A few theories about the Divine Feminine in Mormonism

October 7, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 11:13 pm   Category: Theology

We know next to nothing for certain about the Divine Feminine. There is a long standing tradition in Mormonism that preaches of a Heavenly Mother to complement a Heavenly Father, but the details are lacking to say the least. So in this post I figured I would loosely sketch out a few theories that I have heard and felt were noteworthy.

Assumptions matter

Before I sketch these theories out there are several related and sometimes more fundamental issues that are also debatable which have a direct bearing on any theories about divinity. Here are some of them:

The Nature of Spirits: There is some debate over whether spirits have a beginning or not. The most popular theories about the nature of spirits in Mormonism range from Orson Pratt’s intelligent spirit particles model where independent spirit particles choose to band together and form single-mind spirits, to the theory which was seemingly implied by Joseph Smith in 1844 that spirits are simple and beginningless and irreducible (what I call the whole-cloth model of spirits). In between those theories in the now popular tripartite model proposed by BH Roberts where bodiless pre-spirits (he calls intelligences) are given spirit bodies and then the spirit body comes to earth and merges with a physical body. The theory one holds about spirits makes a difference when it comes to theories about divine women.

The Nature of Spirits 2: If one holds that spirits are not beginningless then a theory is needed to explain where spirits come from. This is where the viviparous spirit birth question comes in. One popular notion is that resurrected divine couples procreate and create spirit bodies through viviparous spirit birth.

The Nature of the Godhead: If one believes that there is a single ultimate Monarch of all existence that we call Heavenly Father that has important implications about divine women. If one believes there is no first Father but rather an infinite regress of Divine Parents and spirit children in existence that implies very different things about divine women. Further, assumptions about the number of persons that make up the Godhead matter. If one insists that the Godhead consists of three male persons only, that is a lot different that assuming there is really an extended Divine Concert of divine beings who unify to make up the One God.

Some Theories

Ok, so with those preliminaries out of the way here are some theories about the divine feminine:

The My Turn On Earth (MTOE) Model: This is what I surmise is the most popular model among modern Mormons. It assumes the tripartite model of spirits in most cases and that also generally assumes that a monogamous divine husband and wife conceive spirit children together. It further usually assumes that billions of spirit children were born prior to this planet being organized. One idea that is compatible with this model is the theory that Heavenly Mother is covertly the Holy Spirit.

The Polygamous MTOE model: Same as above only it assumes a single divine male with multiple divine wives.

The Divine Androgyny model: This is an interesting one. It assumes that the being we call The Father is really the union of an exalted man and woman. In its strongest form it assumes that human males and females can never become exalted alone but by fusing somehow in a resurrection they become divine. A lesser version of this simply assumes the couple is unified as one but with separate resurrected bodies. See here for a longer discussion on this one with some fascinating ancient and modern quotes. Needless to say, this model is not really compatible with a spirit birth assumption.

[Update] Another variation on the androgyny theme is the theory that gender/sex is a mortal characteristic only and that pre-mortal and post-mortal beings are neither male nor female.

The Divine Concert Model: This loosely defined model assumes that the One God is really a massive union of divine individuals (male and female) and that the three members of the Godhead we know of are simply representatives/spokespersons for the One God which is the whole group. There could be many variations on this model depending on assumptions about whether spirits have beginnings or not, etc.

The Two-Track Model: This model assumes there is a race of Gods and an ontologically distinct race of humans. In this model human men don’t become “Gods” they become kings and priests unto God and human women likewise become queens and priestesses unto God but never “Gods” themselves. It is an obscure theory but at least one friend of mine prefers this one and another seems to hold to a variation of it. (If nothing else this model explains why we never hear of or from a Heavenly Mother — because it assumes all spirits are beginningless and there is no HM.)

I will stop there since I can’t think of any other noteworthy models of divine femininity I have encountered. Are there models that you think should be mentioned? Or are there variations that might be added as sub-models under the ones I have mentioned? In the absence of revelation we are simply guessing here but some guesses are easier to defend than others so feel free to defend your favorite model in the comments.

366 Comments »

  1. Nice descriptions. I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

    So, are we going to vote on a poll, to see which one is correct? ;)

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 8, 2009 @ 6:19 am

  2. “bodiless pre-spirits (he calls intelligences) are given spirit bodies”

    The bodiless intelligences could be given spirit bodies viviparously much as our spirit bodies are given physical bodies viviparously.

    Unless you intend to mean The Nature of Spirits 2 assumption is the spirit version of how Modern Traditional Christian view physical birth – that prior to birth the individual did not exist in any form and was “created” with birth. (I suppose this latter view would be in line with models that intelligence emerges from complexity.)

    Anyway, very minor labeling quibble. Not sure that it affects your actual models of the divine feminine. Informative summary!

    Comment by A. Davis — October 8, 2009 @ 6:40 am

  3. Would it be possible to say the MTOE has two flavors? One where the Divine Femine is equally powerful and divine with the Divine Masculine (Like as taught by SWK), and another where she was subordinate? (Like in the teachings of O. Pratt) The Former is more like the “lesser version” of the divine Androgyny model you mention (In which I do not see it as completely incompatible with the spirit birth assumption, though I do not personally favor that view)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  4. This is fascinating. I’m sure I am not alone in having several of these models fused together in a pastiche of assumptions about Heavenly Mother. As you point out, different models have different implications for divine women and my own thinking has contradictions that I hadn’t really considered. Thank you for this break down, I find this to be very helpful.

    Comment by mraynes — October 8, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  5. This is actually excellent, Geoff! (Not that I’m surprised or anything.)

    Comment by Kent (MC) — October 8, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  6. If nothing else, the Polygamous MTOE model suggests a better rationale for why a Heavenly Mother is never heard from in Mormonism, since there is not A Heavenly Mother, nor would all people have the SAME Heavenly Mother.

    Comment by The Only True and Living Nathan — October 8, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  7. My favorite is the tripartite, with spirit birth, with infinite regress, with a MTOE model.

    I don’t go with the HM as HG though.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 8, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  8. The divine feminine idea really *almost* requires the MTOE idea. Much, but not all current thought follows the Roberts TB (tripartite being) view. I know of several religion profs who reject TB with near violence. But I think Roberts was inspired. He was loyalist, at least he was an institutional loyalist. Spirits born in heaven was institutionalized by the beginning of the 20th century and had much earlier (1842?) roots. On the other hand, beginningless persons (BP) was Joseph’ clearly announced notion. With the printing of the history, even though JFS I cut KFD, there were plenty of sources in the history that showed this, and people were not ignorant of it. Letter’s came in to headquarters about. Roberts, more than anyone else saw the need for closure here. It was fundamental to Mormonism in his view, and I think he was right. But how to put MTOE and BP together. I think his solution, TP, was brilliant, whatever you think of it metaphysically. And most of the big brains in the church followed him, perhaps not with the same urgency, but they didn’t have the same perspective. Hence Widstoe, Ballard, JFS II (conservative but still a brain), Pack, Nelson. Talmage was the outlier. He liked the MTOE but with the notion essentially that consciousness came ex nihilo.
    Others dispised TP *and* BP for various reasons. But I think they were short sighted.

    It’s probably off topic to go into the internal debates of the period. Though they are facsinating to me. Anyway, I kind of like TP, mostly because I’m sure Joseph was committed to BP and there is no good way to reconcile BP with MTOE (which has *deep emotional institutional cachet*) other than TP I think.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  9. Oops. TP should be TB throughout in 8.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  10. The problem with a typical infinite regress model is that it leaves a whole host of things (such as the form of the human body, and the plan of salvation) without any possible explanation other than Platonic forms.

    Why do we do this? It has always been done this way. You mean God is responsible for this? No – no one is responsible, that is just the way it is.

    This is a general problem with some other options as well – if God can be God without a body, why get one? And if he can’t then either he “started out” with one granted him by no one, or there was a time when he wasn’t God.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  11. It seems like the MTOE model is the only one that actually requires females at all. All the others could theoretically happen without any women at all. There are species that can reproduce themselves without gender aren’t there? So obviously I am partial to MTOE.

    Comment by C Jones — October 8, 2009 @ 9:26 am

  12. Matt — One can mix and match quite a bit with these parts. It’s like making your own combo meal!

    Mraynes — I’m glad you found this post useful. Thanks for stopping by.

    Eric — I’ll call yours Combo Meal #1 because I suspect it would be the most popular in the mainstream of the church. (It’s not for me but I don’t begrudge others liking it)

    WVS — I suspect that part of the reason some people want to fight for spirit birth is that they can’t think of a another job/purpose for divine women (or more generally for eternal gender/sex at all). I think that reasoning mostly reveals a lack of imagination.

    Also, I agree with you that the tripartite model is quite popular but it is certainly not without detractors. The main beef I and many others have with it is that it appears to mostly be a post-hoc mash-up of the contradictory teaching of Joseph Smith that spirits have no beginning and the teaching of Brigham Young and others later that spirits have a beginning. But this is not the thread to rehash that argument. See my links in the post for those threads. I would be interested in knowing more about Talmage’s position on it though — do you have any links or posts on that?

    Mark — Yeah we could write a series of posts poking holes in many of the assumptions and theories I have outlined above. After doing that in my head a lot I currently lean toward a Divine Concert model (thanks for that term BTW) because I think it holds up to the hole-poking exercises best.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  13. I think you also need to include the underlying assumption that exalted beings have either a male or female gender. I have lately been considering the idea that we are only gendered while mortal, and that exalted beings are non-gendered (but have each developed the perfect balance of masculine/feminine within themselves). Thus, the Divine Feminine is simply half of the nature of each divine individual.

    I realize this messes up the idea of being resurrected into the gendered bodies that we now have. It also messes up the idea of eternal marriage, changing it from being an end in itself (that the couple becomes perfect/complete), to being a means to an end (the means by which each individual in the marriage becomes perfect/complete within themselves).

    If we consider this possibility, then there is a variation on the Divine Androgeny Model where the being that we call the Father is a genderless individual who has achieved the perfect balance (a perfect “union” of man/woman) inside its being.

    There is also a variation on the the Divine Concert Model where the One God is really a massive union of divine individuals (genderless, because they each are perfect/complete).

    (I must confess that considering this line of thinking is incredibly uncomfortable for me for me as a lifelong LDS, but I’m trying to remain truly open to all of the possibilities.)

    Comment by Kajabada — October 8, 2009 @ 9:56 am

  14. Geoff, exactly my point. It was as you say a “post-hoc mash-up.” But under the constraints, an excellent one. I have a little trouble with infinite regress, but lately I’ve become a little more sanguine about it. Quantum field theory does that to you maybe. In a church context, or even in a BYU setting, it doesn’t do to start whacking at MTOE. My high priest group age average went from 55-60 to 72 or so in the last year or two because a retirement subdivision went in. People start shaking their heads at you if you start pointing out things of this nature. It’s all in the scriptures, right?

    But as a practical matter, I think Roberts’ is really the only position that gives you a Divine Mother, and Joseph Smith in the bargain. That being said, PMTOE (polygamous MTOE) seems conspicuously absent from nearly all Divine Feminine advocacy and not just in modern times. Why? If plural marriage was somehow a norm in heaven, why not more a lot more rhetoric about Mothers in Heaven? I suspect it has something to do with Joseph’s dictum about gods: there is one God for us?

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  15. Kajababa,

    Good point. I was just thinking about that as a possible model well. I will go back and include a sub-model in the post where gender/sex is an earthly characteristic only.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  16. WVS,

    I concede that even if the tripartite model isn’t true it might still be good theology. I suspect the polygamous MTOE model isn’t talked about because so many people find it so distasteful and sincerely hope it isn’t true.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  17. WVS, I wouldn’t be so quick to say the Tripartite existance has such a popular following in the hierarchy. I think because of its grass roots popularity, people read it into authorities’ discourses. Folks like JFS II, McConkie, Lee were fairly explicitly against. Packer appears to have vacillated. Maxwell seems to have rejected it. Most everyone else isn’t on record.

    Viviparous spirit birth is, I think, one of the most ridiculous bits of religion-making that has ever happened in Mormonism.

    And though MTOE has lots of support and emotional investment, it shares a similar pedigree to viviparous spirit birth. Our temples (what I would consider our most explicit teachings on our eternal state) certainly doesn’t teach it.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 8, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  18. It seems to me that the strongest argument for the tripartite spirit view is as follows: (1) D&C 132 teaches that there will be an “eternal increase” of progeny for those who enter into the new and everlasting covenant and keep their covenants; (2) this “increase” is easily interpreted as a continuation of the power to beget or sire off-spring; (3) W.W. Phelps, who was close to JS, began, within about six months after his death, to speak of a vague sort of spirit birth and the notion of a mother in heaven was possibly introduced publically about the same time and it may reflect something that JS privately taught (though even these statements are vague and subject to other reasonable interpretations); (4) Eliza Snow, Brigham Young and others later asserted such a view and they knew Joseph Smith; (5) the Church has stated unequivocally that we are literally offspring of God and that there is a mother and father in heaven.

    It’s really not much of a case — but it is enough to be a rational basis for accepting that view as B. H. Robers did. If one accepts the endless regress of gods view and that new spirits come into existence through spirit birth, as Brigham Young taught, then I believe that tripartite model is the only one that really accounts for the evidence. Frankly, the statements of the church in the Proclamation for the Family and the 1912 First Presidency Statement are difficult to reconcile with any other view.

    I am blissfully agnostic about these views except that JS taught the eternal existence of the spirit (whatever “spirit” means) and if there is anything at all eternal, it follows that it does not come into existence for the first time at birth of some nature.

    As the for the “divine feminine” I admit to having no idea what that means. Is there a “divine male” as well on such views? I would rather think that there are divine males and females, particular individuals and not some universal of which God is the Platonic Ideal.

    Comment by Blake — October 8, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  19. Blake: Is there a “divine male” as well on such views?

    The opposite of the divine feminine would be the divine masculine I reckon. So yes, unless one adheres to one of the androgyny theories Mormons would normally assume there are divine males and females.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  20. J., I’ve got a few letters between JFS II and other GA’s that suggest he swallowed Tri-Exist whole. He was so convinced by it, that he did not put the ms version of KFD in Teachings, instead he used Roberts’ commented version from the 1909 Improvement Era, with few modifications -Roberts was pretty explicit about his views in the notes for KFD and Smith included the key notes essentially.

    McConkie is clearly is on the other side of that. Packer, per my personal interaction is for it, at least he accepts both MTOE and JS’s view. We didn’t mention Roberts per se. Maxwell, I have a letter from him that he wrote about a manuscript of mine. He was pretty explicit being for personal backward eternal existence at least. George Albert Smith was an opponent mostly because of what happened in the early 20th century. David O. McKay was agnostic but J. Reuben Clark was in favor big time. A modern proponent is Richard G. Scott.
    Got more if you want em. ;)

    But you are correct, there is clear difference of opinion. Not sure what drove McConkie, but Joseph F. McConkie follows him as well as some other religion types. Russell Nelson follows the Talmage/McConkie tradition.

    And I agree, that the physics of viviparous spirit birth is very odd. But you have to admit, it fits the extreme literalism we have inherited from the Pratts.

    And J., you just have to give weight to the emotional inertia surrounding MTOE and it has viviparous spirit birth written all over it. I mean if we are talking about change. I know this thread isn’t about change. But the context of the discussion has to weigh in a little. Personally, I can go for JS’s view of adoptive parenthood seemingly expressed in KFD. Whether that carries the preaching heft of “divine parentage,” I think it could, but it’s more difficult to relate to. And eternal family dialogues in modern church lit. I think for all practical purposes allow only the Roberts view to preserve what JS said.

    Sorry for the partial thread-jack.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  21. Blake: I agree. But I think JS, and I think you have to give this some importance, placed eternal persons, as persons, in the forefront of his consolation speech in KFD. You don’t have to worry about your dead loved ones. They *can’t* disappear. Unless your you’re really robotic about it (JS was anything other than unfeeling), you can’t believe he meant that their “spirit dust” is eternal. He clearly meant to say that the persons they knew have necessary existence as persons. That is what is conserved for JS I think. Admittedly that was disputed by Orson at nearly the same time as KFD was given. There’s more on this in the KFD appendix and source criticism in the sermon book.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  22. WVS: Russell Nelson follows the Talmage/McConkie tradition.

    By the Talmage/McConkie tradition do you mean the Orson Pratt spirit atomism model?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  23. WVS,

    It appears that in your comments you assume that the MTOE model only works with a tripartite assumption about spirits. That is not true. The main requirement for the MTOE model is that spirits have a beginning (and that heavenly parents caused their beginning). So a tripartite model of spirits and a spirit atomism model could both jibe with the MTOE model. Both allow for viviparous spirit birth too.

    The model that MTOE does not work well with is the beginningless “whole cloth” view of spirits. And even that is not a hard rule because one could theoretically hold that beginningless spirits are adopted in a MTOE model…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  24. Blake:

    Your comment #18 is perhaps my favorite of all the comments you have ever made. (Sincerely).

    I got a bit of a chuckle out of “It’s really not much of a case”.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 8, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  25. WVS, that is very interesting. I thought I had some JFSII sources on that. But I may have been mistaken. I need to do some digging. JFSI, however, was certainly against it (he was of the BY persuasion, spirit creation from spirit element).

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 8, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

  26. I suspect that part of the reason some people want to fight for spirit birth is that they can’t think of a another job/purpose for divine women (or more generally for eternal gender/sex at all). I think that reasoning mostly reveals a lack of imagination.

    I think this is sort of unfair, since the only alternative I’ve seen imagined is typically non-eternal gender/sex.

    The main requirement for the MTOE model is that spirits have a beginning (and that heavenly parents caused their beginning). So a tripartite model of spirits and a spirit atomism model could both jibe with the MTOE model. Both allow for viviparous spirit birth too.

    I thought the main requirement of MTOE was that persons required only one mortal probation rather than multiple?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  27. Matt: the only alternative I’ve seen imagined is typically non-eternal gender/sex.

    Nah — you gotta think more creatively Matt. The divine chorus model I mentioned is a fine example of a model that can be completely without spirit birth and yet account for eternal males and females. If spirits can eternally exist then there is no reason to assume they cannot eternally exist in male and female forms.

    I am using the MTOE label a little differently in this post than I did in the single probation vs. multiply probations posts. But you are right that the MTOE model does assume a single mortal probation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  28. Geoff- I’d sincerely ask in the divine chorus model what function gender served. While it allows for gender, I am not sure that it accounts for gender. I am unconvinced that outside of sexual reproduction and attributes that are expedient due to natural selection (breast feeding, physical strength, instincts for survival, etc.) that there are any distinct male and female characteristics we could think of as eternal. I am very curious and interested in what characteristics you hold to as eternally female and male. (If only because I am entirely unsure myself!)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  29. Geoff, 22. No, not Pratt atomic stuff. I mean his earlier thing he published in 1845 (but wrote in spring 1844) which just says spirits were begotten by God. No consciousness of any sort before spirit birth.

    Yes spirit atomism (or Parley’s fluid based thing) certainly allow for MTOE. But I sort of categorize them with spirit element origin thing.

    J., I think JFS II became a little conservative in his statements, and may have gone to the dark side? but mostly I think this was because he was getting all kinds of questions that built wacky stuff on top of Tripartite. BYU religion profs were speculating away about “finer” material for pre-spirit body “intelligences” etc.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  30. Matt: I’d sincerely ask in the divine chorus model what function gender served.

    The beauty is it need not serve any function at all if it simply is. That is like asking what the function of all existence is or the function of spirits is. If one assumes that spirits simply exist and are simple and beginningless and irreducible one can just as easily assume they beginninglessly and irreducibly exist in some kind of male and female forms.

    Your entire argument about serving a function seems to be based on the assumption that gender has a beginning (and thus was created to serve some function).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  31. Goeff- Sorry, I was unclear, I am wondering how we’d distinguish eternal male and female forms apart outside of the functions those forms have taken upon them which were derived from natural selection. You don’t believe your eternal spirit always had a from which include your reproductive system, do you? Why would it, since such a system would not have an eternal purpose.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  32. Geoff: If one assumes that spirits simply exist and are simple and beginningless and irreducible one can just as easily assume they beginninglessly and irreducibly exist in some kind of male and female forms.

    Well, I wouldn’t go as far as to say, “just as easily”. The only beginningless and irreducible thing I can think of is a simple particle without parts, which of course means no gender.

    Unless… we want to start with a “whole cloth” type model where my spirit body had two eyes and 10 fingers and 10 toes for all eternity. Alas, I’m not so open minded as to find such a model palatable.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 8, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  33. WVS: No consciousness of any sort before spirit birth.

    Ok. I have associated that model with Brigham Young in the past. It is an interesting one because it seems to rely on the idea that minds radically emerge from spirit brains. Or at least that is the only model I can think of to explain minds emerging from mindless spirit matter.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  34. Matt and A. Davis,

    It doesn’t matter too much how the two-types of eternal spirits are distinguished if one accepts that model. Maybe one type has a star on the belly and the other doesn’t. Who knows? Again, if we accept that one type of eternal spirit exist then it is not a stretch to assume more than one type of eternal spirit can exist.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  35. I had a seminary teacher once who said that intelligences looked like us. Needless to say, this is a problem. That would make us third order instantiations (overlays) of the human form.

    By most accounts, we already have two mothers. Do we really need a third? or a fourth?

    This is the number one reason why I think viviparous spirit birth is gratuitous and why I wonder whether pre-mortal spirits have (extended) bodies at all. Why in the world would anyone ever need two biological mothers and two biological fathers?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  36. Re: 33. Right Geoff. O. Pratt’s first ideas were minds emergent from spirit “organization.” His atomic model doesn’t really start to appear until 1847 and he acknowledged it as speculation. Later he becomes more certain as to its value. Early in 1844 Parley is beginning a similar kind of thing. Both are either ignorant of JS’s NBNE axiom or they ignore it in favor of parent derived consciousness. Parley later pushes for a more advanced emergent idea, but never goes to any individual atomic “intelligences.”

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  37. The two-track model has something to recommend it for many Saints I would think. It places what is essentially an (unbridgeable) ontological gulf between the divine and human but it’s different enough that perhaps it does not carry all the baggage of classical theism.

    While I don’t believe Joseph F. Smith believed this, he was very protective of the status of God vs. man. Moreover, this idea allows for a kind of apotheosis that is perhaps more in line with what the fundamentalists in control of the SBC would find less objectionable? In a way it also has something in common with the Jehovah’s Witness idea (144K and then the rest of us). ;)

    I think the impulse behind emphasizing the difference between God and man is more compatible with emergent minds from “organizing” spirit element (most LDS would identify this with spirit birth I would think ala BY). The problem(s) of evil are more potent in this scheme however as many have noted.

    Comment by WVS — October 8, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  38. Geoff, I’m not sure we are thinking the same thing when we use the word “spirit”. It is quite one thing to say that a top quark has always existed and never did not exist and quite another to say an aardvark has always existed and never did not exist.

    The former is the analog of “simple and irreducible spirit”. The latter is the analog of an eternal, uncreate spirit body.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 8, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  39. A Davis,

    I seems to me that you are begging the question in #38. One of the questions at hand whether spirits are simple, irreducible, and beginningless or not.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  40. Re: God vs. man

    If divine status requires being a full fledged member of a divine concert with a trillion participants (and all that entails), and ordinary status is acting alone, the level of distinction between God and man is pretty obvious.

    This applies to someone who departs from righteous principles as well, a phenomenon we might call the ultimate in peer pressure:

    the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
    That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man

    Here “powers of heaven” is plausibly “members of the divine concert” and “Spirit of the Lord” (with a lower case ‘s’) is the emotional state that all of them share.

    So how does the divine concert ultimately control apostasy? Presumably by withdrawing the spirit they share (by degrees) from the member who is out of line. And if the spirit is completely withdrawn, that person no longer has divine power, but instead is back to the power of the natural man, or “arm of flesh”.

    And the only plausible threat to this system is for a large number of disenchanted individuals to form a concert in polar opposition, a counterfeit of sorts.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

  41. For those that espouse the divine concert approach, are the transformative effects Christ’s emperical atonement transferred to others in the divine concert in some way?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 8, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  42. The issue as before is if not from the divine concert, where do the “powers of heaven” originate? You either have the exception to all exceptions, or nature itself, which is a bit too mystical for my taste.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  43. J.Stapley, The way I see it, the simplest way to read the atonement in a divine concert model is as the reconciliation and at-one-ment of the members of the divine concert themselves, and everything they do to make it possible for others to become members of the same union and share in the same glory.

    I call that a distributed atonement theory, and I don’t know any plausible way the burden of that sacrifice can be transferred to Jesus Christ’s personal activity in three hours or three days, so I don’t know how to read the pertinent scriptures except with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as type and shadow of everything else that is going on to further the immortality and eternal life of man, both temporally and spiritually.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  44. Geoff, fair enough, but I’m not sure how “Gender just is” requires more imagination or creativity.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 8, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  45. Matt,

    My charge of lack of imagination is aimed at those who imply that in the absence of bearing spirit children there would be little or nothing for divine women to do for all eternity.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

  46. Mark, do I understand you conceding to the Moral Influence theory of the Atonement?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 8, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  47. I think Moral Influence theory works best with divine concert models.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  48. Mark D. Here “powers of heaven” is plausibly “members of the divine concert” and “Spirit of the Lord” (with a lower case ’s’) is the emotional state that all of them share.

    I just don’t see this eisegesis being a plausible reading of this scripture. I cannot see any basis to link the “powers in heaven” with some totally unscriptural “divine concert.” Just how you believe that the spirit of the Lord is an emotional state is beyond me.

    Comment by Blake — October 8, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

  49. Blake: I cannot see any basis to link the “powers in heaven” with some totally unscriptural “divine concert.”

    I am not sure how you can make such a bold claim Blake since your own theology holds that divine power arises out of the loving union of a small divine concert (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). The more extended divine concert we are talking about in this thread could just as easily be called the extended Godhead.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  50. J. Stapley, I don’t think so, or at least not exactly. I think that the atonement requires real sacrifice and suffering, just that the burden of that sacrifice is distributed among a large number of individuals.

    It is true that I think that temporal sacrifice made on behalf of others here on earth is part of the atonement, but that every spiritual blessing we receive comes by virtue of sacrifice of the members of the divine concert in heaven, a burden perhaps not all that different from fatherhood and motherhood, unruly kids and all.

    One of the problems I have with an absolutist interpretation of divine omnipotence it that it leaves completely unexplainable why God should suffer, or for that matter why salvation is unbestowable on the unrepentant.

    Mercy requires that the blessings of spiritual communion be extended to those who are still repenting. Assuming those blessings come at a cost, that is a necessary and sustainable sacrifice. But if spiritual communion was extended to the unrepentant, that union would be destroyed. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, right? So we might say that divine power and glory requires repentance and ultimately sanctification for full admittance. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

    So moral influence yes, but that is only the beginning, not the end of the at-one-ment, the beginning rather than the end of the reconciliation. That is my opinion anyway.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

  51. #45

    My charge of lack of imagination is aimed at those who imply that in the absence of bearing spirit children there would be little or nothing for divine women to do for all eternity.

    I don’t know if this is aimed at me, but that’s not my point at all. There’s no reason that divine women couldn’t do everything in the eternities that divine men could do even in the absence of producing progeny in some way. The question is- if there is no “childbearing” in any sense, then what do you see as the point of gender at all in the eternities? Everyone could just as well all be male. It could be the ultimate boys club. Male Father, male godhead, androgynous beings that conveniently appear in a male body. Nobody talks about the “divine masculine”– it’s a given.
    All I’m asking is– is there a model that allows me to retain my identity as female in the absence of any specific feminine role?

    Comment by C Jones — October 8, 2009 @ 10:39 pm

  52. Blake: Elohim, plural right? We could translate that “Gods”, but that is a contradiction in terms, so one God multiple persons is the order of the day and has been for who knows how many thousand years. “Divine concert” is just a way to make that as explicit as it was in the original Hebrew.

    Now while I suppose exaltation that amounts to basking in the secondary glow of three individuals entirely unlike themselves is a reasonable way to interpret the scriptures, in my opinion Joseph Smith made no greater contribution than to resurrect the idea incipient in numerous New Testament passages that this is not the case, that it is possible, even conceivable that all exalted individuals may be or become essentially equal in glory, and honor, and power, and so on.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  53. Sorry C Jones, I wrote my comment #12 before I saw your #11. After I published the comment I saw your comment and was a little worried that it looked like I was attacking you.

    In answer to your question about the point of gender, see my #30. What is the point of existence? If two genders of spirits are uncreated then there is no “point”, there just is. One eternal gender, two, or thousands of genders — if it simply is a beginningless characteristic of reality then asking for a point is missing the point.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2009 @ 10:50 pm

  54. By the way, speaking of scriptural support, I think 1 Corinthians 12 is pretty suggestive:

    For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    …God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
    And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Cor 12:12,24-27)

    If Paul wasn’t thinking of shared participation in the at-one-ment of the body of Christ, what was he thinking of?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 8, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  55. if it simply is a beginningless characteristic of reality then asking for a point is missing the point.

    I’ll make one more attempt. If it is a beginningless characteristic that distinguishes men from women, and that characteristic is not sexual, then what is it? If it is some trivial sneetch-like thing, why does it have such a huge impact here?

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2009 @ 5:27 am

  56. Geoff: I seems to me that you are begging the question in #38. One of the questions at hand whether spirits are simple, irreducible, and beginningless or not.

    No, I’m saying if one chooses to accept the assumption of a simple, irreducible, and beginningless agent then gender becomes a difficult concept to assign to such an entity.

    Though I suppose I should backpedal at a little for one could speculate that “male” is a fundamental property of these posited particles much like electromagnetic charge is a fundamental property of physical matter particles.

    Then, when a spirit body is generated, if there is a net “male charge” then male physiology is given. If there is a net “female charge” then female physiology is given. In other words, that physiology follows gender and not vice versa (at least in the spiritual realm).

    But, such speculation is pretty specific to tripartite models and I see little impact on whether or not such a “gender charge” is posited.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 9, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  57. Just how you believe that the spirit of the Lord is an emotional state is beyond me.

    Blake, I misspoke. I should say that the spirit is what makes that shared emotional state (grieving in this case) possible on a grand scale.

    I use spirit with a lower case ‘s’ here because it seems pretty obvious that the Holy Ghost’s participation as a person is not required for spiritual phenomena to exist.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 9, 2009 @ 7:19 am

  58. Matt,

    If there were two varieties of beginningless and irreducible and intelligent human spirits in the universe (lets call them type x and type y) then that is just the way things exist and there is no intentionality at all behind it. But let’s say some or all of them decided to organize this earth and decided that the x’s would be female here and the y’s would be male here. There is intentionality there.

    If that were the case the differences between x and y before appearing here could have been trivial and I won’t even begin to speculate about that because I can’t see why it even makes a difference. I would speculate that there was egalitarianism between the two there and will be again, but I base that on the revelations about the need for at-one-ment between all.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 9, 2009 @ 8:16 am

  59. A Davis,

    First, I recommend that you use quotes or italics or blockquote when you quote someone. It gets confusing when you don’t.

    Second see my #58.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 9, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  60. Ok Geoff- That’s fair. I am of basically the same mindset. I can’t think of any characteristic of man or woman that would be eternal, but for there to be eternal gender, there must be some eternal difference, so I was wondering what your thoughts were. I know a lot of thoughts around the eternal difference tie to priesthood and gender roles, but I don’t buy the gender roles stuff and believe in priestesses. I sometimes tend toward the cultural view that Girls are just endowed with more awesomeness than boys, but realize that is probably gender bias on my part.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  61. Endowed was the wrong word since they of course, being eternal, would just eternally have more awesomeness. It’s like the opposite of the Adam’s apple, only awesome.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 9, 2009 @ 8:35 am

  62. If there were two varieties of beginningless and irreducible and intelligent human spirits in the universe (lets call them type x and type y) then that is just the way things exist and there is no intentionality at all behind it. But let’s say some or all of them decided to organize this earth and decided that the x’s would be female here and the y’s would be male here. There is intentionality there.

    I think that is a good way of posing the question. Is spirit body gender intentional or not intentional? We can quibble about the nature of “not intentional” (which I would simply say has to be simple) but that is tertiary to the bigger question of intentional vs. not intentional.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 9, 2009 @ 8:52 am

  63. Mark: now while I suppose exaltation that amounts to basking in the secondary glow of three individuals entirely unlike themselves is a reasonable way to interpret the scriptures,

    Are you attributing that view to me?

    Comment by Blake — October 9, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  64. Are you attributing that view to me?

    No, although I think much of what you have said implies it. In particular, your previously expressed view to the effect that we are not so much as conscious prior to the reception of prevenient grace.

    I don’t know how to interpret that other than as one of the widest ontological gaps imaginable between the three members of the Godhead and everyone else. If you don’t or if you no longer believe that prevenient grace is required for the free will or agency of an individual to be made active, my apologies.

    The degree and order of difference between the three members of the Godhead and other exalted persons is something I don’t think you have made clear here, in particular the question of what happens (in principle) to the others if the first three go away. Are they now (collectively) divine in their own right, or are they reduced to some lesser status?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 9, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  65. Mark: In particular, your previously expressed view to the effect that we are not so much as conscious prior to the reception of prevenient grace.

    No Mark, you haven’t understood. The light that is the basis of our shared life is necessarily shared. I’m not sure that consciousness is necessary for any number of actions even by God — it is about the nature of consciousness and will. It is a matter of the philosophy of mind and it doesn’t have anything to do with whether we Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

    Mark: The degree and order of difference between the three members of the Godhead and other exalted persons is something I don’t think you have made clear here, in particular the question of what happens (in principle) to the others if the first three go away. Are they now (collectively) divine in their own right, or are they reduced to some lesser status?

    I believe that I’ve mad it clear on a number of occasions. If there were two others who could develop the intelligence and same interpenetrating love of the three divine persons in the Godhead, then they would share the same attributes and powers even if Father, Son and Holy Ghost all chose to cease loving each other. However, as a matter of revealed fact, it is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost who have in fact chosen the relationship and there isn’t another relationship that could lead to deification that didn’t include them.

    In fact, in the prior thread I made this rather clear in response to Clark’s questions.

    Comment by Blake — October 9, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  66. Re: I don’t think I caught your question the first time I read the comment. No I don’t have a link or post on Talmage. There a letters in his papers that give his position. There is some of that in the funeral sermon book in the chapter on KFD, since it came up in that context.

    Comment by WVS — October 9, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  67. That was supposed to be Re: 12. (Geoff’s comment) in 66.

    Comment by WVS — October 9, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  68. Back on the topic of atonement theory, what Mark describes is not a version of the Moral Influence theory. In his theory the suffering of the atonement is a fundamentally required for the Godhead to interact and help us while we are in a sinful state. The Moral Influence theory, by stark contrast, posits that the suffering of Jesus in Gethsemane was necessary as a demonstration of his love for us, which, once demonstrated, serves as an inspiration to us to do good and follow him. Vast chasm of a difference between those two ideas. In Mark’s theory the suffering always accomplishes something objective. In the MI theory, it does not.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 9, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  69. Isn’t Mark’s “distributed” theory of atonement essentially the same as the compassion theory of atonement?

    Comment by Blake — October 9, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  70. Bit late to this conversation, but I would like to make a few points.

    In the venerable King Follett sermon Joseph said,
    Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits (TPJS, p.354)

    Here Joseph not only suggests spirits are immortal, but that they can be increased or magnified. Perhaps our most minimal irreducible core is a bare intelligence. In this sense, there is no need to have TPB and infinite regress be separate possibilities. We existed before our current birth, why not as spirits? I would say our Heavenly Parents had something to do with it, even if it was just organizing pre-existing spirit material/intelligences. Organization is everything.

    But I do have to say, I favor divine concert for the Holy Ghost. I think that has more to do with the ministry of angels than we currently think.

    On the divine feminine – eternity would have lost something without something of the feminine. It would be a very strange thing to have a wonderful thing like femininity on earth, but not perfected in Heaven.

    Comment by Zen — October 9, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  71. Zen,

    The TPJS amalgamated version of the KFD is not particularly useful in conversations like this because it reflects the bias of the compiler a bit too much. Far better to use the original journals when really digging in.

    See WVS’s excellent resource site here and see our past discussions about the KFD here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 9, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  72. Blake, in that case, my original statement should be revised like this: “now while I suppose exaltation that amounts to basking in the secondary glow of three individuals infinitely more glorified than themselves is a reasonable way to interpret the scriptures…

    I recognize that your position is logically consistent, it just entails certain things that I find implausible, like three individuals who were smart enough to spend an infinite amount of time in perfect communion, while everyone else was content to spend a comparably infinite amount of time not following their example.

    The more basic problem is that I have yet to hear any reasonable theory (or any theory at all) as to why divine power and glory should increase without limit in rough proportion to length of spiritual communion.

    So if there is one and only one individual who is “the” Heavenly Mother, either she also spent such an infinite duration in perfect communion, or she is infinitely less glorified than her husband.

    Paul says “All have sinned, and all have fallen short of the glory of God”. Or in other words, the natural man is prone to sin.

    Your theory practically requires the proposition that none of the members of the Godhead was ever a natural man in this sense, never committed a sin of any kind. I think that is possible, but provided we are speaking of beings of the same natural kind as us, in my opinion that is infinitely unlikely.

    It is like saying that somehow three individuals were infinitely smarter and wiser than all the rest of us, and infinitely more disciplined, to the degree they have an infinite head start, by some induplicable means whereby they have and maintain infinite spiritual capacity.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 9, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  73. Jacob J, thanks for the clarification. You understand me correctly, with the exception that I don’t think that suffering per se has any causal force in the atonement, but is rather an unavoidable side effect of the effort required for at-one-ment to happen.

    Blake: Isn’t Mark’s “distributed” theory of atonement essentially the same as the compassion theory of atonement?

    No. Besides the “distributed” part, where all exalted persons participate equally and others participate partially, I maintain that compassion is a precursor to the atonement, not the atonement a precursor to compassion. The latter is putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion.

    Compassion leads effort on behalf of others. The right kind of effort on behalf of others (among other things), when reciprocated, leads to spiritual union, reconcilation, or at-one-ment. The Atonement, with a capital ‘A’, in my opinion is this process on a universal scale, including heaven and earth.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 9, 2009 @ 8:40 pm

  74. Zen,

    I would say our Heavenly Parents had something to do with it, even if it was just organizing pre-existing spirit material/intelligences.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that. What sort of organizing do you have in mind. If the intelligence/spirit has always existed (as Joseph indicates) then what does organization add?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 10, 2009 @ 10:23 am

  75. Mark: I find implausible, like three individuals who were smart enough to spend an infinite amount of time in perfect communion, while everyone else was content to spend a comparably infinite amount of time not following their example.

    You’re asking for a theory to provide a sufficient explanation for that which in principal has no sufficient explanation: act of free will. I could also ask as unfortunately of your view: why on earth would we wait an eternity to catch onto the fact that divine love is the only choice that really makes sense? Why indeed.

    Mark: I maintain that compassion is a precursor to the atonement, not the atonement a precursor to compassion. The latter is putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion.

    I guess I missed where I taught otherwise — except to state that atonement just is compassion and it is also God’s very mode of being in relation to us in every moment. In fact, it always precedes our every moment because “he loved us first.” Compassion is not a precursor to atonement so much as it is atonement — and I fail to see how your view could be otherwise as well.

    Mark: Your theory practically requires the proposition that none of the members of the Godhead was ever a natural man in this sense, never committed a sin of any kind. I think that is possible, but provided we are speaking of beings of the same natural kind as us, in my opinion that is infinitely unlikely.

    You keep talking about what is unlikely — without the vaguest notion of what could be likely or unlikely because there are no comparisons. If you mean that God is unusual in his lack of sinfulness, then yeah, I agree that is “unlikely” but that is hardly an argument against it. Winning the lottery is unlikely but it happens all of the time.

    More importantly, if your view is that each of the divine persons have in fact sinned because they laden with what is the “natural man,” then I think you adopt a contrascriptural position. Yes, they were tempted and freely and truly able to sin — but they freely chose not to sin.

    Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Instead, we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet he never sinned.”

    1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

    2 Cor. 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew not sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

    1 John 3:5 “. . . And in him is no sin.”

    It is essential to Christ’s atonement that he is without sin. Now I know that you have a very low opinion of scripture. But 1 John 3:5 states that he “takes away our sins” precisely in virtue of the fact that in him was no sin. We can’t build a view of revealed truth unless we rely on what is revealed. 1 Cor. 5:21 also connects Jesus justification in atonement in the fact that he was sinless.

    So let me ask a few questions: (1) Do you maintain that Jesus sinned and that he had a sinful human nature which made him carnal, sensual and devilish? (2) do you maintain that the Son was sinless but the Father and Holy Ghost were not? (3) Do you maintain that atonement requires that God sin?

    Mark: The more basic problem is that I have yet to hear any reasonable theory (or any theory at all) as to why divine power and glory should increase without limit in rough proportion to length of spiritual communion.

    Yeah, and I have yet to see where I present or suggest such a theory.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  76. Mark: Elohim, plural right? We could translate that “Gods”, but that is a contradiction in terms, so one God multiple persons is the order of the day and has been for who knows how many thousand years. “Divine concert” is just a way to make that as explicit as it was in the original Hebrew.

    What in the heqq are you talking bout? “Gods” is not a contradiction in terms. Elohim can be either plural or a singular name. While ‘elohim does connote at times the divine counsel, it certainly doesn’t have to.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  77. “Gods” is a contradiction in terms with a capital G, because “God” with a capital G is understood to be the one true God, all powerful, all knowing, and all benevolent. There cannot be more than one of those.

    That is the whole basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, the only reason why Christians can claim to be monotheists, and one we affirm in D&C 20:28: “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end”.

    That is why “Gods” with an uppercase G is a contradiction in terms. Generally speaking we capitalize proper names, i.e. references to things there are only one of. Would anyone ever write “the Supreme Courts” when referring to the supreme courts of more than one state? No, they would write “the supreme courts”. Strictly speaking a proper name cannot be pluralized, or the name wouldn’t have been proper to begin with.

    So either God is a proper name, as is maintained in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. or it is a brand name issued by a an entity higher than God, the manufacturer of “Gods ™”.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 10, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  78. You’re asking for a theory to provide a sufficient explanation for that which in principal has no sufficient explanation: act of free will

    What you propose is not an act, it is an infinite series of actions.

    Compassion is not a precursor to atonement so much as it is atonement — and I fail to see how your view could be otherwise as well

    Compassion is a state of being. At-one-ment is a process. It doesn’t require any work to *have* compassion, it requires work to *show* compassion. Communion is a state of being, the end goal, of the process of at-one-ment. At-one-ment requires work, sacrifice, and inevitable suffering. Compassion alone will not suffice.

    With regard to the scriptures about sinlessness of Jesus Christ, I think it is pretty obvious that they are referring either to to his earthly tenure or to his state at the end of his life, and rather than his state of being an arbitrary amount of time before his advent. And no, I don’t think error in the distant past has anything to do with the efficacy of the atonement.

    So let me ask a few questions: (1) Do you maintain that Jesus sinned and that he had a sinful human nature which made him carnal, sensual and devilish? (2) do you maintain that the Son was sinless but the Father and Holy Ghost were not? (3) Do you maintain that atonement requires that God sin?

    1. At some point in the distant past, almost certainly, although I think “carnal, sensual, and devilish” is taking the idea a bit too far. It is hard to be “carnal” without a body of flesh and bones. “Radically unlikely to have been eternally free from moral error” is how I would put it.
    2. No.
    3. No.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 10, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  79. Mark: “God” and “gods” function in a number of contexts equivocally. To say that “Gods” is a contradiction is simply to misunderstand how the term is variously used. If “God” is a rigid designator as a natural name for a single individual, then “Marks” is a contradiction if we refer to you, but it hardly follows that there can’t be more than one Mark.

    I agree, of course, that in some traditional theologies, like Thomism and Anelmianism, the very notion of “gods” is a contradiction in terms — but that is never the case in the Bible where the terms “god” and “gods” are hardly ever proper names.

    Mark: What you propose is not an act, it is an infinite series of actions.

    That is nonsense. Each act is done one at a time. There may an infinite series consisting of acts, but there is no such thing as acts done as an infinite series as you propose.

    Mark: At-one-ment is a process.

    What is the distinction you suggest? An extended state of being may well be a process. Just what in the heck is the “process” you have in mind” It seems to me that to be at one just is a state-of-being-in-relationship with another.

    However, I think that we can agree with each other this far: the state of being at one with another is a state of active relationship. It may entail that another works (tho I have no idea what you mean by that). We both agree that atonement entails suffering-with-another.

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  80. Mark: At some point in the distant past [Jesus didn't suffer], almost certainly [he did], although I think “carnal, sensual, and devilish” is taking the idea a bit too far. It is hard to be “carnal” without a body of flesh and bones. “Radically unlikely to have been eternally free from moral error” is how I would put it.

    Here we part company — and frankly we belong to different religions or spiritual traditions as a result. What is the basis of your assertion that Christ likely sinned other than your ungrounded assertion of some unmeasurable probability?

    I note that you ignore the scriptures I cited — as you must. That is a big difference between our approaches. I give weight to scriptural assertions — you don’t. But it is precarious to base one’s religious point of view on sheer speculation that contradicts scripture in my view — as you do. The tie between atonement and sinlessness in these scriptural texts is unmistakable and your view not only can’t account for it but must deny it.

    You assert Christ probably sinned at some point in a beginningless past. I say that it is indeed remarkable that he didn’t sin — so remarkable that it merits worship rather than just adding a wow-factor. What worship is due to Christ if he sinned like we do? How did he overcome this sin — is it based on his Father’s unscriptural atonement — or the atonement of the infinite regress of gods in the unknown past?

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  81. Woops! The quote from Mark at the beginning of # 80 should say: “At some point in the distant past [Jesus didn't sin], almost certainly [he did sin], although I think “carnal, sensual, and devilish” is taking the idea a bit too far. It is hard to be “carnal” without a body of flesh and bones. “Radically unlikely to have been eternally free from moral error” is how I would put it.”

    So Jesus wasn’t carnal in the past because he didn’t have a body; he was just sensual and devilish like the rest of those who give in to their natural man. Wow — what a savior you have [not]!

    Comment by Blake — October 10, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  82. We are told our gender is inherent and an important part of our pre-/current/ and post- existence. However, if our spirits have always existed, and our maleness and femaleness has always existed, it may be that feminine is required not because her uterus, but because of her eternal parenting and influence.

    Comment by dave b — October 10, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

  83. Blake, I think if you paid attention to what I said, you would realize that my theory of the atonement is more radical than you suppose.

    You don’t need to be sarcastic about “sensual and devilish” – I explicitly said that I preferred the term “moral error”. I wouldn’t use the term “devilish” to describe the common lot of mankind in any circumstances.

    I didn’t ignore the scriptures you cited, and already gave my explanation (q.v.).

    Comment by Mark D. — October 10, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

  84. By the way, I never said that “god” (with a lower case ‘g’) was a proper name. I said that “God” (with a capital G) was a proper name. Big difference.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 12:01 am

  85. Mark: “God” is only rarely a proper name. It is most often a designation of a generic title for the one that is worshiped in both Hebrew and Greek.

    I missed where you gave your explanation of the scriptures I cited — sorry about that. I guess I missed it because I expected something that actually dealt with the text rather than mere assertion without any basis as far as I can see.

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  86. Mark: I am confused by your atonement theory. As I understand you, God suffers but his suffering doesn’t accomplish anything. However, you said that Jacob accurately captured your view — but Jacob asserted: “In Mark’s theory the suffering always accomplishes something objective. In the MI theory, it does not.”

    So is something “objective” accomplished by suffering on your view?

    I have a few more questions. Is the suffering a suffering “in the flesh” or is it a suffering that any omniscient being (as you define “omniscient”) would experience? In other words, as I understand, we share in this suffering too so we are also atoning in the same way. Is that accurate?

    What difference does God’s suffering make on your view? Is God simply at our mercy so that he cannot fail to suffer if we cause suffering?

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  87. Mark: What worship is due to Christ if he sinned like we do? How did he overcome this sin — is it based on his Father’s unscriptural atonement — or the atonement of the infinite regress of gods in the unknown past?

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  88. Mark #72: I recognize that your position is logically consistent, it just entails certain things that I find implausible, like three individuals who were smart enough to spend an infinite amount of time in perfect communion, while everyone else was content to spend a comparably infinite amount of time not following their example.

    I very much agree with your point here. However it seems to me that it is such a strong point that it works against your position as well. What I mean is, the infinity of time thing makes it hard to explain on a practical level why any beginningless person who could been unified with the Godhead is not yet unified with the Godhead given that all have had an infinite amount of time to figure out that entering such a unity is significantly preferable to non-participation in that union. Further, if your position is that there was a time before there was any divine chorus/Godhead then it would necessarily be an infinite amount of time, right? Also, it is not clear to me what percentage of all beginningless spirits your theory assumes joined together in a divine chorus in order to qualify it as a divine chorus.

    In the end, I think that the positions that make the most logical sense are that either all have always been part of the Godhead/divine chorus (which is a position I will call radical universalism) or that spirits have a beginning after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  89. Blake #85: I expected something that actually dealt with the text rather than mere assertion without any basis as far as I can see.

    In #78 Mark gives what seems to me to be a plausible response to your scriptures in #75 Blake. Namely that they refer to the mortal Jesus not his infinite premortal history. What is the basis for your mere assertion that those scriptures apply to his infinite history?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  90. Geoff: Christ’s ability to atone is tied to his sinlessness. These scriptures apply to Christ as savior and not merely as a mortal. You might want to look it up, but Yahweh is a savior as well.

    Further, how did Christ overcome his prior sinfulness? We now have some infinite regress of atoning saviors?

    Geoff, I agree that Mark’s point cut both ways — but not equally. He says he just cannot believe that it is possible that Christ would exist for an infinite amount of time during which he is free to sin but he didn’t sin. Is that any any more plausible than an infinite amount of time spent sinning after which he stops sinning and becomes … what? sinless?

    My question is how this sinner became the savior if he was himself a sinner. That is Paul’s point (and the point of the writer of Hebrews). He can justify and save because, although human and free to sin and participated fully in human experience like the rest of us, he didn’t sin. He never knew sin (that is the point of 1 John). How can he save if he was once a sinner like us and on whom did he rely for atonement?

    Comment by Blake — October 11, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  91. Blake,

    I don’t see anything in Mark’s theory that contradicts the idea that Jesus was sinless prior to this earth and remained so while here. That is not the same as asserting that Jesus has always been sinless throughout the infinite past. I understand it contradicts the model you prefer of course but there is nothing about the idea that takes it out of the realm of possibilities in Mormonism.

    I’ll let Mark explain his own model but it seems that the basic possibilities are 1) Jesus has always been divine (which points either to a two-track model if the rest of us haven’t always been divine or radical universalism if we have), 2) There is an infinite regress of gods and Jesus was redeemed and exalted via a savior before him, 3) Jesus and/or his Father bootstrapped their way to divinity in a way that would make Pelagius proud.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

  92. Blake: I am confused by your atonement theory. As I understand you, God suffers but his suffering doesn’t accomplish anything.

    I said that suffering is a necessary artifact of what God does that does accomplish something. It is unavoidable, but not in the efficacious casual chain, in my opinion. Suffering per se doesn’t help anyone, or masochism would be the highway to eternal life.

    However, you said that Jacob accurately captured your view

    You should read that again.

    I have a few more questions. Is the suffering a suffering “in the flesh” or is it a suffering that any omniscient being (as you define “omniscient”) would experience?

    Both. Although I don’t think omniscience per se has anything to do with it. Spiritual acquaintance, and a number of other things…

    In other words, as I understand, we share in this suffering too so we are also atoning in the same way. Is that accurate?

    Not to the same degree, but contributing, yes. And I don’t mean by “suffering” per se, I mean by making sacrifices on behalf of others. (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-27, Rom 12:1, 1 Pet 4:13).

    What difference does God’s suffering make on your view? Is God simply at our mercy so that he cannot fail to suffer if we cause suffering?

    I don’t think that anyone’s suffering per se makes any material difference here. I maintain that God’s suffering is a necessary artifact of what he does on our behalf, i.e. every spiritual blessing in particular. And when I refer to God, I mean any and all members of the divine concert, because they are part of the same spiritual union, and are engaged in the same work.

    Fully divine or not, same principle here. The difference between those who participate in heaven and those who participate as true Christians here on earth, is partially a difference in character and partially a difference in degree. In short, I don’t think Jesus Christ personally carries the whole burden, but rather that the burden is distributed among all who take upon themselves his name, here and in heaven, each of whom is part of the body of Christ.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

  93. Here are some key scriptures on this point:

    For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ…Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (1 Cor 12:12,27)

    I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)

    Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (1 Pet 4:13)

    For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Heb 2:11)

    By the way, I don’t think that any one, nor any small handful of individuals can ever become divine in the sense we understand all by themselves, and that is where Pelagius went wrong. There is no salvation, no eternal life apart from the divine concert, no salvation, no eternal life without at-one-ment. I do think the divine concert and the plan of salvation was bootstrapped from first principles, however.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  94. Mark,

    A couple of questions:

    1) Do you hold that there are an infinite number of beginningless spirits or a finite number?
    2) If a finite number what percentage of them do you think must have unified to qualify as divinity? If infinite then what minimum numbers do you have in mind? (Since you seem to think three is too small of a number)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  95. Blake: In response to your last question, I maintain that sinlessness is a state that one arrives at, and that any prior errors are irrelevant by that point.

    And yes I maintain that any moral errors in the infinite past were overcome by the same principles as anyone else, hence the distributed at-one-ment. Justification means that God and the divine concert accept you despite your weaknesses due to faith on your part. Sanctification means you have overcome your sins to the degree that you are a full participant in that union.

    Restitution means that directly or indirectly you make your life a living sacrifice more than enough to make reparation for all your prior errors. Everything you receive by virtue of that union or prospective union is grace. Everything you contribute to that union is sacrifice.

    Without full restitution and reasonable service the economy of that union would fail – personal sacrifice is required. Without sanctification the quality of that union would be compromised. Without justification no one would qualify for the grace necessary to make progress on the road to sanctification and full participation.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  96. Geoff: (1) I don’t really know or have much of a basis for a strong opinion. I will say that if space is infinite, I believe that the number of spirits / individuals is likely infinite as well. If space is finite, I don’t see how the number of individuals can be infinite.

    (2) I think this is a matter of degree. I have no idea how many individuals are necessary to create the sort of spiritual union that we feel in these days and times whenever we receive a spiritual blessing. However, I imagine it is in the millions.

    But if there were a smaller number of beneficiaries, the spirit could presumably be felt just as strong, although perhaps not of the same quality. I suspect a divine society is rather to be preferred over a divine party.

    What could not be just as strong, in my opinion, is any unified (i.e. global) exercise of divine power. I believe that moving mountains requires more spiritual “muscle” than any handful of individuals can bring to bear all by themselves, and that indeed saving millions ultimately requires bringing all those millions into shared participation.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

  97. Mark: However, I imagine it is in the millions.

    If there are an infinite number of unsaved spirits in existence how is a Godhead made up of millions of persons significantly better than three in terms of relative scale? Seems to me that if you are going to complain about the number of participants you are sort of boxed in to assuming a finite (though very large) number of beginningless spirits or your complaints don’t make any sense at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  98. Geoff: If there is a limit to how fast the divine franchise can be extended, then there is a limit. I mean presumably the divine concert consisted of just three at some point, and I don’t think they immediately invited a million to join them, to avoid being overwhelmed.

    Suppose that every K years the divine concert can expand by factor L. That is a differential equation, and the solution is an exponential curve.

    Y = Yo * exp(L * t / K)

    where Y is the size of the divine concert, Yo is the initial size, and t is the number of years since the beginning of the concert (roughly).

    There is no limit to such a curve, as long as there are new individuals to save. But they cannot be saved all at once, nor an infinite amount of individuals in a finite amount of time, unless the initial size is infinite as well.

    If space is infinite, one could well speculate that it is probable that for every expanse of space someone has the idea to start something like a divine concert, and then each would expand until they ran into another one, where they would of course eventually merge if they are each founded on righteous principles. If that is the case, and the density of individuals per finite expanse is finite, even if the total is unlimited, that infinite number could all (in principle) be saved in a finite amount of time.

    What everyone is going to do after everyone is saved (more or less) is no doubt somewhat different in character than what is going on now.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  99. And of course the only reason why the maximal expansion factor would be finite at all is a matter of physics. I tend to think that a million members of the divine concert could minister to a hundred million prospective members better than three could, all by themselves. No one can possibly make the case that all else being equal, three are going to get the job done faster than three with a million contemporaries.

    So if you want to know what L is one would in principle need to know how many persons each member of the divine concert could effectively minister to, and how long each of the latter needs on average to become exalted, from the beginning of that ministry to the day of final exaltation. Not that there isn’t a lot of cooperation going on.

    That number (L) could be ten or ten billion. The number of years necessary from “first discussion” to exaltation could be ten thousand or ten million, take your pick. If ministerial capacity is finite, something like this rule will apply.

    If one is going to start introducing infinities all over the place (e.g. infinite ministerial capacity per individual) we might as well go home, because everything about the economy of heaven becomes instantly unexplainable. That is the number one problem with classical theism. Infinite capacity, finite results. The problem with classical theodicy writ large.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 11, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  100. Mark: I mean presumably the divine concert consisted of just three at some point, and I don’t think they immediately invited a million to join them, to avoid being overwhelmed.

    Wha…?

    You lost me here. Not much of a divine concert if they can’t invite all to join them in their loving unity… How do they choose to invite to the exclusive club? Further, I am a bit baffled about what would make them divine in your model. What made them more powerful or intelligent than their co-eternal peers? Also, what were they doing for that infinite amount of time prior to deciding to form team God? I really am a little confused about this.

    Again, it seems to me that you and Blake suffer from a serious problem in coming up with any remotely feasible explanation of what allegedly intelligent spirits were doing for the infinite amount of time prior to realizing that divinity is way better than… well whatever the heck they were doing forever.

    What everyone is going to do after everyone is saved (more or less) is no doubt somewhat different in character than what is going on now.

    Assuming all aren’t already exalted.

    Anyway, didn’t you say recently that unless God was saving spirits God wouldn’t be God?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  101. Not much of a divine concert if they can’t invite all to join them in their loving unity

    Of course they can invite all to join their loving unity. Exaltation does not happen over night however, it requires considerable patience and cooperation.

    There are two issues here. One is a matter of practicality – how many individuals can three individuals contact and persuade in person. Did they really have the credibility necessary to persuade multitudes when the divine concert was more an idea than a reality?

    The second issue is timing. The invitation of course extends to all from the very beginning – but there are two basic kinds of invitations here. The first is to start down the path and the second is to graduate. I was referring to the latter.

    The people who are going to be exalted first are the ones most prepared for the responsibility. There is no bar to going from three to three million, it is just a matter of time. How many hundred million years did we wait to get a physical body, for example?

    Further, I am a bit baffled about what would make them divine in your model. What made them more powerful or intelligent than their co-eternal peers?

    Divinity is not a binary proposition, it comes in degrees. The divine concert became the divine concert. It was established on faith and became the divine concert through the righteous actions and behavior of the participants. In particular it became the divine concert through extending the franchise. “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the eternal life of man”.

    More intelligent, yes, but not radically so. There is no bar to a bunch of people having the same idea. Perhaps there were fifteen individuals, perhaps there were initially more than one group. It doesn’t make a difference really, as long they become one.

    More powerful, definitely not. What can possibly make an individual radically more powerful than another all by himself?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 8:21 am

  102. By the way, I take it as an empirical fact that most of the people on the planet, including me, are not exalted.

    There are half a dozen plausible explanation as to why that is the case. The most obvious (and the most persuasive to me) is individual and societal propensity for backsliding – the history of history, more or less.

    Another is experience, knowledge and proper conditions – why didn’t the industrial revolution happen several thousand years ago, for example?

    Another is evolution – exaltation as we know it today seems to require a resurrected, glorified body. So when or where did the relevant biological evolution occur, so that we have a human body in the first place?

    A third is the difference in the level of intelligence and capacity between the time prior to having a body of any kind, and having a body. Presumably we get bodies for a reason, right? That our brain isn’t a couple of kilograms of dead weight?

    A fourth is clocking, memory, and perception. An infinite time is not a long time to wait if one is not really aware he or she has been waiting for an infinite time.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 8:47 am

  103. Mark,

    What does/did the process of becoming divine look like on your model? What changes in those spirits that makes them divine? Is it the equivalent of a lot of self-taught school where they learn all the workings of the universe? How does becoming a team allow them to do that? Do they just develop technology over time that allows them to eventually do things like organize and manage worlds? What would getting a physical body have to do with this process? What would “righteousness” have to do with their ability to create better technology? What is so divine about “bunch of people having the same idea”?

    What can possibly make an individual radically more powerful than another all by himself?

    What could make them radically more powerful together? A bigger army?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  104. I take it as an empirical fact that most of the people on the planet, including me, are not exalted.

    Well of course. The idea behind radical universalism is that divine persons condescend to pass through a veil to come here for the adventure. It is not the most appealing idea in many ways but at least it makes more sense than some of the alternatives I have heard that assume spirits are beginningless. And of course such mortal adventures would be repeated over and over if they did provide sufficient variety for the otherwise boring monotony of living forever.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  105. Mark: Isn’t your divine concert, boiled down, just the view that over eternity or a long period of time persons evolved until they were really smart and some of them learned how to get along and to greatly improve their technology so that they are godlike?

    Comment by Blake — October 12, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  106. Blake, if you include all spiritual things, all moral improvement, and every divine attribute under the rubric of “technology” than I suppose you could characterize it that way yes.

    However, your view is characterizable in the same way, unless you believe that there is some form of “magic” (i.e. the means to violate the fundamental laws of nature) available to expedite the process.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  107. What could make them radically more powerful together? A bigger army?

    Scale of course. They are their own army. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus, going on before… And that is just the unexalted ones.

    Of course this sort of power can only be exercised in righteousness or it is ultimately all for naught. If no one wants or can be persuaded that the benefits of spiritual discipline and divine society are better than their natural condition, the work of God grinds to a halt.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  108. Mark,

    What does “all spiritual things” mean in the context of a reality with beginningless intelligent spirits? Particularly if that reality had an infinite amount of time in which no God existed.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  109. Scale of course. They are their own army.

    And with that army they can do what? Subjugate the other spirits? Quoting “Onward Christian Soldiers” is hardly helpful in supporting metaphysical theories.

    So I suppose “exercised in righteousness” means the things in D&C 121 but of course armies need not follow those principles to exercise power. The problem is you have totally failed to explain why a bunch of people having the same idea would somehow create a God.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  110. Mark: What Geoff said in 108.

    Comment by Blake — October 12, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  111. Isn’t your divine concert, boiled down, just the view that over eternity or a long period of time persons evolved until they were really smart and some of them learned how to get along and to greatly improve their technology so that they are godlike?

    Shh. Don’t tell the transhumanists.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 12, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

  112. Geoff, I think you are reading the term “spiritual” in a different sense than I am using. The term is ambiguous here.

    For example, we might suppose that spirits have bodies made of spirit matter. But then, when such a spirit “feels the spirit” what is he feeling? Surely not his own imagination.

    In other words, here I am using the term “spiritual” as a direct analog to what “spiritual” means here, namely with reference to interpersonal communication of thought and feeling over extended distances.

    That is the only thing that makes spiritual union possible. That is what “the spirit” (with a small ‘s’) is – a field or medium that every individual in existence participates in, to one degree or another, for good or for evil. When one is “in tune”, he or she feels the spirit of God (any in my opinion much of the divine concert) to a greater degree than otherwise. That is the greatest everyday miracle I know of.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 10:24 pm

  113. I should say rather that “the spirit” (small ‘s’ again) is not that medium, but rather is carried by that field or medium. When we feel the spirit of another person, we are feeling something roughly equivalent to a glow that they emanate, a glow that seems to glow rather the brighter then they are feeling “the spirit” too.

    “The spirit” (small ‘s’) better defined as the collective union of all good spiritual influences present – the Spirit of God (big ‘S’) when God gets involved, which of course is most of the time.

    The problem is you have totally failed to explain why a bunch of people having the same idea would somehow create a God.

    If you fail to see how a divine concert with a large number of disciplined members with glorified bodies can have divine attributes and exercise divine power, I need you to be more specific. The Spirit of God like a fire is burning…

    Shh. Don’t tell the transhumanists.

    The transhumanists I know of don’t spend much time worrying about justification and sanctification, or spiritual things in general. If they did we might say they are just a little behind the times…

    Comment by Mark D. — October 12, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  114. Mark,

    When a spirit person “feels the spirit” it is presumably communication from God. But in your model there was an infinite amount of time when there was no God at all. So your alleged boot strapper spirits who first became Team God presumably never did “feel the spirit” as they improved their technology (or whatever). Further, I have no idea what sort of technology you think they created that allowed them to telepathically communicate with all other spirits in existence but it must be pretty cool. Further, I fail to see why moral purity would need to be related to their technology advances in the Godless universe they inhabited.

    Or are you now saying that spirits naturally have telepathy?

    Frankly the more we unpack this model of yours the more shaky it is looking to me. That’s not to say I think Blake’s really works but he does have the advantage of at least claiming there never was a time without any God.

    If you fail to see how a divine concert with a large number of disciplined members with glorified bodies

    You have completely failed to explain how any of them got the first set of physical bodies to begin with. How was the first inhabitable planet organized and how did these beginningless spirits end up getting physical bodies there on your model? Did they become God without bodies? If so why bother with the whole mortality thing?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 12, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

  115. Geoff, Do I really have to have an explanation for every mystery of existence to have a plausible model? All I can say here is that given a handful of plausible assumptions this is about the only option there is.

    Under those assumptions (spiritual things are real, perfection of character required to be divine, exalted persons same species as us, no violations of fundamental physical laws, real equality possible for all exalted beings, salvation a work in progress, no extensive set of Platonic forms) the idea of a divine concert and a distributed atonement is the best explanation available.

    You can’t complain about all those exotic side issues to defeat a model like this – you have to attack the premises that make a model like this inevitable in the first place.

    If you believe we have always been morally perfect, then sure, my model doesn’t apply. If you believe that God can violate any law of nature at will, then my model is superfluous. If you don’t think that perfection of character is required for divine power, same deal. If you think that God has always been God, or is not of the same species as us, ditto.

    And yes I believe that all “spirits” have a “spirit” that extends beyond the limits of their bodies, and that this is a fundamental attribute of existence for anything that has any mental properties whatsoever. That doesn’t mean that sophistication in language, or thought, or “telepathy” has any natural existence whatsoever.

    And if you want a physical example of this sort of union, you could do far worse than to study the properties of a quantum wavefunction with multiple particles.

    It would also help if you didn’t make up things I didn’t say. If you think that biology is a “technology” then sure. But technology is not a word I would use, because it is radically misleading. Is a flower technological in character? A sunrise? A gentle breeze?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  116. I might add that anyone who thinks that God has always been God has completely assumed away the one and only true problem of theology. Enter the magic wand, and anything can happen.

    When you wish upon a star
    Makes no difference who you are
    Anything your heart desires
    Will come to you

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 12:36 am

  117. That’s not to say I think Blake’s really works but he does have the advantage of at least claiming there never was a time without any God.

    Along with Mark D., I see this as a disadvantage. The implausibility of there existing multiple beings (the Godhead) who have never been without a body with 10 fingers and 10 toes is something that I simply cannot swallow at present. I think Mark D. refers to this as Platonic forms.

    One of the things I like about Mark’s model is that divine power becomes a very addressable subject. Divine power arises from the cooperative influence of the natural powerful of individuals in a divine concert. This is much more concrete to me than maximal power arising because of some connection of perfect love.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 13, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  118. The transhumanists I know of don’t spend much time worrying about justification and sanctification, or spiritual things in general. If they did we might say they are just a little behind the times…

    Oh, they do some. I’ve never really like any of the models for such proposed by them.

    I like their tendency to use naturalistic explanations for theological concepts. Where I think they falter is that they tend to assume that known physical law is the extant of what is necessary to explain things like resurrection, immortality, etc. Granted, it has to be an extrapolation much beyond what we now do, but nothing fundamentally new is required. This, I think is a mistake.

    For example, spirit matter to me is a different substance than physical matter. Consequently, any model of resurrection will be necessarily incomplete until we have some model of spirit matter. The current Mormon transhumanists largely disagree. Spirit matter is just neutrinos, electrons, or such.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 13, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  119. Mark #115: Do I really have to have an explanation for every mystery of existence to have a plausible model?

    No, but it seems to me that a plausible model ought to at least have some semblance of an explanation for the elephants in the room like the simple and fundamental questions I asked in #114. Based on your #115 you have no answers at all to those basic questions.

    The problem as I see it is that your list of assumptions cannot peacefully coexist in a single model so you are doomed to fail by trying to incorporate incompatible assumptions together.

    Is a flower technological in character? A sunrise? A gentle breeze?

    Maybe. But either way you have failed to explain why there is such a thing as a flower, and sunrise, or a breeze. Did they randomly appear in the universe along with the planet they happened to exist on or did a God direct their organization? How did the first spirits end up on a planet in physical bodies with no God in existence? The basic questions can’t just be swept under the rug if you want your model to be taken seriously at all.

    In the end I think something has to give to come up with a coherent model. That is, something like radical universalism is at least coherent but it is probably undesirable since it requires throwing out way too much of scripture. A two-track model could make sense but probably requires the creedal-esque assumptions that only God is eternal and our spirits all have beginnings.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  120. A Davis,

    I completely agree that Blake’s quasi two-track variation has big troubles. I just don’t think Mark has provided us with an upgraded model — at least not an upgrade if we are standing way back and judging based on structural integrity.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  121. A. Davis: Yes, that is what I mean by Platonic forms. Thanks. Eternal, beginningless templates for complexities of biology, thought, language, culture, and so on.

    We have every reason in the world to understand these complexities as contingent, creative, and evolutionary. Aristotle knew this, and Ockham made his reputation on it.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 8:52 am

  122. Geoff, If you want an answer to a question, it helps if you don’t ask it in pejorative terms. A pejorative is a conclusion, not a premise. I can’t easily give a fair answer to #114 because you have framed all the questions in a manner that assumes the answers are invalid.

    There are certain things that are model defeaters. The first one, I mentioned, is to attack the plausibility of the premises. The second one is proof by contradiction, or to show that the premises inevitably lead to implausible or contradictory results.

    I spent much of #115 giving an answer to the first major issue you mention in #114 – namely the nature of spiritual communication. I claim that, like every material particle has a non-local quantum wave function, everything with mental or quasi mental properties of any kind whatsoever also is bound in a non-local field, or medium.

    Just as an ordinary quantum field is the only way that force is transferred from one physical entity to another, I claim this quasi-spiritual field is the only way even the most primitive of spiritual influences is shared between two entities that have the rudiments of consciousness and feeling, and that this field or medium is the bearer of all spiritual influences.

    Whether it is independent or just an aspect of the ordinary quantum field (as magnetism is to electricity) makes no difference here. If there are spiritual influences, and the creator(s) of those influences are not exercising magical powers, some such field or medium *must* exist.

    If divine persons are of the same species as us, it is logically possible for them to command a greater degree of spiritual influence, but not them only and us none. This is why “the spirit” (lower case ‘s’) *cannot* be understood as a divine phenomenon alone, doubly so if there are dark or evil spiritual influences. I don’t imagine that the Holy Ghost does the devil’s handiwork.

    That is the answer to the first major issue of #114.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  123. Mark D: We have every reason in the world to understand these complexities as contingent, creative, and evolutionary.

    We can go farther. :) We have every reason in the universe. All observations indicate that the universe has changed with time and at some point in the finite past was completely inhospitable to any physiological form that is human. Granted, it would be a mistake to base one’s theology on that but given flexibility of interpretation from the scriptures I think we’d at least want to roughly accommodate all available observation.

    Geoff J: I completely agree that Blake’s quasi two-track variation has big troubles. I just don’t think Mark has provided us with an upgraded model — at least not an upgrade if we are standing way back and judging based on structural integrity.

    I could try to glean all the points you made from the various comments, but if I may so pester, what’s the bullet point list?

    Comment by A. Davis — October 13, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  124. Geoff: The second issue you raise in #114 is interesting, but not a model defeater. By that I mean that there are hundreds of possibilities, none of which defeat the basic premises. So if I make up a guess out of thin air, it makes no difference either way.

    Like I said, no serious philosopher or scientist from Aristotle onward (that I am aware of) has maintained that complex forms in biology, thought, culture, or language are non-contingent. A classical theologian would say that God created the form of the human body, i.e. that form is contingent on God’s creative activity. A scientist would say that that form evolved over millions of years, i.e. that form is contingent on survivability and adaptation. Some people believe in a combination of both.

    But who out there in the modern world believes that the human form is something that neither God nor evolution had anything to do with? That it is some sort of metaphysical necessity, an eternal beginningless template independent of the will of God or gods, or the rough and tumble of the natural world?

    That constraint is the number one problem for two views here: (1) infinite backward recursion (2) God has always been pretty much like he is now. The reason is because it makes the human body, or complexity in thought, language, culture, religion some sort of metaphysical necessity completely independent of both the will of anyone or anything, and also completely independent of the vicissitudes of the natural world. In philosophical and scientific terms, it is a cop out, the very reason why Ockham’s razor is now a household phrase.

    entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem – in colloquial terms, of all the possible explanations the simplest one is the most likely.

    So what is the simplest possible way to explain the existence of the human body? Evolution of course. Hard materialist evolution is adequate if one denies natural mental properties and libertarian free will. Soft materialist evolution if one requires them, as I do.

    I could make exactly the same argument about the Adamic language, or whatever language is used by exalted persons. A full blown language is just a little too complex to be a law of nature. That is the understatement of the century. Everything we know about language indicates otherwise.

    That means that whatever happened in the past, God has *not* always been speaking the Adamic language. So if being divine requires a complex spoken language, or a glorified human body, God has not always been God. Q.E.D.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 9:47 am

  125. Geoff: I don’t have a two-track model.

    Comment by Blake — October 13, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  126. I know Blake. But it has some similarities to a two-track model so that is why I referred to it as a quasi two-track model.

    Mark — I’ll respond to your comments later when I have more time.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  127. Mark: There is no magic to believing that God has always been God. One only has to believe the scriptures. Further, it isn’t magic but a matter of nature — we are the sorts of being who, when we choose to enter into loving relationships of a certain sort (glorifying relationships), we manifest the attributes of deity as a shared and relational status.

    On your view, I suggest that there are no gods at all, there are only technologically advanced scientists (rather made in your own image as a physicist). Where does love enter into your equation? How are we glorified by a fullness of the divine or eternal life on your view (since that it not technologically achievable)?

    Could you give me some definition of “magic” as you use use where resurrection, eternal life, and bringing people back to life and so forth are not magic?

    Comment by Blake — October 13, 2009 @ 10:26 am

  128. Where does love enter into your equation? How are we glorified by a fullness of the divine or eternal life on your view (since that it not technologically achievable)?

    What does “glorified” and “fullness of the divine” mean in terms of the abilities that we know the Godhead is capable of (e.g. organize a planet from chaotic matter, move a mountain, turn water into wine)? How does love relate to those activities?

    Once we know what you mean (and I’m not saying I’m aligned with Mark in his model of deity) an answer should be easier to formulate.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 13, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  129. A. Davis: What I mean is what Ephesians, Collossians, John, D&C 88 and 93 mean. The glory of God is actuated in others by entering into loving relationships.

    Comment by Blake — October 13, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  130. Blake,

    “Ephesians, Collossians, John, D&C 88 and 93″ don’t explain at all how love or glory would be useful when a planet needs to be organized so I am not sure how mentioning them is particularly useful here. The question A Davis asks is a good one I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  131. Mark,

    Regarding the boot-strapping spirits “feeling the spirit” in #122. I don’t have a big problem with your assertion that beginningless spirits might emanate a field of some kind. The issue you have yet to address is what “the spirit” might have been in a Godless universe. If each individual spirit emanates a field of some kind then they all simply influenced each other sort of like people here influence each other. I fail to see how individuals hanging together or even creating a team/family would somehow organically lead to their Godhood. Can you help me out with that one?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  132. Mark (#124),

    I completely agree that it makes no sense at all to argue that beginningless spirits are in the form of human beings. It seems to me that beginningless spirits would be simple, irreducible minds of some kind instead.

    And I agree that the simplest explanation for the human body is evolution.

    But you didn’t answer my question. First, it seems to me that your model entails a lot of beginningless spirits teaming up after an infinity of time of not being teamed up. For some unexplained reason teaming up converted these spirits into God (the extended Godhead or divine chorus). All of that presumably happened prior to any of these beginningless spirits inhabiting a mortal body right? So in your model how did the first inhabited planet come to pass? Was it a random event or something designed by the spirits that were God?

    If it was random how is it that spirits somehow started inhabiting bodies on those planets? If it was an act of the divine chorus what was there point (since they were already God)?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  133. A Davis (#23): but if I may so pester, what’s the bullet point list?

    Not a bad idea. I’ll do one for Mark’s and Blake’s as I understand them. That way they can set us all straight.

    Mark’s

    1. The beginningless universe comes with beginningless spirits each of which have real free will.
    2. At some point after an infinite amount of time as solo spirits a few spirits decided to team up.
    3. For some reason that teaming up and inviting others to join them made them God (instead of just a team/club/army/nation/family)
    4. Somehow earth and mortal bodies got mixed up with the whole thing but I have no idea how and why earth (or earth-like planets) and mortal bodies even matter since they were already God without them.

    Blake’s

    1. The beginningless universe comes with beginningless spirits each of which have real free will.
    2. Three of the beginningless spirits have always been teamed up in a loving unity whereas none of the rest of them have. Blake insists that this difference does not constitute an ontological difference.
    3. For some reason that teaming up made them God (instead of just a team/club/army/nation/family). They invite all others to join the team (as junior members I think).
    4. After an infinite amount of time as God the three members of the Godhead decided to make inhabitable planets and The Father decided to condescend to get a mortal body on one of them. He became resurrected thereafter presumably along with billions of other spirits who got physical bodies.
    5. On a MUCH later planet The Son got a physical body and apparently redeemed all the people on all the inhabited planets that had already existed or would ever exist. We just happen to live on they one planet the The Son condescended to.

    How am I doing?

    (Sorry if the bullets sound snarky — I am just trying to be very clear and direct to get to the bare bones of the models. Correct away.)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  134. Blake: There is no magic to believing that God has always been God. One only has to believe the scriptures.

    I didn’t say “believing” was magic. I made an argument to the effect that the proposition that God has always been God without necessarily being God entails magic. And by “magic” I simply refer to the macroscopic violation of the fundamental laws of nature.

    As far as the scriptures go, I suggest that half the problem with classical theology is taking superlatives in absolute terms, which is what you seem to be doing here.

    So rather than returning so fast to first principles, you could say the argument I made is irrelevant in the two specific examples I provided, by asserting that God doesn’t need a a glorified body to exercise divine power and that God doesn’t need knowledge of a single spoken word to do the same.

    Is that what you believe? If not, how can God always have been God unless he has *always* had a glorified body (at a minimum, one with a brain) and has always been conversant in some reasonably sophisticated form of the spoken word? And what can explain uncaused embodiment (with a brain) and uncaused linguistic skill except a metaphysical necessity, such as the Adamic language written in the stars by absolutely no one or no thing?

    While you are at it, please give a reasonably comprehensive list of everything you think divine power is contingent on, how long those conditions must prevail for that power to be realized, and whether divine power is infinite, e.g. to the degree that God could rearrange the position of every galaxy in the universe in a single moment with no other economic or physical considerations, such as fatigue or other depletion of resources. I have asked this set of questions several times before, no complete answers yet.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  135. Blake: On your view, I suggest that there are no gods at all, there are only technologically advanced scientists

    You have to make an argument here to the effect that divine persons in my model are predominantly scientific in character and activity, and the ones in your view are not. I never conceded the point that God uses anything like what we think of as “technology”. Factories, sweat shops, Satanic mills? I don’t think so. Printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, assembly lines? I doubt it.

    The number one thing we know about the nature of divine power is that it apparently requires a glorified body. Souls with bodies have power over those that have not, Joseph Smith says. God dwells in everlasting burnings. With an ordinary body? I should say not.

    Where does love enter into your equation? How are we glorified by a fullness of the divine or eternal life on your view (since that it not technologically achievable)?

    Of course it is not technologically achievable. There are two aspects here: magnitude of physical power and quality of eternal felicity. If God is constrained by the fundamental laws of nature, the equation for maximal physical power (however derived), assuming perfect unity, is a trivial multiplication. Lasting unity is impossible without love.

    The quality of eternal felicity, on the other hand, is more directly dependent on love. And I mean a love that is manifest by a shared spiritual glory that encompasses and envelops all members of the divine concert and which is “shed forth [by degree] upon all those who are just and true”.

    Is there any evidence that God regularly resorts to the exercise of brute force? Persuade, and guide, and direct aright is way things are done, and apparently has been for a very long time.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  136. Geoff: [with regard to my view]For some unexplained reason teaming up converted these spirits into God (the extended Godhead or divine chorus).

    Not under arbitrary conditions, nor the conditions that govern any ordinary economy. Only under conditions of an entire society with shared perfections of character, spiritual unity, and love. The city of Enoch or the heavenly city in Revelation are the only comparable examples. It would be nice if people believed me on this point, instead of referring to technological absurdities.

    How long did the new Soviet man, based on science and rationality last? Seventy years? Is it any accident that science fiction revolves around dystopias? Does a denial of magical powers entail some sort of non-spiritual techno-humanism? James E. Talmage had the same opinion as I do on that point, to wit, No.

    Theodicy anyone? Completely unexplainable if God has infinite power. Did the Holocaust really serve some divine agenda? Is retribution so important that rapes and murders of innocents must be allowed? Starvation, famine, wars of all kinds? Pestilence, earthquakes, tsunamis?

    Personally, I am pretty happy to try to explain how God can be aware of our thoughts, can answer prayers, can influence for good, can comfort with his spirit. How there can be a heaven worth hoping for, or why a heavenly society is much to be preferred over anything we have experienced here.

    Theodicy is the failure mode of every absolutist theology. No real or lasting evil in a world of absolute power, or divine “magic”. That is absurd.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  137. Correction: I should say the alternative is absurd. Large scale and lasting evil in a world where God wields infinite or lasting power – that is absurd. Res ipsa loquitor – the thing speaks for itself.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 13, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  138. Nice list Geoff. I might comment but I’ll let the proponents defend their list (almost worth an entire different blog post?).

    Personally, my variance with both models would begin with point 1. My own model-in-progress starts with:

    1. The beginningless universe comes with beginningless entities each of which are indeterministic.

    Free will / intelligent behavior, to me, comes later.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 14, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  139. Mark: Only under conditions of an entire society with shared perfections of character, spiritual unity, and love.

    Why would teaming up lead to perfections of character, spiritual unity, and love? Further, what was the universal standard that determines what “perfections” in these categories looks like in your model? Further, what is it about character, unity and love that allows spirits to be able to control the elements, organize galaxies, etc.? I fail to see the connection there. (This question applies to Blake’s model too I might add)

    Pointing to the City of Enoch is begging the question because a God already existed when that story took place. What I want to know is from whence arose Godhood and Godly power initially? There is a gaping hole in your theory that fails to explain this. What I see in your model is:

    A bunch of spirit people like us living forever in a Godless universe decided to team up, [Huge Gap], they became God, they decided they wanted to invite all the others in on the God thing, [Huge Gap], we find ourselves here on earth for some reason.

    Surely you can help us fill that sketch in a little better…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  140. Why would teaming up lead to perfections of character, spiritual unity, and love?

    It doesn’t, not necessarily of course.

    Further, what was the universal standard that determines what “perfections” in these categories looks like in your model?

    There isn’t a detailed standard or culture, because sufficiently sophisticated Platonic forms don’t exist. (Since God is embodied, he can’t be the author of self-existent Platonic forms, as in classical theism).

    But the first principles of fundamental spiritual characteristics, such as love, are as real as the laws of physics. If not, there would be no way to make an objective distinction between love and hate, for example.

    Further, what is it about character, unity and love that allows spirits to be able to control the elements, organize galaxies, etc.?

    I don’t know if spirits can organize galaxies, or if they need to. But spiritual power has physical aspects (otherwise a number of important things, e.g. inspiration, would be impossible), so a sufficient degree of cooperation would suffice for moving mountains, or parting seas, when and if it is absolutely necessary to do so. Such things have a finite (and not ridiculously high) cost, a point which is rather important.

    Resurrection has a finite cost too, by the way. Worst possible case is ~E=MC^2, and short of nuclear assembly, the cost is probably three or four orders of magnitude less than that.

    Pointing to the City of Enoch is begging the question because a God already existed when that story took place. What I want to know is from whence arose Godhood and Godly power initially?

    It is certainly not begging the question more than assuming that God acquired divine power in a single moment.

    we find ourselves here on earth for some reason

    We have ample reason to believe that being born here on this earth is the most efficient way for us to progress, i.e. to acquire a template for the right kind of body (if not any body at all), advance in character, understanding, knowledge, and experience, etc.

    We need a glorified body, can’t be exalted without one. As I said before, we have no reason to believe that without a body of some kind, we can so much as remember what happened several days ago.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  141. BTW, This is abduction, or inference to the best explanation. I have no idea of the details, but which is more likely, that God uses some means with finite cost and which is consistent with the fundamental laws of nature to resurrect someone or that he acquired the power in a single moment to snap his fingers and say, “Resurrect man, resurrect!” and the elements re-assemble themselves automatically?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  142. Mark,

    In your model which came first: God or the first planet inhabited by beings with spirits like ours?

    If God came first aren’t physical bodies superfluous? If the planet came first (via random physical factors) how did spirits end up attaching to mortal bodies in the absence of a God?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  143. One last thing for the moment: We know that atoms have an enormous amount of energy stored within. That means it is not completely out of the question to cause some energy component we are not aware of to be released in a controlled manner, causing a mountain to move to the left or the right, for example.

    That has a finite and reasonable cost, and the information requirements are certainly far less than resurrection. The big puzzle is why isn’t it consistent with the economy of God, *not* to stop a tsunami on its way to wiping out 100,000 people? The only plausible answer I know of is that God is resource constrained, and the cost of doing so would seriously impair his other activities.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 11:27 am

  144. Geoff: I think the “first” planet came before the first body, and that a large number of individuals had bodies of some kind before there was any divine concert worthy of the name, and that the persons who founded the divine concert lived on one of those planets, if not the first.

    We talked about evolution. (I have an unconventional view on evolutionary causation, but that is beside the point here). I claim you need a body to have sophisticated language and thought processes, the latter is required for the formation of any reasonable divine concert, ergo some sort of evolutionary process came first, so that those individuals could have functioning bodies in the first place.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  145. Ok Mark, how did beginningless spirits find themselves connected to physical mortal bodies in your model then? Did they just see evolved spiritless bodies on a planet and decide to possess them or something? And if so, how did those mortal bodies end up becoming immortal in that Godless universe? (Evolution doesn’t answer those questions)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  146. Geoff: The most obvious answer to the first question is that spirits (i.e. entities with micro-mental properties) were materially present in the evolutionary process.

    There is every reason to doubt that evolution is possible without mental/spiritual causation, even a rather primitive kind to start with.

    I claim that all living things have entities with micro-mental or “spiritual” properties present, and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be living. Can we really believe that the human brain, for example, can evolve in a spiritual vacuum? Why have distinctively mental or spiritual properties (LFW anyone?) at all?

    The tricky part is immortality of course, and my working (and relatively conventional) theory is that a spiritual body is *always* co-located with any functioning physical body, that they grow and develop in parallel, and when the physical body dies, the structure of the spirit body is preserved. No physical or metaphysical impossibilities there.

    In other words, physical evolution is what creates spirit bodies.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  147. Ok so it sounds like your theory is that some beginningless (but spirit-body-less) spirits, acting as gods or God, organized a first inhabitable planet and they themselves inhabited evolved physical bodies on that planet and in that process they grew spirit bodies(?).

    Physical evolution of course happens over the course of many generations of a species (natural selection and all that) so are you saying these spirits transmigrated throughout the generations on that planet or that they just guided the evolution of spiritless creatures until a suitable model to inhabit came along?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  148. my working (and relatively conventional) theory is that a spiritual body is *always* co-located with any functioning physical body

    Should this be rephrased as a functioning physical body *always* has a spiritual body – as it appears spirit bodies can exist independently of a functioning physical body?

    Comment by A. Davis — October 14, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

  149. Being a fan of the evolutionary concept myself Geoff, my understanding of a functional method is that:

    1. Some “beginningless spirits” (I don’t even call them spirits) used their capacity for action and collected matter around them, organizing it into a rudimentary machine that processed and stored information. These machines/bodies evolved with time.

    2. These primal bodies could be (and in my mind probably were) constructs of purely spirit matter and not physical matter.

    3. As these first beginningless spirits – now intelligences (having the extra capability afforded them by their spirit bodies) – grew in power and eventually added physical bodies to the mix (patterned and shaped after their evolved spirit bodies).

    4. Add evolved capacity/power + social law/regulation (e.g. love, unity, harmony) and then we can start to talk about things like “gods”.

    5. These primal gods then in their infinite love and wisdom then set up a program to perpetuate their species (i.e. the great Plan of Happiness).

    The last two steps probably co-mingled for awhile.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 14, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  150. Ok so it sounds like your theory is that some beginningless (but spirit-body-less) spirits … organized a first inhabitable planet

    I doubt anyone organized such a planet in the physical sense. That is what gravity is for.

    and they themselves inhabited evolved physical bodies on that planet and in that process they grew spirit bodies

    Skipping the whole evolutionary process, and the mode of its causation, yes. I don’t believe in spirit-less organisms.

    Physical evolution of course happens over the course of many generations of a species (natural selection and all that) so are you saying these spirits transmigrated throughout the generations on that planet or that they just guided the evolution of spiritless creatures until a suitable model to inhabit came along?

    Transmigration is a possibility, but there are some difficulties here. The original spirit body has to die for that to happen. I don’t know how any spirit can do that on anything other than faith. Loss of memory here is *not* an accident. Third, this of course is technically reincarnation.

    Guiding from the outside is possible too, but there is a serious “chicken and egg” problem that makes it rather unlikely that there was much of that the first time around.

    The third possibility is that soon to become advanced spirits didn’t “wait around”, they just get promoted incidentally in the process of biological reproduction, and were more or less unaware of everything that was going on until that point.

    The fourth possibility is a variation of the second – Brigham Young was right, and identity is not preserved across the death of the spirit body.

    Last comment, I don’t think random natural selection is the dominant influence in evolution. More like some sort of spiritual Lamarkism or epigenetics.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  151. A. Davis: (148) I agree about the principle, although I think what I said is phrased correctly. I said “a” spirit body is colocated with “any” functioning physical body.

    I think there is a serious possibility that proposition may be wrong and there may not have been any post mortal spirit bodies for a very long time. i.e. the capacity to develop a spirit body in parallel may have developed at a much later time.

    Spirit body or no, I maintain that every living thing has micro-mental properties, i.e. a primal “spirit” in some sense or another.

    Either way, I cannot imagine transmigration of a spirit body of any kind, not then, not now. If you want to be born, you have to get rid of your previous spirit body first.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 14, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

  152. Mark (#150),

    Alright so based on the new info it sounds like you think that:

    1. Random causal forces in the universe led to the formation of an inhabitable planet. If you claim there was a first inhabited planet then it necessarily somehow came into existence after an infinity of time with no such occurrence.
    2. Since you don’t believe in spiritless organisms some kind of spirits must have inhabited the lower life-forms that emerged on that planet. Do you think there are eternal amoeba spirits in existence that inhabited those physical amoebas (or is it amoebae?)? Or maybe spirits like ours inhabited them? Either way, how did beginningless eternal spirits become fused with a mortal organism in the absence of a God to connect them in your model?
    3. It sounds like you have no idea of how a spirit could “evolve” right?

    #2 and #3 are real problems for you I think. Eternal spirits have to have some method to connect to physical organisms. Further, if the universe is beginningless and inhabitable planets with organisms can occur naturally it would seem that there never was a time before there were inhabitable planets and organisms which in your model means there never was a time before spirits were connected to bodies which would mean that if there was a first God it is hard to explain why it took an infinite amount of time to get that to the first…

    Infinite time causes a lot of problems for explaining beginningless spirits that somehow progress.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  153. A. Davis (#149),

    What changed with your beginningless spirits that made them suddenly start evolving when they were fine and dandy in a static form for an infinite amount of time before then? This incredible and unbelievably improbable spark is particularly hard to explain in a Godless universe.

    As these first beginningless spirits – now intelligences (having the extra capability afforded them by their spirit bodies) – grew in power and eventually added physical bodies to the mix (patterned and shaped after their evolved spirit bodies).

    How did they do that? Were they inexplicably gods with the power to organize inhabitable worlds? The questions I asked Mark about this apply to you too.

    These primal gods then in their infinite love and wisdom

    Where would infinite love and wisdom come from in the Godless universe they evolved in? Why assume they had it?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  154. If you claim there was a first inhabited planet then it necessarily somehow came into existence after an infinity of time with no such occurrence.

    I put “first” in quotation marks for a reason. If there was no first, then “first” should be taken as one of any number of prototypical planets, including potentially an infinite number of them.

    I agree in general that infinite time, if it exists, and I assume it does on fundamental metaphysical and causal grounds, is a first order mystery and I have no way of explaining why (if the universe is finite) we haven’t reached a final state by now, for any process that tends to lead to such states.

    If the universe is infinite, there are any number of available explanations, due to the sort of causal phenomena in an infinite universe. Perhaps that is an argument for the conjunction or disjunction of infinite time and infinite space, in which case I definitely lean to the conjunction.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 15, 2009 @ 1:21 am

  155. Since you don’t believe in spiritless organisms some kind of spirits must have inhabited the lower life-forms that emerged on that planet.

    We need to switch terminology for my views to be clear here – I don’t think there are such things as primal persons, per se, just primal intelligence. This is a Brigham Youngian position on this point.

    In other words, “beginningless spirits” does not accurately describe my view. “beginningless intelligence” does, or more precisely “beginningless elements with micro-mental properties”.

    So to answer your questions correctly from here on out, I am going to have to avoid the term “spirit” in all cases where it is ambiguous. I think the “one intelligence per person” model is viable, but that is not my current position and I can’t defend it here.

    In other words, I don’t think “intelligence” can transmigrate from one organism to another without being reduced to the point where personal or biological identity is unrecognizable. In other words, one is not a person without the body of a person.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 15, 2009 @ 1:32 am

  156. It sounds like you have no idea of how a spirit could “evolve” right?

    I don’t think “spirits” evolve, per se. Biological organisms evolve. Spirit bodies that survive the death of the physical body are out of the descendancy chain. From that point on, including post-resurrection, they can only affect evolution (to the degree that they do) indirectly.

    It should be obvious at this point why I think that pre-mortal spirit bodies are the rarest of exceptions, where they exist at all. Unfortunately, I think it is rather unlikely I was “Mark” before I was born.

    Cases where pre-mortal to mortal identity preservation is important require unusual measures in my opinion.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 15, 2009 @ 1:53 am

  157. What changed with your beginningless spirits that made them suddenly start evolving when they were fine and dandy in a static form for an infinite amount of time before then? This incredible and unbelievably improbable spark is particularly hard to explain in a Godless universe.

    That’s a good question and definitely one that should be addressed. I mention it in post #123. “We have every reason in the universe. All observations indicate that the universe has changed with time and at some point in the finite past was completely inhospitable to any physiological form that is human.”

    That is to say, the uncreated intelligent matter (same as Mark D.’s “beginningless elements with micro-mental properties”) didn’t change. But, the universe changed around them. My speculation is that asymptotically the universe moved from a state of complete inhospitality to spirit and physical bodies to one where an “unbelievably improbable spark” becomes believable.

    Just to reiterate, the assumption of uncreate entities places no constraints on the universe other than it has always existed — the universe need not have existed always as the universe is now.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  158. Where would infinite love and wisdom come from in the Godless universe they evolved in? Why assume they had it?

    I used “infinite” very loosely there and was tempted not to. One can translate it as maximal.

    Unlike other models, love is not a primal metaphysically self-existent force but simply a descriptor of maximally effective social interactions. Thus there is no assumption that it was always there from the beginning but these primal “proto-gods”, as it were, learned it.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 7:05 am

  159. How did they do that? Were they inexplicably gods with the power to organize inhabitable worlds? The questions I asked Mark about this apply to you too.

    Similar response to Mark’s in post 150. But, the question of what “power” is remains a good one. Our mortal powers are limited to the physical extent of our bodies and its passive gravitational pull on everything. It is largely believed that God’s power is not limited to the physical extent of his body – I believe that too. Yet, if we are to hypothesize that we are fundamentally the same species as God then we too ought to have this same kind of “power”. What is it? Is it related to the “micro-mental properties” that Mark D. mentions? I don’t have an answer but my explorations into Bohmian mechanics is highly suggestive of some. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 7:13 am

  160. Spirit body or no, I maintain that every living thing has micro-mental properties, i.e. a primal “spirit” in some sense or another.

    Sounds good.

    Either way, I cannot imagine transmigration of a spirit body of any kind, not then, not now. If you want to be born, you have to get rid of your previous spirit body first.

    It does answer some tough questions such as what our spirit body does when our physical body moves or how we fit an adult spirit body into the body of a mortal baby. Yet, it also requires a leap of reinterpretation of several scriptures which I’m not sure I’m ready to make. /shrug

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 7:23 am

  161. Let’s see if I can merge the two models proposed by Mark D. and myself in a synthesis that washes over some of our variances.

    1. Universe is beginningless. There exists intelligent matter / matter with micro-mental capabilities.

    2. Not-intelligent matter evolved according to (largely?) deterministic laws of physics and these micro-mentally capable agents took advantage of the situation and organized bodies for themselves of some sort.

    3. These primordial beings (now properly being called beings with a body) organized themselves socially.

    4. Eventually things move forward until we have the state of affairs we have today.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 7:26 am

  162. A Davis: Agree on (1), (2), and (4).

    (3) Not-intelligent matter evolved according to (largely?) deterministic laws of physics and these micro-mentally capable agents took advantage of the situation and organized bodies for themselves of some sort

    As I said, although I think the one intelligence per organism thing is a viable model, my position (admittedly a change from more than a year or so ago) is that virtually all particles have micro-mental properties, i.e. primal intelligence. We talked about this several weeks ago.

    That means I would have to say instead:

    “Intelligent matter evolved in a process with both physical and mental causation to the degree that all living organisms have an organized combination of both mental (i.e. spiritual) and physical properties of some sort.”

    Everything that is uniquely spiritual entails mental (“psychic”) properties of some sort. Otherwise we would just call it physical. The idea of “dumb” spirit matter is a pretty odd duck, historically speaking.

    In a spirit body then, I would call the inanimate action of spirit matter on spirit matter a form of “physical causation”, and any action that involves libertarian free will or anything irreducibly psychic as “spiritual causation”. And, yes, I think all physical causation is deterministic, and spiritual causation only partially so.

    (By the way, I am going to a family reunion in Moab this weekend, so I won’t be able to participate much until Sunday.)

    Comment by Mark D. — October 15, 2009 @ 9:13 am

  163. By the way, I don’t think discarding a prior spirit body on birth requires scriptural violations, allowing for unusual measures. “First lessons in the world of spirits”, if correct, implies those unusual measures for all humanity, not just (say) Jesus Christ.

    As far as I can tell there is one reason why we need a spirit body – to allow personal identity to be preserved between the time of death and resurrection.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 15, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  164. Enjoy the family reunion! I have a campout with my young men tomorrow and I’m pretty spotty on the weekends anyway.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 9:52 am

  165. Mark and A Davis,

    You both have a major issue to deal with still and that is that both of your models require several actual firsts. The problem is that firsts don’t mix well with a reality made up of infinite time.

    - You need to explain how and why the first intelligence fused with a mortal organism after an infinity of time being a free-floating intelligence/spirit
    - If mortal organisms require intelligences you need to at least basically explain why and how the first one occurred after an infinity of time of not occurring.
    - On top of that I still don’t understand at all how intelligences “evolve” based on the responses so far. Maybe I should read closer but if there is a feasible explanation it is eluding me still.

    I could go on but those are a good start. Those are some of the gaping holes I see in your theories.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 15, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  166. Yep, lots of major issues to deal with. That’s why we like critical probing of it. :)

    - You need to explain how and why the first intelligence fused with a mortal organism after an infinity of time being a free-floating intelligence/spirit
    - If mortal organisms require intelligences you need to at least basically explain why and how the first one occurred after an infinity of time of not occurring.

    Mark and I differ on our speculation of the specifics of how the first proto-bodies developed, but I think he agrees with my speculation in post 157 that the infinite past problem is dealt with by saying that for an infinite amount of time the universe simply wasn’t conducive to bodies being formed. Only a finite amount of time ago did it become possible. Criticism of this speculation from physical, philosophical, and theological grounds is welcome.

    - On top of that I still don’t understand at all how intelligences “evolve” based on the responses so far. Maybe I should read closer but if there is a feasible explanation it is eluding me still.

    Simple intelligent matter (“beginningless elements with micro-mental properties”) is unfortunately, incapable of the complexity required of what we call intelligence by itself. It must have a stable construct which to processes large amounts of information (both past and present). Some will speculate that the stable construct is a union of many particles of intelligent matter with minimally animistic matter (Mark’s current bias I believe) and others will go with a single particle coupled with passive matter (my bias).

    Comment by A. Davis — October 15, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  167. A. Davis: So there were no gods until the universe became conducive to bodies? Did I understand you correctly?

    So are spirits and individuals finite on your view? That is, there is simply an unsponsored universe with no god or gods and some entities just evolved from whatever until they became more evolved? Isn’t that just naturalism?

    Why would we worship any other being in such a scenario? In other words, say that we are the most advanced beings in the universe, would we worship the most intelligent among us?

    Comment by Blake — October 15, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  168. A. Davis (#166)Criticism of this speculation from physical, philosophical, and theological grounds is welcome.

    The criticism is pretty easy. If the universe existed in one way (not conducive to life/proto-bodies) for an infinite amount of time then how did it magically change in its very nature to suddenly become conducive to proto-bodies? Remember, we aren’t talking just about a long time here — we are talking about an infinite amount of time. It may be that such a change is not even metaphysically possible…

    I echo Blake’s cogent questions as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 15, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  169. Why would we worship any other being in such a scenario? In other words, say that we are the most advanced beings in the universe, would we worship the most intelligent among us?

    I like the paraphrasing of something Joseph Smith once said,

    The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.

    God is smarter and more intelligent than we are. We worship him because he is the one that enables us to move beyond our weaker state and become more like him. Maybe somebody helped our Father increase to an exalted state – nonetheless my affinity/kinship/worship will be with my father even if I am so blessed as to actually become a peer among exalted beings.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 16, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  170. It may be that such a change is not even metaphysically possible…

    We simply need that the universe evolved asymptotically from an infinite past. So from a philosophical or metaphysical stance, this is no problem whatsoever.

    We still need a scientific model of an asymptotic universe that will match current secular observation. On my to-do list. :)

    On the other hand, a static model of an infinite universe, though metaphysically coherent, is fully disqualified by actual observation.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 16, 2009 @ 7:17 am

  171. So there were no gods until the universe became conducive to bodies? Did I understand you correctly?

    That is indeed the speculation. Avoids the problem of infinite regression of gods while still allowing the traditional “Heavenly Father has a father who has a father” model. Of course the beginning point is sticky because it requires a scenario for our species which is rather different than the matured, systematic program we have for us today (i.e. Plan of Happiness). That, I can see as being an unpleasant thing, even repugnant, for some to contemplate.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 16, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  172. Oh, I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Blake’s article Re-vision-ing the Mormon Concept of Deity. The first question he posed in 167 sets me up to a necessary counter of the interpretations of points brought up in sections 59-69 of his article. Alas, I probably won’t have time until next week.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 16, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  173. A Davis,

    I might argue that an evolving infinite universe is an incoherent concept. (It seems to me that evolution generally assumes a start at least and I don’t know what “eternal evolution” would even mean) While certainly the universe isn’t absolutely static as we can observe, it may be functionally static in that there is variance in the part but nothing that would rise to the label of evolution.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 16, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  174. I might argue that an evolving infinite universe is an incoherent concept

    Y = exp(X) is function which is arbitrarily close to zero as t approaches minus infinity, has a finite value for finite times, yet always increases. A process characterized by such a function is certainly coherent, and there is no logical reason to rule it out. Of course we might guess that any such process has features that are surprising or counterintuitive.

    You need to explain how and why the first intelligence fused with a mortal organism after an infinity of time being a free-floating intelligence/spirit

    Never happened. As I said, that is the one “intelligence” per organism model, which is not what I have been defending here. I have been defending a model where some substantial portion of all matter is animated to some minimal degree, i.e. has micro-mental properties. In colloquial terms, think of (virtually) everything possessing a tiny amount of primitive intelligence.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  175. If mortal organisms require intelligences you need to at least basically explain why and how the first one occurred after an infinity of time of not occurring.

    No one can say that there was a first one. There could have been an infinite series of relative failures.

    On top of that I still don’t understand at all how intelligences “evolve” based on the responses so far.

    In a manner co-moving with biological complexity. I claim that primitive intelligence is the primary source of life sustaining biological complexity, and natural selection is secondary. There never has been a “zombie” *because* every biological organism is made up of stuff with a little bit of intelligence. It is the nature of nature. That is a Brigham Youngian view – “spirits” are composed of bits of intelligence says BY, I claim it is more universal than that, that matter and intelligence are essentially inseparable.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  176. Why would we worship any other being in such a scenario? In other words, say that we are the most advanced beings in the universe, would we worship the most intelligent among us?

    This is my answer: Absolutely not. A more appropriate question is, if there were a universal order or society which represented and promoted every perfection and virtue to the degree that its superiority and influence was universally acclaimed by those who only knew of it second hand, a society which was universally acclaimed to be the personification of all that was right and good in the world, … would such a society be worth giving up all other pursuits to join, honor, and submit oneself wholly to?

    We say that it the case of a perfected individual? Why should we say any less of a perfected society? Is one’s country worth dying for? What about one’s family? How much more so the divine society?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  177. So Mark (#174),

    Does that mean you are basically in the Orson Pratt camp now? Intelligent particles team up and a single mind emerges?

    Either way, how does a premortal spirit/intelligence connect with a mortal body in your model? Or are you saying there is no such thing as a premortal spirit/intelligence now? I can’t figure out your position at all here.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

  178. (My earlier comment from last night seems to have disappeared into the aether)

    I might argue that an evolving infinite universe is an incoherent concept.

    Geoff, why do you say that? While some physicists like Smolin are now backing away from the infinite inflationary universes he and others have explicitly embraced the idea of infinite evolution in the past. I’ve tried to think about what could remotely make it incoherent and I just can’t come up with anything.

    While I think I differ a great deal in the details with Mark and A. Davis the general outline that A. Davis gives. The place I disagree with them and am closer to Blake is that I don’t think you need a beginning. I see no logical problems with the traditional reading of the King Follet Discourse.

    All the appeal to the assymptopic metaphor I have to admit confuses the heck out of me though.

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  179. Mark: There could have been an infinite series of relative failures.

    The problem there is that if it really is an infinite set of of failures then it seems that the the very nature of the universe must have changed for a non failure to appear. After all, if the successful one is in “the last place you look” then clearly only a finite number of attempts were made to get it…

    Frankly this infinite time assumption completely undermines the idea of progression in my opinion. I think eternal time forces either a metaphysic of being or a variation of it in an eternal recursion model.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  180. Geoff / Clark, If you want a simple example, think of intelligences as being clocked such that the perception of time of each was at an infinitesimal rate as t approaches minus infinity, and now is at a finite rate, such that even though the universe never had a beginning, the most perceptive intelligence never perceived more than a finite amount of time elapsing.

    For those who care: perception clock is t’=exp(t), Perceived time until now = Integral[t',-inf..0] = Integral[exp(t),-inf..0] = 1 (within a constant).

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  181. Uh, yeah thanks for the “simple example” Mark.

    Even though I won’t pretend to know what you are talking about I suspect you are trying to fake your way out of the ramifications of infinite time.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  182. In perceptual terms here, in other words, your your *perception* has a beginning. Even though you have been around forever, the entire history of the universe to that point passes in a blur in the first minute of your perception.

    As time goes on, the blur slows, and eventually you perceive events in a clear and distinct manner, such that you can interact with them and control them, acting instead of being acted upon, as it were. That is a simple model of something that would satisfy the requirement of finite perceived duration of an infinite amount of time. Finite sensed, finite felt, finite experienced duration.

    Orson Pratt, in general terms, yes, BTW.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  183. Geoff, Unfortunately, if you ask a question about infinity, you can expect that the answer is going to require basic calculus.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  184. Mark: Orson Pratt, in general terms, yes, BTW.

    Ok, so in your model what part of a person transfers from premortality to mortality? (Are you being coy about this?)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  185. Ok, so in your model what part of a person transfers from premortality to mortality?

    Two cases here:

    (1) If the person did *not* exist as a person prior to conception, then just some raw intelligence.

    (2) If the person *did* exist as a person prior to conception, then that plus other transferable characteristics, where “transferable” requires divine intervention of the same or greater order of skill as is required for resurrection.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 17, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

  186. Which does your model assume? (1) or (2)?

    And by “raw intelligence” I assume you mean some sort particles that have some inherent intelligence or something?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2009 @ 11:23 pm

  187. Which does your model assume? (1) or (2)?

    Both, depending upon the circumstance. (1) is self implementing, however (2) is not. (2) is necessary for anyone to have a pre-mortal existence as a person. I don’t assume everyone did.

    Besides, a spirit body is composed of parts. It is not at all natural for something with parts to be instrinsically immortal. So I tend to think that a pre-mortal existence as a spirit with a spirit body is superfluous in most cases, as in something that lacks a reason to exist.

    The hard part is maintaining person-hood between death and resurrection. That seems to require a spirit body, but for similar reasons I don’t think that a spirit body is necessary for all life. Just matter with embedded intelligence of some sort. Single celled organisms, for example, could be entirely without post-mortal existence, as single-celled organisms.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  188. And by “raw intelligence” I assume you mean some sort particles that have some inherent intelligence or something?

    Yes, as in Brigham Young’s and Orson Pratt’s metaphysics, more or less. Except I tend to think viviparous spirit birth (and pre-mortal embodiment in most cases) is superfluous, although not out of the question.

    The eternal mind model described by Joseph Smith has enormous strengths, it is just these days, I have a difficult time starting out an argument with “assume a mind…”. The big problem is explaining why anyone has a brain.

    That is a question for Blake, by the way. If consciousness is a (radically) emergent property of a material brain, then how can God always have been God, let alone how persons can always have been persons, or how minds can always have been minds?

    If minds are self-existent, what is a brain for?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 9:08 am

  189. Mark: “If minds are self-existent, what is a brain for?”

    I think this is a good question. The brain mediates sense experience and makes possible consciousness of this realm or dimension of existence. This kind of consciousness of our world through sense experience requires an organized brain with a certain complexity. It isn’t necessary for the kind of consciousness that intelligences have. BTW intelligences don’t seem to have senses like touch, smell and so forth that requires a physical body composed of this kind of matter that we are made of.

    Any view that doesn’t accommodate an eternal intelligence capable of choice (and therefore consciousness) is inconsistent with Abraham 3 and JS’s Nauvoo statements about eternal intelligences/spirits.

    Comment by Blake — October 18, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  190. Any view that doesn’t accommodate an eternal intelligence capable of choice (and therefore consciousness) is inconsistent with Abraham 3 and JS’s Nauvoo statements about eternal intelligences/spirits.

    As I said, my view is that virtually all matter has “micro-mental” properties. That means the rudiments of everything that is distinctively mental, including choice and consciousness.

    This is a fundamental metaphysical issue. Deterministic causation isn’t really causation at all, because no original causes ever arise. That is reason #1 why I don’t believe in hard determinism, or hard determinism plus stochastic “swerve”.

    I don’t think hard determinism is compatible with rationality. If there are no original causes, there can hardly be any original reasons, which in a non creatio ex nihilo universe, means no reasons for anything.

    Now of course the view of distributed material intelligence is quite different than what JS described in the KFD. Abraham 3:18 describes the same view, and assuming that Abraham or some emendator was right, that would clearly indicate the existence of eternal minds.

    Now in this discussion I switched from general terms to explicitly defending a distributed raw intelligence model on the prompting of several pointed questions that I believe illuminate the weaknesses of the eternal Cartesian mind model.

    The big one is biological evolution, e.g. are plants and animals really “alive”. Can you really have hard materialist (or externally guided) evolution of what are essentially animal zombies for millions of years, and then all of the sudden one day these self-existent Cartesian minds decide to take up habitation?

    How exactly is a Cartesian mind going to start controlling an organism that it has never been a part of? Why should the internal structure of such an organism be susceptible to such control if it and its antecedents have lived and died for hundreds of millions of years without it?

    A much more straightforward explanation is that there never was any such transition, nor any necessary external guidance, but rather that organisms have always been alive in some rudimentary spiritual and mental sense because the very materials they are constructed of are instrinsically animated in even a more primitive fashion. Radical emergence would be a viable alternative here too, of course, if there is such a thing as radical emergence.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  191. By the way, in counterpoint to Abraham 3:18:

    And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Luke 3:8, cf. Matt 3:9)

    Needless to say, if recorded and transmitted correctly, Jesus Christ is probably the more reliable source on this point.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  192. Mark,

    Ok, I think I am beginning to understand your position better.

    So basically you are describing a truly naturalistic evolution process on some ancient planet where through at some point intelligent beings that look like us evolved. What I think your theory lacks is an explanation for the first resurrection. In your model the first people evolved in a Godless universe so how did their minds (which I assume arose from their physical bodies) continue on after they died? What made their spirit persist intact in your Godless universe at the time?

    (I’ll ignore all the other problems I see with the infinite time thing and all for now)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  193. Mark: How exactly is a Cartesian mind going to start controlling an organism that it has never been a part of?

    This is a really good question and one I have never seen a good answer to.

    I do agree with you that this cartesian mind concept is the best way to defend an eternal mind position. But it doesn’t jibe well at all with Blake’s radically emergent minds idea. Perhaps he is right that the two could work in conjunction but it is hard to imagine how they would and yet still represent just one eternally persistent mind.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  194. So basically you are describing a truly naturalistic evolution process on some ancient planet where through at some point intelligent beings that look like us evolved

    “Naturalism” is a bit of a loaded term these days. Most scientists would be reluctant (if not violently opposed) to including a metaphysical theory that includes libertarian free will, irreducible mental and spiritual properties, and what is generally termed “vitalism” under the rubric of naturalism. To listen to certain trained biology types, that is nonsense writ large.

    Certainly compared to requiring external unembodied intervention, or an immensely provident wind up of the clock, yes it is relatively naturalistic. So is the whole idea of embodied divinity in the first place, of course.

    One of the crossroads within Mormon theology is whether one considers the embodiment of God necessary or incidental to his divine characteristics. I am in the necessary camp.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 7:31 pm

  195. In your model the first people evolved in a Godless universe so how did their minds (which I assume arose from their physical bodies) continue on after they died? What made their spirit persist intact in your Godless universe at the time?

    In my opinion, at first they didn’t, i.e. “in the beginning” there were no organisms that had a spirit body that survived death of the physical body.

    I imagine that at some point, however, a spirit material structure that was more persistent evolved. Not by run of the mill natural selection, but rather because living things prefer to remain alive by any means possible.

    (I don’t think the survival instinct can be grounded in hard materialist biology. Here there apparently needs to be some sort of epigenetic Lamarkism.)

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

  196. Yikes. So your current working model relies on the idea that at some point in the eons past some people just figured out how to be immortal? Seems like a non-starter of a theory to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  197. Geoff, I think you should read that again.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  198. More specifically, when I say “evolve”, I am not speaking of the actions of any top level consciousness (i.e. the mind). This is all micro-mental stuff here.

    You have got to think like a Ockhamist – always prefer the simplest possible solution. A committee sitting around deciding how to re-engineer biology to be natively immortal is not exactly the simplest possible solution here. Nor are Cartesian minds.

    The simplest possible explanation for the development of a parallel, separable spirit body is the Lamarkist fallout of the inclinations of each raw bit of intelligence to remain coupled with other raw bits of intelligence.

    Why does matter stick together? Covalent bonding. Are we to rule out the equivalent covalent bonding for tiny bits of intelligence? For all we know, they are the same thing.

    If a spirit body needs to stick together without some sort of external design committee, by far the most practical means for it to happen is for such a capacity and structure to evolve by one means or another.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  199. Mark: It seems to me that all that your theory can ever deliver are technologically advanced beings who figure things out but never immortal or worshipworthy beings. In short, there are no gods in your system, just advanced beings who evolved.

    Comment by Blake — October 18, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  200. Let me rephrase then Mark. So your current working model relies on the idea that at some point in the eons past some dude’s spirit just managed to not die when his body died, but rather it continued on as a true immortal, even though that had never happened before in an infinity of time in the universe? Seems like a non-starter of a theory to me.

    You have got to think like a Ockhamist – always prefer the simplest possible solution.

    If you prefer the the simplest possible solution I suggest you go with spirits simply being beginningless just like Joseph Smith taught.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  201. Geoff, self existent spirits aren’t remotely simple. A full blown conscious mind is the most complicated thing in existence other than a collection of full blown conscious minds.

    It is like taking every mystery of the universe, squeezing it into a black box, declaring the black box self existent and claiming victory. The fellow who made that approach famous was Plato. Aristotle begged to differ, and Plato’s solution to the existence of complex entities has been considered inferior ever since – solving a complex problem by declaring the solution to be some sort of eternal form, without even the benefit of a creator.

    It is like explaining divine attributes by starting: “Assume there is a God…” Assuming there is an eternal aircraft carrier is a much more practical exercise.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

  202. Mark — you assume “spirit bodies”. I don’t buy the notion of spirit bodies.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  203. So your current working model relies on the idea that at some point in the eons past some dude’s spirit just managed to not die when his body died, but rather it continued on as a true immortal, even though that had never happened before in an infinity of time in the universe?

    No. The first principle of evolution is gradualism. In this case, gradualism implies not only a thousand false starts, but an extended period of failure, i.e. where a “post-mortal” structure persists to some degree for some period of time before it too dissolves.

    There is absolutely nothing that makes any material structure intrinsically indestructible. That goes for spirit bodies as well as physical bodies. Without a healing process, how long would a spirit body last? Ten days? Ten years?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  204. Geoff, the idea of an intelligence as complex as the mind of a human self-existing without any distinguishable parts is extremely dubious from a philosophical point of view.

    This question comes up in classical theism, which requires God to be metaphysically simple. The issue then, are all of the divine attributes ultimately an undifferentiated and indistinguishable compound in one, i.e. is his love the same as his knowledge, or his justice the same as his mercy, his rationality the same as his will?

    How exactly does God remember anything if his spirit is metaphysically simple, like a point particle? Wouldn’t that make it rather difficult to distinguish his memory of the French Revolution from his knowledge of the first four principles of the gospel?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

  205. It seems to me that all that your theory can ever deliver are technologically advanced beings who figure things out but never immortal or worshipworthy beings. In short, there are no gods in your system, just advanced beings who evolved.

    That is not exactly an argument, Blake. You have not established either the impossibility of immortality in my theory, nor given any reason for why the divine concert or any plenipotentiary representative thereof in my system is not worthy of worship.

    Frankly, I find a God who has always been God sort of like a stuck up kid born with a silver spoon in his mouth, immensely less worthy than an exalted man of any kind. The only reason why Jesus Christ is worthy of worship in my view is that he marked the path and lead the way, not just slummed down here in some sort of empty shadow play for all those poor slobs who actually have to work for a living.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  206. Meh.

    Since we can’t discern spirits in the least who is to say that a whole-cloth, beginningless, irreducible spirit isn’t plenty able to support a mind? You have zero basis for your “point particle” speculations as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

  207. Geoff, A point particle is the simplest geometry possible. What do you think an unembodied spirit looks like, some sort of amoeba? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms, an unembodied spirit with a body?

    The philosophical issues surrounding self-existence and simplicity have been discussed for thousands of years, references are not hard to find.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  208. What a spirit looks like really doesn’t matter much to me. I figure God and angels appear to people in whatever form works best for people. As you know I am not sold on permanent resurrection either so I speculate a spirit can look like lots of things.

    A point particle of discernible matter is really moot when we are talking about spirit isn’t it? No one has ever measured a whit about spirit.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

  209. To the degree it counts, D&C 129 directly implies that spirits generally have a location, have hands, and look like persons. Presumably anyone who has ever seen a spirit has evidence to that effect. If the Brother of Jared wasn’t imagining things, for example.

    So if spirits do not normally have bodies, what exactly do they do to get one for temporary use? The options are essentially magic and advanced skills. Certainly no natural process can plausibly account for bodies on demand.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 18, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

  210. Presumably anyone who has ever seen a spirit has evidence to that effect. If the Brother of Jared wasn’t imagining things, for example.

    Nah. Visions happen when the “eyes of understanding” are opened.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 12:00 am

  211. To paraphrase Orson Pratt, we might then well suspect that spirits are in “NO PLACE” and “NO TIME”, and are therefore “NO THING”.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 12:09 am

  212. You can assume that if you want. I think a better assumption is that all spirits are beginningless and have beginningless minds and are co-eternal with God as JS taught.

    We know nothing about what spirit is so it is an error to apply all of the limitations of discernible matter to it as you are wont to do in these discussions (with regard to minds at least).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 12:13 am

  213. Wow, that is quite the back and forth.

    Comment by Chris H. — October 19, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  214. Geoff, I am serious. I recognize that it is certainly possible that a spirit could interfere with a person’s perception so as to create the illusion of standing right in front of him.

    The first question in such a case is where is the spirit during that process? Does it have to be nearby? Standing off to the side? If all that is occuring is an open vision or lucid dream presumbably the spirit doesn’t need to be there at all. Or worse, perhaps the spirit doesn’t need to exist, but is just an illusion created by God from some remote distance.

    Those considerations aside, my position on this point is very similar to Brigham Young’s, i.e. the raw intelligence is natively indestructible, but the preservation of a specific personality requires the preservation of some sort of body, a spirit body in this case.

    Per Blake’s comment, I don’t think Brigham Young believed that that such a position (the possibility of a literal second death) implies that immortality is impossible. Like the scripture says, “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  215. We know nothing about what spirit is so it is an error to apply all of the limitations of discernible matter to it as you are wont to do in these discussions (with regard to minds at least).

    On the contrary, we have an incredible amount of knowledge about how closely coupled the mind and the brain are. People lose their mind by degrees all the time, and the causes are largely material.

    As to arguments about spirit as such, A fully endowed eternal mind is in the realm of possibility. I am suggesting that other options consistent with the long tradition of natural philosophy and metaphysics are more likely, in the sense that less magic is required.

    The problem about “magic” or a super-natural view of miracles is pretty much that it makes theology impossible. Anything can happen. Where do you draw the line? No reliable argument can be made for or against any proposition, because it is miracles all the way down. Is the atonement necessary? Do we need to repent? Can wickedness be happiness?

    Whatever God wills, right? Even then does God will what he wills for a reason, or does he make up reasons that correspond to his will?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  216. Mark: If all that is occuring is an open vision or lucid dream presumbably the spirit doesn’t need to be there at all.

    Right.

    Or worse, perhaps the spirit doesn’t need to exist, but is just an illusion created by God from some remote distance.

    Or worse! Maybe God doesn’t exist! How far would you like to go here Mark?

    i.e. the raw intelligence is natively indestructible

    Seems to me that in the past I was the one defending the model where our parts are indestructible and you were among those defending the whole-cloth model. Weird how roles have reversed in this thread.

    Also, interesting pull about saying we are not immortal. It suppose it is a matter of which Joseph Smith you choose to believe — his earlier implicit indication that we are not immortal or his later explicit indication that we are.

    On the contrary, we have an incredible amount of knowledge about how closely coupled the mind and the brain are.

    Please re-read what I said. I said we know nothing about spirit and therefore know nothing about how spirit relates to minds.

    in the sense that less magic is required.

    Your painfully loose definition of magic seems to include any mystery. So I take it you think the existence of spirit or God constitutes “magic” right?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  217. Mark: Here is the problem: You are asserting that there must be some material simple reality that is the ultimate basis of existence. It is something like Democritus’s atomism. However, you also assert that each bit of reality has properties of mind but somehow not mind as we know it — and certainly not consciousness. You assert that such a mind is just “unlikely” — but you never give any basis for your assertions of what is likely or unlikely. It seems to me that the assumption of an eternally existing simple material reality is just as unlikely as an intelligence existing from all eternity with properties of mind.

    Now here is why immortality is simply logically impossible: everything without beginning up until some first time, call it t1, is ephemeral. Suddenly, we get an ontological change so that now we have immortal beings that cannot cease to be. Certainly that can cease to be conscious on your view because consciousness of any type requires a very complex material state of affair — and any complex state of material affair can be decomposed and lose its capacities for consciousness. Thus , a conscious entity cannot be immortal on your view. At most, little bits or atoms of reality having some totally cognitively vacuous notion of “mental properties” could be eternal — but since they are uncreated bits of matter, they are nothing that they weren’t already.

    It also follows there there is no being worthy of worship because your system doesn’t allow for an eternal being that has secure existence as such. Thus, any “god” could be snuffed out of existence and reduced to cosmic dust. That isn’t much of a god — and in fact seem to me to be just an Armstrongian science fiction having no connection whatsoever to scriptural views of God and gods.

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  218. Blake: Thus, any “god” could be snuffed out of existence and reduced to cosmic dust.

    I actually think that based on Mark’s model such a God must inevitably decompose and die. The reason is that his model assumes that spirits somehow “evolved” and that while at first spirits might have lived 5 minutes past mortal death they eventually lived longer and longer after mortal death. (This is so highly problematic that I don’t even have the energy to attack it right now.) The issue is that no matter how long spirits started living after mortal death it must always be a finite number. Because it is a finite length of time it logically must end.

    It also follows there there is no being worthy of worship because your system doesn’t allow for an eternal being that has secure existence as such.

    I think you overstate your case a bit here. I know of no universal “worthy of worship” standard. If the universe really were as Mark speculates and his non-eternal god could nevertheless deliver 500 billion years of bliss I see no reason why such a being would not be considered worthy of worship (by humans especially). This is especially true if that being were the most high in existence.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  219. Geoff: By “Mormon” standards Mark’s much-less-than-gods being isn’t worthy of worship if it can be snuffed out of existence. According to the Lectures on Faith, any being that may not be able to deliver us from all other challenges and forces is not God. By that standard, Mark’s supposed beings are clearly not worthy of our faith that they can deliver us.

    What could possibly guarantee existence beyond the present moment if there are forces in existence that could decompose such a demi-god? How could anyone know that these forces won’t just wipe out this not-really-deity at any time?

    BTW I agree that it is inevitable that on Mark’s view such a being must decompose.

    How on earth is anything like Mark is proposing consistent with the scriptural views of God that require that he is unchanging in the fact that he exists?

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  220. Mark: Here is the basic problem with your most basic assumption underlying your approach to these issues: you want to reduce LDS thought to physics of some sort. You assume that spirit matter acts and is like physical matter we study in physics. I believe that this approach is entirely unwarranted.

    Comment by Blake — October 19, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  221. I agree Blake. That was what I was getting at in #208, #212 and #216.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  222. Geoff: Also, interesting pull about saying we are not immortal

    I didn’t say we are not immortal per se, I said that we are not naturally immortal. And don’t forget the statement of Jesus Christ:

    “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matt 3:9)

    Anyone care to explain that? It seems pretty obvious that either Jesus Christ did not believe in beginningless persons as such, or this passage is a pure invention.

    Please re-read what I said. I said we know nothing about spirit and therefore know nothing about how spirit relates to minds.

    On the contrary, the mind is the only reason for anything distinctively spiritual to exist at all. Everything we know about the mind is spiritual in nature.

    Your painfully loose definition of magic seems to include any mystery.

    I beg to differ. My definition of magic is the regular and ordinary one, i.e. phenomena that require the violation of the fundamental laws of nature. A mystery, by contrast is anything we do not understand. They are not remotely equivalent concepts.

    I have not the slightest reason to believe that inspiration violates any such laws. Nor did Orson Pratt, James E. Talmage, or John A. Widtsoe, to mention three.

    Epistemology (i.e. what we know and how we know it), e.g. mysteries, questions, theories, etc. is entirely distinct from ontology (the nature of what is). Please don’t confuse the two, or suggest that I am doing the same.

    Rationality is based on the concept that there are fundamental laws and regularities that cannot be broken. If there are none, rationality is useless, because there isn’t a premise in the world to base a reliable argument on. Theology reduces to a collection of the irrational, the absurd, and the Stockholm syndrome. Can God make good evil and evil good, or can’t he? Can God create the universe out of nothing or can’t he? Can God save us all with a snap of his fingers or can’t he? And if not, why not, and since when? Is that so hard to understand?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

  223. Blake: but you never give any basis for your assertions of what is likely or unlikely

    I imagine you have heard of the law of parsimony, have you not? The concept has dominated natural philosophy for at least seven hundred years, and of course is much older than that.

    Now if you think the otiose, the superfluous, and the bizarre is meritorious in a theory, then go ahead and make an argument against the law of parsimony.

    Now the rest of your discussion with Geoff here is based on argument free pre-suppositions. Why make an argument if you can just make things up?

    Have either of you made any coherent argument against the impossibilty of immortality in a material world? Do you think that Brigham Young and Orson Pratt didn’t believe in immortality? Then how can you with a straight face suggest that I must not, and cannot.

    Spirit matter? Where did the concept come from? Why should anyone care in the slightest? Isn’t spirit matter the very thing that makes the material decomposition of a spirit body possible? Or was Joseph Smith using the term in a manner with no logical precedent whatsoever? Indestructible Jello, maybe?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  224. By the way Blake, there you go using reading theological concepts as absolutes again, without the slightest justification. Since when does immortality entail necessary immortality? What exactly is God doing when he states that “his work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”? Slip of the tongue maybe? Describing his whole mission in life in terms of a metaphysical contradiction?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  225. I actually think that based on Mark’s model such a God must inevitably decompose and die…

    This passage is a complete non sequitur. You could use the same argument to prove that all odd integers are prime.

    1 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime. Therefore all integers are prime?

    I should mention that my view on the very point under controversy here is shared by Clark, and if he cares to show himself, perhaps he could provide an additional defense.

    And for the record, I don’t think beginningless individuals are impossible, nor ridiculous, just otiose in the form where they have have every aspect of human consciousness as some sort of metaphysical necessity.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

  226. Mark: Anyone care to explain that?

    Sure. Jesus was speaking completely metaphorically and using hyperbole to make the point that God is no respecter of persons. Of course you are free to go for a hyper-literalist reading of that passage if you want.

    As for the rest of your long winded #222 and #223 — I have no idea what any of that rather random sermon has to do with me so I guess I’ll ignore it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 10:23 pm

  227. Mark: This passage is a complete non sequitur

    Not so. Your theory assumes that over eons evolved people on some long expired planet kept dying and for some mysterious reason their spirits started living past the death of their bodies. Then for some further unexplainable reason spirits started living longer and longer after death. (I say unexplainable because I see no method whatsoever for feedback to drive this so-called evolution). So a finite number of years persisting as a spirit kept growing and growing until spirits started living for a super long time before dying. But of course no amount of addition to a finite number of years make it infinite. So I simply assumed that infinite time is necessarily going to outlast the really long finite amount of time your spirits would last before they die.

    Beyond all that I don’t see how resurrected bodies ever could have evolved in your model either. I am obviously highly skeptical of the entire scheme you are suggesting.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

  228. Geoff, #223 is not addressed at you. #222 is, and is to the point in every respect. I suggest if you don’t want such counterpoint, then perhaps you shouldn’t be so careless about putting words in my mouth in the first place. It is difficult to be concise while trying to refute groundless presuppositions.

    Sure immortality is difficult, since when is it impossible? You and Blake have made arguments to the effect that all composite bodies are necessarily mortal. Does that apply to resurrected bodies too?

    It would seem, therefore, that your position requires that either Jesus Christ’s resurrected body is not composite, i.e. has no parts, or that Jesus Christ will necessarily die again in the future. Why did Jesus take care to show his disciples that he had a tangible body capable of eating and drinking at all?

    On both of your views, as far as I can tell, a body serves no essential purpose whatsoever. On Blake’s view, God has always been God, therefore he has either always had a brain (a suggestion he denies) or a brain is completely irrelevant to all divine capacities and attributes. Other than multiplicity of persons, I believe your view is identical in that respect.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  229. I say unexplainable because I see no method whatsoever for feedback to drive this so-called evolution

    Lamarkism is the answer I gave. Lamarkism is different from genetic natural selection in that the experience (and in this case the inclination) of the organism has an effect on succeeding generations.

    As to your 1,3,5 all numbers are prime argument, there are many natural phenomena that exhibit what is called hysteresis, which means stable states separated by unstable ones. Biological organisms reproduce right? Does anyone believe that they necessarily reproduce? On the contrary, the preservation of a biological species is a stable state, not because reproduction is metaphysically necessarily, but rather because it is a self healing process.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  230. Mark: You and Blake have made arguments to the effect that all composite bodies are necessarily mortal. Does that apply to resurrected bodies too?

    I say yes. As Joseph Smith taught:

    That which has a beginning will surely have an end.

    On both of your views, as far as I can tell, a body serves no essential purpose whatsoever.

    I won’t speak for Blake but I will say that yes, that is a view I am open to as I try to sort out a coherent theology.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  231. Geoff: I don’t see how resurrected bodies ever could have evolved in your model either

    On that point we agree. I do not have any position on how resurrection is accomplished other than it does not involve violation of any fundamental laws of nature.

    Contra Blake, I don’t thing following E. Talmage on that point entails some sort of science fiction or beings entirely unworthy of worship.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

  232. I just sat down and caught up from somewhere in the 80s. All in all it has been a fascinating thread that exemplifies the kind of discussion that happens at this blog and almost nowhere else in the bloggernacle. Sustained investigation of ideas without a devolution into ad hominem. Thus, I give my on-the-fly niblet “nice job on this thread” award to Mark, Geoff, A. Davis, and Blake.

    I don’t currently sign up for (all of) Mark’s theory here, but I have to say I am immensely impressed with his delivery and defense here. He has given substantive answers to some very difficult questions. Comment #95 nearly makes me a believer just because of how eloquent it is in its brevity.

    I am a bit baffled by some of the criticisms. Mark’s use of the term “magic” seems entirely understandable and cogent to me. The suggestion that he’s offering nothing more than naturalism is unbelievable. I would like to know what elements of mysticism must be added to make a theory more palatable to Blake and Geoff. You are both standing behind this statement of Blakes:

    You assume that spirit matter acts and is like physical matter we study in physics. I believe that this approach is entirely unwarranted. (#220)

    It was Joseph Smith who said that there is no such thing as immaterial matter and that all spirit is matter. What possible meaning can this statement have if it does not mean that they are fundamentally similar in their properties (as I have stated argued with a few more words here).

    Comment by Jacob J — October 19, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

  233. Geoff,

    Thank you for dropping your “what about the infinite amount of time before that argument” since my head was going to explode. I was fascinated to learn that you are steering away from spirit bodies and the concept of progression. In some other post you’ll have to say more about this.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

  234. Blake (#217)

    Certainly that can cease to be conscious on your view because consciousness of any type requires a very complex material state of affair — and any complex state of material affair can be decomposed and lose its capacities for consciousness. Thus , a conscious entity cannot be immortal on your view.

    When I read this it sounds like you are trying to refute your own theory of mind. Doesn’t your own view require that consciousness requires a very complex material state of affairs?

    Comment by Jacob J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  235. That which has a beginning will surely have an end

    The disadvantage of extemporaneous speeches such as JS gave is that one doesn’t generally have the chance to carefully consider the implications of one’s words, or edit them for consistency afterwards. On this point Joseph Smith is contradicting the Book of Mormon in a manner I don’t think he would have affirmed, namely:

    Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption. (Alma 11:45)

    By the way, I don’t think Jesus Christ would use hyperbole in a manner that was entirely untrue to any approximation.

    And for the record, I think Blake’s theology is immensely respectable. If he turns out to be right on these points, it is not like one can run from the truth. I feel the same way about the full gamut of positions in classical theism.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  236. Mark: Lamarkism is different from genetic natural selection in that the experience (and in this case the inclination) of the organism has an effect on succeeding generations.

    I might find this more compelling if your were talking about the living organism. But you aren’t. You are talking about a spirit that somehow persists after the organism dies. But of course assuming it persists it does so in a way that is utterly invisible and indiscernible to the living. Don’t you think that even Mssr. Lamarck himself would probably scoff at the idea that this largely discredited theory would somehow apply to mystical post-mortem existences…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

  237. Thanks, Jacob.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

  238. Jacob: It was Joseph Smith who said that there is no such thing as immaterial matter and that all spirit is matter.

    True. As we all know something has to give to come up with a coherent theology. The differences we have here track to the parts each of us needs to dismiss. This metaphysic of being model (rather than a metaphysic of becoming model) I am currently exploring may indeed work best with some variation on spirits being more like cartesian minds than anything else.

    Of course tripartite model folks probably are vexed by this JS immaterial matter quote too. JS taught our minds are co-eternal with God and without beginning. That is easiest to explain if spirits/minds/intelligences are simple and irreducible in my opinion. So that may or may not jibe with this immaterial matter line.

    Thank you for dropping your “what about the infinite amount of time before that” argument

    I still like that argument and think it works. But I was indeed using it as a setup for this metaphysic of being model I mentioned (which of course escapes that argument). I think the metaphysic of being model tracks to a “Ye are Gods” model where we all have always been part of the One God and are not really progressing at all. It may not be true but for now I am just experimenting with internally consistent and coherent models. I think it also shows real promise in dealing with the problem of evil.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

  239. Geoff: mystical post-mortem existence

    For the record, I don’t believe in anything that is inherently mystical. Poorly understood, yes. Incomprehensible in principle, never.

    assuming it persists it does so in a way that is utterly invisible and indiscernible to the living

    I disagree. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and in this case I must confess that I find spiritual phenomena virtually inescapable, i.e. I have greater confidence that inspiration is real than I have that you are, no insult intended.

    Reason number one why I majored in physics? I hoped to understand the spiritual world better, if not empirically demonstrate its existence. My studies (I believe) were successful on the first point, if rather lacking on the second.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 11:22 pm

  240. if rather lacking on the second.

    Hehe. Well you can’t fault a guy for trying.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

  241. I might find this more compelling if your were talking about the living organism. But you aren’t. You are talking about a spirit that somehow persists after the organism dies.

    Prior to separation, the finer spirit element is bonded to the rougher physical element. The idea is that the inclination of element is for those bonds between to remain intact. This inclination precedes separation and influences the development of bonds that can survive the separation on a gradualist basis, i.e. the inclination affects epigenetic factors, which are passed on to the next generation long before death of the parent.

    Please remember that I pursue difficult explanations like this because (1) I believe such a process to be theologically necessary and (2) I am admittedly hostile to complex phenomena which are inherently unexplainable.

    The idea that incomprehensibility is most definitely not the beauty of it is one of the most distinctive ideas in the Mormon tradition. Mormonism is hostile to the incomprehensible and pretty much always has been.

    The glory of God is intelligence is it not? No need for intelligence if you can suspend reality at one’s will and pleasure, at best just an active imagination.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 19, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

  242. Mark: No need for intelligence if you can suspend reality at one’s will and pleasure, at best just an active imagination.

    You keep saying things like this as if you think doing so is scoring you some kind of debate points. It isn’t. No one here is claiming one can “suspend reality at one’s will and pleasure” and if you think any of us are implying that you aren’t paying close enough attention.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 19, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  243. Geoff, The whole premise of Blake’s argument in this thread is that:

    (1) God most definitely can suspend or alter reality at his will and pleasure to accomplish purposes such as resurrection
    (2) Beings that are incapable of such suspensions of reality are not worthy of worship.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 12:35 am

  244. I don’t think that is an accurate assessment of Blake’s position at all. He’ll no doubt defend himself but I would say this is more accurate:

    (1) God, due to the power and knowledge that arises from the unity of the Godhead is somehow able accomplish purposes such as resurrection
    (2) Beings that are not in such a beginningless Godhead are not worthy of worship.

    I think there are still big problems here — like explaining why being in a unified Godhead generates all that power and knowledge and why its beginninglessness makes them/it more worthy of worship than not. But think it is incorrect to say there is any “suspension of reality” in Blake’s model.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  245. Jacob J: “When I read this it sounds like you are trying to refute your own theory of mind. Doesn’t your own view require that consciousness requires a very complex material state of affairs?”

    Consciousness of bodily sense experience of this physical world requires a complex brain and neural system. However, I have every reason to believe that such complexity is not required for consciousness of a spirit world or as an intelligence.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  246. Mark D. By the way Blake, there you go using reading theological concepts as absolutes again, without the slightest justification. Since when does immortality entail necessary immortality? What exactly is God doing when he states that “his work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”? Slip of the tongue maybe? Describing his whole mission in life in terms of a metaphysical contradiction?

    I would have thought that the scriptures and express statements of Lectures on Faith would be more than sufficient authority. What is immortality if not eternal life without end? That is most certainly what it means in the scriptural record.

    Moreover, I’ll take this as an admission that on your view even “god” is quite subject to simply decomposing and dying incapable of really delivering anything like immortality.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  247. Geoff (#238),

    This metaphysic of being model (rather than a metaphysic of becoming model) I am currently exploring may indeed work best

    You do realize that in a metaphysic of being there is no such thing as change, no such thing as time, no such thing as thought, and no such thing as choice, right?

    Of course tripartite model folks probably are vexed by this JS immaterial matter quote too.

    Vexed? Are you vexed by the JS beginningless spirits quote? It is amazing how you can put so much weight on one quote while looking at the other quote as an obstacle.

    That is easiest to explain if spirits/minds/intelligences are simple and irreducible in my opinion.

    It is entirely possible (and would be consistent with JS) that mind is ontologically different than matter (either spirit or regular). Even if minds are simple and irreducible that does not necessarily account for all capacities we might currently think of as mental capacities. It does not necessarily account for memory, as Mark has pointed out above. If there is something beginningless and simple, a basic constituent of the universe, we should make some effort to define and scope its properties in its basic simple state. This is one of the things B.H. Roberts did which would be a good idea for you to do in order to make your view more clear to me. What capacities do you assume for a beginningless spirit?

    Incidentally, this is one of the big hangups people consistently have with Blake’s position when it comes up here. He ascribes full blown divinity and Godhood as a beginningless state of God the Father. He is correct in saying this does not, of itself, require an ontological divide. However, explaining how a being like me (edit: ontologically like me, that is) could be beginninglessly divine seems impossible. Either he was necessarily God (which does imply an ontological divide) or the answer is “he just was.” The “he just was” argument is so unsatisfying that people keep searching for an explanation for how it could be that “he just was” which leads them continually back to the idea that there must be something fundamentally different about God. Which is why, in my estimation, people continually assume Blake’s theology implies an ontological gap even though it does not formally do so.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 9:11 am

  248. Blake (#245),

    Ah, but if you go that direction you have to solve the mind-body problem twice with two totally different explanations. I thought it was bad enough we had to deal with it once. Am I correct in assuming you accept the scriptural idea of spirit bodies?

    More importantly, if you account for the eternal nature of the mind (its inability to cease due to decomposition) as you do in #217 you are requiring that eternal minds are simple. But this requirement really puts you into a bind when it comes to explaining our situation on earth because you have already rejected the idea that a simple irreducible mind exists in each one of us. I really don’t see how your argument in #217 can stand without destroying the rest of your position on physical consciousness and the continuity of identity through the pre-mortal, mortal, post-mortal journey.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  249. Lets clear up a few things. It is beyond arrogant to ask anyone to explain virtually everything about God or how the resurrection is accomplished in terms of natural law etc. The answer is that we don’t know. Why does the unity of the divine persons give rise to the shared properties of divinity such as maximal power and knowledge? I don’t know — and Geoff it is beyond foolish to expect me to know such things. But our scriptures and the Lectures on Faith affirm such things. It has something to do with shared life, power, spirit, light, intelligence, glory and so forth (maybe sharing fully all data and energy through some mode of transfer for all I know).

    Second, as far as “natural law” goes I believe that Mark (and it appears Jacob) are Platonists — there are just these natural laws out there that control everything and they are just given in reality. I am a conceptualist and my view is that laws are generalizations of our experience — and it appears that our generalizations don’t justify the assumptions of absolute laws or even uniformity of laws at even all places in our own universe. So I’m not really impressed with the notion that there is some immutable natural law out there that in reality simply takes the place of the classical god in terms of explaining the underlying immutable basis of reality and creation — as Mark does.

    I can see every reason to doubt that “spirit matter” as that term is used by Joseph Smith is simply continuous in meaning with “matter” as we define it in physics. Spirit bodies do all kinds of things that physical matter bodies don’t and can’t do — like hovering off the ground, entering into rooms with all doors and windows closed, avoiding detection by every instrument known to humans etc.

    It appears that intelligences are not just crass matter and there is clearly some fairly significant differences between spirit matter and “matter” studies in physics. Just what “matter” is given our evolving physics is really quite difficult to say — but I discuss all of these issues at length here: http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/TNMC05.html

    and a lot more and in depth also here: http://www.fairlds.org/New_Mormon_Challenge/TNMC02.html

    BTW Mark The notion that the only thing that can exist eternally is some metaphysically simple being just is Thomas Aquinas’s starting point and primary basis for his entire theology. Your assumptions regarding simplicity are really just a warmed over version (albeit much less sophisticated and developed) of Aquinas.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 9:31 am

  250. Jacob,

    Regarding “metaphysic of being” — if that term is misleading I will not use it. I lifted the term from McMurrin.

    The idea I am referring to is that things in the universe always come back around to their simple and beginningless state eventually. So perhaps we could call it a “one eternal round” model or perhaps the “everything that has a beginning has an end” model or something. So it assumes beginningless and simple minds and I am also assuming for now that the unity of those beginning less minds constitutes the divine chorus. That gives us a beginningless and endless God and makes us all beginningless and endless.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2009 @ 9:34 am

  251. Jacob: You’re making all kinds of assumptions. I don’t make assumptions about whether “spirit/intelligence minds” are simple or complex. There are so many ways of being simple and even more of being complex that this takes a great deal of unpacking. One thing is beyond clear to me: intelligences don’t require physical brains to be conscious. My discussion of emergence is based on the neural complexity of brains and how they function and the dependence of our consciousness of our sense experience of this world as it functions in actual studies of neurobiology.

    Finally, I was unaware of anything in #217 where I accounted for the eternal nature of mind. Mark simply makes god an evolved mortal — a body that is composed of crass matter that we discuss in physics. We know that such things are susceptible to fall apart over time. I don’t know why you think we can extrapolate from that to not only the notion of eternal intelligences — but of my notion of intelligences.

    Unfortunately, we can’t even begin to make assumptions about spirits/intelligences and the relationship of a spirit to consciousness of the spirit realm or realm of primordial intelligence. That is part of what amuses me about Mark’s approach — the epistemological arrogance that we can divine the nature of spiritual realities by studying physics. That idea is just laughable to me.

    You make the same kind of assumptions about the mind/body problem when you assume that the problem must be isomorphic for mortal minds and mortal bodies as it is for intelligences or spirits and consciousness or self-consciousness. That is just a leap that is unwarranted and contrary to everything we know about such matters.

    Finally, I don’t know where you get the idea that God “just was” God or divine accurately expresses my view. There is no “just was” on my view. God chose to love the other divine persons in complete loving transparency — and as a result shares full divinity when they reciprocate his love. They most certainly are not necessarily divine (since their choice is free and contingent and they could have freely refrained from making the choice and then they would have failed to be fully divine). Now if you ask why the Father made that decision and the other two divine persons reciprocated, I assert that you’re asking for something that in principal cannot be answered because it makes a bad assumption about the nature of personal explanation of free acts.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  252. Jacob: Vexed? Are you vexed by the JS beginningless spirits quote?

    Don’t get hung up the the word vexed there. I think I initially used “tripped up”. The point is that something always has to go if one is seeking a coherent and consistent Mormon theology.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  253. Mark D – Geoff, The whole premise of Blake’s argument in this thread is that: (1) God most definitely can suspend or alter reality at his will and pleasure to accomplish purposes such as resurrection (2) Beings that are incapable of such suspensions of reality are not worthy of worship.

    Mark, I usually insist that when others characterize (or caricature as the case may be) my view that they do so accurately. I have no idea what “suspend or alter reality” means — and I’m quite sure that I’ve never used such terms to express my view. However, for the record, you are quite correct that any divine person who lacked the divine power would not be worthy of worship — and divine power entails power to resurrect.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  254. Geoff #250, yes, a “metaphysic of being” is definitely not synonymous with the one eternal round model you have in mind. I recommend calling it the “eternal recurrence” model.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  255. Blake,

    Finally, I was unaware of anything in #217 where I accounted for the eternal nature of mind.

    I’m going to ignore a few of the other things you said in order to chase this one down first. I already quoted your statement which requires this but here it is again for clarity. Speaking to Mark about his view you said:

    Certainly they [immortal beings] can cease to be conscious on your view because consciousness of any type requires a very complex material state of affair — and any complex state of material affair can be decomposed and lose its capacities for consciousness. Thus, a conscious entity cannot be immortal on your view.

    If I understand the argument, it says that any complex state of material affair can decompose and this possibility of decomposition necessarily implies a non-eternal nature. This argument proves that your pre-mortal and post-mortal consciousness is not eternal unless:

    (1) That consciousness is immaterial AND it is not contingent on a complex material state of affairs.

    OR

    (2) That consciousness is simple.

    Did I miss an option or do you subscribe to one of those?

    I think the flaw in the argument is obvious, which is that the logical possibility of decomposition does not imply that something will decompose. It is just the same as the fact that God could sin, but he does not and will not for all eternity. The logical possibility doesn’t imply that such a thing will happen.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  256. Blake,

    By the way, if you log into the site as if you were going to publish a post and then read the comments as usual, it will add an “Edit This” link at the bottom of every comment which allows you to fix your typos or accidentally missing “not”s. This one piece of knowledge is probably far more useful than anything I have to say about theology, logic, scriptures, etc.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  257. Blake, I suggest that if you don’t want your view to be unfairly caricatured (even by mistake) that you give direct answers to direct questions.

    You have criticized the position that God does not violate fundamental laws of nature a half a dozen times in this thread. I take that as a pretty explicit endorsement of the idea that God can suspend the some or all of the fundamental laws of nature at his will and pleasure.

    You have further made an argument to the effect that resurrection and a number of other things are impossible without violating the fundamental laws of nature, and therefore God must violate them.

    In addition you have suggested that any being that does not have the capacity to violate the fundamental laws of nature is not worthy of worship.

    Now here I am using “suspend reality” as short hand for suspending the fundamental laws of nature, because if you can suspend the fundamental laws of nature anything can happen. The reality being suspended here is the reality of the fundamental laws of nature.

    So Blake:

    1. Do you believe that God has absolute power to do anything that is logically possible?

    2. If not, please enumerate a short list of the things you think God cannot do? Can he create the universe out of nothing? Create and destroy matter and intelligence? Accomplish the atonement without any suffering? Make evil good and good evil? Snap his fingers and save everyone in his everlasting kingdom with no further ado?

    3. If there is anything that God cannot do, please explain the nature of the constraint that makes such a thing impossible. Isn’t a fundamental law of “nature” the proper nomenclature for any physical or metaphysical constraint that cannot be violated?

    4. If you maintain that there are some fundamental laws of nature that God can suspend and others that he cannot, please further enumerate a short list of the ones that he can suspend. Can he suspend the conservation of energy? Or the basis of the relationship between repentance and salvation?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  258. Blake: Mark simply makes god an evolved mortal — a body that is composed of crass matter that we discuss in physics. We know that such things are susceptible to fall apart over time.

    Two problems here: I have made abundantly clear that I don’t believe that the matter that we are discussing here is the same as matter as is understood in physics, i.e. the insensate matter of hard materialism. This is the second time you have done this.

    In addition, you are again implying that anything that are not necessarily eternal is necessarily not eternal.

    Take eternal life for example. Is eternal life a metaphysically contingent or a metaphysically necessary property of an individual? If it is metaphysically contingent, then (as you say) it is susceptible to termination.

    If it is metaphysically necessary, then either we all have eternal life, or the ones of us that do are of a different species than the ones of us that do not.

    So which is it? Is eternal life susceptible to termination, or is it something that is completely independent of our actions and choices?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  259. Blake: The notion that the only thing that can exist eternally is some metaphysically simple being just is Thomas Aquinas’s starting point and primary basis for his entire theology

    If you replace “can exist eternally” with “necessarily exists eternally” then I agree. Otherwise you are propagating the same confusion between “eternal life” and “necessarily eternal life”.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  260. Jacob: Re: #255 — Your mistake is in thinking that in critiquing Mark’s view I am also stating my own view of the matter. I am not. Mark’s starting assumptions are very different from mine because he assumes the natural universe and its necessary laws as described in present physics as a starting point and I don’t. On Mark’s view, all consciousness depends on complex biological states of affairs. That isn’t my view — nor do I assume it. So you can’t take the assumptions that I assert against Mark as assumptions that apply to my view. I can critique Mark’s assumptions without buying into them myself.

    In addition, I’m not asserting that Mark’s view is that material states merely could possibly decompose — but that on his view they do in fact decompose. There is no guaranteed eternal life without end because these states are subject to physical laws and given the physical laws the material states will in fact decompose given entropy or heat death.

    For the record, I don’t know whether intelligences are simple, material in any sense that we could reasonably consider material given physics, or a life process of any sort (a biology). They may just be a very fundamental way of organizing energy where the mode of organizing energy isn’t based upon a physical substance but upon an intelligence.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  261. Mark Re: 257. First, I have answered these questions regarding the status of God’s power and the relation between God and natural laws at length in chapter 4 of my first vol. So suggesting that somehow I’m not answering your questions with “direct answers” is rather frustrating. I have explained at great length how what we take as natural laws depend on God’s concurrence and sustaining power. That doesn’t mean that he suspends or revokes laws — it means that natural tendencies of material objects are not expressed unless God concurs. Go read that chapter and you’ll see it not either/or as you assume in your questions and explicitly #257. God doesn’t relate to natural law the way your dichotomy of either all natural law to which God is subject or all God to which natural laws are subject.

    Nor does it follow that if God can “suspend” the natural tendencies of natural objects that “anything can happen” as you assert. All that follows is that natural tendencies don’t get expressed.

    So rather than replicate my chapter on God’s power and his relation to natural laws in response to your questions, if you have my first vol. I ask you to read it. It is a very fine-parsed discussion in my view which requires that kind of attention to do it justice.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  262. he assumes the natural universe and its necessary laws as described in present physics as a starting point

    As I said, why bother making an argument when you can just make things up? This is not my view It is contrary to the philosophy of science, and is philosophically absurd.

    but that on his view they do in fact decompose

    Now you are just lying. Need I go on?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  263. Blake, if you can’t summarize your position with answers to simple yes no questions, I suggest you either don’t have a position, you want to have it both ways, or you prefer a theology of mystification and obsfuscation, unassailable because it is incomprehensible.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

  264. Mark re # 258. You again engage in a false dichotomy. I assert that your view entails that: (1) God can fall apart (it is logically possible) because God is composed and anything composed is logically de-composable; and (2) God in fact will fall apart because he is subject to natural laws on your view and given natural laws all composed things decay and fall apart over time. It take some energy from outside of a physical system to prevent such entropy and in your system, if I have understood it, there is nothing outside the natural order of forces (whatever they are) to provide such energy.

    On my view there are dimensions beyond the present physical system that may have vastly different laws. I think of intelligences as fields or unified energy that has the inherent power to remain unified by its very nature. I don’t think of them as, at base substance, miniscule bits of matter that some proto-mental capacities the way that you do. Further, I don’t believe that we have any grasp of the kinds of laws that govern such dimensions.

    So I reject the very notion of eternal life subject to cessation (which is a simple contradiction in first order logic BTW since eternal life isn’t subject to cessation by definition).

    Mark: Two problems here: I have made abundantly clear that I don’t believe that the matter that we are discussing here is the same as matter as is understood in physics, i.e. the insensate matter of hard materialism. This is the second time you have done this

    Yeah, this is just weaseling as I see it. You hold that whatever type of matter we’re talking about, it is subject to physics as we explore it in the science of physics. I have never implied that such matter must be “insensate” or something like “hard materialism,” whatever that could mean. Whether such matter has properties of proto-mental properties (whatever that could mean) is irrelevant to the point that I am making that you reduce everything to physics. “God” on your view is just an evolved mortal who figured out how to be a good physician to prolong life — just a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Star Wars music breaks into the post here {grin}).

    That just isn’t God as I see it.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  265. OK Mark: Let’s get clear on this. We’ll forget your statements above. On your view: (1) Can God decompose — i.e., is it logically possible? and (2) Given natural laws, can God decompose — i.e, it is physically possible given our present universe governed by its natural laws? (3) What guarantees (gives us sufficient assurances) on your view that God won’t in fact decompose?

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

  266. Mark: Blake, if you can’t summarize your position with answers to simple yes no questions, I suggest you either don’t have a position, you want to have it both ways, or you prefer a theology of mystification and obsfuscation, unassailable because it is incomprehensible.

    Sorry Mark, I just reject your view that the issue of God’s power and his relation to natural laws is subject to yes/no questions that have false assumptions in them. The best answer to your questions is the Japanese “mu” which means to “unask the question because it assumes too much.”

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  267. Blake: As I am not in the habit of refraining from giving simple answers to simple questions, so I will be pleased to answer.

    (1) Can God decompose — i.e., is it logically possible?

    On the model I have been defending here, the reduction of God as an invidividual and God as the divine concert of all exalted beings to raw matter and intelligence is logically possible. Both Brigham Young and Orson Pratt maintained the same view.

    However, I do not rule out the reasonable possibility that personal intelligences are self-existent and indestructible.

    (2) Given natural laws, can God decompose — i.e, it is physically possible given our present universe governed by its natural laws?

    Yes, on the same conditions as (1). Even if the personal intelligence model is correct, God has a glorified physical body as tangible as man’s, and it is physically subject to decomposition.

    (3) What guarantees (gives us sufficient assurances) on your view that God won’t in fact decompose?

    A) On scriptural evidence, the glorified physical bodies of resurrected beings are more durable than any ordinary composition. cf. Alma 11:45.

    B) There is no hard physical constraint that prevents the resurrection of a glorified being after such an unlikely eventuality.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

  268. You hold that whatever type of matter we’re talking about, it is subject to physics as we explore it in the science of physics.

    Now you are putting words in my mouth again. You might think about adding qualifiers like “It seems to me” or “as far as I can tell”. I certainly maintain that matter is subject to fundamental laws of nature and that such laws are inviolable.

    The question of which purported laws of physics are indeed actually accurate representations of actual laws of nature is an epistemological question. As I said, it would be philosophically absurd to assume perfect knowledge in this area.

    That said, there a number of reasons to believe that such purported laws as the second law of thermodynamics are not laws at all. I might suggest the same of the Big Bang theory, general relativity, and any number of other purported laws for which sketchy evidence exists or which there are fundamental metaphysical reasons to suspect their exact correspondence to the way the world really is.

    The scriptures imply, however, that the conservation of energy is a law of nature, because the “elements are eternal”, and energy is indeed “element”. See also Luke 8:43-46 where Jesus Christ feels “virtue” (read “strength”) coming out of him to heal the woman with an issue of blood.

    The scriptures also imply a large number of other natural necessities. Wickedness never was happiness. God cannot be a just God without requiring repentance. A suffering atonement is required for salvation to be accomplished, etc.

    If God concurred, could wickedness be happiness? On his concurrence, could a suffering atonement be dispensed with? With his concurrence, could the requirement of repentance be eliminated while preserving the nature of a heavenly society?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  269. Mark: Look, I apologize if I have not fully grasped your views. However, it appears to me that your “theological” assumptions dictate that God is subject to simply falling apart from the inside out given the kinds of forces we know while the scriptures dictate a different outcome.

    I’m still unclear what you mean by this statement: “There is no hard physical constraint that prevents the resurrection of a glorified being after such an unlikely eventuality.”

    I think you mean to say that the resurrection isn’t physically impossible. However, the issue isn’t whether it is physically possible for a body to be reorganized temporarily, but whether that resurrected body is assured to remain re-organized without falling apart. I don’t see anything that could assure such a result given your assumptions (as I understand them — tho I am open to the possibility that I’m missing something about your assumptions or I wouldn’t be pressing this line of inquiry).

    Further, Alma 11:45 doesn’t say that resurrected bodies are just more durable, they are assured to not fall apart ever again as I read it.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  270. Blake [wrt to his understanding of my view]: It take some energy from outside of a physical system to prevent such entropy and in your system, if I have understood it, there is nothing outside the natural order of forces (whatever they are) to provide such energy.

    (1) The only model of entropy that we have that is derived from first principles is based on statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics is based on mathematically accounting for what the observer does not know about the exact state of the system.

    i.e. if an observer has sufficient such knowledge, entropy doesn’t exist, on the only model of entropy we have. i.e. entropy as we know it is a subjective concept, much the Bohmian view of traditional quantum mechanics.

    (2) Allowing for a sufficiently objective definition of entropy, based on a differential classification of thermal “fuzz” and macroscopic structure, free will and creativity are both factors that are not accounted for in all conventional models of both thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. I suggest, quite seriously, that the inclination of raw intelligence can reduce the statistical fuzz in the universe, i.e. cause entropy to go down.

    (3) Even if the universe were fully deterministic as many physicists suggest, the Poincare recurrence theorem that applies to all energy conserving deterministic systems guarantees that there will never be a net increase in any objective measure of entropy in any such system, when taken over the lifetime of the universe.

    Don’t you suspect I have thought about this? I started pursuing this particular issue more than two decades ago.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  271. Mark: If God concurred, could wickedness be happiness? On his concurrence, could a suffering atonement be dispensed with? With his concurrence, could the requirement of repentance be eliminated while preserving the nature of a heavenly society?

    Clearly not since that would be inconsistent with the inherent natural tendencies of the kinds of beings that we are.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  272. Blake #260,

    Ah, you misunderstand the source of my comment. I was basing my knowledge of your position on our recent discussion on this topic (here), not from your critique of Mark’s position on this thread. It appears to me that your argument against Mark’s position is in conflict with what I understood you to be defending on that occasion vis a vis intelligence as emergent and the possibility that spirit matter may be insusceptible to decomposition. (For reference, on that thread, see especially #215, #221, #278, #280, #285 and my comments #279 and #306.) I’ll admit that I’m not totally clear on your account of how our intelligence is eternal, but I am giving an honest and concerted attempt at understanding you. I thought you were pretty rock solid on it requiring something complex as opposed to something simple. Is the complex something immaterial? If not, then it seems your argument against Mark’s position would work against your own.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  273. Jacob: With respect to human bodies and consciousness of our sense experience of the world I am very clear that our knowledge and consciousness depend on a functioning, organized and complex brain. I am simply agnostic about whether there is such an organized body, material substrate, quasi-material substrate and so-forth for an eternal intelligence. My view is that we just don’t know much about intelligences or spirit matter for that matter (pun intended). I’m on record that an intelligence could just be an immaterial Cartesian mind for all that we know — and I don’t see any reasons why such minds are logically impossible. I don’t see why the basic mind/body (matter) problem would arise for intelligences if there is nothing material that is involved. I don’t like the Cartesian view with respect to mortal bodies and the relation to mind — but I just don’t know enough about what an intelligence is (or a spirit body would be) to become very dogmatic about what they are or how consciousness arises.

    I am clear that given our current knowledge, consciousness just is magic because there is no naturalistic explanation for it — at least not currently and I don’t think we can just assume that some day there will be.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  274. Blake,

    Thanks for the clarification. My recollection was that you had been more forcefully opposed to the idea of a Cartesian mind in the past, so it is good to know you are open to the idea.

    I don’t see why the basic mind/body (matter) problem would arise for intelligences if there is nothing material that is involved.

    I think the problem is that if our mind is truly continuous from pre-mortal through post-mortal existence, then you would end up with a situation where we were an immaterial Cartesian mind (the ghost inside our spirit body?) during the pre-mortal life and then when we were born that Cartesian mind was continuous in some way with a radically emergent consciousness arising from our physical brain. To say it another way, I think your more firm (relatively) position on the nature of mortal consciousness imposes some constraints on what the basis of eternal consciousness could plausibly be.

    That said, I can’t find any explanation I am willing to sign on to so your comment about not becoming dogmatic seems wise.

    Comment by Jacob J — October 20, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  275. However, the issue isn’t whether it is physically possible for a body to be reorganized temporarily, but whether that resurrected body is assured to remain re-organized without falling apart.

    In this case, I mean re-resurrection, lit. “rising twice”.

    Further, Alma 11:45 doesn’t say that resurrected bodies are just more durable, they are assured to not fall apart ever again as I read it.

    I suggest that “that they can die no more” here is a bit of a superlative, and that “that they die no more” would be technically accurate.

    Also, re “assurance”. Nobody needs assurance about natural necessities. I can’t say I am particularly worried that there won’t be any gravity tommorrow morning.

    What we need is faith that God has the power necessarily to fulfil all his promises. In my view, that does not require divine concurrence in the operation of all natural laws.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  276. Blake, One of the reasons why divine concurrence in natural laws is problematic is the the multi-personality of the Godhead. It is like, which one is responsible for concurring with the natural laws that preserve the structural integrity of the bodies of the others?

    And furthermore, doesn’t concurring with the operation of natural laws at each moment of time and space require an enormous amount of conscious effort? Doesn’t God have better things to do? Or on what basis can we suggest that such divine concurrence is maintained subconsciously?

    If one maintains a traditional LDS view of exaltation, e.g. more than one heavenly father, the problem gets considerably worse. It would be as if each exalted being would have to draw up boundaries as to where they are responsible for providing the light and direction for electrons to continue around in their orbits, making sure the electrons didn’t get confused signals, and making the governing light they emit skip over regions they were not responsible for.

    If a celestial society involves living together with one’s eternal family, there would certainly be common occasions where exalted beings are in each others presence. Then what would do they do – one person keep the electrons on time at home, and another away?

    The direct (and traditional) implication of a divine concert is the number one reason why I find it difficult to locate the traditional properties of God in the person of a single being, or in three for that matter. I realize you do not have that problem anywhere near to the same extent, of course.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 5:16 pm

  277. Here is a relevant scriptures:

    [the Lord] prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words (1 Ne 9:6)

    The question here is how much power does God need? I suggest the answer is he needs just enough power to fulfil his promises.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 20, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

  278. Mark: It is like, which one is responsible for concurring with the natural laws that preserve the structural integrity of the bodies of the others?

    They are all together — they don’t have divine power unless they concur in perfect unity.

    Mark: The question here is how much power does God need? I suggest the answer is he needs just enough power to fulfil his promises.

    Well, that means that he can guarantee our salvation against all forces and challenges forever. That means that he able to overcome all others just as the Lectures on Faith state. It seems to me to fairly solidly follow that God has maximal power of the kind I define in ch. 4 of my first volume on Exploring Mormon Thought.

    Comment by Blake — October 20, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  279. Blake: Well, that means that he can guarantee our salvation against all forces and challenges forever.

    The interesting question is salvation from what? If we have indestructible and irreducible minds our beginningless selves don’t need salvation from obliteration.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 20, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  280. Eek! Seems I have a bunch of catching up to do during my mid-term break absence…

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 6:35 am

  281. Let me see if I can summarize some of the commentary. I’ll focus on the criticisms of the model Mark D. has been defending:

    1. The model assumes that there are self-existent laws of reality and hence we are Platonists (post 249).

    2. That reality is describable by those same laws (post 220,251). Example: resurrection seems to defy this proposition.

    3. Any being who is susceptible and constrained by such laws is unworthy of worship. Example: As per point 2, God can be destroyed and hence not worthy of worship.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 7:27 am

  282. I’m not sure #1 is a very solid attack on the model. One, I’m not sure many philosophers would call necessarily existent laws of interaction of matter as Platonism. Two, such laws of nature are just that… necessarily existent — even in Blakes’s model. Reality is unintelligible otherwise. What distinguishes the models is parsimony. And Mark is right on there. Could go on about how fundamental interactions are an expression of symmetries of nature and such but that can be for later.

    Criticism #2, “the epistemological arrogance that we can divine the nature of spiritual realities by studying physics”.

    Well, if spirit is matter and the matter has necessarily existent laws of interaction, then yes, yes they must be understandable by physics. Does it mean that we currently understand the physics needed to describe them? Heavens no. Which is precisely why we need a model. I reject the premise that such a model cannot be formulated even in principle (if indeed that is what is being said).

    As such, the resurrection example becomes moot. We have no need to claim we know how it is done. But that it is done means we have a data point to include in any model of reality.

    3. I personally reject Blake’s measure of standard of worship (starts to sound rather Hellenistic to me). But the criticism that if a being can be formed it can be destroyed is a very difficult one. And the arrogance of forming a physics model to describe spirit matter and intelligence must address it. Not there yet.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 7:43 am

  283. Since A. Davis brings this up, let me respond:

    Blake says: Second, as far as “natural law” goes I believe that Mark (and it appears Jacob) are Platonists — there are just these natural laws out there that control everything and they are just given in reality.

    I have personally made the argument that in a deterministic world, i.e. one with no substantive free will (LFW), Platonism is inevitable, either due to natural law, or the endless repetition of initial conditions.

    The thing is one really ought to pay attention and think a little before making statements like this. I am a long time defender of LFW around here, and have mentioned it dozens of times in this thread. How exactly any world with LFW can be considered classically Platonist is beyond me. Free agents can make entirely new forms, at will. A painting, a play, a musical composition. Since when is LFW dictated by some sort of eternal form in the sky? That is inconsistent with the very definition of LFW.

    Further, it ought to be obvious that in a world with LFW that conceptualism is the only way to go. There are no sophisticated eternal forms.

    That said, any world with some natural laws, is Platonic with respect to those laws. But those laws do not determine everything that happens in a world with LFW, and unlike classical Platonism we are talking about a handful that could fit on one page, not some sort of library full of unauthored designs of plants, animals, and submarines.

    Unlike a determinist, I can’t say I think the design for the latest nuclear submarine is incipient in the initial conditions of the universe. These things are creations of free will in a manner that is not wholly determined by prior states of affairs. So much as evolution is borderline ridiculous in a strictly deterministic world, for what ought to be obvious reasons.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 8:42 am

  284. Indeed, for the record, I am also all for libertarian free will. Unlike Mark D. my bias is towards restricting indeterministic behavior to only one class of particles (fondly referred to by me as “intelligent matter”) with all else being governed, necessarily, by deterministic laws.

    I’m not sure indeterministic behavior means universals must be mental properties only. But, hey call me a realist. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  285. I’m not sure indeterministic behavior means universals must be mental properties only

    As Ockham said, there is such a thing as a real similarity between objects in the outside world, completely apart from what anyone thinks about them. Aristotle’s views on universals can be understood in precisely the same way, and no one would claim Aristotle was not a realist, except maybe Plato…

    For theological reasons, everyone was reading Aristotle in a Platonic fashion, with the timeless forms created ex nihilo by God, and along comes Ockham and a few others who said that no, universals were generally not things “res” in the same sense as rocks and trees were things. So the Thomists perpetuated the accusation that the Ockhamists were nominalists, holding the position that universals were nothing but names, a misleading characterization the prevails to this day.

    See Elder Oaks talk quoting Richard M. Weaver on this subject [1]. Weaver maintained that Ockham started a 700 year decline in Western Civilization by saying that universals weren’t real, and that empiricism entailed a denial of the existence of a higher reality, etc..

    In fact, Ockham maintained that “concepts”, i.e. ideas about universals or more precisely “ideas about real similarities” were real. The best definition of “real” I have ever seen, is “something you can be wrong about”. So this idea that conceptualists must deny realism is unfounded. Conceptualism simply means that complex forms are not “things”, but rather something more like “patterns”.

    Virtually all contemporary realists are conceptualists in this sense.

    I suppose you can be a nominalist or subjectivist conceptualist, but I think that subjectivism is wacky in the extreme, so I don’t pay much attention. Back to your regularly scheduled programming…

    [1] Oaks, Dallin H., The Lord’s Way, pp. 75-76
    http://emp.byui.edu/SATTERFIELDB/Talks/reason.html.html

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  286. The interesting question is salvation from what? If we have indestructible and irreducible minds our beginningless selves don’t need salvation from obliteration.

    Misery, death, the Hobbesian war of all against all, conflict over land, resources, social affairs and so on.

    If having a body is a good thing, then preserving it is a pretty important objective. And rather more important if much of your acquired personality and character is instantiated in your brain.

    The other stuff can simply be understand as the natural consequence of undisciplined free will, non-cooperation. Resentment and misery due to what natural circumstance and other wills do to you, cause you to suffer, and so on is a pretty natural thing unless suffering is completely subjective, a problematic proposition if there ever was one.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  287. Thanks for the link Mark. It appears such terms carry baggage with them beyond what I understand their simple definitions to mean. As such, their usage is deeper waters than I am wont to swim. I like your definitions. When I thought realism, I was probably proposing something more along the line of reductive physicalism.

    Mark D. I suppose you can be a nominalist or subjectivist conceptualist, but I think that subjectivism is wacky in the extreme, so I don’t pay much attention.
    Oh, I know a subjectivist (also a transhumanist). With him, we start from such a vastly different base that discussion becomes difficult.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  288. Mark (#286),

    Again, assuming we are at core indestructible minds (as I mentioned in that comment) then we wouldn’t need salvation from death. Assuming we have irrefutable LFW in some form then salvation from things like misery or war would be contingent on choices. And of course the issue of land is a little out of place when we are talking about intelligences.

    I’m not disagreeing with the idea that God helps us, I just wonder how that question changes when asked from the point of view of a beginningless spirit.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  289. Geoff, one could always substitute “spatial volume”, “home area”, or “breathing room” for “land” in this case. I assume those intelligences have to hang out somewhere, and personally I would be annoyed (if not fatigued and worn down) if a bunch of rowdy little intelligences started congregating in my favorite spot.

    I also think the idea of a suffering atonement or personal sacrifice being a necessary prerequisite for general salvation is pretty dubious if suffering isn’t a necessary consequence of the nature of the relationship of intelligences to other matter and intelligence.

    Some people think that evil and suffering is a consequence of the Fall as some sort of self contained event, and everything was hunky dory before then. I can’t say I find that a very realistic perspective. Free will means conflict and suffering are both likely and difficult to eliminate.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  290. Again, assuming we are at core indestructible minds (as I mentioned in that comment) then we wouldn’t need salvation from death

    That depends on whether (as I mentioned in my comment) the state of having a body is much to be preferred over the state of not having one, even for a core indestructible mind. Joseph Smith taught this principle pretty strongly. Those with bodies having power over those that did not, for example.

    1 Corinthians 15 is a long commentary on this idea. And of course one of my favorite scriptures:

    Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philip. 3:21)

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  291. I assume those intelligences have to hang out somewhere

    Yeah. Where that might be is an interesting question (albeit totally unanswerable). I agree with your other comments in #289 too.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  292. Re: #290

    Even if having a physical body is preferable to not a second question is if having a permanent physical body is preferable to cycling through disposable bodies like our mortal bodies here. If intelligences love variety (as our liturgy implies God does) the latter might be preferable in an eternal existence.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  293. “Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet – Joseph Smith (Teachings p297)”

    What is our enemy? From the perspective of a simple, indestructible intelligence, it might be compulsion of action from external forces. As a crude analogy, think of a billiard table where the eight ball is an intelligent ball and it’s getting constantly knocked about. It might not “like” that. Salvation would be escape or acquiring the ability to keep the other balls from knocking into it without its consent. We might posit that a body (both physical and spiritual) and social law is necessary for this salvation.

    The principle underling the analogy is also consistent with Mark’s earlier (and incredibly bold statement if one thinks about it) comment, “I suggest, quite seriously, that the inclination of raw intelligence can reduce the statistical fuzz in the universe, i.e. cause entropy to go down.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  294. I think the main enemy of a simple, indestructible intelligence would be boredom. Eternity is a really long time even when things are going well.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  295. I think the main enemy of a simple, indestructible intelligence would be boredom. Eternity is a really long time even when things are going well.

    Not if a simple intelligence hasn’t the capacity for memory. :)

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  296. Hmmm… Maybe so. Of course if eternal intelligences are completely blissful there isn’t much explanation for us being here is there?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  297. Or if the time perception of a simple intelligence is modulated in the manner I suggested earlier in this thread. Perhaps simple intelligence is “simple” because its native perception is *really* slow, i.e. eons go by in a blur.

    Also it is worth noting that if the passage I quoted from Philippians 3 is correct, God simply cannot be God (i.e. subdue all things unto himself) without a glorified body. I have brought up this scripture with Catholics before. Divine power without a body? No according to Paul here.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  298. Well, setting aside that “bliss” isn’t an emotion one can have without memory, getting knocked about by a highly chaotic universe probably isn’t very blissful even if every hit is the “first time”.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 21, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  299. A. Davis, yes – if that is not the case, then in the long run we are all dead. Our eternal salvation depends on both John Maynard Keynes and the second law of thermodynamics being wrong about this.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  300. Mark: i.e. eons go by in a blur.

    Eons, nanoseconds — what’s the difference if there are an infinite numbers of them?

    if the passage I quoted from Philippians 3 is correct,

    You mean if your understanding of that passage is correct.

    A. Davis — Either way, eventually once all the wars were won the enemy would be boredom. Such is the curse of real immortality.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  301. #299 is in reference to the last part of A.Davis’ comment in #293, wrt. intelligence and entropy.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  302. Eons, nanoseconds — what’s the difference if there are an infinite numbers of them?

    A very big difference if at least one of the eons is infinite. I picked logarithmic perception modulation for a reason. It means the first “moment” that such an intelligence perceives would cover an infinite duration, because log(x) as x goes to zero is infinity, i.e. the intelligence’s perception could “start out” infinitely slow.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  303. Or more conventionally expressed exp(x) as x-> -infinity approaches arbitrarily close to zero, i.e. arbitrarily close to infinitely slow perception.

    Furthermore the integral of exp(x) from -infinite to zero is finite, so all time prior to the present time, or any finite time for that matter, would be perceived as a finite time from the perspective of such an intelligence.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

  304. Mark,

    Stapley likes that approach too. It is a nice way to weasel out of the implications of beginningless minds and infinite time if weaseling out of those implications is the goal. The net effect is to assert eternally hibernating intelligences. I don’t think that is how things really are but I would probably use that explanation too if I were you.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

  305. Mark: could “start out” infinitely slow.

    I got a real kick out of the logically contradictory notion of infinitely slow. There is at most a speed approaching a lower limit — sorry, no possibility of infinitely slow.

    Also — whether laws are Platonist (once again) has nothing to do with whether the laws are deterministic or not. It so happens that Plato was not a determinist and his notion of laws as applied to particulars is not deterministic. Your view of static laws that obtain mind-independently of god and which govern god (as you conceive god) is Platonist. Now that may hot be all bad except it means that if the laws dictate that all things fall apart, then god too must fall apart.

    Geoff: Again, assuming we are at core indestructible minds (as I mentioned in that comment) then we wouldn’t need salvation from death.

    You’re quite right — we need not fear annihilation of we cannot possibly be annihilated even by God or any physical force. However, we need to be saved from what would enslave us and subject us to eternal loss of freedom. That is what the atonement does in Mormon thought BTW. However, given Mark’s view of god, as I understand it, god cannot guarantee even that.

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  306. A. Davis: You suggest that you reject my criteria of worshipworthiness (which are really the criteria of the Lectures on Faith for the possibility of faith in another being as God). Let’s test that:

    Say that there is a being who is very powerful and very good, but there is another just as good but much more powerful. Which would you look to for ultimate deliverance from whatever ultimately could enslave and subject you to eternal misery?

    Say that there is a being who can in fact guarantee deliverance from all forces and powers that may enslave and seek you eternal misery and that, absent this being’s intervention, could and would accomplish your eternal misery. Say that there is another who can overcome some of these forces that seek your misery but not others. Say that they are both equally good and trustworthy in terms of commitment to your well-being. Which will you seek out to be your savior?

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  307. Geoff: I think the main enemy of a simple, indestructible intelligence would be boredom. Eternity is a really long time even when things are going well.

    I can’t see why there would be any greater danger of boredom through an eternity of time than there is at the present moment. After all, given an A-theory of time, this moment now is all that really exists. Further, there is an infinity of ever new experiences to be experienced no matter how long we exist. Heck, endless existence in eternal life with God sounds really exciting to me. Of course if your life is boring right now — well, eternity just began and you’re already there.

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  308. Blake: I can’t see why there would be any greater danger of boredom through an eternity of time than there is at the present moment

    Well obviously passing through the veil makes earth life anything but boring for us. We are forced to live on faith that our existence in the universe didn’t begin at birth and won’t permanently end at our death so that makes this mortal life ever-interesting. Of course one could say that it would get boring for God and angels to forever watch the likes of us struggle through mortal lives but I have unabashedly long suspected that angels cycle through recurring mortal probations too, so watching in that case might be more like waiting in line for the roller coaster. In such a scheme the veil of forgetfulness would serve as the great boredom alleviator for eternal persons. (Grin)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

  309. I got a real kick out of the logically contradictory notion of infinitely slow. There is at most a speed approaching a lower limit — sorry, no possibility of infinitely slow.

    You know what I mean’t (or should have), no need to make a man an offender for a word. The proper term is infinitesmally slow, i.e. arbirarily slow without being zero.

    However, we need to be saved from what would enslave us and subject us to eternal loss of freedom. That is what the atonement does in Mormon thought BTW. However, given Mark’s view of god, as I understand it, god cannot guarantee even that.

    Does anyone need a guarantee of a natural necessity? Your use of the term implies that there are no meaningful guarantees, because no guarantee is a necessity.

    Can God guarantee that he won’t apostasize? Retire? Take an extended vacation? Has he been deprived of his free will? Converted into a Greek statue?

    Can God guarantee that a person has eternal life (real salvation) and continues in that state for the rest of eternity?

    (1) The person has free will, right?
    (2) Eternal life is a contingent state is it not?
    (3) Or is eternal life a sticky state that follows the person around no matter what the do, will, or think?

    Those are all much worse problems than the possibility that there might need to be a re-resurrection or other comparable intervention.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  310. Blake: It would be nice quit using the term “guarantee” in a manner contrary to any remotely normal use in the English language. Full faith and credit of the supreme power in the universe not good enough for you?

    Do we really have to have faith in someone eternally endowed with “magical” natural law suspending powers (granted to no one else by no one in the slightest degree) to have meaningful faith at all?

    By the way, is Philip. 3:21 a legitimate scripture, or was Paul just not thinking that day, when he said that a glorified body is the means whereby God subjects all things unto himself?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  311. “if you quit” of course…

    Geoff: The reason why hibernation isn’t the proper term is it implies that the intelligence had ordinary time perception at some point in the past, and then decided to go to sleep.

    The only non-metaphysically dubious way for my suggestion to work is if normal time perception is a non-radically emergent property of some relatively global process. Spiritual interaction is a plausible candidate. Normal time perception could require inter-mutual clocking, to use an engineering term.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

  312. Oh I understand the argument Mark. That is why I said “The net effect is to assert eternally hibernating intelligences”.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 21, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  313. Mark: Do we really have to have faith in someone eternally endowed with “magical” natural law suspending powers (granted to no one else by no one in the slightest degree) to have meaningful faith at all?

    You’re going to have to define what you mean by “magic.” If you mean that we cannot explain given our present understanding — yeah, it’s magic. If you mean that God is always subject to whatever laws happen to obtain then I just disagree — but before you go spouting off about such powers you might want to read about what I have said about in ch. 4 regarding concurring power. It is clear that you just haven’t taken the time to become informed. Look, natural entities have inherent natural powers on my view, but they can only be expressed in certain conditions — kinda like the fact that hydrogen exhibits explosive properties only when around a source of ignition. No natural entity can express its natural powers without God’s concurrence in my view.

    While we’re at it, is resurrection magic in your book? After all, given all biological laws we know, dead people just don’t come back to life and their bodies don’t re-organize after death (they happen to decay). Are spirits “magic” on your view because they can hover above the earth?? How about the resurrected Jesus who entered a room the doors beings shut? Certainly material bodies don’t just pass through solid walls unless some magic is involved. Perhaps you could define what you mean by “magic” beyond “I find it hard to believe — which is how you seem to be using it.

    The notion that we can accept only what we can fully explain is really arrogant nonsense on my view.

    Let’s cut through the crap and get to the issue: no obviously God cannot force a person to freely choose him. That is all totally and obviously beside the point of faith — and I believe that you know it. God can GUARANTEE (make absolutely certain, always prevail, not be subject to provisos, conditions and weasel words) that if a person accepts him and the power of atonement, then such person will be delivered from all powers that may seek his or her destruction. On your view god is a rather pathetic being who is subject to all conditions that the laws that happen to obtain lay down. How do you know that these laws don’t dictate that we live about 100 years after death and then we cannot subsist any longer? How do you know that the laws don’t dictate that resurrection is impossible?

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  314. Mark: By the way, is Philip. 3:21 a legitimate scripture, or was Paul just not thinking that day, when he said that a glorified body is the means whereby God subjects all things unto himself?

    I’m surprised you’d cite this scripture since it is something you can’t accept. In context it means that by resurrection Christ overcame the power of death and the powers (usually thought to be the powers of the pleroma or lower heavens in early Christian thought). Of course, if you want to give it a more expansive reading, do you believe that god really subjects all things ot himself, including the natural laws that define how these things act? This scripture seems to give you far more problems than anything you cite about my view.

    So are you suggesting that Christ only became divine after his mortality and that a resurrected body is necessary to be powerful enough to subject all things to him (or however powerful you think god is)?

    Comment by Blake — October 21, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

  315. Blake: I have defined what I mean by “magic” several times here. The term is a very convenient shorthand for the ability to circumvent the fundamental laws of nature (whatever those are), especially on a macroscopic scale.

    Creating matter, or energy, or intelligence, or the whole universe for that matter out of nothing, or causing it to disappear without a trace is the the prototypical example of a violation of the fundamental laws of nature. The impossibility of this sort of violation has scriptural support (cf. D&C 93:33, Luke 8:46).

    Suspending natural laws in the form of cost free macroscopic interference with natural “tendencies” of matter or energy is dubious enough. Creating matter and/or energy out of nothing (i.e. ex nihilo) is one of those things that D&C 93:33 implies is a metaphysical impossibility.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  316. Blake: The whole problem with the idea that God has cost free power over the elements is that implies that there really is such a thing as a free lunch. As I said before, it means that pretty much anything is possible.

    Snap your fingers and a new galaxy materializes out of thin air. Or more to the point complete the atonement for all mankind without suffering, sacrifice, or restitution on the part of anyone at all. End poverty, famine, suffering, pestilence, disease, natural disasters, etc. without thinking about it. What is the excuse for all that?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 21, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  317. Blake: Re resurrection, spirits, etc, I have made my position perfectly clear. You are the one who implies that they necessarily violate the laws of nature.

    I don’t, and short of a compelling argument on your part that they actually do violate the laws or tendencies of nature, as they are in actual fact, the fact that spirits can levitate or resurrection is possible is completely irrelevant.

    You should never confuse what we know or suspect about the laws of nature from what the laws of nature actually are. I have made this point already. And yes, I have reviewed the section of your book on the subject.

    Just out of curiosity, do you maintain that the natural “tendencies” of matter and energy have a Platonic existence or not? Your book says: “God cannot bring it about that this object is water and that it exercises its natural inclination but does not freeze at 32F” (EMT vol 1, p.130, emphasis added).

    Sounds like you claim that the natural inclination of material substances has a Platonic existence to me, i.e. God is completely incapable of changing what that natural inclination is, despite the ability to override it ad libitum.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  318. So are you suggesting that Christ only became divine after his mortality

    In the sense described by Philip. 3:21, yes.

    Subduing all “things” does not necessarily mean making them say “how high” whenever you say “jump”, by the way? It does mean persuading them to submit to your purposes. No violation of natural laws required. I think I have my office here subdued pretty well.

    Why is it by the way that a spirit must appear *in glory* to be seen by a human, “for that is the only way he can appear”? If God can circumvent any law of nature surely the spirit could appear any which way was convenient.

    Or should we believe that there has been a divine decree from the foundation of the world that spirits are metaphysically disabled from appearing to mankind in any other way, lest the witness be confused about whether the spirit is in actual fact an angel with a resurrected body and not a spirit at all? (cf. D&C 129).

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  319. Mark: Snap your fingers and a new galaxy materializes out of thin air.

    Mark, such a thing just isn’t possible on my view at all. On my view there are eternal realities that have inherent natural tendencies given the kind of things that they are. Thus, if we have oxygen and hydrogen in right combination we get water. God cannot create water without oxygen and hydgrodgen — so your assertion is a misrepresentation (or perhaps just a misunderstanding) of what my view of God’s power entails. God could prevent water from freezing, just like he can prevent fire from burning flesh — by withdrawing his concurring power. However, God cannot prevent water from freezing at 32 F. if water molecules exercise their natural bonding inclinations. Thus, the kinds of things you assert that God can do just by snapping his fingers are nonsense on my view. I don’t blame you for not fully grasping it — it is a fairly complex view of natural inclinations of material objects. However, it is clear that you haven’t grasped the implications of the view I present.

    FYI my view is a far cry from Plato — tho it does have a lot in common with Aristotle and a number of modern theorists of the nature of natural laws based in inherent natural tendencies of physical states and objects.

    Just what you mean by “cost free” power I have no idea unless you mean that energy is necessarily expended and must remain constant — thereby adopting a fairly obviously fallacious notion of entropy. Nor can God bring about atonement without sharing life (zoe) with us and we with him thereby entailing shared life. Such sharing of life entails feeling pain when we enter into God’s life and he willingly opens to accept us into his life. One thing is sure, your notion of impossibility of macrocosmic circumvention of law doesn’t begin to apply to the examples we’re talking about since they all involve only local events.

    I think that the real problem here is a deficition notion of natural law on your part. Perhaps you could define what you mean by a “natural law” because it is so non-standard that it appears to be vacuous of content to me. We don’t know what the natural laws (thus they are not derived inductively on your view). They are just “out there” whether we
    know about them or not — so they aren’t mind dependent. Moreover, they cannot be disconfirmed by any contrary events — so they aren’t discoverable by the scientific method. What in the heck kind of view of natural law is that?

    You didn’t answer my question about how a body passes thru walls and closed doors. Perhaps you could tell me how on your view that is consistent with “natural law” as you understand it.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 7:42 am

  320. Mark: Q. So are you suggesting that Christ only became divine after his mortality? A. In the sense described by Philip. 3:21, yes.

    That was vague. What sense is that? Are you asserting that as Yahweh or the God of the Old Testament the divine Word that created all things was not really fully divine?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 7:44 am

  321. Mark: I don’t, and short of a compelling argument on your part that they actually do violate the laws or tendencies of nature, as they are in actual fact, the fact that spirits can levitate or resurrection is possible is completely irrelevant.

    Well, how about this: In every case where a body has died it hasn’t come back to life because biological processes are essential to life and when these essential processes cease at death life isn’t possible. On any view of natural law, that is a sufficient demonstration that resurrection isn’t possible. Now could you give me your view of natural law that explains how it is possible?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  322. Response to the test proposed in Post 306:

    I’m actually might not be that far from you in the concept of social unity of exalted beings and each being “maximally powerful”. So the hypothetical of one being being more powerful than another isn’t the right test I think. But I may not understand the point you are trying to make. To clarify my speculations:

    Our Godhead is perfectly capable of bringing about their stated purpose as are the hypothetical godheads of distant “cousins”. They worship their godhead and we ours. There is nothing to motivate me to worship theirs despite their godhead being just as powerful as ours.

    Where our difference appears to be is the origin and nature of that power. I suspect that the natural power of exalted beings is not inherent in their unity. They necessarily set up a social system of unity else there would be conflict and the salvation of none assured. Any of the society who would defect (a possibility I posit made infinitesimally small by the system set up) then the defector would be over powered by the community.

    Thus, maximal social power comes only from unity. Maximal natural power (influences on matter and such) stems from a different fountain I believe.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 22, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  323. @Blake on natural law:

    I’m not sure where or why there is dispute on what natural law is. To me, and I’m pretty sure to Mark, natural law is simply the rules of interactions between real objects that must necessarily exist or else the interaction by definition could not exist. To us, these laws necessarily have existed for all time as there are objects which have existed for all time.

    Consequently, God did not make natural law. Neither does God override, subdue, suppress, or alter them. “Magic” would be doing any of the above.

    Yet, God is able to fully employ natural law and maneuver matter to create any desired and possible effect (this would be our definition of maximal natural power). With our limited understanding, we can only do some manipulation (hence, we are not maximally powerful).

    Are we in variance of opinion or are all parties on the same page here?

    In every case where a body has died it hasn’t come back to life because biological processes are essential to life and when these essential processes cease at death life isn’t possible.

    Just because the natural law we hitherto have deduced/observed does not allow resurrection does not mean that resurrection is not possible. Indeed, since we truly believe in resurrection we can say with great confidence that our understanding of the laws of physics are necessarily incomplete and/or not-fully-correct.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 22, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  324. A. Davis: I don’t think that your statement that “God did not make natural law” is accurate regarding Mormon faith. For example, we have statements like this in D&C 88:13

    “The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”

    This scripture seems to me to say that God’s power is the basis of natural law. I based my view of God’s concurrent power as a necessary condition to the expression of natural tendencies of material objects in part on this revelation. In the KFD Joseph taught:

    God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with Himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.

    It seems to me that the “laws” which govern our advancement were “instituted by God” in some sense.

    You say: Just because the natural law we hitherto have deduced/observed does not allow resurrection does not mean that resurrection is not possible. Indeed, since we truly believe in resurrection we can say with great confidence that our understanding of the laws of physics are necessarily incomplete and/or not-fully-correct.

    Well, that is just magic because we come up with something that is just impossible given all the laws of nature that we know and that universally holds valid in human experience — and bingo, God undoes it all. Now you may be right that God somehow overcomes natural laws with other natural laws that we don’t know about. However, that just begs the question. You and Mark appear to reject my view because you assert that it would require the violation of natural laws. I say that I don’t know that natural laws would be violated at all — and we can all say that natural law just happens to allows anything we happen to believe.

    I agree that our knowledge of physics and natural laws is remarkably incomplete. That is why I think that the way that Mark goes about determining what is possible based upon some principle of physics is not workable.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  325. I said: “Snap your fingers and a new galaxy materializes out of thin air”

    Blake responds: Mark, such a thing just isn’t possible on my view at all

    Well, that is progress. I’m not sure your explanation is very clear, but I assume it is ultimately based on the idea that God cannot create matter out of nothing.

    Now suppose that God could create energy out of nothing. If that were the case he could create a bunch of energy, and then cause it to change into matter (using the well known matter energy equivalence) and ta da there he has any arbitrary amount of matter out of nothing as well.

    So the doctrinal proposition that he cannot create matter out of nothing or reduce it to nothing means that he can’t create energy out of nothing or reduce it to nothing either. Unless nuclear bombs don’t explode, or the physical process known as “pair production” isn’t real either. Conservation of matter is a doctrinal precept that entails conservation of energy as well.

    Like I said, this idea has pretty serious implications for how God goes about getting his work done. Do you have an argument for how God could go about creating energy out of nothing without being able to create matter out of nothing?

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  326. A. Davis: They necessarily set up a social system of unity else there would be conflict and the salvation of none assured. Any of the society who would defect (a possibility I posit made infinitesimally small by the system set up) then the defector would be over powered by the community.

    Well, the salvation no one in particular is insured because it depends on each individuals free will. The unity isn’t necessary because it must be freely chosen and what is freely chosen cannot be a matter of necessity — unless you have some very different notion of “necessity” in mind. What you describe sounds more like Nazism than the perichoretic love of the divine persons in indwelling unity to me.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  327. Mark: Now suppose that God could create energy out of nothing.

    God cannot create energy on my view either since it is just matter in another state and has its own inherent natural tendencies which God cannot change. He can only determine whether its natural tendencies will be expressed or not. What I have I said that you believe requires me to say that God can just create energy out of nothing?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  328. That was vague. What sense is that? Are you asserting that as Yahweh or the God of the Old Testament the divine Word that created all things was not really fully divine?

    (1) I don’t think there is sufficiently compelling evidence that the Jehovah of the Old Testament was Jesus Christ (John Taylor didn’t think so), and the internal evidence tends to point the other way. That is not a big deal either way however.

    (2) Fully divine is an ill defined concept on my view. It is not like you are either divine or you are not, more like how divine are you? As more individuals are saved and exalted the glory of the whole divine concert and every member thereof (i.e. everyone already saved or exalted) goes up.

    (3) It doesn’t matter whether Jesus Christ could do this or that in his own right prior to his resurrection, because generally speaking divine persons don’t do anything in their own right – they work together and they have to.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  329. God cannot create energy on my view either

    I am glad to hear it. It seems we concur on the existence and inviolable nature of the most fundamental natural law there is, namely: conservation of energy.

    Most of the debate beyond that ought to reduce to which purported laws of nature really are fundamental and inviolable. My position is that all fundamental laws of nature are inviolable – if they weren’t inviolable they wouldn’t be laws.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  330. A. Davis: They necessarily set up a social system of unity else there would be conflict and the salvation of none assured.

    Blake: Well, the salvation no one in particular is insured because it depends on each individuals free will. The unity isn’t necessary because it must be freely chosen and what is freely chosen cannot be a matter of necessity — unless you have some very different notion of “necessity” in mind. What you describe sounds more like Nazism than the perichoretic love of the divine persons in indwelling unity to me.

    Yay, we Godwinned! Of course, such unity is not the form proposed here and here.

    Yet, unity is necessarily chosen to obtain a condition – namely salvation. The choice is still free. Perhaps I do not see how the act of choice removes the condition of necessity or how we are far apart on the belief in necessary unity of exalted beings.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 22, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  331. “The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”

    Blake: This scripture seems to me to say that God’s power is the basis of natural law. I based my view of God’s concurrent power as a necessary condition to the expression of natural tendencies of material objects in part on this revelation.

    I read it differently. I read it to say that God is able to and does indeed in fact employ his influence in nature and hence guides the course of the universe. This governing/law does not have to be a creation of the very laws of nature themselves.

    Additionally, I read the laws mentioned by Joseph Smith as laws/rules of a social nature – not fundamental laws of nature.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 22, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  332. Any of the society who would defect (a possibility I posit made infinitesimally small by the system set up) then the defector would be over powered by the community

    Defection occurs all the time, it is completely natural, it just takes place by degrees. If anyone sins (e.g. violates the trust that the commun-ity has placed in them), they are doing something that causes them to depart and lose the spirit, and when they repent they are restored to full fellowship and the spirit returns, automatically. That is the wonder of spiritual communion – it is about the most gentle form of persuasion there is.

    Coercion is not required (as a rule). No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood except by kindness, pure knowledge, love unfeigned, etc…

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 11:06 am

  333. I echo A. Davis’ position on the quote from D&C 88, although I concede that the way Blake appears to be reading it is what the language as written literally implies.

    I can’t come remotely close to agreeing with the divine concurrence model. However, the concept of widespread (and usually subtle) divine interference or intervention, provided it is not cost free, is something I readily agree with.

    Blessing people, especially sinful individuals, with the spirit and other blessings comes at a cost, in both material and emotional terms, otherwise most of the scriptural record with regard to the Atonement is incoherent.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 11:14 am

  334. Mark: I guess I’m at a loss to see a distinction between divine concurrence and God’s intervening from time to time “without cost”. Look, we shouldn’t limit what God can do by some notion of physics like your beloved law of entropy. For all we know the universe is open and there are always new external sources of energy available. On such an assumption, your “no cost” thesis simply falls apart.

    You assume that on my view God’s intervention is an interference with natural law. That is a false assumption. God’s action is the very basis of natural law as I believe D&C 88:13 requires. So your reading is already “remotely close” to the divine concurrence model.

    God creates by organizing according to JS. That is, organization is subsequent to God’s action and a result of it and not anterior to God’s action as your model dictates. That is the disagreement between us. Do you maintain that organization isn’t the result of God’s creative power? In my view, in the absence of God’s creative there is chaos. On your view (if I have properly understood it) the universe is self-organizing and even God’ existence depends on this prior organization by natural causes. Thus, natural laws take the place of God as organizer of the universe on your view. In my view, organization requires God because his light is the source of power and law that organizes all things.

    I don’t view your deity subject to whatever the godless universe dictates (because its laws and organization are prior to god) as worthy of the kind of worship demonstrated in scripture of total devotion and absolute faith. If the universe just happens to require that all beings cease existing in 2012, then God can’t stop it. Moreover, your view seems atheistic to this extent — the universe would be organized just as it is with all of its natural laws governing how things act just as they do even if god didn’t exist. Even god is what he is after a long evolution because of these eternal laws. So the laws are eternal, or at least locally prior to god, and god cannot control what they are or how they express themselves.

    On my view, natural law is the result of concurrence with God’s light and power. Nothing can express its natural tendencies to act unless God concurs. God cannot determine what the natural tendencies are, but he can determine whether they are expressed and use his control to organize the universe. Organization is not the result of natural laws that organized god, but God is the source of order.

    So on your view how does god act at a distance to being about effects? How does he act to say create a universe 30 billion light years away? Where is god’s body in relation to the earth and how does he get it to relate to our frame of reference to intervene at all? On my view, God just is throughout the universe as the immediate concurring power of every event that occurs. On your view, god must act through some sort of technology because it existed as an ordered reality before god had godlike (almost) power. So how does god relate to the universe such that he could act on it?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  335. I guess I’m at a loss to see a distinction between divine concurrence and God’s intervening from time to time “without cost”.

    Hey Blake, it makes you look really bad when you are so careless as to imply that I hold exactly the opposite position as explicitly laid out in the sentence that you are quoting.

    Words like “not” are not the sort of thing you can idly pass by. And even if per chance I left such a critical word out, the whole tenor of my argument for days now should readily suggest what position I would be taking on whether divine intervention is cost free.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

  336. Look, we shouldn’t limit what God can do by some notion of physics like your beloved law of entropy.

    The very first reference to entropy in this thread was made by you (Blake) in comment #265. Don’t you think you are projecting a little?

    In my response in comment #270, I made a three fold argument to the effect that the second law of thermodynamics as presently understood wasn’t a law at all. I can’t say I can figure out how you determined I love a purported law of physics that I spent three paragraphs poking fundamental holes in.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  337. Mark: The very first reference to entropy in this thread was made by you (Blake) in comment #265. Don’t you think you are projecting a little?

    Hardly, the conservation of mass-energy which you take as the sine qua non of laws we ought to see as inviable is the flip side of entropy. My point about not latching onto any particular view of physics or what it entails applies mutatis mutandi to your commitment to the conservation of mass energy. So this isn’t about entropy or conservations law, but about the role such “laws” of physics will play in articulating a view of God and God’s relation to the universe — which I am still waiting for re: #334.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  338. Blake, I can only answer so many questions at a time without overrunning my quota. One issue at a time, please.

    Do you maintain that organization isn’t the result of God’s creative power? In my view, in the absence of God’s creative there is chaos

    (1) I have no reason to believe that gravity requires divine intervention to operate. Gravity is a self-organizing principle, i.e. it leads to stable configurations of matter, although the level of organization it can produce is severely limited.

    (2) In my view the source of all non-trivial organization in the universe is indeed contingent on the existence of libertarian free will or something very much like it.

    (3) In my view the only fundamental difference between the kind of order an individual creates and the kind of order God creates is a matter of scale.

    (4) So if the universe were bereft of intelligence, then it would be barren and without life, although not completely chaotic (assuming gravity is natural and not an artifact of intelligence)

    (5) With intelligence, however, the universe would contain visible (if minimal) signs of it all over the place. In actual fact, the wild abandon of undirected intelligence is far more capable of creating chaos than the orderly motions of “dumb” matter.

    In other words “dumb” matter is chaos conserving. There is only one source of new chaos, and that is the exercise of free will. Every other increase is purely subjective.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

  339. Mark: Hey Blake, it makes you look really bad when you are so careless as to imply that I hold exactly the opposite position as explicitly laid out in the sentence that you are quoting.

    Look in the mirror pal. Here is what you said: I can’t come remotely close to agreeing with the divine concurrence model. However, the concept of widespread (and usually subtle) divine interference or intervention, provided it is not cost free, is something I readily agree with.

    I read it as a statement that you can’t come remotely close to entropy but you agree with the view that God intervenes as long as it is at “no cost.” My response is simply pointing out that if you believe that God intervenes you already are “remotely close” to accepting the concurrence model. So I haven’t asserted that you believe anything except that god intervenes from time to time as long as it isn’t at an energy cost. Surely that is precisely the belief you promote in #333. I didn’t attribute anything to you that you didn’t assert.

    Friends?

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  340. Hardly, the conservation of mass-energy which you take as the sine qua non of laws we ought to see as inviable is the flip side of entropy

    Go ahead and make any sort of informed argument to the effect that the second “law” of thermodynamics (entropy increases) and and the conservation of energy are inextricably bound together.

    But, wait, you can’t, because there isn’t one.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  341. as long as it isn’t at an energy cost

    That is exactly what I did *not* say – somewhere you left out a negative that eliminates the practical difference between cost free exercise of divine concurrence and the rather costly exercise of divine intervention.

    I claim quite explicitly that effective (i.e. material) concurrence with such things as the orbit of every electron in the universe is ridiculously costly, not to mention completely unnecessary if those silly little electrons are inclined to stay in their orbits all by themselves.

    If the latter is true “concurrence” is an empty phrase – what is really going on most of the time is non-intervention.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  342. Mark re #338: I don’t know what you mean by “non-trivial” organization, but I assume that you mean things like life (or living things), and particularly intelligent life of the kind that could exercise conscious LFW to intelligently organize the kinds of non-trivial order in the universe (which requires an amazingly advanced and intelligent mind indeed).

    But that seems viciously circular. The existence of that kind of organized life take LFW and thus a being that is more than trivially organized to bring it about. However, a being with LFW and more than mere trivial organization requires LFW to organize it. However, the organization for that kind of being to exist requires an already existing intelligent being to organize it. We thus have an organized mind that can exercise LFW as a condition of the existence of beings with LFW, but that being with LFW could only exist if there were a prior being with LFW that could organize it. It is viciously circular and incoherent.

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  343. Mark: not to mention completely unnecessary if those silly little electrons are inclined to stay in their orbits all by themselves.

    What in the heqq are you talking about? On my view electrons stay where they are because they have inherent natural tendencies and because God concurs so that they express these tendencies. It doesn’t assume any position on whether it is costly in terms of expenditure of energy since God’s concurrence may be just that for all that I know.

    Entropy is the ultimate statement of lower organization of states over time in a closed system and thus of energy states; conservation of mass-energy is the view that in a closed system energy remains constant. They entail each other. In an open system, the law of conservation of mass-energy (which as you know is often called into question by physicists) has no meaning; just as entropy can only be measured in a closed system. Oh wait, there is a relationship between conservancy and entropy after all.

    However, that is all irrelevant to the point that I am making and which you ignore: we should not base our views on prevailing physics or what it takes to be an inviable law of nature — and certainly not to define what God can or cannot do. That is the point whether we speak of entropy (which is widely doubted) and laws of conservation of mass-energy (which are also doubted and in flux in physics).

    Comment by Blake — October 22, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  344. Blake, again you are bringing up too many things at once, which tends among other things to propagate sloppy characterizations. So I will respond at best to what I can, until I feel my quota is up, which is at best three relatively short responses. Everyone will get bored, no one will pay attention, and Geoff will rightly complain if I write at the length necessary to answer multiple extended questions at a time.

    In addition your use of the terms “your deity” and “god” with respect to my view of God is insulting in the extreme. It is like the Protestants who go around saying Mormons worship “a different Jesus”. So what if you think I have strange and heretical view about the baseline structure of the universe. Your goal in theory should be to persuade me and others like me, not just pretend we have no common ground and are no better than atheists.

    You should have seen what a certain biology type did to me over at BCC when I merely suggested his approach was “functionally atheist”. The admin nearly banned me for life. I am not so sensitive as to reject such arguments, but they should actually be arguments. Sentiment does not an argument make.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  345. So on your view how does god act at a distance to being about effects?

    Bohmian Quantum Mechanics, or perhaps something comparable to gravity, doesn’t matter that much as long as effort and energy are required.

    How does he act to say create a universe 30 billion light years away?

    A universe? He doesn’t. Otherwise you need to explain what you mean by create.

    Where is god’s body in relation to the earth and how does he get it to relate to our frame of reference to intervene at all?

    Each exalted being is in our frame of reference, at the same time, at some unspecified distance from us

    On your view, god must act through some sort of technology because it existed as an ordered reality before god had godlike (almost) power.

    “Technology” is a loaded term. I can’t say I am convinced that biology is a form of “technology”. And in particular, I have no reason to believe that the spiritual interaction between intelligences at any distance is “technological” at all, any more than gravity is “technological”.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  346. But that seems viciously circular. The existence of that kind of organized life take LFW and thus a being that is more than trivially organized to bring it about. However, a being with LFW and more than mere trivial organization requires LFW to organize it.

    For the record, I don’t think that a full blown consciousness is necessary to exercise LFW, I maintain that LFW is a baseline property of intelligence, and indeed is exercised by living things even when they are not fully conscious of its exercise. Here LFW is an intelligence originating causal factor that is neither determined nor random. Like discipline, its effective use comes in degrees. Everything has it, or it wouldn’t be alive.

    You may prefer another term for the causal power that uniquely characterizes anything that has any mental or psychic properties whatsoever, but I believe that LFW most concisely describes the unique causation here: it is “libertarian”, i.e. not deterministic, it is “free”, i.e. not random, and it is “will”, i.e. mentalistic and self-originating.

    And for the record, I believe that anything with any form of mental or psychic properties is conscious at some level or another. Sort of like Orson Pratt’s position or Brigham Young’s position. i.e. “intelligence” is real, non reductive, non epiphenomenal, nor radically emergent.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  347. Blake: Last thing for now, you don’t let your opinion on the impossibility of creatio ex nihilo affect your theological views?

    Your last suggestion is like an exercise in negative theology. We don’t know so we shouldn’t make any hypotheses.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 22, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  348. Blake: we should not base our views on prevailing physics or what it takes to be an inviable law of nature — and certainly not to define what God can or cannot do.

    That is a different statement than what was declared. Mark an myself have been explicit in saying that the known laws of physics are incomplete (meaning not quite true) – including saying that the 2nd law was “violated” (naturally) by intelligences. We do not presume to limit God to our known laws. Perhaps you are talking about conservation of matter-energy? That objection is more theology than physics, in my opinion.

    Blake: What in the heqq are you talking about? On my view electrons stay where they are because they have inherent natural tendencies and because God concurs so that they express these tendencies.

    What do you mean by “concurring”? I can understand “inherent natural tendencies” — I translate that as exhibiting behaviors we would describe as obeying laws of physics. I don’t understand what it means to concur.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 23, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  349. Mark (and A. Davis): I fail to see how your response in # 346 answers the problem that your view is circular. Intelligence with LFW (or something approaching it) is still logically and chronologically prior to organization and organization of the kind required for this type of intelligence is logically and chronologically prior to intelligence with with LFW (or something like it). You view is still incoherent because it involves a vicious circularity.

    Re: 345. I fail to see how referring to Bohmian mechanics responds to my question. I ask because I cannot see a basis for god, as you conceive god, to be able to act without acting thru a local body or thru technology that extends the action of that body. But given STR and GTR organizing anything beyond, say our own solar system, seems to be just physically impossible given STR and GTR. What I mean by “create” is “organize it as one wills it to be”.

    Another problem with your view is that god, as you conceive god, doesn’t organize much — and certainly not the kinds of things contemplated in scripture like “living things” and persons like Adam. As I understand you, these things come into existence and then the kinds of more intelligent organization required by higher level intelligence arise to organize things that required purpose directed LFW — thinks like the lunar lander of Apollo 11. The problem is that the world’s organization isn’t purposeful but random. The emergence of life and of creatures having our level of intelligence (however meager) is random and not a matter of purposeful creation by organization. Your view just doesn’t seem to make God the creator by organization of what the scriptures say he created.

    A. Davis. re # 348. How could my statement about physics be “different from what was declared” when I’m the one making the statement? Further, how on earth is the law of conservation of mass-energy more theological rather than physical? Perhaps you take conservation laws to be entailed by the denial of creatio ex nihilo — however, if the universe is an open system so that there are always outside sources of energy then such conservation laws have no application in our universe macrocosmically.

    Further, what I mean by concurring is that God’s light given to all reality is the basis of the law-like expression of anything at all. Without God’s concurrence by granting his light, the universe is mere chaos and there are no lawlike regularities. However, if God grants his light, then eternal realities can express their inherent natural tendencies. God doesn’t create or determine what these natural tendencies are, but he can control whether they are expressed in behavior by granting his light. In this sense “law” is give by God to all things by which they are governed. That is what D&C 88:13 states as I see it — and as at least Mark has admitted, it is what D&C 88 literally says. I explain this view at much greater length in ch. 4 of vol. 1 of EMT (that stands for Exploring Mormon Thought and not Emergency Medical Treatment).

    Comment by Blake — October 23, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  350. Further, what I mean by concurring is…

    Let’s see if I understand. Given two masses, it is their natural inclination to interact gravitationally and feel attracted to each other. But, they do not and will not attract unless God actively grants them light to do so. To put it crudely, the masses are granted permission to interaction actively by the light of God.

    To concur then is basically the particle implicitly asking to act/behave/do and God saying, “Sure, go ahead.” But until God says go ahead, the particles will not do.

    Do I more or less got the view right?

    Comment by A. Davis — October 23, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  351. How could my statement about physics be “different from what was declared” when I’m the one making the statement?

    I must have gotten things jumbled up in all the posts. My bad.

    Further, how on earth is the law of conservation of mass-energy more theological rather than physical? Perhaps you take conservation laws to be entailed by the denial of creatio ex nihilo — however, if the universe is an open system so that there are always outside sources of energy then such conservation laws have no application in our universe macrocosmically.

    I deny creatio ex nihilo as a functional possibility. This denial is theologically based and not based on any assumption of physical law. It seems to coincide with conservation of energy – but when one talks about the universe our everyday Newtonian expression of “energy” no longer applies. So, I’m not going to use any energy argument unless what is meant by energy is clearly specified. To that end, we might be functionally in agreement (even if but for different reasons).

    Not sure what you mean by open system and what not (the universe isn’t drawing some “energy” (whatever that is) from an outside if that’s what you mean). Furthermore, I reject any kind of steady-state cosmology. But, I could have done that theologically with my rejection of creatio ex nihilo.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 23, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  352. Intelligence with LFW (or something approaching it) is still logically and chronologically prior to organization and organization of the kind required for this type of intelligence is logically and chronologically prior to intelligence with with LFW (or something like it). You view is still incoherent because it involves a vicious circularity

    On the contrary, you assume that intelligence is logically and chronologically posterior to organization. I do not, neither does anyone else here (other than you apparently), as far as I can tell.

    The proposition I do hold, that intelligence self-exists, is metaphysically fundamental, and has something like LFW, meaning non-deterministic, non-random, internally originated causation of any kind.

    There isn’t any circularity, let alone any vicious circularity in such a view. It is logically consistent. To defeat such a position, you must establish that non-deterministic, non-random, and internally originated causation is physically impossible or physically non-existent.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  353. Blake: I believe I already understand why you think such a proposition is dubious – you appear to hold the position that a simple particle of any kind cannot be intelligent enough to be conscious, that consciousness is necessary to exercise any kind of LFW, and (implicitly) that nothing else exhibits non-deterministic, non-random, and internally originated causation.

    As I said previously, I maintain that all intelligence is conscious on some level or another, that all intelligence exhibits non-deterministic, non-random, and internally originated causation, and that anything that did not exhibit such causation would neither be intelligent nor animated in any substantive sense.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  354. Blake: I fail to see how referring to Bohmian mechanics responds to my question. I ask because I cannot see a basis for god, as you conceive god, to be able to act without acting thru a local body or thru technology that extends the action of that body. But given STR and GTR…

    It is a well known fact that quantum mechanics and relativity theory are not compatible. Relativity is intrinsically local, QM in intrinsically non local. One of them is fundamentally wrong, and given everything we know and experience about spiritual influences, it seems rather likely it is relativity.

    The exquisitely well established accuracy of QM implies that action at a distance either happens at a velocity vastly exceeding the speed of light, or the universe is intriniscally non-local. That is the whole point of the Alain Aspect experiments (q.v.).

    Take a look at Schroedinger’s equation for multiple particles some time. The wave function is literally colocated at all combinations of spatial coordinates, i.e. the particles influence each other instantaneously at infinite distances. Bohmian mechanics makes this relationship much more explicit.

    Finally, it should be understood that GTR is incompatible with libertarian free will, because LFW requires that the future does not exist yet, and GTR generally does. Ask Clark.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

  355. That is what D&C 88:13 states as I see it — and as at least Mark has admitted, it is what D&C 88 literally says

    D&C 88:13, as written, no. D&C 88:7-10 implies that view much more closely. “he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made”.

    Read literally, that implies that gravity and nuclear fusion are both dependent on divine concurrence or intervention of some sort or another. I further recognize that there is probably no passage of scripture that supports Blake’s view here more explicitly.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  356. Facsimile No. 2, figure 5 is fun too.

    Comment by A. Davis — October 23, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  357. Mark: I believe that your view is very likely circular. But before I show it (again) I need to get some clarity. What is “non-trivial” organization? What on your view does God create, if anything?f I think once we get these questions answered I’ll be better able to assess and explain I your view is circular.

    Comment by Blake — October 23, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  358. Blake: If I may summarize:

    (1) The existence of any order in the universe that cannot be explained with reference to the deterministic component of the fundamental laws of nature is exclusively explained by the action of intelligence

    (2) The action of intelligence is defined as any causal events which include causal factors which are neither deterministic, nor random, but which are locally originated with or by an entity with some degree of substantive intelligence.

    For example, the spherical symmetry of a barren planet can generally be explained exclusively with reference to the spherical symmetry of Newton’s law of gravitation, which appears to be a completely self-actuating fundamental law of nature.

    Likewise, the existence, orbitals, and properties of all the natural elements, as well as any compound statistically likely to exist under some relatively arbitrary condition or another. Water, for example.

    What almost certainly cannot be explained with hard materialism (i.e. no intelligence) is the existence, structure, and survival instinct of virtually all living things, from the simplest single cell on up.

    There is no metaphysical bar to external intervention or “intelligent design” of biological organisms, however, barring the eternal, undesigned existence of “creatures” with bodies, this is hardly a requirement, and at some point in the distant past probably didn’t occur at all.

    The gradualist, organizational influence of raw intelligence is adequate to explain the bootstrapping of biology in whatever form it “first” took. Hard materialist (intelligence free) abiogenesis is essentially impossible. Biogenesis cannot be explained without something to ground a survival instinct.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  359. Now, as to what God did: In the sufficiently far distant past there were no persons, mortal or otherwise. God did not bootstrap the “initial” biology of the universe. (Insert untold eons here)

    Depending on various factors such as the relationship of evolution on our planet to other places where evolution occurred, evolution on our planet seems to exhibit external (i.e. divine) influence in addition to the internal and local influence of intelligence.

    The reason why this seems to be the case is that seems rather expedient for exalted persons with bodies to influence evolution and organization of raw intelligence and matter on this planet so that we and they have similar biological forms, e.g. two eyes and ten fingers.

    So as I said, the difference between the creative activity of God and the creative or quasi-creative activity of any substantive intelligence is fundamentally a matter of scale.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 23, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  360. Not much to say except that I gave up reading around message 160 or so just because the page load times were so long.

    Guys, start a new thread!

    Comment by Clark — October 23, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

  361. Entropy is the ultimate statement of lower organization of states over time in a closed system and thus of energy states;…

    Unfortunately, much of what is written about entropy is based on ideas that are about 120 years out of date. To give a simple example: Drop down to the level of a single atom. Can you use a thermometer of any kind to measure the temperature of this atom? Does an atom have a temperature?

    The answer is no – atoms do not have a temperature, the whole idea of temperature is a macroscopic generalization about information (equi-distributed statistical fuzz) we don’t have about a very large number of atoms.

    Entropy is the same way, except worse. Atoms don’t have entropy. Entropy is an energy weighted measure of what we don’t know about state of the atoms. What we “don’t know” is a completely subjective concept. Things that are completely subjective aren’t real.

    Any thermodynamic setup where entropy appears to be real is due to missing information. That is what entropy is – nothing more than energy weighted ignorance. That means that any world where entropy appears to be real is just an approximation to a world of perfect information, a world where entropy doesn’t exist at all.

    The second “law” of thermodynamics is nothing other than an expression of the principle that if an external non-interfering observer starts out with ignorance about the exact state of the system, the amount of uncertainty will spread, until he knows essentially nothing about everything, because it is all statistical fuzz.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 24, 2009 @ 7:08 am

  362. The thread is loading very quickly for me. Is it loading slowly for anyone else or is it just Clark having that trouble?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  363. It takes less than three seconds here.

    Comment by Mark D. — October 24, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  364. Try it on an iPhone!

    Comment by Clark — October 28, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  365. rather expedient for exalted persons with bodies to influence evolution and organization of raw intelligence and matter on this planet so that we and they have similar biological forms, e.g. two eyes and ten fingers.

    Ahh, but does God have two eyes and ten fingers?

    That is a whole different question. We used to refer to it as the “Is ‘x’ really human?” (given that ‘x’ differed from the normal matrix somewhat). The answer is yes. So, how far could you get from that matrix and still be human. IQ of 80? IQ of 240. Two extra fingers?

    You can see the entire gradualism.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — December 29, 2009 @ 7:08 am

  366. I believe there is plenty of scriptural evidence to support the idea that our Heavenly Father does indeed have two eyes and ten fingers, or something very close. It is hard to imagine an eagle sitting on his throne, for example. Perching, maybe.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 29, 2009 @ 9:12 am

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