Degrees of Freedom and the Theophany

3 Feb

To a rooted plant, the entire world consists of the singular spot it occupies.  Bacteria, however, operate in a linear world, moving towards nutrients and away from toxins. Lifeforms with bilateral symmetry are capable of comprehending a world of area, consisting of left and right, as well as forward and backward, while most creatures with spines and brains seem capable of operating in a volumetric world.  

Thus, degrees of freedom (DOF) inform the structure and perception of living things:
DOF        Lifeform        Worldview
0:             Plant                Point
1:              Bacteria         Linear
2:             Flatworm       Planar
3:             Fish                 Volumetric
4:             Human?          Spacetime

We humans, however, seem stuck somewhere between the third and fourth degrees of freedom.  We are capable of perceiving our journey through time in a way other animals are not; yet we are no more capable of determining our “movement” through that fourth dimension than a fish  We all fall inexorably forward, toward unknown futures.

But what if higher forms of life ARE capable of moving in the fourth dimension, or of perceiving dimensions of time orthogonal to normal time?  Left and right time.  Up and down time.  What if they could take advantage of other dimensions such as the extra six dimensions required by modern string theory?  They would be like gods to us, and we could no sooner make sense of their motives than a flatworm could predict our actions.  It isn’t a matter of a lack of language.  It’s a lack of shared context.  We occupy entirely different worlds.

So, when Philip K. Dick theorizes about God using a “high form of sentient mimicry . . . that no human (or few humans) had detected,” I’m skeptical.  I don’t think God needs to hide itself.  I think God needs to work to make itself known to our limited perceptions and in our constrained environment.

But what would that be like for us, that communication?  Pull a fish from the water and explain to it all about the evolution or possible extinction of it’s species.  You have imparted no knowledge, only pain and terror.  I think the same would likely be true of us.  Belief in a loving god could make the experience less terrifying and perhaps even blissful, but I doubt any religion can help make the experience any more comprehensible.

Still.  It’s fun to try.

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