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Karen Chaffee

I think the beauty of this web page is the chance for those with disparate views to attempt to see each other’s viewpoint, and in doing so, broaden our collective imaginations.  It’s tough, because science is so specialized, and so is philosophy. 
I had meant to post comments on four different topics, but was waiting for time to read some of the links posted.  But in the spirit of keeping the talk alive, let me at least post my plans.  I hope to post on:

  1. My rationale behind my firm belief that simple one-celled life can be reduced to chemistry and physics. I have insights of my own, and I lately talked to people in my department.  Also, I believe life evolved on our planet in ways consistent with known chemistry.  This post would involve chemistry, and thus I figured it would be a lot of trouble for me, and few people would read it! 


  1. My belief, in part developed working in the flavor industry with Amodori and Maillard reaction (google it–they are a means to chocolate, nut and meat flavors) that: given carbon and other elements, simple life is _probable_.  I wanted to address Elizabet’s number 3 tenet of Western Science, that life is rare and perhaps confined to the surface of our planet.   Perhaps many scientists think that life is likely, not rare.  I think that (currently working as teacher, not scientist).


  1. Consciousness.  As a group, have we defined this?  I believe as yet scientists have no mechanism to explain how something nonphysical (consciousness) directs something physical.  Has that been addressed lately since I did my consciousness reading a few years ago?  (And seminar attending–Rutgers philosophy department had some interesting talks!)   I leaned to the ‘consciousness  is an illusion’ explanation, as the most likely, but even it has big problems.


  1. What connections are going on in the universe? As I said elsewhere, there seems to be ‘something’ going on.   As I said before, I have no evidence that it is ‘consciousness’ (and labeling it thus seems a leap) (and I have no evidence against).  But I feel right now, there is something going on in universe we don’t know yet. 

  Here is a quote from Ed Lants’s Quantum Consciousness page:
As British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle put it: 
“Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule?” Of course you would. . . . A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
I had a series of investigations in my home (a ‘salon’) into this very topic, and I can narrow it down to even Hydrogen (simple proton plus electron) seems improbable.  Why does it exist?
Lawrence M. Krauss wrote the wonderful book ‘Physics of Star Trek’.  His recent book, ‘A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing’, while good (and I didn’t completely understand it) seemed to shout from every page: nothing here folks.  It’s all explainable, all random.  The afterward by Richard Dawkins actually did shout that sentiment (he used caps).  Well, guys, why hydrogen?
Maybe this is a function of my ignorance, and I am an analog of those who think a mysterious ‘life force’ must animate DNA because they don’t understand it.  But those of us who believe ‘life is chemistry’ are very willing to explain (and then we get the yawns and the glazed eyes because it _is_ difficult).   Is there an explanation out there for hydrogen? 
When I asked physical chemists, the answer was variations of  ‘we don’t ask that’.  Are there physicists who can explain it?  Even my own tentative explanations (is it needed as a precise energy sink?) met with: ‘we don’t ask that’.
Last year, I read the book ‘Fabric of Reality’ by David Deutsch, the thinker that Ed Lants promotes, and his ideas did at least offer tentative attempts at explanations of some of the questions my salon generated (too long to go into here exactly what, I will do that later). (and it had didn’t have  to do with consciousness)  (My philosopher/math friend at Rutgers poo-pood the book, by the way.)  But it excited me.
Are there other thinkers who address this that I don’t know about? 
It seems I have hijacked this thread to talk about hydrogen, but like I said, I think it is related and my ‘something’ and Ed’s  ‘consciousness’ or at least  ‘connectiveness’ might be two people looking at a similar problem in different ways.