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vol 8: A theory of Peace
page 8: Hiroshima

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1: About
2: Synopsis
3: Development

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Previous: 7 Communication

4: Glossary
5: Questions

6: Essays
7: Notes
8: History

9: Persons

10: Supplementary
11: Policy



a personal journey to natural theology

This site is part of the natural religion project The natural religion project     A new theology    A commentary on the Summa    The theology company


Lecture 8: Hiroshima


1 Today we remember the bombing of Hiroshima. This was the first military use of a nuclear weapon. It was a small nuclear weapon, but it introduced a new level of violence into war.

2 The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki commissioned a comprehensive report on the nuclear bombings which is available in English. It is called 'Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the Physical, Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings'. It was prepared by the Committee for the Compilation of Material on Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Committee)

3 Unlike many of the sensational films and books about nuclear war, this report is a detailed, scientific and dispassionate account of what actually happened in the two cities.

4 The lack of sensationalism sharpens the horror of the bombings. This report never fails to reduce me to tears. It is one of my motivations for these lectures, but not the most important. The bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the bombs that threaten us now are symptoms of a serious problem, but not its cause.


5 I want to identify that problem. My effort has been both motivated and defined by the fact that the problem exists in myself. A few lectures ago, I suggested hat the lost paradise I sought was the tribe.

6 In biological terms, the tribe is the womb that creates human beings. Looking back, it seems the we forgot the creative role of the tribe and relegated the creative power of the universe to an invisible god at the same time. The story is in the Bible. I feel that we can learn a lot from that historical coincidence.

7 As I understand Aboriginal culture, their theory of peace and creation is expressed in the stories of the dreamtime.

8 The dreamtime lives in the world of the infinite, in the creative and poetic womb of a free mind. Like all infinities, the dreamtime has a finite dual. That dual is the land.

9 The relationship between dreaming and the land is like the relationship between mathematics and experience which makes science. Mathematics is a creative expression of the mind limited only by the need to make sense.

10 By linking the creation of the mind with the land of physical experience we come to a coherent expression of the whole. For us the land of a dreaming is not just a tribal home but the whole universe. But while we have extended our homeland immensely, we have lost depth and coherence.

Western theology

11 We are inclined to hold tribal religions in contempt. We have to admit, however, that tribal theologies are scientific. They are a consistent structure of experience and interpretation.

12 Some consider our traditional western theology superior, but it is not. Although we have unprecedented scientific knowledge of the world, our explicit theological beliefs rarely fit experience.

13 This is my experience. I was born a horny, intelligent and energetic child into a world of belief that contradicted everything that I could see for myself.

14 I was taught that I am a damaged and defective amalgam of animal and spiritual being. I was taught that the flesh is the murdering enemy of the spirit and must be suppressed to meet the demands of unseen authority.

15 As I see it now, the assault on me was directed at all those creative energies that have their fulfillment in tribal life. When, in desperation, I decided to throw my whole life into satisfying the church, I was required to take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

16 I renounced, formally and permanently all identification with things, like land. I renounced all identification with my own drive to reproduce myself. I renounced all identification with my own mind and will.

17 We are what we are taught. The contradiction in my religion became a contradiction in me, although it took me a long time to discover that. I pursued wholeness and understanding with all my energy, but it was not there to be found.

18 When I did know enough to start rethinking the religion that was destroying me, it found me guilty of dangerous ideas and expelled me. I left with an overwhelming sense of shame and failure.

19 I was torn in two because I had attempted to bridge the gap between a religion that denied the existence of the world and a world whose existence I could not deny.

20 This is the injury I am trying to cure in myself. It is deep and has caused me much pain. As I probe my wound and come to know and cure it, I see the same trouble almost everywhere else in the world. I think that if I can cure myself, I may learn something of value to everybody.

A theory of peace

21 This is an owner built theory. It's purpose is to make me feel safe and at home in the world. I have built it myself and for myself out of necessity. I need shelter from the horrors I see around me, and there is nothing I can buy off the shelf. I have never found a builder who can give me what I want.

22 You will notice that I call it a theory of peace, not the theory of peace. This is because it is mine. It describes my understanding of my own home on earth.

23 My home is not you home although they probably have a lot in common like walls, floor, roof, windows, doors and places for cooking, washing, eating, sleeping, playing, working and storing things.

24 In the same way my understanding of peace is not your understanding of peace, although they must have a lot in common. The most important element, I think, is the feeling of being home in myself and in the world.

25 If you have ever built your own house, you might agree with me that collecting the materials takes about three quarters of the time and the actual construction about a quarter. This job seems to me to be following the same lines.

26 In the first seven lectures I have collected and presented to you the materials for my spiritual home. My criterion for selection has been simple: I have selected only those ideas that fit in with my belief that the universe is god, that it is all that can possibly be.

Ideas and certainty

27 I realise that is has not been easy going. These ideas are difficult, but they have a high degree of certainty. So much depends upon them. Imagine what would happen if one plus one no longer equalled two.

28 Once mathematics lost its consistency, it would become a force for evil, tearing things apart as the inconsistency between my religion and my experience tore me apart. Such a fundamental breakdown in our intellectual structures would cause a total breakdown in human communication.

29 I cannot overemphasise the importance of the ideas that form the scientific foundation of our society. I have tried to present them clearly, but it is not easy.

30 We spent a few minutes on general relativity. One of the standard texts on the subject looks like a big city telephone book. The literature of quantum mechanics and the foundations of mathematics is also enormous, and not easy reading.

31 Although these ideas underpin the intellectual component of our civilisation, they are not well known. My interpretation of them seems to be rarer still. In my last run through a big data base covering millions of articles in all the science, it took me a day to find one article touching on the core of these lectures.

Materials for a theory

32 I have chosen my building materials, and I have tried to explain some of their qualities to you. Let's look over them once more before we put them together.


33 First we have the principle that what exists is consistent. It makes sense. We cannot prove this, except by seeing that it works again and again.

34 I attributed this principle to Thomas Aquinas, but we could go back to Aristotle, who is said to have invented logic. Logic is the study of consistency.

35 The history of mathematics suggests that the idea goes back at least another two thousand years, contained implicitly in mathematical proof.

36 I assume that this principle has underlain the universe since the beginning. The universe is a puzzle, a forest of puzzles, but they all have an answer. Einstein said it: the Lord is subtle, but he is not malicious.


37 Second we have the notion of symbol, with the interesting property that you cannot make a mark without creating a space and vice versa. Symbols have an inescapable duality. A symbol is a definite thing like a letter printed on paper, and it is a pointer to an infinity of other symbols.

38 We found mathematical ideas like dimension shared this dual quality of symbols. A dimension is at once an independent object, like the direction north-south, and an infinity, since there is in principle no limit on how far you can go north or south.

39 Dimensions define space, and a basic measure of space is the number of dimensions it has.

40 We found that time is a dimension corresponding to the counting numbers, and that there are three obvious spatial dimensions. This four dimensional spacetime is represented by Einstein's special and general relativity.

41 There is no logical limit to the number of dimensions in a space. We held out hope of translating or understanding our simple four dimensional space into the realm of spaces with unlimited dimension.

42 We found that every definite thing can be regarded as a symbol. We can therefore apply all the mathematical results we have about symbols to everything.

43 We expressed this finding in the slogan: the universe is mathematics in the flesh. Our understanding of symbols renders unnecessary the old distinctions between thought and reality of mind and matter. We see the universe as symbolic from beginning to end.

44 We found that symbols can be fitted together to create new symbols, just as we generate words from letters and books from words. Conversely, symbols can be taken apart to see how they are made.

45 There is a first symbol, which cannot be taken apart, and this is the principle of consistency. We can see this principle as the fundamental symbol or particle from which the universe is made.

46 The notion of symbol and the principle of consistency provide the foundations of a unified view of the universe. Modern physics see the universe permeated by four different fields, known as gravitation, electromagnetic, strong and weak.

47 The goal of modern physics is to see how these four fields fit together into a unified field theory.

48 The principle of consistency operates at every point of the universe, so my theory of peace will be a local theory. Since the search for a unified field is itself guided by consistency, we can expect unification of the fields of physics to fit the theory of peace.

49 Because my theory is local, I can see the whole universe from any point. The point of particular interest to me is myself. My first conclusion is that I am not a puppet, as I was once told, but capable of independent and creative existence. My second conclusion is that I can produce a consistent theory of peace, even if it flies in the face of all my teachers.

50 The theory of peace, whatever it is, must hold for me and if it is consistent for me, it must be consistent for everybody. To see this, however, others must translate my theory into their own language.

Cantor's Theory

51 Third we have Cantor's theorem, which says that a symbol must give birth to new symbols, without limit. Cantor called this endless array of symbols the transfinite numbers.

52 If we accept the principle of consistency, the transfinite numbers must exist. Cantor's theorem thereby guarantees us an endless supply of building materials for our universe.

53 The principle of consistency tells us what is possible. The transfinite numbers, by their method of generation, embrace all symbolic possibilities.

54 Cantor's theorem leads us to a contradiction if we assume the existence of a greatest symbol that contains all the other symbols. To avoid this paradox, we must assume that there is no greatest symbol. The universe remains forever unfinished, continually growing.

55 I therefore see Cantor's theorem as the source of the ceaseless activity and growth in the universe. It would be a contradiction for it not to move and grow.

Goedel's theory

56 Fourth we have Goedel's theory. Goedel proved that a consistent system of symbols gives rise to symbols that cannot be proved or disproved. In other words, consistency leads to incompleteness or uncertainty. Every certainty is surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty.

57 We have taken consistency as the fundamental symbol of the universe, but we now find that like all other symbols, it has a duality. One side of the duality is consistency, the other incompleteness. This fits Cantor's theory, which tells us that the idea of a completed universe is self-contradictory.

58 We found an interpretation of Goedel's theory in quantum mechanics. There it is called Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. We took uncertainty beyond quantum mechanics, and found it everywhere. Incompleteness is a direct consequence of consistency. If consistency is all pervasive, then uncertainty must be everywhere too.

59 This fits my experience. The universe has an element of predictability, and an element of unpredictability. We can be certain that an ideal coin will fall heads or tails, but we don't know which until after it has fallen.

60 Human relationships, the weather, the stock market, horse races and myriad other things demonstrate this same mixture of certainty and uncertainty.

61 Things can happen in the realm of incompleteness that cannot happen in the world of consistency. Creation, that is the coming to be of something entirely now is impossible in a totally deterministic world, since everything follows logically from its predecessor.

62 Goedel tells me that a totally deterministic world is inconsistent and so impossible. On the other hand, uncertainty makes creation possible, and consistency makes it necessary.

Communication theory

63 Fifth we have Shannon's theory of communication, which links certainty and uncertainty. The establishment of communication is the creation of something new and therefore only possible through uncertainty. This suggests that communication itself must be inherently uncertain, but Shannon found otherwise.

64 Shannon proved that provided we do not exceed the capacity of a channel to carry information, we can transmit information over that channel with any degree of certainty we desire.

65 We deduce from Goedel's theorem that every individual symbol must have a finite lifetime. If we imagine this symbol as part of a communication channel, we can see that if it dies while it is carrying a message, the message will be lost.

66 Shannon's work tells us that we can, nevertheless, construct a perfectly secure channel by combining symbols into larger symbols. Large symbols can be made more durable that their components by careful coding. If one symbol drops out, the information it was carrying can be deduced from the remaining symbols.

67 Shannon showed that if the coding is right a message can get through with absolute certainty provided the death rate of the symbols carrying it is not one hundred per cent. Plants know this. They dispatch billions of pollen grains into the world certain that some will get through to an egg and carry on their life. The only price we must pay is that communication will be slow.

68 The theory of communication tells us that we can make a durable world out of ephemeral components. Human individuals have a finite life. Our interests and enthusiasms are even shorter, but by working together we can create permanent structures. 2BOB, we hope, will be a beautiful example of Shannon's theorems in action.

Theory of computation

69 The sixth and final item in my collection of building materials is Turing's theory. It has to do with the actual mechanics of coding and decoding.

70 Turing discovered that some messages are so complex that no computer, no matter how fast, can ever decode them. There are, in other words, limits to translation. I have a lot more to say about this in the next lecture, when we will talk about pain, war and evil in general.

71 That completes my list of materials. I will show you roughly how they fit together. I hope on day to present all the little details of this construction in a book.

72 I begin where I left the Catholic Church. They say that god is other than the visible world, beyond our experience. I say no, the visible world itself is god. God is here for everybody to see and touch and taste and feel and hear and think about.

73 The nature of god is expressed must succinctly by the principle of consistency, and all that follows from it. Consistency is everywhere. For me its special realisation is myself. In order to know the universe, therefore, I need only know myself. Duality says this too. The universe is my dual, and the information in each side of a duality is the same.

74 Having united god and the universe, we can dispose of all those gaps in the universe that are logical consequences of separating it from god. Mind and matter, soul and body, human and animal, spiritual and material are not separated by an unbridgeable chasm. They are aspects of the same reality, dualities that throw light on the nature of things.


75 I think the single word that best describes my experience of myself is mind. If I am a mind, the universe is a mind, and I can link my experience of mind into my description of the universe.

76 We all experience the properties of mind. I have time for two only here, but they are enough.

77 First, you can change your mind, and there is no limit to how much you can change it. Changing your mind is an example of movement, that is creation. It gives new meaning to old symbols, like the word mind itself.

78 We have claimed that a consistent universe must be creative, and it must be creative everywhere. Mind has all the attributes that our mathematical theory attaches to creation. It is creative. My mind is the source of my theory of creation.

79 States of mind are symbols, and have all the properties of symbols. They are definite as well as fluid. We will die for them There was a time when I would have died for my Catholic belief. There was a time when I would have gone to war. Now I have changed my mind about Catholicism and the situation in Viet Nam, but that does not mean I was uncertain then.

80 States of mind flow into one another, and they do this mysteriously. I went to bed last night in a state of despair because I could not get this lecture to work. I woke this morning with nothing to do but write it down.

81 It was despair, but not total despair. I had come to a dead end, but knew that I would find a way out. These lectures are an experiment with myself, to see if I can make a theory of peace that fits my own life.

82 I can charge at ideas until my teeth rattle, and I know that excitement and passion and energy play an intimate part in the working of mind. Yet I cannot predict when the payoff will come, any more than I can predict when I will fall in love or when I will find gold. All I can do is keep my mind open and never give up the search.

83 The story of Archimedes says all there is to be known about creation. He filled his head with the problem and then went to the baths where all manner of relaxing pleasures were available. Later he ran down the street yelling eureka (I have found it). We cannot know what lies between those acts. It lies in the realm of uncertainty.

84 If the universe is mind, it too can change, and it does. The most wonderful things are made out of the simplest materials. A rainforest can grow on sandstone, nourished only by air and water and windblown dust. A tree is mostly air and water that have seen a way to fit together.

85 The second important property of mind is that individual minds can blend seamlessly. They say a camel is an animal designed by a committee. This is not so, but the point of the joke is that committees cannot get things together. This is false, as you will know if you have been on a good committee. When the communication is good, a committee works as one mind, like a good football team or a healthy person.

86 Minds can blend seamlessly, but they can come apart and fight. This, from now on, is our point of interest. I have described a creative universe, but I have not pinpointed the source of war and pain and frustration. From all that we have said, it must lie in our inability to change fast enough.

87 I can make up my mind and refuse to budge. The theory says that such a stance may be self contradictory because the universe is incomplete. Every situation, every symbol, every state of mind can be reinterpreted.

88 But reinterpretation means translation. Translation is a coding problem, and Turing's theory tells us that come coding problems take an infinitely long time.


89 Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed because the consensus was that there was no other way. If there had been time to negotiate, that horror could have been avoided. but there was a war on. Thousands of people were being killed every day. Imperial Japan was beaten but did not know how to surrender. A decision had to be made.

90 Violence comes because we cannot find a peaceful way out quick enough. Next week we must talk about time and violence. The link is through translation or coding and Turing's theorem.

91 Last week I said I would talk about the relativity of transfinity. That is where I got stuck last night. Perhaps I will have something next week. Dreaming takes time.


Originally broadcast on 2BOB Radio, Taree, NSW on 6 August 1987


Jaynes, Julian, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Haughton Mifflin 1990 Jacket: 'At the heart of this book is the revolutionary idea that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3000 years ago and still developing.'  Amazon  back
Nathan, Otto, Einstein on Peace, Avenel 1981 Bertrand Russell, Preface: "It is a very good thing that Einstein's letters and writings on other than scientific subjects are being collected and printed. Einstein was not only the ablest man of science of his generation, he was also a wise man, which is something different. If statesmen had listened to him, the coursde of human events would have been less disastrous than it has been.'">Amazon  back
Pais, Abraham, 'Subtle is the Lord...': The Science and Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford UP 1982 Jacket: In this ... major work Abraham Pais, himself an eminent physicist who worked alongside Einstein in the post-war years, traces the development of Einstein's entire ouvre. ... Running through the book is a completely non-scientific biography ... including many letters which appear in English for the first time, as well as other information not published before.'  Amazon  back
Pierce, John Robinson, An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols Signals and Noise, Dover 1980 Jacket: 'Behind the familiar surfaces of thhe telephone, radio and television lies a sophisticated and intriguing body of knowledge known as information theory. This is the theory that has permitted the rapid development of all forms of communication ... Even more revolutionary progress is expected in the future.'   Amazon  back
SIPRI, (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), Nuclear Radiation in Warfare, Taylor and Francis 1981 Jacket: 'This book examines the wide range of methods of exploiting the acute and long-term effects of radiation in nuclear weapons. It documents the various kinds of radiation which result from nuclear explosions and the factors affecting biological response to radiation. The biological effects of radiation on man are described in some detail, and the difficculties of making a quantitative estimate of casualties in a nuclear war are explained.'  Amazon  back
The Committee for the Compilation of Materials on the Damage Caused by the Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Physical Medical and Social Effects of the Atomic Bombings, Hutchison 1981. Jacket: 'This book is the definitive account of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ... More than four years in the making, this clearly written and jargon free account is both a summary and an analysis by Japan's leading physicists, physicians and social scientists of the full findings about the immediate damage of the bombs ... and their permanent medical, genetic, social and psychological effects. In almost every respect the findings show that the damage caused by the bombs was much more serious than earlier studies have indicated. Not only were there more deaths, but a terrible and lasting impactcan be seen in terms of chronic disease (especially cancers), genetic and chromosomal damage, and social disorganisation - family disruption, crime, suicide and mental illness.'  Amazon  back


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