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The Nature of God

Beyond what I have written about Omniscience and Omnipotence, one of the earlier foundations of my views on the nature of God comes from a discourse I came across, that was given by Dr. Henry Eyring, father of Apostle Henry B. Eyring.[1]

Here is what Dr. Eyring had to say:

Now, let me go a little bit farther out of my experience, such as it is. At least, I am old; you wouldn't argue about that. But, out of my experience, I am convinced of certain things. I've said it quite a number of times, but I want to say it again, that I worship the Supreme Intelligence of the universe. that there is such a Being, for me is obvious; I mean, in the sense that if you've got people, you can put them in order; then there's one better than another. You think of the wisest intelligence of the universe; I worship that Being. So, for me there isn't any question. It's a reality--a living reality--that there's a God.

He goes a very little beyond these ideas to conclude that God would have to be at least compassionate as the most compassionate person he has ever known, and that we should expect the true religion to be a revealed religion. Nevertheless, I'm going to focus on that section. His comments both intrigued and concerned me. On the one hand, his reasoning does not conclude that the sort of God that Joseph Smith described must exist. His reasoning does not take us far enough. On the other hand, his reasoning powerfully narrows down the gap between agnosticism and knowledge that God exists. It was probably a very useful thought for a scientific man.

At the time I came across this quote, I was an undergraduate student of physics; not far removed from the sorts of studies that Dr. Eyring engaged in. My interest in physics was always deeply philosophical, and I would like to imagine that I've wiggled a little more out of this reasoning than Dr. Eyring did. In physics, I was briefly introduced to a concept called ergodicity. In an ergodic system, if you wait sufficiently long, the system will eventually get arbitrarily close to any specific state you might choose. This got me thinking about Dr. Eyring's reasoning. We don't have to consider only all of the being we have known, or that are known, but rather, we can ask ourselves what kinds of beings are possible. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and immortal. I had, not long before this time, concluded that omniscience and omnipotence were not unlimited properties even when we use them to describe God. He is, in broad strokes, capable of doing anything that it is possible for a being to do, and capable of knowing anything that it is possible for a being to know. The last criteria is immortality. Is it possible for a being to be immortal, and I firmly believe that it is possible. Hence, I conclude that throughout the history of the universe, which I believe to be an infinite history, at some point, as beings came in and out of existence, there must have been at least one that got close enough to these properties, that it stabilized as an omniscient, omnipotent and immortal being.

Note: I make 4 assumptions here; First, that immortality is possible; Second, that the Big Bang is bogus, so the universe has an infinite history; Third, that this God state is not prevented by some natural barrier to that state; Fourth, that if you get close to becoming a God, the natural tendency will be to become a God, like water running downhill.

I am not going to completely justify all of these assumptions. I certainly can't prove them. However, I will talk about them to some degree.

Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end.
-Joseph Smith, "The King Follett Sermon"

Most of the scientific community seems to be enamored with the Big Bang, but I have never believed in it. Apart from my religious distaste, the Big Bang has always struck me as too "magical". Magic can be useful in models, but in my philosophy, there is no magic; there is only the application of strict physical law. A spontaneous beginning does not seem to follow strict physical law, and it does not seem that any investigation will rescue it for the damnation of being arbitrary and unaccounted for. I could very well be wrong, but thus it has always seemed to me. From a religious standpoint, Joseph Smith gave a description of God as a physical being obeying physical laws within the universe. Much of modern Christianity also seems to be enamored with the Big Bang, and I have been hearing rumblings of discontent that some scientists seem to be undermining it. To them, God is magical and unknowable, as the Nicene Creed would dictate. In my view, they push God away to ensure that they can never know him, and as science has pushed the boundary of human knowledge, so too has Christianity reacted by pushing God outside that boundary until they intellectually pushed him out of the universe altogether. They see the magical beginning as their evidence for God's existence. However, I condemn this reasoning, as I reject the Nicene Creed. God is not outside the universe. God is not magical and unknowable. God is our father who formed us in his own image. This sort of magical reasoning invades even common LDS thought, even though it is contrary to what Joseph Smith taught about the nature of God. In conclusion, though, I reject the Big Bang.

If nature, somehow prevents the creation or evolution, or development, of beings who come sufficiently close to the God state of being, then the universe would be formed in such a way that the development of a God would be impossible. All I can say about this is that I do not see any evidence that the universe is preventing such a thing. Perhaps it is the capitalist in me, but it is my belief that there is no end to the improvement that beings can attain to, given, time and ingenuity. (Immortality certainly falls under this line of thinking as well, at least, in part.)

Now, as to the God state being akin to water running downhill. For this, I am going to first appeal to my initial thinking, that the attaining of great power would tend to facilitate the attaining of even greater power. From a physics standpoint, the God state of being could be said to be akin to some exotic physical states such as superfluidity or superconductivity. These states attain a type of perfection that once would have been considered impossible, and one of the reasons why these states are possible is that they are self-reinforcing. Once you reach superconductivity, it is not true that one stray vibration would ruin the whole thing. Instead the system resists deviation from the necessary state, and actively holds itself in order, so that small deviations from the perfect order result in natural corrections that keep the system maintained indefinitely.

From a computer science perspective, my ideas on this topic has taken shape more as I have learned about neural networks. In neural network analysis there a concept known as a minima. There can be local minima and the global minima. The global minima is the best configuration for the network, and it is global because no matter what happens, the network cannot find an input which will result in a bad output that would result in the network needing to be pulled in a different direction to find a better solution. All learning will tend toward the global minima, except, if a local minima is encountered. A local minima is a less idea solution that is good enough, that continued learning will have a difficult time getting pulled out toward something better. From this point of view, for a being, Godhood is obviously and transparently, the global minima, and anyplace else beings might get stuck is a local minima. Local minimas have the potential to be damnation. From this perspective, attaining Godhood is always like water running downhill. There is a natural tendency for neural beings to become better and better. It is so natural, in fact, that we don't even need an instructor, really, to start improving, unless we get stuck in a local minima.[2] Clearly then, at some proximity to the perfect solution, there are no more local minimas, so it follows that if it is possible for a being to get within that proximity, then getting to the perfect solution, or God state, is as natural as water running downhill.

[Y]ou have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.
-Joseph Smith, "The King Follett Sermon"

From all this I conclude that the existence of a God is very likely to be required. Once we assume that such a being must exist, we don't have to waste time imagining that this description above is the mechanism by which Gods come to exist, but then we are free to take Gods word for it as to how he behaves.

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
(Moses 1:39)

Hence, Gods naturally act as anchors pulling other beings toward their own state of perfection. From a natural perspective, this makes sense. Objects in nature tend to be attracted to similar objects. Water attracts water. Oil attract oil. Similar metals meld. Neurons attract similar neurons. They communicate with each other and synchronize with each other. We should expect God to be recruiting.

Hence, generally speaking, Gods aren't just randomly popping into existence, but they are actively reproducing and networking just as all lifeforms do.

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.
-Joseph Smith, "The King Follett Sermon"

The Nature of the Universe

The ontology described by Joseph Smith has a strong focus on the concept of intelligence. Intelligence is everywhere, and the meaning of this is nowhere clearly described. I'm not sure that I completely understand what is meant myself, but I have a partial hypothesis.

Some years ago, I was studying the subject of neural networks for my personal edification, and I developed a basic hypothesis. For my purposes here, I'll call it the "Neural Scaling Hypothesis". The basic hypothesis is that a system made of neurons will act like a neuron. Hence, people would be expected to form a neural network. Countries would be expected to form a neural network too. This much seems to bear out. Classical and operant conditioning are famous results from psychology which demonstrate that dogs, people and other creatures, have at least some neuron-like learning modes. John Gottman's models of love and trust also take on the form of modeling neurons. (I think he is too focused on one mode of connection. I think there are multiple modes, related to the Big 5 or HEXACO, and he could probably take his ideas much further if he went looking.) However, this leaves open the question of whether one could validly take the analysis in the other direction. Are neurons made up of things that behave like neurons somehow? The idea, at the very least, reminded me strongly of Joseph Smith's ontology.

I became convinced that the analysis had merit after reading Steven Strogatz's "Sync". I highly recommend it. (I similarly recommend Geoffrey West's "Scale".) I would go so far as to say that natural synchronization is the foundation of neuron-like behavior, and, therefore, intelligence as well. This leads me to think it possible that this is a major part of what Joseph Smith was describing. In this view, molecules behave like neurons, and atoms behave like neurons. I would go so far as to suggest that the work of Steven Strogatz and Arthur Winfree, on a chemical concoction known as the Zhabotinsky soup, is highly suggestive that the fundamental nature of the universe, underlying string theory, is an excitable media (a real quantum soup) that gives rise to strands of pinwheeling excitations that provide the basis for the strings of string theory. (I do not think that strings operate within an actual 11-dimensional universe, but that they have, rather, something more like 11 degrees of freedom which does not actually require 11 physical dimensions.)

Hence, the fundamental nature of the universe is neuronal and eventually, I think that an analysis appropriate for neural-networks is going to be feeding breakthroughs in all of the natural sciences.

I would go further to suggest that entropy, as we know it, is a vast oversimplification; that the universe is more self-balancing than we realize, as there are vast networks of self-organization permeating everything in the universe, operating both within and without the bounds of our analysis. I would argue that our tendency to only see small parts of it leads us to assume that destructive tendencies have the upper hand.

Some Interesting Ontological Questions I Think about

  • What might be the origin of emotional experience?
    • I have a hypothesis that some of this relates to an interplay between the conscious and subconscious.
  • What underlies our sensory experiential quality of the world? (eg. The experience of the color red does not seem to be explicable in terms of pure data and processes.)
    • One hypothesis is that this experience is a connection between data and emotion. This idea seems inadequate.
    • One hypothesis is that the experience has its foundations in the "intelligences" described by Abraham and Joseph Smith, which, as a phenomena, might be something special and distinct from the "intelligence" which seems to exist at every scale and locale. This idea also seems inadequate inasmuch as there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the quality of our individual experiences. If this is in fact the explanation, then it creates more questions regarding why intelligences exist at all, and why the experiential qualities are the way that they are.
  • Why should there be a universe at all?
  • Is there something special about the scale at which God exists? (ie. Is it possible for a being that could be described as a God; due to its omniscience, omnipotence, and immortality; is it possible for such a being to exist at other scales?)



  1. Dr. Henry Eyring, "The Validity of Scientific Investigation of Gospel Topics", Book of Abraham Symposium, 3 Apr 1970