Reflections on the 2016 Science Symposium
By Philip Calabrese, California, United States
Why a Science Symposium?
I am a scientist— a mathematician— who takes The Urantia Book literally when it says:
While statements with reference to cosmology are never inspired, such revelations are of immense value in that they at least transiently clarify knowledge by:
- The reduction of confusion by the authoritative elimination of error.
- The co-ordination of known or about-to-be-known facts and observations.
- The restoration of important bits of lost knowledge concerning epochal transactions in the distant past.
- The supplying of information which will fill in vital missing gaps in otherwise earned knowledge.
- Presenting cosmic data in such a manner as to illuminate the spiritual teachings contained in the accompanying revelation. 101:4.5 (1109.6)
The authors use vague terminology when they wish to avoid revealing information that is non-mandated, unearned, or forbidden, or that they otherwise choose not to disclose. But when they make a definitive assertion, they are not handing back early twentieth-century errors—the reader can expect to read authoritative corrections of errors that lessen confusion.
The “immense value” of the cosmology that the revelators delivered is still mostly unknown to contemporary scientists. The authoritative elimination of error has hardly been recognized or integrated into contemporary science. This points up just how very important it is to have regular scientific symposia of contemporary scientists who also believe The Urantia Book to be a divine revelation to Urantia.
My Topic: Free Will in the Cosmos
In 2013, when Gard Jameson invited me to participate in a scientific symposium, I happily accepted the invitation. It reminded me of earlier scientific symposia, including the first Scientific Symposium held in Nashville in 1988 and Scientific Symposium II hosted by Berkeley Elliott and the Oklahoma Society in 1991.
My first choice of a topic and a paper in response to Gard’s invitation was “A Statistical Test of the Hypothesis that The Urantia Book Was Authored by Humans.” When the date of the symposium was postponed to 2016, I published the paper in the 2013 issue of the Fellowship Herald. That paper makes the case that The Urantia Book itself is evidence of intelligent design in the universe.
So, when the June 2016 dates for the symposium were set, I needed another paper. Circumstances had long been pointing me to a paper on the existence of freewill in the cosmos.
It may come as a shock to average folks with common sense that some supposedly brilliant scientific minds seriously entertain the notion that all the actions of every living person may be completely determined by the antecedent causation of the past energy states existing in the brains of those beings.
But it occurred to me that, instead of trying to imagine some way to scientifically prove that free will exists, one could argue that—just as plane geometry begins with unproven postulates (axioms)—free will is self-evident and needs no proof. Free will is such a common human experience that it can be taken as a postulate without proof. I did some research online and found a book from 2015 that combined the writings of thirty-five scientists and philosophers on topics surrounding free will. This provided me with an up to date account of all sides of the free-will debate and allowed me to put my mathematical postulate idea of free will into context.
We were asked to produce our publishable paper a month before the symposium date so that we could all read the other papers. Thus we were all somewhat familiar with what other participants would be saying.
Three Memorable Days at Urantia Foundation
The organization of the three-day event was superb and proceeded like clockwork due to Joanne Strobel’s logistical and artful efforts. The pace of each day’s activities was well managed. Following the presentations with forty-five-minute question periods and thirty-minute breaks was just right—not too tight a schedule.
A wonderful meal was prepared by accomplished chef Jennifer Siegel to start us off on Thursday evening. As we finished dinner, Ralph Zehr astonished us with a description of the numerous nano-sized machines for chemical processing employed by even one-celled living creatures, and how implausible these are as accidental, random, unintelligent “emergences.”
At nine o’clock on Friday morning, it was Marjorie Ray’s turn to amaze us by explaining how it is that two snowflakes can hardly be the same. Since a snowflake crystal is made of very many atoms of water, with a few heavy hydrogen or heavy oxygen atoms interspersed within the variously shaped crystals, the odds are virtually zero of two snowflakes being exactly alike. Perhaps more dramatically than the counting numbers 1, 2, 3 . . . that fact demonstrates the existence of infinity in the cosmos.
Next, it was Nigel Nunn’s turn to take us to the transcendental level of the primary and secondary force organizers of Paradise, who evolve primordial force emerging from the space-pervading Unqualified Absolute into force energy orbiting Paradise and secondly into spherically shaped ultimatons with Paradise as their nucleus. Nigel connected Einstein’s curvature ideas of general relativity to the curvature of segregata into ultimata.
After a gourmet lunch, Marta Elders launched us into the final frontier—the mind-brain—that most sophisticated of entities in our observed universe. It is the one physical uniformity of life in the whole local universe, and she reminded us that the nervous system throughout the body is part of the brain. One hundred million neurons can each fire independently. The number of possibilities is a number much greater than ten with twenty-five million zeroes in front of it. And that is for just one firing time period! We learned that the heart has brain cells around it, that the prefrontal cortex is essential for morality, and that the pineal gland is related to spirituality.
It was then Bruce Johnson’s turn to elevate our thinking about the ministry of the adjutant mind-spirits. These spirits guide plant and animal life, beginning with the intuitions that drive the most primitive of life on up to the counsel for more advanced animal life and finally to the sixth and seventh adjutant mind-spirits of worship and wisdom, with which only human beings are endowed. The question of when the spiritual pattern of personality is bestowed on a human being by our Paradise Father was left open.
Another question-comment period preceded some drinks and appetizers, and another special dinner. By this time we were getting used to the timely snacks and tasty meals that were being served to energize our thinking and feeling. Conversation continued into the evening.
A breakfast casserole was on the kitchen table by eight o’clock, with a full coffee pot ready. Then it was time for Dick Reim to amaze us with his discovery of new patterns in the complicated electronic energy shells of the heavier atoms. He delved into subnuclear protons and neutrons, suggesting energy levels and orbits there too. The notion of a “central proton” was brought up. Dick pointed out that the elements recognized by contemporary science with more than one hundred protons never have more than one hundred electrons and therefore are not really complete atoms; the half-lives of these “atoms” are measured in seconds or minutes.
Then came Neal Kendall, whose 178-page paper “Is There Design in Nature?” is more like a book, filled with examples and links related to facts of life that are implausible unless there is design. Even single-cell plants and animals with no neurons have intelligence. Like humans, they know how to feed themselves, defend themselves, and reproduce themselves. While computers are able to do many things better than humans, our ability to answer security questions that ask us to repeat some digits that have been distorted or somewhat masked still makes them seem stupid! That’s reassuring.
After another wonderful lunch, it was my turn to present: not so much a defense of the existence of free will in the cosmos as a discussion of the implications of the assumed existence of free will in the cosmos. Proofs always start with assumptions: Suppose this and this and this. Then it follows that such and such and such must also be true. That is the pattern of deduction. The existence of some degree of free will is obvious, self-evident, and axiomatic in the experience of every person. I pointed out that only materialists were trying to convince themselves and everyone else of complete determinism in the cosmos because any freedom of choice is inconsistent with their philosophy. One implication of free will is the existence of “will power,” the ability of mind to tap into some associated energy realm and change the course of physical matter from what it would have been if no action had been taken by that mind.
After questions and our midafternoon break, Gard Jameson focused our attention on “The Cosmogenetic Principle,” proposed by authors Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme in their book The Universe Story. This principle refers to structures self-organizing as systems of interrelated things, not just as material particles reacting to elementary forces. Bee and ant colonies and flocks of birds have an overarching mind. There is something more in the cosmos besides the spontaneous assembly of matter from below.
After wine, appetizers, and dinner it was time for some special evening entertainment performed by master pianist and singer Bob Solone. Bob has done this for fifty years all around the world, and it showed. He sang and played an electronic keyboard seemingly with a backup orchestra when needed. As song after song was expertly sung and played, Dick Reim kept marveling, “I had no idea you were this good!” We all went to bed humming a Beatles tune.
On Sunday morning, after another tasty breakfast, master technician Gaétan Charland, who engineered live streaming of the symposium (and managed to quickly solve every technical problem), was able to connect with George Park and have him appear on the Foundation’s giant screen, allowing him to present his paper “Proving Divine Providence Is Responsible for Universe Evolution.” George focused on the revealed fact that the master universe is flat, something inconsistent with the Big Bang theory that implies a uniform universe of expansion. He explained that the evidence of this transcendentally initiated flatness is now available to contemporary science but is being ignored. Overthrowing a false but accepted theory always takes time as the old, respected proponents die off and younger scientists eventually get funding and acceptance. Then will we read once again, “Scientists once thought. . . .”
Finally, Dave Neufer presented a candidate for one of the mysterious types of energy that The Urantia Book says our scientists still haven’t discovered. Dave discussed a phenomenon demonstrated by Dr. Randell L. Mills that utilizes molten silver as a catalyst, and water vapor as fuel. A current is applied and forms a plasma that emits ultraviolet, extreme ultraviolet, and X-rays, which are converted to current. The question remains whether the undiscovered forces and forms of energy in the nuclei of atoms referenced in Paper 42 of The Urantia Book are related to the controversial phenomenon demonstrated by Dr. Mills.
Lunch was served after this last presentation, and symposium participants still remaining afterward were not quite ready to say goodbye. Five of us including Dick, David, Nigel, and Gaétan, decided to take an afternoon walk. The magnificent, open lakefront landscape, with many people enjoying the Sunday afternoon among the green grass, trees, and monuments, was a perfect way to stretch out the day. But now it really was time to depart. We all felt greatly enriched by the weekend of mind, body, spirit, and personal contact that we shall all no doubt remember forever.
Back Row: Dick Reim, David Neufer, Phil Calabrese, Gard Jameson
Front Row: Nigel Nunn, Bruce Johnson, Marta Elders, Ralph Zehr, Marjorie Ray, Neal Kendall
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