We are living through a period where our governments are fixated on the singular fear of a scientific model. That model explains to us that the body’s cells are little factories that produce biological molecules using instructions that are stored in diligently protected libraries. The model then explains the possibility of some foreign agent to inject its own instructions for reproducing that agent, thus permitting it to spread to other cells, and eventually to other bodies. Initially when this happens, the cells and the body have no mechanism to stop or even slow this process. Consequently, this process ends up killing cells and the rapid accumulation of dead or sick cells leads to disease and possible death of the entire body.
All of this is invisible to normal human experience. We only see the broader consequences of the gradual degradation of a person’s health, and of the eventual spread to others. Science, with its instruments and processes, provides a narrative of what is occurring at the electron microscopic level.
In recent years, that narrative has become very extensive with abundant descriptions of a multitude of processes occurring within the cells. The documentation of every individual process is as overwhelming to fully comprehend as an entire human civilization. Recent advancements of computerized high resolution animations allow us to experience the dynamics of this world as if were a cinema movie of an actual human world. We eventually are drawn into this imagined world, seeing ourselves as one of the actors within the cell, similar to our own experiences of living in our real world civilization.
Science has drawn our consciousness into the worlds within cells. The description is so exquisite we feel we can imagine living in that world. In that imagination, we bring our emotions that delight in the perfection of the entirety of the civilization within the cell. With those emotions come the protective instincts to defend this little world against invaders or enemies so that when introduced to some concept like a virus, we instinctually react to the virus in the same way we would react to our enemies.
There is more to the recent response to a virus than just the need to manage a contagious disease. Managing a contagious disease should be limited to minimizing the opportunities for spread and to facilitating the recovery of those infected. This management normally would tolerate a low level of spread and low number of severe cases as long as those numbers are not overwhelming. The very initial response reflected this contagion management mindset with its slogan of flattening the curve so as to not overwhelm the medical system. That curve-flattening objective presumed that the susceptible population will eventually experience the infection, but it hoped that the numbers can be spread over a longer period of time. That hope was disguised as a scientific theory that we accepted as fact.
Something very different happened shortly after we started managing this like we would a bad flu season. I imagine that what then happened was analogous to the recent cultural phenomena of devoted fans of certain cinematic universes like the Star Wars franchise. These cinematic depictions with high quality special effects and extensive world building draw fans into an alternative reality with its own laws of nature. In recent years, there have been controversies when new movies disregard the rules set forth in the earlier movies. Established fans of the original world feel compelled to defend their world from a conniving intruder. We see this play out with fantasies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, etc.
Established fans have an investment in the words each one builds. That investment goes beyond their entertainment desires. The fans have immersed themselves into these worlds, often to the point of attempting to participate in that world through cosplay and attending conventions such as Star Wars conventions with innumerable people wielding emulated light sabers.
Modern technology has made fantasy worlds pulpable and believable to the point of convincing people that they can actually live in it, and even convincing people they are actually living in it just like depicted in the Matrix or Tron movies.
The same thing is occurring in science. The animated or special effect visualizations make the worlds within cells a world we can see ourselves participating in. The world is so intricate that we fall in love with the location in the way we would fall in love with a new location, convincing us to make a home there. The visualizations invite us to take up residence inside the cell, and even to find a role in the cell that we can identify with.
People can identify with the ribosome to the point of being personally offended when that poor ribosome is tricked into doing something harmful to the cell. We react as if we were that ribosome. Our reaction goes beyond the fixing of the situation with some patch that avoids this deception. Our reaction is to enrage ourselves into a need to punish the source of that deception using means we use in our human lives: pursuing some punishment through legal prosecution or through destructive war.
Our response to the virus rapidly changed from the normal management of a manageable contagion into a frenzy to eliminate the existence of the virus. This is not normal human behavior. I don’t think it is healthy behavior neither for civilization nor for individual psychologies. Humanity are capable of surviving through epidemics. Normal behavior is to absorbing the losses we failed to avoid. Eventually the epidemic disappears on its own.
The current reaction is different. We are taking this virus’s affront to the cells personally. A virus is described as a lifeless bundle that include an instruction for its replication. We are reacting as if it has intelligence and it is deliberately assaulting us at a human level. The daily news about current findings describing the virus’s evolution with allusions to its intent to harm humans as much as possible. We are convinced that each new variant is necessarily more infectious or more deadly because the virus is like us, it has a deliberate goal and motivation to carry out that goal. Based on its past action, its goal is to kill humans, thus each new variant will be its persistence of finding some new way to reach its unchanging goal.
Given this perception of a conscious virus intent on our destruction, we find it necessary to eliminate the virus from the planet. As long as a single viable virus exists, it will inevitably connive some new way to achieve its goals of our destruction.
In normal times, we can expect a few individuals to become obsessed with the demonic nature or origin of the virus. Such thinking to disqualify a person from being a scientists. Governments would not take these claims seriously. There is no intelligence behind the virus, and certainly not the evolution of the virus. Viruses are not living. They do not even have a will to live, let alone some goal of molesting some species.
This is a new normal where we grant viruses a life we previously denied it could have. With that life status, we presume it has a will to survive and reproduce. We further presume it has a goal of making its life within humans, and suspect it has a motivation to kill us in the process.
This new normal in thinking about the virus probably comes from the cinematic world building science has produced with its documentation of the extensive processes of the cell. Modern animation visualizes this world to the point were we can see ourselves living inside the cell. With that insertion, we begin to believe the various elements in the cell are conscious individuals like ourselves. These cell elements are just molecules of proteins, lipids, and DNA/RNA. We imagine that these molecules are conscious and intelligent with similar life goals and frustrations that we experience.
A virus is just a bundle of molecules, but we describe it as a trojan horse. More than that, we imagine it being exactly that: a deception that hides an army inside that will emerge when safely getting past the cell’s fortification. The army then sets about its intentions even though the army is just an assortment of molecules.
In this blog, I frequently denigrate what I call dark data. Dark data use calculations from scientific theories to substitute for missing observations. I prefer observations over inferences from science. This suspicion toward science has grown over my lifetime. I started off with a goal of becoming a theoretical scientist, someone who spends all his time with the mathematics to derive or to represent truths about the world. My early career obsessed over computer simulations, with a desire to spend all my time doing simulations. Things changed both in my own life, and in the progress of science. Now, I perceive science as corrupted. Admitting science-derived data into my data stores is the same as admitting corrupted data. To the extent it must be present, it needs to be quarantined so it does not contaminate the observations.
Part of the corruption of science is the success of science. There is a corruptive consequence of accumulating a huge library of individual discoveries of science. This is especially true in biology. We know a lot about what is happening in the cells. I do not doubt individual discoveries such as how proteins are manufactured from instructions in RNA that are copied from a preserved library called DNA. The corruption comes with the catalog of too many discoveries. The internals of the cell has too much complexity to be feasibly sustainable without some form of intelligence. Conveniently we also develop computer visualizations making these intracellular processes life-sized, inviting us to enter that world, and in so doing bring our own intelligence and aspirations.
At some point this entire process becomes corrupted. The current virus response demonstrates this corruption by our conviction that the virus experiences life like we do. This virus becomes villainous instead of merely poisonous.
Our current form of government is incapable of managing emergencies involving scientific models.
I think our governments are reasonably competent to handle natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or even drought and famine. These involve logistics response of moving populations and materials to counter these easily observable phenomena. Our governments are reasonable competent when dealing with bright data of observable reality.
Our governments fail when confronting simulations of reality that is impossible to directly observe. The current example is a description that exists only in computers and in scientific papers. We have not actually observed this virus living out its life cycle, and I understand we have not even isolated a virus that can demonstrate it can do what our science says it can do.
We readily admit this, describing the virus as an invisible enemy. It is invisible in the sense that it is unobservable. It’s enemy status is a consequence of our anthropomorphizing it. We are comfortable granting it enemy status because it has a recognizable face shown as a ball with brightly colored protrusions despite the impossibility of taking a color photograph of a virus. We want that face dead.
I am convinced that our current policies will lead to a catastrophe because our government is responding to a scientifically visualized disaster, but treating it like a a directly observable natural disaster.
There is a fundament difference between the two kinds of disasters. A natural disaster is directly observable. We can response to new observations to adjust our responses. Initially a disaster like an earthquake is overwhelming with its consequences. However, quickly after the disaster we assess the situation to find more specific and limited areas to focus rescue operations while also finding salvageable areas that can start the recovery. Within a week or so, the area can begin to recover even though it is surrounded by the reminders of the destruction. This response is driven by observations available to everyone, and observations exposing what we previous did not anticipate.
A scientific disaster is completely different. The observed disaster is a scientific model such as the description of a virus and how it accomplishes its damage and spread. This observation is frozen in the science. It is not possible to actually observe the virus either in how it replicates inside a cell, or how it spreads from person to person. We must rely on established science to inform us what is happening. This established science will take new observations only to parameterize its models. Due to the lengthy process of controlled experimentation and peer review, it is not possible to change the understanding after the disaster starts. Here, a year after the initial declaration of pandemic emergency, we are still operating on the same models we started with even though our year long experience failed to follow the predictions.
Modern governments are incompetent in handling scientifically described disasters because the people in positions of power are denied the ability to observe the situation directly and to observe the progress that may suggest alternative approaches. These human decision makers are obliged to follow the science, and that science is stubborn in adhering to its original prognosis despite more recent observations. We continue to obligate our leaders to follow the science that says that this virus has yet to finish killing millions of people, and that says that universal mandatory vaccinations is the only solution.
Another way to contrast the two types of disasters is that natural disasters are only temporarily alarming while scientific disasters are indefinitely if not perpetually alarming. Natural disasters provide observations that relieve our initial concerns and also point in directions for recovery. Scientific disasters offer only replications of its prior observations, modified only by parameter changes.
The unobservability of what science describes results in the implicit acceptance that the description can not be changed. Observable disasters explicitly expect understanding of the situation to change.
While we live though this pandemic response, we are also experiencing an allegory of the flaw in our government. The virus exploits the replication machinery of the cell, to the cell’s detriment, by introducing instructions that did not come from the cell’s DNA. Similarly, science exploits the decision making machinery of government, to the government’s detriment, but introducing simulated observations that the leaders can not observe for themselves.
A dedomenocracy of my imagination is able to put science in its proper place. Science offers observations from its simulations, but democracy recognizes these observations as stale. Even though the models use parameters based on recent observations, the models themselves incapsulate historic and potentially obsolete or irrelevant data. Dedomenocracy prefers recent well controlled observations over scientific models.
In context of the current situation, the dedomenocracy would manage the observable world consisting of numbers of patients, the severity of their conditions, and the progression of the spread. While a dedomenocracy may start with the seed of scientific theories about a virus, it would respond to new macro observations and learn what works and what does not work. To the dedomenocracy, the problem is not the virus. The problem is the recovery from the effects of the pandemic. The only practical way for government to recover from a disaster is to revise plans based on lessons learned from new observations.
This obsession of new observations reflects a more difference in the underlying fears of the two forms of government. Our current government fears the unobservable but knowable though science. A dedomenocracy fears missing a discovery of something unexpected.
A dedomenocracy fears nothing while a democracy fears everything. In this context, everything refers to the collective library of scientific knowledge. Nothing refers to the empty space that may harbor plans that we will can only learn by paying close attention to the present, allowing observations to contradict theories we accepted in the past.
Personally, I have always found the concept of nothing to be frightful. I recall as a child being terrorized by the contemplation of my eventual death. While everyone confronts this fear to varying degrees during their life, I had a particular fear that was specifically about the nothingness that I presumed would follow death.
Being somewhat religious, I entertained the notion of an afterlife but that came with its own fear of ending up in the wrong place. That fear was like the fear that democracies have toward scientific warnings. The actual outcome of death was unobservable but it was either heaven or hell. Even with the prospect of hell, it was still a place, a reality.
The concept of nothingness was more frightening than even hell. It is curious that this fear was most pronounced when I was very young. It is as if it came from a memory of coming from nothingness. Rationally, it can be described by the usual wondering of where I was before I was born. I didn’t exist before I was born. I didn’t want to return to that state of nothingness.
I have been discussing in this blog the idea of trying to understand nothingness in a similar way we understand the material world. Reality consists of both material and nothingness. Nothingness separates matter and defines the identity of different materials. We mostly ignore nothingness as a subject of inquiry. To the extent we do inquire, we end up focusing our attention to the material contaminants of nothingness.
I think there is a reason to fear nothingness in its own right. My childhood fear of death leading to nothingness may have good foundation. Before I was born, I existed as nothing. In some deep way, I remember being nothing, and I remember it as something I don’t want to return to.
I marvel about the miracle of life at all scales even perhaps at the level of a virus. The marvelous aspect of life is its zest in living. At all levels of life, each form of life strives to stay alive and struggles when its demise is near. We can understand this will to live among humans because we have a mind that has a will. Where does a bacteria get its will to live.
Fires frequently extinguishes itself before exhausting all its fuel. A bacteria will live on despite complete deprivation, and often will even transform into a spore to wait until favorable conditions return. There is a will to life at all levels of life.
I imagine that will of life to be an intelligence. In particular, this intelligence exists before life. Intelligence creates life and it directs evolution because life provides experiences to the intelligence. The organism’s will to live is a manifestation of some intelligences will to have experiences.
I imagine this intelligence to be a part of natural reality, just like gravity or electromagnetics. It is unscientific because it resides in nothingness. Alternative descriptions of this intelligence may be some god of a religion, or of a soul. My concept is more diffuse than either of these. Intelligence is like the fabric of space itself. It is dormant most of the time. This dormancy of intelligence is what I dreaded so much when contemplating my death.
This natural intelligence has a will, and it wants to experience existence and that existence involves material. It is not like a soul in that it will move in an out of a body. It will diffuse out of empty space into a material object and then take on an identity of that material, content to remain in that material. This intelligence disintegrates along with material it inhabits. The end result is that the intelligence diffuses back into the vast emptiness, never to return in that specific instance of intelligence.
Life offers more opportunities for experiences than inanimate objects. Just like for inanimate objects, the infused intelligence will be content in its living material, but life gives the intelligence the opportunity to fight to stay alive no matter what level of life it exists. The nothingness intelligence desires experiences, and experiences are impossible in nothingness.
Nothing is intelligent. It is the source of intelligence. This intelligence has a will and an intention.
It is more realistic to base a government on the fear of nothing instead of fearing everything. Nothing is constantly plotting something new. We can never converse with this intelligence, but fearing its presence motivates us to focus on observing the immediate present. Also this fear of nothing will dismiss the relevance of past discoveries. If the past discoveries are still true, we should be able to rediscover them with fresher observations. The fear of nothing is to not fear something we discovered in the past.
In the world of nothing, we must pay close attention the present in order to navigate our way among the surprises nothing has in store for us. This is also spiritually justified because our own intelligence is an instance of that nothingness that wants to experience the present, and is not content to cosplay in some fantasy world dreamt up by scientists.