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volume II: Synopsis

section V: Applied Divinity

page 38: Design

The effectiveness of our work depends heavily upon design and and technique. In a dynamic system like our world, the whole and the parts are continually influencing one another to iterate toward an optimal system. Our question is how do we optimise design? Design - Wikipedia

In traditional theology, design is already optimised by an omniscient and omnipotent God. The defects that we now see in the world are the result of Original Sin, and will be remedied at the end of time. If the Universe is divine, on the other hand, it designs itself. Decree Concerning Original Sin

One of the traditional arguments for the distinction between God and the world is the argument from design:

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God. Aquinas, Summa I 2 3.

This argument loses force if the Universe can consistently design itself. We believe that Aquinas is mistaken when he claims that natural bodies lack intelligence. From our point of view, the Universe is a living network of communication rooted in the pure act of the initial singularity. The theory of evolution describes an algorithm for self-design. Our intelligence sometimes enables us to do better than evolution by natural selection since we can model designs before we construct them, thus saving resources. We see, nevertheless, that technological designs evolve just like natural design. We have had motor transport for about two hundred years now, but the system still seems far from the optimum.

Effective religion encourages the search for better ways to make and do things, seeking a decision process to rank designs by their conformity with the conditions for humanity, sustainability and peace.

History shows that science and all other forms of knowledge proceed by trial guided by error, a form of natural selection. Given a certain amount of knowledge, however, trial and error can move to another level, and one can move more directly toward a target. Nevertheless the future is uncertain, and radical innovation often occurs in technologies once thought to be mature. An example is the path taken by lighting, through candles, oil and gas lamps, incandescent lamps and fluorescent tubes to light emitting diodes. Even intelligent design evolves, since each step is the foundation for the next step. Fortun & Bernstein: Muddling Through, Popper: Conjectures and Refutations

The most magnificent panorama of trial and error that we see on Earth is the evolution of life by natural selection. Every creature that is born is a trial. Some succeed, and reproduce. Some fail, that is fall into error. By the logic of reproduction, their genotype is not reproduced, so we have a continual pressure, from generation to generation, toward the modelling of creatures fitted to survive. Darwin, Jones

If we study the history of any area of design, from cooking utensils to power plants, we see a process of evolution taking place guided by whatever science is available. In the design of heat engines, for instance, the Carnot cycle guides us toward more efficient engines by setting up an ideal engine as a standard. Carnot heat engine - Wikipedia

The first element in any design process is a catalogue of goals and constraints. We want a transport system which serves everybody equally and cheaply. Research on traffic volume shows that there is no way a dense city can have enough road space to allow all transport to take place by personal vehicle. Public mass transit is essential. A goal and a constraint. The search for solutions is guided by these seeking a the best way to meet the specification.

Our mental exploration of the world yields possibilities for action. Because the world is so complex, however, there is generally a wealth of detail to be dealt with before a bright idea becomes a practical reality. The same is true of every task from cooking to space travel. The devil, as they say, is in the details. It is the designer's job to master all the details, often building on many years of personal and collective experience in a particular industry.

We expect good designs to be safe and easy to use, environmentally friendly, easy to manufacture and recycle, attractive in the market place and in every way perfectly fitted to their task. This is not easy, and every designer is continually faced with compromises.

Design does not apply to physical objects alone. Spiritual structures, including religions, are also subject to design, consciously or unconsciously. Religion has a clear role to play in design, moving it toward the goals of peace, justice, equality, freedom, beauty, goodness, etc, to which we aspire. Reflective and critical religion tries to move itself toward these same goals. As part of the divine system, we are responsible for designing our own heaven.

The natural religion project accepts that every design has a history. We have been designed and constructed by the Solar System, and are learning to trace our history back to the big bang. The traditional religions have played a large part in the development of humanity by establishing divine constraints on our behaviour and motivating us with hope for a better future if we respect these constraints. Solar System - Wikipedia

Many of us see defects in traditional religions, however. The fundamental defect identified here is lack of universality, resulting in conflict between different belief systems. These belief systems are often descendants of literary texts which beautifully reflect the experiences and feelings of emergent humanity but lack deep understanding of the real world.

This conflict between religions is an echo of their evolutionary development. Natural selection operating at all scales involves conflict over limiting resources. Religion, being the binding force of human groups, is the source of direction and motivation in conflict with other groups.

Conflict is very wasteful, however, and reduces fitness. While religions orchestrate the conflict with other groups, each maintains the cohesion and cooperation within its own group necessary for it to prevail in conflict. Having understood the source of conflict between human groups, we can proceed to design such conflict out of the system. The dream is to achieve this by developing a global religion which so directs human affairs that there are sufficient resources to go round, and resources are distributed fairly so there is no motivation to fight over them.

How do we achieve this blessed state? We work on the principle that necessity is the mother of invention. So first we must see global peace as necessary, then we can invent it. We can move toward this target by showing that war is unnecessary. The high economic, social and political cost of military activity is making it more cost effective to buy resources than obtaining them by the murder and plunder practised by imperialist nations. This process appears to be already under way. Human Security Report Project, Pinker

The next steps in our design are relatively clear: population control, consumption control, pollution control, individual freedom, education, justice, social security and so on. Human creativity has already established pockets of good government around the world. A will to seek best practice through communication seems to be all that is required to move the world further along the path to peace outlined by the most ancient of all religious commandments: love reality (= God, the way things are); love one another.

This project began as a theory of peace developed for an anti-war movement. A theory of Peace. We are making the transition from designing society for war, suffering and instability to designing a society for trade, satisfaction and relaxation. This is a cooperative effort to improve our fitness by eliminating the losses arising from bad design. From a religious point of view, we may achieve this by encouraging the correlation between good design and profit, both financial and spiritual.

(revised 28 May 2013)

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Further reading

Books

Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Darwin, Charles, and Greg Suriano (editor), The Origin of Species, Gramercy 1998 Introduction: 'In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species has not been independently created, but has descended, like varieties, from other species.' 
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Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, Penguin/Pelican 1996 Preface: '[Darwinism] is, indeed a remarkably simple theory; ... In essence it amounts simply to the idea that non-random reproduction where there is hereditary variation, has consequences that are far reaching if there is time for them to be cumulative ... ' 
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Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene , Oxford UP 1976 Amazon: Editorial review: 'Inheriting the mantle of revolutionary biologist from Darwin, Watson, and Crick, Richard Dawkins forced an enormous change in the way we see ourselves and the world with the publication of The Selfish Gene. Suppose, instead of thinking about organisms using genes to reproduce themselves, as we had since Mendel's work was rediscovered, we turn it around and imagine that "our" genes build and maintain us in order to make more genes. That simple reversal seems to answer many puzzlers which had stumped scientists for years, and we haven't thought of evolution in the same way since.' Rob Lightner 
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Dawkins, Richard, Climbing Mount Improbable, W. W. Norton & Company 1997 Amazon editorial review: 'How do species evolve? Richard Dawkins, one of the world's most eminent zoologists, likens the process to scaling a huge, Himalaya-size peak, the Mount Improbable of his title. An alpinist does not leap from sea level to the summit; neither does a species utterly change forms overnight, but instead follows a course of "slow, cumulative, one-step-at-a-time, non-random survival of random variants" -- a course that Charles Darwin, Dawkins's great hero, called natural selection. Illustrating his arguments with case studies from the natural world, such as the evolution of the eye and the lung, and the coevolution of certain kinds of figs and wasps, Dawkins provides a vigorous, entertaining defense of key Darwinian ideas.' 
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Fortun, Mike, and Herbert J Bernstein, Muddling Through: Pursuing Science and Truths in the Twenty-First Century, Counterpoint 1998 Amazon editorial review: 'Does science discover truths or create them? Does dioxin cause cancer or not? Is corporate-sponsored research valid or not? Although these questions reflect the way we're used to thinking, maybe they're not the best way to approach science and its place in our culture. Physicist Herbert J. Bernstein and science historian Mike Fortun, both of the Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies (ISIS), suggest a third way of seeing, beyond taking one side or another, in Muddling Through: Pursuing Science and Truths in the 21st Century. While they deal with weighty issues and encourage us to completely rethink our beliefs about science and truth, they do so with such grace and humor that we follow with ease discussions of toxic-waste disposal, the Human Genome Project, and retooling our language to better fit the way science is actually done.' 
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Jones, Steve, Almost like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated, Doubleday 1999 An Historical Sketch: 'The Origin of Species is, without doubt, the book of the millennium. ... [This book] is, as far as is possible, an attempt to rewrite the Origin of Species. I use its plan, developing as it does from farms to fossils, from beehives to islands, as a framework, but my own Grand Facts ... are set firmly in the late twentieth century. Almost Like a Whale tries to read Charles Darwin's mind with the benefit of scientific hindsight and to show how the theory of evolution unites biology as his millenium draws to an end.' (xix)  
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Mandelbrot, Benoit B , The Fractal Geometry of Nature, Freeman 1988 Jacket: 'A rarity: a picture book of sophisticated contemporary research ideas in mathematics. Here, it concerns recursively defined curves and shapes, whose dimensionality is not a whole number. Amazingly, Mandelbrot shows their relvance to practically every branch of science.' Douglas R. Hofstadter 
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Mattheck, C, and W Linnard (translator), Design in Nature: Learning from Trees, Springer Verlag 1998 Review: '[Claus Mattheck's] habilitation was in fracture mechanics, so he is well placed to see that the shapes of nature, by eliminating self weight and stress concentrations, represent optimised solutions for engineering design. ... He summarises the computer models he uses, and the reasons for using them, and applies them to growing, damaged and diseased trees and then to bone, claws, thorns, shell structures and bracing. Finally he applies his methods to the design of a variety of engineering structures. I recommend this book to biologists and engineers alike. Julian Vincent: Nature 392: 242 19 March 1998 
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McHarg, Ian L, Design with Nature, Doubleday/Natural History Press 1971 Introduction, Lewis Mumford: 'In establishing the necessity for conscious intention, for ethical evaluation, for orderly organisation, for deliberate esthetic expression in handling every part of the environment, McHarg's emphasis is not on either design or nature by itself, but on the preposition with, which implies human cooperation and biological partnership. 'back
Papanek, Victor, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, Granada/Paladin 1992 Preface: 'In an environment that is screwed up visually, physically and chemically, the best and simplest thing that architects, industrial designers, planners etc., could do for humanity would be to stop working entirely. In all pollution, designers are implicated at least partially. But in this book, I take a more affirmative view: it seems to me that we can go beyond not working at all, and work positively. Design can and must become a way in which young people can participate in changing society.' 
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Pinker, Steven, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Viking Adult 2011 Amazon book description: 'A provocative history of violence—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Stuff of Thought and The Blank Slate Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species' existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history. Exploding myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious book continues Pinker's exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.' 
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Popper, Karl Raimund, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1972 Preface: 'The way in which knowledge progresses, and expecially our scientific knowledge, is by unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations, by guesses, by tentative solutions to our problems, by conjectures. These conjectures are controlled by criticism; that is, by attempted refutations, which include severely critical tests.' [p viii]  
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Prigogine, Ilya, and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature, Bantam 1984 Foreword: 'Order Out of Chaos is a brilliant, demanding, dazzling book -- challenging for all and richly rewarding for the attentive reader. It is a book to study, to savour, to reread -- and to question yet again. It places science and humanity back in a world where ceteris paribus is a myth -- a world in which other things are seldom held steady, equal or unchanging. In short it projects science into today's revolutionary world of instability, disequilibrium and turbulence. In so doing, it serves the highest creative function -- it helps us create fresh order.' Alvin Toffler, xxvi 
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Stewart, Ian, Life's Other Secret: The new mathematics of the living world, Allen Lane 1998 Preface: 'There is more to life than genes. ... Life operates within the rich texture of the physical universe and its deep laws, patterns, forms, structures, processes and systems. ... Genes nudge the physical universe in specific directions ... . The mathematical control of the growing organism is the other secret ... . Without it we will never solve the deeper mysteries of the living world - for life is a partnership between genes and mathematics, and we must take proper account of the role of both partners.' (xi) 
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Wirth, Niklaus, Programming in Modula-2 , Springer-Verlag 1989 Preface: 'This text is an introduction to programming in general, and a manual for programming in the language Modula-2 in particular. It is oriented primarily toward people who have already acquired some basic knowledge of programming anf would like to deepen their understanding in a more structured way. ...' page 3 
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Links
Aquinas 13 Summa: I 2 3: Whether God exists? I answer that the existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. . . . The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. . . . The third way is taken from possibility and necessity . . . The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. . . . The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. back
Carnot heat engine - Wikipedia Carnot heat engine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'A Carnot heat engine is a hypothetical engine that operates on the reversible Carnot cycle. The basic model for this engine was developed by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824. The Carnot engine model was graphically expanded upon by Benoît Paul Émile Clapeyron in 1834 and mathematically elaborated upon by Rudolf Clausius in the 1850s and 60s from which the concept of entropy emerged.' back
Decree Concerning Original Sin Paul III - Council of Trent '1. If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of God, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse, let him be anathema.' back
Design - Wikipedia Design - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawing, business process, circuit diagrams and sewing patterns) while "to design" (verb) refers to making this plan.' back
Human Security Report Project Human Security Report Project 'The Human Security Report Project . . . HSRP tracks global and regional trends in organized violence, their causes and consequences. Research findings and analyses are published in the Human Security Report, Human Security Brief series, and the miniAtlas of Human Security. HSRP publications have received major coverage in the international media and are regularly cited by national governments, international agencies, and NGOs, as well as the research community.' back
Solar System - Wikipedia Solar System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass (well over 99%) is in the Sun. Of the many objects that orbit the Sun, most of the mass is contained within eight relatively solitary planets[e] whose orbits are almost circular and lie within a nearly flat disc called the ecliptic plane.' back

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