Glass or hip hop), but unlike language, it doesn&apos;t have any apparent relevance to our physical survival. - Richter&apos;s idea, which you have quoted, is not dissimilar to BBella&apos;s concept of vibrations. Perhaps somehow we are linked up to universal patterns of sound. - As usual, Mr Shakespeare got there before us:&#13;&#10;&quot;There&apos;s not the smallest orb which thou behold&apos;st&#13;&#10;But in his motion like an angel sings.&quot; - The speech continues: &#13;&#10;&quot;Such harmony is in immortal souls,&#13;&#10;But whilst this muddy vesture of decay&#13;&#10;Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.&quot;&#13;&#10;(M. of V. Act 5, Sc. 1) - Many thanks for reopening this thread. It&apos;s an endlessly fascinating one.

The Arts

by dhw, Monday, September 29, 2008, 18:39 (5686 days ago) @ dhw

In my post of 26 September, replying to jwarshawsky&apos;s comments on the evolution of music, I asked, &quot;Why do we aestheticize, and why is it so important to us that we do so?&quot; Here are a few more thoughts on the subject. - The British mountaineer George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, and his immortal response was: &quot;Because it&apos;s there.&quot; This seems to be a common human trait. We are driven to explore anything and everything, existent and non-existent. We go down holes in the earth, we climb up bumps, we scan outer space, we probe our own minds. And since we have a sense of hearing, we also try out different sounds, and we devise new ways of making sounds, and we experiment with rhythms just to see what we can do. This doesn&apos;t explain why we like some sounds and not others, but perhaps it sheds a little light on why something irrelevant to physical survival nevertheless takes on an evolutionary pattern of its own. We explore the potential &quot;because it&apos;s there&quot;, and if we get pleasure out of it, we persist. - There is a kind of parallel in sport. Of all human activities this has to be one of the most popular, one of the most transient, and one of the least meaningful in terms of relevance to survival. I&apos;m not referring to the importance of physical fitness or to the original need to train the body, e.g. for hunting, but to the procedures and aims of the games we now indulge in for their own sake. Complicated rules are devised (Tom Smith&apos;s guide to the laws of cricket fills a book of 336 pages), and riots, even deaths occur when for instance a ball is kicked into a net. Or someone hits a tiny ball into a tiny hole with a club, and earns more for doing so than a surgeon earns for a year&apos;s lifesaving work. The arts, sport and entertainment have no apparent link to the actual fight for survival ... in fact, we even aestheticize that fight through novels, plays, films etc. ... but they provide a source of pleasure, even in societies where the struggle is far more direct and painful than our own. The pleasure explains the survival and development ... we cling to and enhance things we enjoy ... but where did such &quot;pleasure&quot;, &quot;enjoyment&quot; spring from in the first place? The same question has to be asked about all emotions and about consciousness itself. How does matter develop these attributes? - A camera and a TV set are both a mass of different materials, and through these materials comes the picture. But the materials have first to be put together and then sparked into operation, and the scene has first to exist before it can appear on the screen. I know that I am a mass of different materials, but do those materials actually create the scene of my emotions, consciousness etc., or are they just a medium?

The Arts

by Mark @, Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 21:40 (5685 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I know that I am a mass of different materials, but do those materials actually create the scene of my emotions, consciousness etc., or are they just a medium? - This is an interesting thread because dhw, by focusing on the arts, and above on the wider issue of consciousness, has exposed one of science&apos;s weakest areas. I have scanned through the thread, and it seems to get nowhere. - George says: &quot;I don&apos;t see that appreciation of art in any of its forms has anythng to do with atheism, theism or agnosticism. It is just part of human nature to appreciate visual and audible pattern and colour and variation.&quot; - Well, if the arts are just about appreciating sensations then it certainly does seem odd that we grant them such significance. I don&apos;t see how it is possible to give any account of the arts without speaking of transcendence: the human spirit reaching for something beyond, searching for meaning. I&apos;m not saying that art is or should be necessarily religious, but that the artistic impulse and the sense of the divine are linked. Is it not the case that much art signifies that there is truth which is transcendent and cannot be contained in propositions? I question whether science could ever explain art. As G K Chesterton said &quot;The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.&quot; - Consciousness presents an even bigger problem to science. No scientist has the first clue how to explain consciousness from the bottom up, from physics. I don&apos;t just mean that there are no verified theories. There are no theories, i.e. no-one has an explanation which makes it seem at all possible to get from science to pain, beauty, morals, intentions etc. Now if I as a Christian try to make something of this by way of an argument for God I may in reply be reminded of all the other areas which science has explained in the past which people once needed God for. That is always a fair point, but this does seem different. Some atheists think that mind is irreducible, which leaves things rather untidy, having two types of explanation. God fits best with Occam&apos;s razor, for then the personal and material explanations are held in one.

The Arts

by Carl, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 02:42 (5685 days ago) @ Mark

Mark says dhw, &quot;by focusing on the arts, and on the wider issue of consciousness, has exposed one of science&apos;s weakest areas.&quot; &quot;I don&apos;t see how it is possible to give any account of the arts without speaking of transcendence: the human spirit reaching for something beyond...&quot; &quot;...the artistic impulse and the sense of the divine are linked.&quot; &quot;Consciousness presents an even bigger problem to science. No scientist has the first clue how to explain consciousness from the bottom up, from physics.&quot;&#13;&#10;Consciousness is the great mystery that may never be solved by science. Mark is right that science has no real prospects for explanation at this time. Rational atheists must acknowledge they have nothing more than a belief that, if an explanation is found, it will be a natural one. Dhw is discussing how sensory experience triggers emotion in the consciousness. To say that the process is just activation of neural networks does not explain it. I have the experience of what I call the &quot;unity of thought&quot;, the sense that all my consciousness is projected on a single screen. I also have sub-conscious process that are allowing me to walk or drive, that monitor my physical status for pain, hunger etc. that will interrupt whats playing on the main screen if attention is needed. Not everyone experiences the sense of the divine like Mark or the aesthetics of the arts like dhw, but these experiences are real. It is true they are produced by neural networks, but there is also a strong sense that there is something more.&#13;&#10;One small point of hope for naturalists is the parallels between the mind and computers. One codes a program which is converted into a string of ones and zeros represented by presence or absence of electrons. This string of electrons is routed to a block of silicone and exotic metals which generates more strings of electrons that are fed to other devices, and ultimately is displayed of a video screen or printer or something. The display is interpreted as house plans or news or a video game. The network is nothing but wires and silicone, but intelligent information is produced. There are many differences between computers and brains, but in both cases intelligence is produced by simple components. I will save David the trouble of pointing out that there is intelligence behind the computer program.&#13;&#10;The intelligence produced by the computer and the brain is emergent, relatively simple structures producing complex results. Much of what we think of as created, such as galaxies, solar systems, planets and life is really emergent rather than created. Perhaps God is emergent.

The Arts

by BBella @, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 07:16 (5685 days ago) @ Carl
edited by unknown, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 07:26

<Perhaps God is emergent.> - It seems to me that God could be considered the most basic commonality in all that is; change. The movement or the emergent, as Carl says above seems to fit. Without movement nothing is...right? So, you could replace movement, or change, or spirit (hebrew: breath)with the word God and still be on an even playing field. Isn&apos;t it all in what you choose to call it? Obviously, whatever you call it...IT IS. We are. And whatever IS is constantly changing...so who can grasp it? It would be like trying to grasp the wind. - dhw wrote: Richter&apos;s idea.... is not dissimilar to BBella&apos;s concept of vibrations. Perhaps somehow we are linked up to universal patterns of sound. - Possibly, this movement that IS, vibrates with sound which carries information as it changes. All the while, within change, different aspects of being emerges, as well as the appreciation of the different aspects of being within itself. The very force of movement drives ALL to be what IS within the constant change? The ability to behold (the eye to see) the change or movement within all that is, is to behold God (some might say). God recognizing itself as it beholds the change. We might question what &quot;began&quot; the first movement...why is it not possible there was no beginning movement, but that movement always was and IS and will always be. This what we have observed so far..right? This is what is spoken of in the Christian Bible as God. That which is without beginning or end. Maybe what we have been told was the &quot;big bang&quot; was nothing more than another spark of change within movement. Just some thoughts in the goo of change.

The Arts

by George Jelliss ⌂ @, Crewe, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 11:12 (5685 days ago) @ BBella

Mark wrote: I don&apos;t see how it is possible to give any account of the arts without speaking of transcendence: the human spirit reaching for something beyond, searching for meaning. I&apos;m not saying that art is or should be necessarily religious, but that the artistic impulse and the sense of the divine are linked. - Turner Prize 2008: Is this &quot;transcendent&quot; or &quot;searching for meaning&quot; or kitsch rubbish? - http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article48... - Mark cites Chesterton: &quot;The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.&quot; - Ha-ha. A neat inversion but a cheap point. As both a logician and a poet - though both admittedly in a very minor way - I disprove this thesis. - Mark claims: Consciousness presents an even bigger problem to science. &#13;&#10;Carl echoes: Consciousness is the great mystery that may never be solved by science. Mark is right that science has no real prospects for explanation at this time. - I find all this mysticism or fetishism about &quot;consciousness&quot;, even from philosophers like Daniel Dennett, completely overblown. There is no great mystery about it. It is just a function of our complex nervous systems in combination with our senses through which we gain awareness of our environment, and ultimately awareness of our selves as selves. - Even Carl it seems can&apos;t get his mind free of the god-fog, he concludes: Much of what we think of as created, such as galaxies, solar systems, planets and life is really emergent rather than created. Perhaps God is emergent. &#13;&#10;BBella takes up the theme: It seems to me that God could be considered the most basic commonality in all that is; change. - For God&apos;s sake! God is only a metaphor. Because we know of craftsmen creating watches or furniture or engines we think the Universe has to have an artificer. It&apos;s only a convenient way of thinking. Just because you&apos;ve got this &quot;god&quot; idea in your brains doesn&apos;t mean there must be something out there that is that god. Frankly you all seem me to be getting more and more desperate to imbue your fantasy with some meaning, no matter what meaning.

The Arts

by Carl, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 17:34 (5684 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George says about consciousness, &quot;There is no great mystery about it. It is just a function of our complex nervous systems in combination with our senses through which we gain awareness of our environment, and ultimately awareness of our selves as selves.&quot;&#13;&#10;I&apos;m a little fuzzy on the mechanics of &quot;gaining awareness of our selves as selves.&quot; This sounds like another way of saying &quot;conscious&quot;. Perhaps it is a tautology. It doesn&apos;t answer the &quot;how&quot;.&#13;&#10;George: &quot;Because we know of craftsmen creating watches or furniture or engines we think the Universe has to have an artificer.&quot;&#13;&#10;We can all agree that there is a cause which is necessary and sufficient to produce what we observe, but there is disagreement on what is necessary, what is sufficient and what we observe. George observes mainly a physical world while Mark observes an additional spiritual world. We can label the necessary and sufficient cause &quot;God&quot;, if we choose, and even attach anthropomorphic attributes such as intelligence, will, foresight, benevolence or jealousy. Even atheists must decide what kind of god they don&apos;t believe in. The word &quot;create&quot; can also cause confusion. It seems to imply intent, but earthquakes create tsunamis. So we can say this cause creates what we observe, and I think we can agree there is a cause.&#13;&#10;I am a little dissatisfied with the word &quot;emergent&quot;, because it sounds a little faddish, like a word everyone uses but means something different to everyone, but it is the closest word I have found to the idea of a complex entity arising from a collection of simpler things. Just as our consciousness arises from the simpler entities of our brain cells, some entity could arise from larger groupings of the matter of the universe. Could it have consciousness? Nothing in our experience forbids it. &#13;&#10;George says &quot;Frankly you all seem me to be getting more and more desperate to imbue your fantasy with some meaning, no matter what meaning.&quot; I don&apos;t feel increasingly desperate. As an agnostic, I enjoy taking the puzzle apart and putting it together a different way to see if I can come up with another plausible arrangement.

The Arts

by Mark @, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 18:26 (5684 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George: As both a logician and a poet - though both admittedly in a very minor way - I disprove this thesis. - Hardly. Chesterton&apos;s point was clearly not that these are mutually exclusive alternatives. He believed in the validity of logic. But he also believed it had limits. Perhaps your poetic inclinations are evidence that down in your subconscious mind you search for truth that logic cannot reach.

The Arts

by Mark @, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 18:36 (5684 days ago) @ George Jelliss

George on consciousness: It is just a function of our complex nervous systems in combination with our senses through which we gain awareness of our environment, and ultimately awareness of our selves as selves. - I agree with Carl that this is no explanation. It seems to me that science is wholly concerned with spatial entities. I can&apos;t think of anything that science handles that is not described in spatial terms. Yet my subjective awareness has no such features. There is nothing about the phenomenon of subjectivity which can be related spatially to anything. And I cannot see how study of the brain could ever lead to something non-spatial. - There are philosophers who think we may not have the cognitive capacity ever to solve this one, just as dogs could never do multiplication. Others think consciousness is an illusion - but that still leaves the need to explain an illusion of subjectivity.

The Arts

by Mark @, Wednesday, October 01, 2008, 18:20 (5684 days ago) @ Carl

Carl: &quot;Perhaps God is emergent&quot;&#13;&#10;I don&apos;t see the point of imagining the existence of a God emergent from the material universe. What question does the existence of such a being answer? On the other hand, it is clear why people may believe in God as an eternal necessary being who is the ground of all being, for most people want an answer to why we are here.

The Arts

by Carl, Thursday, October 02, 2008, 02:55 (5684 days ago) @ Mark

Mark: &quot;I don&apos;t see the point of imagining the existence of a God emergent from the material universe. What question does the existence of such a being answer? On the other hand, it is clear why people may believe in God as an eternal necessary being who is the ground of all being, for most people want an answer to why we are here.&quot;&#13;&#10;Reality is whatever it is, so the point of imagining one kind of God or believing in another is beside the point. We don&apos;t get to choose reality. It may be that the King James version of the Bible is totally literally true. If it is, I and several other people on this site are in really big trouble. We are betting it isn&apos;t true, but we don&apos;t get to choose.&#13;&#10;A vision of an emergent God doesn&apos;t have to be too inconsistent with the popular idea of God. If God were co-existent with the universe, then He would not have created it. But in the early times when the universe was infinitely small, hot and dense (assuming the Big Bang is true), He would not have had a lot of work to do, so He would not need to be so powerful. His complexity would grow with the inflation and expansion of the universe, so that, when things began to get untidy, He would have had the powers necessary to cope with it. In the same way an embryo can develop to become Pope, God could have grown into the job so that He is everything people think He is. I think this idea might have some things in common with David&apos;s ideas except for the last part.&#13;&#10;There is absolutely nothing to argue for or against this idea. It is simply an exercise in imagination, putting the pieces together in a different way to see if anything plausible can be developed. It would be nice if there was something that could be predicted for God and verified like the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation for the Big Bang, but I don&apos;t foresee it.&#13;&#10;But emergent entities don&apos;t have to have the attributes of God. One can envision limited entities emerging that function in their local environment much as humans on earth do. Humans are proof of concept, so it is not so outrageous to suppose there are other ways of doing it. It works for science fiction writers anyway. Even Carl Sagan had his flights of imagination.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Thursday, October 02, 2008, 22:56 (5683 days ago) @ Carl

Certainly there are emergent properties as complexity develops. That is Stuart Kauffman&apos;s thesis in a nutshell. My approach is different. I think the Greeks make a good case for a first cause. We may be in the only universe around, but it doesn&apos;t seem to be eternal if the Big Bang is a truism. On the other hand if there are multiple universities like a huge pile of detergent soap bubbles, that could certainly be an eternal arrangement with an occasional universe supporting life popping in to existence. We can imagine anything we want to, but we should consider only that which can be studied and proven in trying to conclude what is really possible. - In a sense I am like George. I trust that science can bring us information, but perhaps unlike George, I think the findings may have several alternate interpretations, each one just as reasonable, until new findings give us more guidance. Science is just as much interpretation as it is experimental study. A scientist can be the experimenter or the interpreter. Thus I accept that the Intelligent Design folks are performing an aspect of science. They interpet differently, but that doesn&apos;t mean they are wrong. - On that underlying basis of thought, I can&apos;t accept the idea of an emergent God, or god-like subsets. Something came first. Carl mentioned me in his thinking, but his thoughts are not at all like mine. The odds are enormous that chance did not cause what complexity we observe both at the level of cosmology and in evolution. A super-intelligent force fits best for me, but I doubt that all the attributes the religions to God are true. Those attributes may well be wishful thinking.

The Arts

by David Turell @, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 20:28 (5726 days ago) @ dhw

If the decisive factor in natural selection is survival, how do we account for phenomena that have absolutely no practical function and yet appear to play a crucial role in the fabric of human life?&#13;&#10; &#13;&#10;>The great composers, writers and artists are looked up to as giants of the human species, although generally their work has no practical value, does nothing to advance or even assist evolution, and has no bearing on our survival.&#13;&#10; &#13;&#10;My comment is not a complete answer to dhw. There is none. But evolution has given us a brain that has the unexplained and unexplainable emergent property of consciousness. That attribute provides a sense of aesthetics. Futher, consciousness never turns off. Our minds are a seething cauldron of thoughts, ideas, impressions and memories. In survival the plotting and planning aspect of consciousness allowed relatively helpless humans to take on mastodons, and other giant beasts, for food. But the aesthetic side is absolutely of no help in survival, yet it is there. Why was it selected for when it is an enriching but useless appendage of consciousness for survival? Mozart, if a hunter-gatherer, would have been an impediment to his group, sitting there in his cave composing while everyone else was out finding food. It took a modern inter-dependent society to allow for the luxury of a Mozart. We must imagine then, that this ability was developed and preserved, put on hold until circumstances allowed it to be used. Like exaptations in organ development, appearing thousands and thousands of years in advance of any useful purpose. What I have have described does not fit Darwin&apos;s theory.

The Arts

by Carl, Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 23:14 (5726 days ago) @ dhw

I have often marveled while driving on the freeway that humans are capable of controlling two tons of steel at seventy miles per hour with only a few feet clearance on the sides and three car lengths in front and rear with only a rare accident. Plus, half of the drivers are below average intelligence. Humans certainly did not evolve to do this. Automobiles and driving was developed (I resist the word &quot;evolved&quot;) and tailored to an innate ability. &#13;&#10;I think the same thing occurred with music. It was developed by selecting sounds that were pleasing. We did not evolve to like music, rather, music was developed to please us. People find different sounds pleasing depending on social identification and familiarity (Brahms vs. Black Sabbath). &#13;&#10;Also, sometimes we emphasize the survival aspect of evolution and forget the equally important function of reproduction. Maybe joining in the &quot;moon howling&quot; ceremonies improved the chances of getting a mate.

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