15. The Neuroverse Hypothesis

To introduce “The Neuroverse Hypothesis” of God’s origin, let me first define the concept of what I call a “neuroverse.” A neuroverse has several key features. First, it contains a particle or set of particles that can function like a neuron. I will not specify what the particles are, for reasons that will become clear a little later. For the sake of simplicity, I will call this particle or set of particles a “neuron,” although I acknowledge they would probably be much simpler than the neurons in a human brain. They would more likely be closer to atomic switches.
   This particle or set of particles must be able to function like a neuron, in the sense that it is able to receive input, and can also send an output or change its state in a way that could affect nearby neurons. These states could be something equivalent to a simple “on” or “off.”
   Second, a neuroverse needs to contain a very large number of these neurons. I will refer to this large number, somewhat casually, as a “sea” of neurons. Human intelligence typically requires tens of billions of neurons, so if we want something that can match or be greater than the intelligence of a human brain, more neurons are presumably better. An entire universe of such neurons would be ideal, which is why I have called it a neuroverse.
   One neuron in the human brain can create thousands of connections, but a neuron in a neuroverse, if it is more like an atomic switch, might only be able to create a small number of local connections. Thus, it might contain much simpler neurons than the human brain, but this simplicity could be made up for by the sheer number of neurons in the neuroverse.
   The third requirement of a neuroverse is something that can flow through the neurons, in a way that can somehow alter their state. In the human brain, chemicals and electricity are required. With memristors and atomic switch networks, it is electrical current.
   Now, the crucial question here is, could intelligence emerge from a neuroverse? I would suggest the answer is yes, possibly, but only under certain circumstances.
   For example, could Conway’s Game Of Life ever produce intelligence? The standard game has very simple rules. It is played over as many rounds as you want, and as large a grid of cells as you want. Each cell can have one of two states, called “dead” or “alive.” A live cell with less than 2 or more than 3 live neighbors dies in the next round. A live cell with 2 or 3 live neighbors lives to the next round, and a dead cell with 3 neighbors becomes a live cell in the next round.
   As the game is played out automatically, interesting shapes emerge that almost seem to have a life of their own. These shapes have even been given names, such as gliders, blinkers, pulsars, and even a heavyweight spaceship. However, because of the strict rules of the game, they are ultimately just mathematical patterns. A glider will never break out and become a skiing instructor. For this reason, it seems highly unlikely that such a game is capable of producing human or greater intelligence.
   Similarly, in order for human or higher intelligence to emerge, a neuroverse would need to go beyond mere patterns. In other words, it could not be based solely on strict deterministic rules. Instead, there must be an element of randomness and probability to it. This might be a fourth component of a neuroverse, but it could also be an emergent property of the previous components, depending on the nature of the neurons and of whatever flows through them.
   Another characteristic of human intelligence is memory. We are able to think because we can remember. Clearly, in order for a neuroverse to become intelligent, it needs memory. In the human brain, memory arises from the connections formed between neurons. In atomic switch networks, intrinsic memories can develop by bridges formed when current flows.
   The same would perhaps be true in a neuroverse. When one “neuron” causes another one to change, it is perhaps creating an intrinsic form of memory, similar to electrical current across an atomic switch. The connections may be chaotic initially, but may perhaps become more ordered over time. Therefore, rather than including memory as a defining property of a neuroverse, I suggest that memory would be an emergent property of it.
   Of course, for a neuroverse to truly become intelligent, it also requires thought. In the human brain, thought seems to be an emergent property of large numbers of electrical and chemical signals flowing between neurons, combined with sensory inputs that are fed into the brain by the nervous system, which is also made up of neurons.
   In a neuroverse, thought could perhaps arise as a result of the endless flow and interaction between its “neurons.” In that regard, if thought happens, it could be said to be an emergent property of large numbers of neurons, and the flow of some kind of energy between them.
   The “Neuroverse Hypothesis” I am proposing is that God’s mind is a neuroverse, out of which intelligence emerged. It wasn’t created, because that would simply beg the question, “Who created God’s mind?” But neither did it evolve, in the sense of gradual trial and error improvements to its components.
   Instead, I am suggesting that God’s mind emerged from an endless fluctuation of neuron-like particles, waves or fields with some kind of energy flowing through them. If human memory and thoughts can emerge from a sea of electrical and chemical interactions between neurons in the brain, then perhaps something similar could happen on a vastly larger scale.
   Now, for this to be considered as a plausible scientific hypothesis, I must address the question of what and where this neuroverse could actually be. I am also aware that some religious people may initially dislike this idea, because they have been taught to believe that God had no beginning, and therefore God’s mind could not possibly “emerge.” I will address this issue from a religious perspective shortly, but for now, let’s consider where such a neuroverse might be located.
   There are at least two possibilities. The first is that an intelligent neuroverse is one of a series of universes in what scientists call the “multiverse.” Although hypothetical, the idea of a multiverse is taken seriously by many physicists and cosmologists as well as atheists, and they appeal to it as an explanation for why our universe seems fine-tuned for life as we know it.
   Their argument is that different universes perhaps have different laws of physics, or different physical constants, and we just happen to be in one that can support our kind of life. This is called the “Anthropic Principle.”
   If the multiverse can be invoked in this way, then perhaps the multiverse can also produce a neuroverse which becomes intelligent, and our universe is an offshoot of it. This is why I didn’t specify exactly what particle or particles comprised the “neurons” of a neuroverse. It could potentially be any particle or set of particles available in the multiverse.
   The second possibility is that our early universe was or became a neuroverse. Particles were in much closer proximity, and it was a cloud of protons, neutrons, electrons and photons. According to physicists, all of the ordinary matter of the universe came into existence within about the first second. Is it therefore inconceivable that out of this intense swirl of matter and energy, an intelligent neuroverse could emerge?
   The Neuroverse Hypothesis can’t explain the origin of the “particles” that make up the “neurons” in a neuroverse, but even naturalistic theories of the universe have to start with something, otherwise nothing would ever come into existence. However, these particles can be relatively simple, with complexity, including intelligence, emerging from a “sea” of such particles.
   Now, an atheist is entitled to ask, where is the evidence for such a hypothesis? I would suggest that the Neuroverse Hypothesis has at least as much validity as the idea of a multiverse. If some scientists argue that our universe is fine-tuned because we are part of a multiverse, and intelligence is known to exist in at least one universe, namely our own, then I can also argue that an intelligent neuroverse is also likely to exist within the multiverse. We could therefore be living in an outgrowth of that neuroverse, which could also explain the fine-tuning.
   Some scientists even speculate that there are an infinite number of universes within the multiverse. If so, it’s a virtual certainty that one of these would become an intelligent neuroverse, making the existence of something like God inevitable.
   On the other hand, if there is only one universe after all, and the early universe was a neuroverse capable of intelligence, the fine-tuning could have been done in the early part of the universe by this intelligence, before the universe expanded into what we see today.
   Either way, if there is a universe in which a sea of individual particles or groups of particles could act like neurons, and there is some kind of energy that could flow between them, and it is not completely deterministic, then it qualifies as a neuroverse, out of which intelligence could potentially emerge.
   Now, the advantage of the Neuroverse Hypothesis for explaining God is that it solves the problem of infinite regress. In this hypothesis, God wasn’t created, nor did he evolve in a Darwinian manner. Instead, his intelligence was an emergent property of a sea of energy flowing through neuron-like structures.
   This idea also turns the argument from improbability on its head, because the more universes that are allowed within a multiverse, the more likely it is that one of these universes would qualify as a neuroverse and become intelligent.
   On the other hand, it only had to happen once. If our early universe already contained the properties of a neuroverse, the sheer quantity of energy fluctuations involved may have meant that intelligence would almost inevitably emerge.
   The Neuroverse Hypothesis also solves the problem of complexity. With the human mind, thoughts can become gradually more complex. More synapses can form to add to the complexity, but the underlying structure of the brain remains relatively simple, at least relative to the thoughts it is capable of producing.
   For example, even at the height of his powers, Mozart’s brain, while composing elegant musical scores that far surpassed the ability of the average human, was still made up of the same components as every other human brain. Mozart’s brain may have had more and better connections, and perhaps even more neurons, but it was still a human brain.
   Furthermore, Mozart’s body wasn’t built out of musical notes. If Mozart could compose increasingly complex musical scores as his mind developed, is it really beyond human comprehension that an infinite or virtually infinite Mind, an intelligent neuroverse, could compose the score for physical life, without itself being made out of the same blueprint found within DNA?
   While the human neuron is quite complex, simpler things can also can act like neurons, such as atomic switches. Large numbers of these can also act like neural networks, and brain-like properties emerge from this network when combined with energy flowing through it.
   This is one way in which the Neuroverse Hypothesis can be investigated scientifically. For example, what is the smallest possible atomic switch that could exist? Could such switches exist at the proton, neutron and electron level, or with just a small number of atoms? If so, this may give us clues as to what “neurons” could have formed in the early universe, when everything was incredibly close together, to cause it to become a neuroverse. If such an arrangement can be found, not only would this provide evidence for the hypothesis, it could also have useful applications for the development of artificial intelligence and neural networks at an atomic level.
   The Neuroverse Hypothesis doesn’t explain everything about God. Indeed, I concede that it might not explain anything about him. However, it is one way to show how God may exist, without bumping into the problem of who created God.


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