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Connecting meaning to structure

The physical world is permeated with meaning through conscious experience. Making love or dying a painful death have intrinsic value. Every conscious moment of every sentient beings' existence has positive or negative intrinsic value.

Connecting physical structure with conscious experience is the starting point for integrating science and spirituality. In doing so we do not seek an explanation for consciousness. Science ultimately explains nothing. The fundamental laws of science are the simplest known description of a wide range of phenomena. Science makes no claims to explain why those descriptions are correct. The power of science comes from the ability to model and thus to manipulate a wide range of phenomena using relatively simple descriptive laws.

The nature of existence is a deep and profound mystery that cannot be solved. For any explanation depends on assumptions which themselves must be explained in an endless regress. At best one can develop the simplest possible assumptions consistent with what we know to be true as science has done with its assumptions about physical structure.

The simplest possible assumption about consciousness is that all physical structure exists as direct conscious experience. The essence and totality of the existence of physical structure is immediate conscious experience. Any other assumption must distinguish between conscious and unconscious structures in a way that adds unnecessary complexity. An embryo, fetus and then infant develop into a conscious being in a continuous process. An adult conscious mind gradually fades into an amorphous simplicity through Alzheimer's disease.

Once we recognize the continuity of consciousness from the human mind to the simplest physical structure there is no need to assume anything but structured conscious experience exists. One can raise many questions about and objections to this assumption. We lay the ground work for the assumption in Chapter 3. We develop the assumption and deal with some possible objections in Chapter 4.

This assumption connects the abstract structure of science with meaning. Physical structures that are painful have negative value and those that are joyful have positive value. (We are talking about intrinsic value. Any experience can be positive because of what it leads to or how it helps someone change.)

The connection becomes nontrivial when we focus on the evolution of structure and thus the evolution of consciousness. One can apply mathematics to questions about the evolution of physical structure in a way that leads to conclusions about the evolution of consciousness. This suggests that human consciousness is an an infinitesimal fragment what may be.

Historically we have seen ourselves as the center of the universe and the center of creation. Science has repeatedly dethroned us from such positions. We may be at the leading edge of evolution on one small planet, but we are not its end point or ultimate achievement. We. like the life we have evolved from, are a stepping stone to an ever expanding consciousness.


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