Short Stories and Writings
Experiences and Thought
by Ben Allweiss
Short Biography of the Author…..
A Dream Come True…………………
Ambassadors of Species…………….
Discourse Among Friends………….
Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem and Biological Computer Models……….
Spirituality – A View ………………….
The Chicken And The Egg ………….
Short Biography of the Author
.. don’t confuse what you do … with what you do to survive… Modern Rock Singer
I am a retired Accountant and Software Developer.
As an accountant, I really do like my work. It involves a lot of things that personally appeal to me, like computing, statistics and business. But like anyone, I have other current and past interests that help make me what I am. I think… maybe… you might find them interesting too, so I am including them here, in a separate page of my short stories. I hope you enjoy! Ben Allweiss
Science and Electronics – my High School and College Years.
Almost as early as I can remember, I was very interested in science and electronics. I remember having great interest in an Atlas that my parents bought me, that had a picture of the solar system and the Milky Way. Back then, I thought that the Milky Way was basically the entire universe! Ah, if I only had the pictures of the universe that the kids have now of billions of galaxies, from the Hubble Telescope! I also remember making a project on nuclear fission that everyone was rather impressed with.
The space program and model rocketry was also a great interest of mine since 6th grade as I remember, and I built and launched many model rockets for many years, with my friends and brother Jack.
Radio and electronics were also great interests of mine up to, and past my early college years. At Southfield High School in Michigan, I was the chief engineer of the radio station, and even got my first class radiotelephone licence from the FCC while still in high school. This allowed me to get a job as engineer for 3 summers at WWJ Radio in Detroit. It was a lot of fun to work with some Detroit celebrities at this landmark radio station.
I had taken a lot of chemistry, math and biology in high school, and I decided in College to major in biological science. I decided on Microbiology because it was a field in biology that had a lot of practical application (i.e. you can get jobs in it). I also was very interested in computers, and took a lot of course work on the subject.
I wanted to do some original research, so I signed up in a microbiology lab that was doing some
research in microbial ecology of the gut. I had a great experience in Dr. Rolf Freter’s lab at the University of Michigan, and the story about it can be found in this collection of short stories.
Computing has been a real interest to me for many years. It seems to me that whenever there is a problem to solve, or job to be done, I always have tried to find a way to computerize it.
My earliest experience actually in programming were some exercises I was given by an algebra and trig teacher in Southfield High named Roger Soucie. We were given the task of programming an Ollivetti Programma 101 calculator. I’m not so sure how successful I was with it, but I did enjoy it.
I guess the reason computing appeals to me is that I believe there is an order to things. In programming you are applying this concept, so I enjoy it.
One of the next things I applied my computer knowledge to was data storage and analysis of the data from my experiments Rolf Freter’s Microbiology lab at MIchigan. I used programs called MIDAS and TAXIR to store and do statistics on the data, respectively. I also wrote software in FORTRAN to make it easier to enter data in these systems. All this work was done on the University’s AMDAHL Mainframe. Dr. Freter also bought the lab an HP95 programmable calculator which I programmed to do statistics.
I also wrote a paper for a class that discussed the use of systems analysis in interpreting the work in Dr. Freter’s lab.
All in all, this work, with the computer, data analysis, and systems analysis, fit in a field which would today be called Bioinformatics. Dr. Freter was very encouraging of this kind of work, and called it the “future of biology”, but many others were not. Today, there are many researchers applying these techniques.
After that time, and some years after changing course and going into accounting, my computing “radar” focused on writing a specialized computer program. My father was owner of an auto repair shop my whole life, and even when they first came
out with the Apple II I was figuring out whether these early machines had the power to manage the information in the office of an auto shop.
It turned out you would need a micro computer with storage of at lease 60 megabytes, the power of a 386 micro processor and a multi user operating system like UNIX. A system like this would not be available until around 1988. We bought one for close to $10,000 and I started a business to program a system for auto shop management. The system was called ASIS – The Auto Service Information System, and it is still in use today.
The next program I have written over many years is called BusinessPULSE. It produces general ledger graphs, as well as financial statements. If was the first GUI program I wrote, and is geared mostly towards accountants.
I converted ASIS to a general purpose accounting program called PBAS. All in all I have three accounting programs developed and improved over the past 18 or so years. I have found that it is hard to make a lot of money on software, even if it is good. But I have also found out I could do it, and that has been a great positive in itself. Now I would like to convert at lease some of these programs to the more modern programming languages, though I doubt the excitement in doing so won’t be as good as the first time around!
My work in Microbiology centered around a phenomenon call Chemotaxis. It happens that bacteria that swim can do so towards certain chemicals. Hence the name ‘chemotaxis’.
There is a certain mechanism that occurs that results in this behavior. I thought for a long time that it could be simulated on the computer. I found some papers on it over the years, and recently decided to program it myself. The papers I found did not show that the mechanism actually resulted in chemotaxis, but mine does.
I also enjoy writing short stories. They are included next, in this booklet…
A Dream Come True
A Scientific Journey by Ben Allweiss
“You’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you expect to have a dream come true…” From the musical South Pacific
“…lose your dreams and you will lose your mind, in life unkind…” the Beatles
We all dream about our future, an achievement or possible event in the future that would bring joy, happiness or fame to an otherwise run of the mill existence. I have always been interested in science. I remember reading a book about the moon, and even drawing a diagram of an atom splitting when I was less than 10 years old. When my parents and relatives saw this, it seemed that they had bigger dreams for me than I did, since I never really considered it a dream to go to the moon, or to be an atomic scientist.
I always considered science my greatest enjoyment and skill. It seems strange in retrospect that for most of my early years I had no dream of accomplishing something in science that would be big. Maybe this is because I usually did well in what I did, be it in school or for fun, and I considered that to be a significant accomplishment.
Sometimes when doing research in the library, I would look up things unrelated to the task at hand, and copy them to take home and read. Often they were ‘classic’ articles about what were considered great discoveries in science. I do not remember now, but at one point when I was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I photocopied the articles by Watson and Crick, as well as Rosilynn Frankin and Maurice Wilkins, regarding the discovery of the structure of DNA. It was a classic article published in Nature on the date 4/25/1952. Anyone would agree that this article was one of the great publications of modern times, the discovery of the structure of the molecule of life. At some point I said to myself, it would be my dream if I could publish in the same scientific journal in which Watson and Crick had published the structure of DNA.
I always considered some form of self-study or activity important in my education. Even in high school I was active in debate, the school radio station, and school plays. I enjoyed doing them. They also provided a balance I needed from desk study, and I also knew they gave me some distinction from other students, which would help when applying for later jobs or in further study. I also considered such involvements as social life, and enjoyed the friends I made with other students, workers and teachers. So when I arrived in Ann Arbor for my sophomore year as a microbiology major, I did not wait long to seek out a lab that I might do independent study in.
I decided upon Microbiology as my college major during my first year at school. So when I decided to take up an independent study during my second year at Ann Arbor, I went to the Microbiology floor in Med Sci II, on the medical campus, and just walked into some lab doors to find who was doing something interesting that I might like.
I saw one or two professors, and one suggested that I see Dr. Rolf Freter. I don’t think I was told what Dr. Freter did, but I went to his lab anyways. I met Dr. Freter in his office. He was a middle age man with blond hair and a German accent. He invited me to sit down, and I asked him what he was studying in his lab. He told me that he was studying intestinal ecology. They concentrated on the ecology of Vibrio Cholera, a rather nasty bug that still kills many in less developed regions of the world, though it really isn’t a problem in the developed world. There was also a person in the lab working on other, mixed cultures of bacteria, in devices that simulated the intestine.
It wasn’t of particular importance that Dr. Freter was studying Cholera per se. More important was that it was a model of intestinal disease. You could then extend the model to guide research into other types of bacteria, and the “microbial flora” of the intestine in general.
The concept of “Ecology” as applied to a body system seemed interesting. I’m not so sure I was that excited about it being the intestine. The intestine is not something I had really considered studying at any point in my life. Still, altogether the prospect of studying “Intestinal Ecology” seemed rather interesting. I still did not appreciate all that it would entail, but I decided to take it up. Dr. Freter gave me several reprints of articles he had published, and I took them with me to read.
That evening I went to one of the lounges in Mary Markley Hall, where I was living during my sophomore year, and read some of the reprints that Dr. Freter had given me. One really didn’t concentrate on Cholera at all, but rather on experiments that modeled the workings of the actual gut. They utilized a model called a “chemostat”. The chemostat was a glass vessel that was actually a glass tube. At the top of the tube bacterial growth media was dripping in, and at the bottom, a tube looped back up and then down, so that the media would flow out at the same rate. It is also known as a continuous flow culture. I don’t remember the specifics of the article on the chemostat I read that night. In retrospect, the study of the ecology of such systems seems rather interesting to me. But instead of concentrating on the chemostat, I was most intrigued by the colonization of the gut by Vibrio Cholera.
The Cholera Vibrio, I read, colonized that gut by specific mechanisms. First you have to know a little about the small intestine. It is a long twisting tube. The center of the tube is called the lumen. The interior wall of the small intestine is called the mucosal side. The outside of the intestine is called the serosal side. Covering the intestinal mucosa is a mucus layer. It is slimy in consistency, and produced by cells in the mucosa called ‘goblet’ cells. Beneath the mucus lies the gross and cellular structure of the mucosa. The mucosa consists of a surface that resemble fingerlike projections called ‘villi’. This increases the surface area of the mucosa to improve absorption of nutrients. The surface of the villi is formed by the epithelial cells. The side of these cells that faces the lumen is called the ‘brush border’. These are actually microscopic villi, increasing the surface area of the mucosa even more. It had been found that there were specific receptors on the brush border that V. Cholera could attach to.
When V Cholera is introduced into the digestive tract, the beginning of a potentially fatal case of Cholera is set into motion. For the bacteria that survive passage thru the stomach, the colonization of the small intestine results in diahrea that, if left untreated, will result in death from dehydration, was well as loss of electrolytes from the body. This seems simple enough. Bacteria are introduced, they multiply, and cause the disease. But any good scientist would realize that the story of this disease, Cholera, involves many mechanisms and interactions that must be known before the disease can be understood. And to go a step further, understanding of Cholera’s mechanisms could shed light on intestinal ecology in general. Few could argue that this ecology was well understood.
Many things about Cholera were known. The bacteria itself was comma shaped and vigorously motile. When observed under the microscope, it was much like looking into a hornets nest, the bacterial swimming in graceful arcs, quite rapidly, and tumbling occasionally only to swim off in a new direction. It was also known that the bacteria could colonize the small gut. When they did, they produced a chemical called ‘enterotoxin’. This caused the cells that lined the mucosal surface to pump out large amounts of fluid, which was excreted.
It might sound like Cholera was well understood. And there is a treatment. Have the patient drink large quantities of electrolyte laced water and she probably will recover. But the scientist thinks these other things. First, how many of the bacteria need to be introduced for disease to occur. What role does motility, or the ability to swim, make in the progress of the disease. Does the bacteria ‘stick’ to the intestinal wall, and does this affect the course of the disease. If this colonization occurs, how does it happen? Are there specific ‘receptors’ (lock and key), and if so can blocking the receptors prevent the disease. Finally, are there other factors about the ecology of V Cholera that may play a crucial role in colonization of the gut? This last question, one of the more exciting aspects of scientific research, that is, a new discovery, was the one that held the biggest bonus for the researchers of Dr. Freter’s laboratory, and myself.
When I began to work at the lab, there were 3 other techs, Dr Rolf Freter and Dr Garth Jones. Dr Jones had just left the lab to start his own down the hallway, but frequented Dr. Freters lab. Howard Brickner worked on the chemostats, and the other three techs and a grad student worked on mucosal slice adhesion. Sharon Halstead, Patricia O’brien, Tom Edwards, as well as Jack Dostal, worked on Cholera.
In mucosal slice adhesion, the small gut of the rabbit or mouse was cut into slices, then incubated with V Cholera in some flasks. After incubation the slices were rinsed and then put into some nutrient broth. They were then rather violently homogenized and plated out on petri dishes. The dishes were incubated and you could tell the degree to which the Cholera adheared to the slice from the number of colonies in the petri dishes.
You could study various factors affecting the adhesion to the slices with the above type of experiment. You could put various chemicals that made up the mucosa into the incubation flasks, and see if they inhibited adhesion (sticking). You could test different strains of bacteria, say motile (swim) and non-motile (can’t swim), and see what affect
that had. You could let other types of bacteria compete with V Cholera, and see how the system worked. After all, there are many types of bacteria in the gut.
Another type of experiment, adhesion to ‘brush borders’, tested exactly how the Vibrio’s stuck to the cellular border of the mucosa. You could separate the surface of the mucosal cells by grinding them up, and then centrifuging them in a test tube. Under the microscope they look just like little scrub brushes. They are actually specialized cell membranes.
After isolating the membranes, you could them mix the brush border with some Vibrio’s. Looking under the microscope, you could then see bacteria sticking to the brush borders. By mixing various chemicals into the ‘soup’, you could see which ones inhibited the attachment of the Vibrios to the intestinal brush borders. Dr. Jones had done much of the work with brush borders before I arrived, and found that a sugar that is part of the brush border membrame, L-Fucose, was a potent inhibitor. This was strong evidence that LFucose was part of the ‘receptor’ (lock and key) that mediated colonization of the musosa by V Cholera. The only thing was, in the slice experiment, L-Fucose DID NOT inhibit adhesion. There had to be another mechanism at work, but what it was, when I joined the team, was a mystery.
Since I was a student, Dr. Freter had me begin by repeating some of the experiments that had already been done. This included the brush border experiments with L-Fucose, some of the slice inhibition experiments with various potential inhibitors, and also some histological (microscopic) studies of mouse and rabbit intestinal slices and loops that had been incubated with V Cholera. The repeat experiments came out pretty much as expected, which was good since it showed that my technique was good. But most of the other sugars I tested in the brush border and slice experiments we disappointing. We had expected to find different sugars to possibly inhibit in the slice ‘model’, since when we mixed purified fluid made from scrapings of the intestinal slices, it would inhibit adhesion to the slices. We thought there must be molecular blockers in the mucosal scrapings, much like the L-Fucose in the brush border experiments, that was preventing a lock and key fit of the Vibrio’s to receptors on the intestinal surface.
Things did not seem consistent, and I began to develop a philosophy that any result should be considered a valuable one. In other words, if d-Galactosamine did not inhibit in the brush border assay, one did not simply frown and put aside the ‘negative’ result. Rather, a piece of information was discovered that could be put in a system model, where d-Galactosamine was considered as part of the system that had no effect on adhesion. Thus, you would just work trying to find all the factors of the system, and eventually come up with a model based in facts, that could be expressed on computer or in mathematical equations. Thus you would build a knowledge base that would explain our understanding of the system.
It turned out that Dr. Freter was the right person to work with for someone with this view of biological knowledge. I found soon that he had written several papers, one titled for
example “Interactions Among Interactions…” (Cite), which showed that he too held this view. So we were on the same track.
But Dr. Freter knew from his experience that for me at least, at this point in my career, the lab was the place to make discoveries. I had spent several days making system charts at my desk, when he approached me and said I should do that on my own time at home. He said I should be spending my time in the lab, not putting what we already knew into specific models. I listened to what he said, though I was rather angry about it. I wanted to see a real and informative model of the adhesion of V Cholera to the gut made. But Dr. Jones told me, that Freter held to the philosophy that you should generate as much in the lab as possible, rather than spending too much time thinking about the results. People like Jones were just the opposite, as have been many English researchers I have known. They believed in spending a lot of time cogitating about experimental results. As for me, I don’t know. In retrospect I think Dr. Freter might have had a feeling that there was something to found out about the V Cholera that outweighed putting it all ‘together’ yet. Nonetheless, for Dr. Freters class, which I took in my junior year, I wrote my paper on ‘Systems Analysis of the Adhesion of V Cholera to Mucosal Surfaces’. When he gave it back to me he told me it was the future of biology. I was pleased.
I started doing rather extensive microscopic work on the surface of the gut as colonized by the Vibrio. We wanted to get an idea of where the Vibrio’s were sticking, and how quickly they did it. We were also very interested in the mucus covering of the gut surface, and wanted to know more about it. I developed techniques that preserved the mucus, and even observed it in live, in anesthetized rabbits to see just what it’s consistency was. I found that the best results, when it comes to seeing the mucus, was to do as little to the microscopic preparation as possible. We also found that the mucus was a thin, ropy covering over the actual surface of the intestine, and could be penetrated by the vibrios, as well as inert carbon particles, quite quickly. Furthermore, most of the vibrios on the slices seemed to become embedded in the mucus covering.
But what was inhibiting the adhesion to the slices that was different than that in the brush border experiment? Brush border adhesion was inhibited by L-Fucose, but slice adhesion was not. I often stayed late in the lab, and one late afternoon I was approached by Dr. Freter as I sat at my desk. Dr. Freter asked if I knew what ‘Chemotaxis’ was. I said yes, it is the attraction of certain bacteria to a chemical agent, and even conveyed that I had read an article about it in Scientific American a few weeks before. Then Dr. Freter offered, ‘what if the thing that is inhibiting the adhesion to the (intestinal) slices is chemotaxis. I mean, maybe when we put the intestinal scrapings in with the slices and vibrios, it is negating the attraction of the vibrios to the slices by some attractive agent.’
It wasn’t my original idea, but I had what is called the ‘Ah Ha!’ reaction. I could immediately see the beauty of it. The surface of the intestinal slices emitted chemicals which attracted the vibrios. The chemicals were most concentrated at the surface of the slices. This attracted the bacteria to the slice where they stuck. If you put prepared surface scrapings in the solution that held the slices and bacteria during the experimental incubation, the gradient would be eliminated. Thus, there would be an inhibition of slice
adhesion by the vibrios. We agreed on the spot that investigating the hypothesis would have first priority. I went home and told my roommate that I may be involved in a substantial discovery.
There were three major hypotheses that had to be investigated in order to discover whether chemotaxis was a mechanism that mediated the association of Cholera Vibrios with the surface of the gut. First, were chemicals that were emitted by the surface of the small intestine attractants to the cholera vibrio. Second, were the intestinal scrapings that inhibited adhesion of vibrios in the slice experiment likewise chemotactic. Finally, what was the action of chemotactic agents in the brush border model.
I had to devise an assay that would measure chemotaxis in V. Cholera. I found some scientific articles from other who had measured the chemical attraction of bacteria that described the physical setup of the system they used to measure the phenomenon. See Fig 1. While the setup looked reasonable, in practice it was very clumsy and inefficient. I was somewhat stuck on how to go about setting up the experiments, and was somewhat stalled. Dr. Freter saw this and said that I must get the assay to work. After some discussion we decided that we had to somehow dip capillary tubes filled with various putative attractants into small petri dishes holding vibrios in liquid broth. The result is shown in Fig 2.
The capillary assay, as it came to be called, worked very well. It was very efficient, and easy to set up. Soon we had measured the attractant qualities of the intestinal scrapings, various molecules such as L-Fucose, and ‘fractions’ of intestinal scrapings that inhibited adhesion to slices in varying degrees.
The capillary assay was rather elegant, and could be used to model the slice experiments in a very effective manner. For example, you could put vibrios in the petri dish in a solution that was basically water. In the capillary tube you could put a solution of the intestinal scrapings. This would simulate the slice experiment, with the capillary tube being the slice, and petri dish being the solution in which the slices were incubated. It was found that the vibrios would swim into the capillary tubes containing the intestinal scrapings to a greater degree that they did into tubes containing water. If you had scrapings in both the petri dish and capillary tube there would be no chemical gradient, so basically in this situation, there would be no attraction into the capillary tube. These experiments strongly agreed with the hypothesis that chemotaxis mediated the action of vibrio cholera in the slice experiments.
Several other results went further to suggest that chemotaxis was playing a major role in the colonization of the gut by V. cholera. We tested the various fractions of intestinal scrapings as to their chemotactic attraction for the Vibrios. Then we tested the degree to which these fractions inhibited colonization of slices in the slice experiment. The results were a mirror image. Those fractions that inhibited colonization to a greater extent, attracted the Vibrio’s into the capillary tubes to a greater extent.
It was found that L-Fucose, which inhibited attachment to brush borders but not to slices, was not an attractant in the capillary test. This was consistent with the working hypothesis that chemotaxis was the mechanism in the slice test, but not in the brush border assay. It was interesting that this ‘negative’ result served to support our newfound view of the system of colonization of the gut by V.Cholera, as well as my personal belief that all factors of the system studied contributed to our knowledge, not just those providing ‘positive’ results.
More tests with non chemotactic mutants of V Cholera, non-motile strains , and even microscopic observations showing ‘bands’ of bacteria forming around pieces of gut put the seal on the hypothesis that Chemotaxes is a major factor mediating attachment of V. Cholera to the intestinal wall.
It took only about a year to prove it, and Dr. Freter sent a manuscript to Nature describing our efforts. We waited in anticipation to see if our discovery merited inclusion in the prestigious magazine. I knew that if it did, it would make a dream of mine come true. Several weeks later, on February 15, 1977, I came into the lab and Dr. Freter presented a letter to me that had come from Nature’s editor. It stated that our manuscript “The Role of Chemotaxis in the ecology of bacterial pathogens of mucosal surfaces.” Had been accepted for publication! (See Figure at end of this essay)
We were all ecstatic. I almost couldn’t believe it. In a career that can go for years with no major findings, I was the principle collaborator in a significant discovery after only 2 years. My dream had come true!
I went home to my apartment with a copy of the letter. My roommate, Mark Kandel, with whom I had attended school since Jr. High, was already there. I told him the unbelievable news. He congratulated me graciously. Then he told me he had won a Hopwood Award! He told me he had entered the competition, given by the University of Michigan school of Literature Science and the Arts with no real expectations if winning anything, but he did! And here, one of the same awards Arthur Miller had won in the 40‘s when he was a student and U-M.
So there you go. Lightening struck twice, in the same place!
What I hope to show in this essay is two fold. First, I wanted to convey to you the type of effort that goes into scientific discovery. It is a painstaking, not necessarily glorious, process that is driven by curiosity and a passion in science. Jokingly awards and discoveries may be hinted , but it is mainly a love for science. Secondly, I want to show the role that not only work, but yes indeed chance, takes place in any one individuals success or fame that may result. At least back in those days I was considered a rather bright individual by my colleagues. But what if I had not met Dr. Freter by chance when I was looking for a research position? What if things had been at a different stage in his lab’s progress? What was it exactly that made Dr. Freter suspect chemotaxis?
To be sure, opportunity favors the prepared mind. But this essay also shows that luck also can play a significant role in making your dream come true. And if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t make you less of a person. You should know that it CAN happen to you, and you should also not be too hard on those who make an effort, but have not, or may never reach that point of success! Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to live for the dream. It can really help you keep going in the tough times. It has helped me. So with some personal experience, I hope you have one and that your dream comes true too!
Here are the citations for the Nature Article, and another that discusses the research we did on Chemotaxis (or you may email me for a reprint at email@example.com, or enter the keywords Ben Allweiss Chemotaxis in GOOGLE to access other articles on the web).
West Bloomfield, MI October 2005
Scottsdale, AZ Revised December 2013
Ambassadors of Species
By Ben Allweiss
Copyright, 1994. All Rights Reserved.
There is a place, in West Bloomfield Michigan, where the authors parents, Sol and Frieda Allweiss, rule over a kingdom as ambassadors of species.
West Bloomfield Michigan used to be little more than part farm country, and part suburban sprawl. When we moved there, in the late 80’s, there was a horse kept at a colonial style home by the end of the block, a small shed like barn in our back yard, dirt roads in the subdivision of two acre lots, and well water and septic tank.
Today, most of the roads have been paved, some homes have city water, and my parent’s home now has a connect to the city sewer.
Times may change, appearances become different, and what was a country like environment has become a developed and bustling city. But Sol and Frieda Allweiss have maintained an oasis for animals, and genetic diversity, in their yard, and over the years have become what the author calls “Ambassadors of Species.”
As their son, I have always had particular interest in the Star Trek saga’s, and the racial diversity portrayed in the two current series, as well as the original programs. But when I look at my parents, they bring the integration, interaction, and cooperation among species to life, where my inter-racial world only exists on TV.
When we moved into my parent’s house, my father knew he had a barn, and immediately wanted to raise chickens. When he went to the Eastern Market, in Detroit, he purchased two “Springers”, white colored chickens good for frying. But instead of having then slaughtered and cut up, he brought them home live, in a cage!
The chickens grew up to be a rooster, and a hen. And in the middle of an emerging city, the call of a rooster was to be heard every morning. When Sol and Frieda told friends about their chickens, they often responded with strained looks. But what they had really done, was integrate chickens, into the life and population of West Bloomfield!
Over the years, many chickens have come and gone through Sol’s barn. But this is far from the end of it! Sol owns an auto repair shop on a busy intersection in a city called Berkley Michigan, about ten miles away. Across the street, there is a gas station, with one of those canopies over the gas pumps. Pigeons like to gather on this canopy, often dozens of them, and they will sometimes fly like a cloud into the air, circling over the intersection, only to land again on the gas station canopy.
Needless to say, there have been several injured Pigeons that have found their way onto Sol’s lot, and have limped around in grave danger. Little did these injured pigeons know that they had actually come to the right place! When Sol’s saw an injured pigeon, or one that had strayed into a service stall in the garage, he caught the bird, and put it in a cage!
These pigeons took quite well to their new home in West Bloomfield. Sol fed them well, a kept them warm and clean. Sol’s wife Frieda, kept Sol well fed, and clean! Sol has even raised baby pigeons, from the wild ones he caught, and today, they live with the chickens, taking to flight in a group of five or six, high over the tree tops, over Sol’s and Frieda’s house in West Bloomfield.
They never run away, and when you see them a hundred feet in the sky, over the tree tops, only to swoop down back into the barn, your heart can fly with them.
Well Sol has egg laying chickens, wild pigeons, and a garden he spends all day in raising corn, raspberries, strawberries, zucchini, and green peppers to name a few. He helped Frieda, my mother, raise four kids, who HAVE flew the coup! You might think that is enough, but there is one more story to relate.
Behind Sol and Frieda’s bedroom is a small cement pond, with an island in the middle of it. One day, Sol went out, and there was a mother mallard duck sitting on some eggs, on the island. Unfortunately, she became startled, and abandoned the eggs in their nest.
Things seemed bleak. There were nine eggs in the nest, and there didn’t seem to be any way, to bring the mother back. But Sol, having had experience incubating chicken and pigeon eggs decided, in amazement to us all, to put the nine duck eggs under a brooding chicken! A few weeks passed, and nobody expected the eggs to hatch.
Nonetheless, after a few weeks of jokes and teasing, six of the eggs hatched into healthy baby ducks! For a couple weeks, the ducks remained in the barn ‘Nursery’, staying under, and on top of, their mother hen, being fed and watered by Sol.
Some days later, the ducks were out of the barn, swimming in pots of water, and in the pond where they had been abandoned, to the amazement of the hen, we are sure!
All looked well for the ducks, but the hen lost interest in the baby ducks earlier that a real mother might have. Sol put the ducks in a fenced off area, until they could mature, and hopefully, live in the wild.
A friend of the authors, who is a veterinarian, explained earlier that it would be better for the ducks, if we tried to integrate them into a family of ducks in a nearby state park. But we called some parks, and none had any duck families at the time. We went for a short trip, leaving the ducks in a fenced in cage, with a little shelter and food. When we came back, we were saddened by what we saw.
I almost did not want to put this part in, but I must say that four of the five ducks were killed by a wild animal, maybe a possum, while we were gone. At first we thought all were gone, but one survived somewhat wounded.
If Sol had built his wire fence a little higher, or watched the ducks a little closer, maybe the animal would not have gotten in. But perhaps this tragic part of the story, reminds us of the order of nature, and that no matter how we try to change it, we must respect this order.
The remaining duck is somewhat wounded, but has been nursed back to health, and is living with the pigeons, and chickens! Once the remaining duck ran away, and Sol and Frieda were frantically looking for it. We thought the final baby had met it’s fate, but it came back, and is home again with it’s chicken and pigeon cousins.
It is a brave would that we live in. TV shows people living in various ways, some of which many hope would be true in reality. Sol and Frieda Allweiss came from a world destroyed by religious and ethnic intolerance. It is to their credit, that they bring together different plants and animals to make West Bloomfield Michigan a more interesting and better place to live. They may not always be successful, but they have done things most of us could never do, let alone consider the undertakings.
So tonight Sol, Frieda, eight chickens, five pigeons, a young duck, and, oh yes!, a Siamese cat named Sam, will sleep under the moon, walked on this week twenty five years ago. And as we remember the picture of the earth floating like a garden, in the blackness of space, so we should remember ambassadors of species like Sol and Frieda Allweiss, who help make it a better place to live on.
Ben Allweiss Novi Michigan July 1994
Discourse Among Friends
by Ben Allweiss
Sadro: A good afternoon my friend! I am here to cut your hair, yet while I am close to your organ of thought, you must speak for me to know what is on your mind!
Ben: Indeed Sadro. First let me say… not too much off the top, and I like my mustache to cover some of my upper lip.
Sadro: Yes Ben, lest it reach your lower lip!
Ben: Of course.
Sadro: Now where did we leave off last time? It is your inclination that I am actually part of your conciousness, the structure of your awareness. Thus, of course, you have had visions of my goings on since our last meeting!
Ben: To a point Sadro. I knew you were probably still alive, cutting peoples hair, going home to your apartment, and probably experiencing a taste similar to mine when you eat an ice cream.
Sadro: But you see, Ben, that you must admit that this did not have the reality of our present moment, the sight, sound, and must I say sir, smell, of the current moment.
Ben: True enough sir, and I am sorry. I am just returning from a workout. But as I experienced the sounds, sights, smells and social experiences of the last month, you WERE part of them; just as the comment of female cohort made last week is with me now, that a kiss would be much nicer without that hair on my upper lip!
Sadro: I see Ben. But your friends comment is just a memory! It is not part of your current awareness, that acute interface with reality you can feel right now.
Ben: Really Sadro. If it not, then what is it that gives me a reality to you, I mean as I am now? If we suddenly lost our memories of eachother and were sitting here now, would we not have a different conscious experience.
Sadro: Yes, but Ben, you would look the same!
Ben: OK. At that level maybe yes. But the entire scene, how we would think act, and yes, maybe even look, would be different. Our expressions would be different, and we would be having a totally different experience.
Sadro: So you would say that as certainly as the history of our knowlege of eachother effects us now, so your female friends comment about your mustache is part of your consciousness now.
Ben: That’s right. An that realization is the first step to knowing what consciousness really is, why it has certain properties, and how knowlege about conciousness can transform the world.
Sadro: Big words for a big guy, Ben!
Ben; Well I don’t say it lightly, because much of the knowledge has been there all along, but very few people I have talked to come close to understanding it.
Sadro: That’s a little frightening Ben. You know, it involves the unknown and everything.
Ben: Sure Sadro, and the unknown is frightening. You’ll never know if it will put you in a place that gets you in more trouble, than you might have been in the previous moment. But my philosophy is that you never know too much, but rather, always too little.
Ben: Just consider that the next bit of knowledge will either solve your current problem, make things better than they are, or make you aware of another problem.
Sadro: That’s right. Or give you enough to know to cause a new problem!
Ben: That’s right Sadro! So you need more knowledge to solve what you have learned, you need more knowledge!
Sadro: This is getting very confusing Ben. I just cut hair.
Ben: Look at it philosophically. You probably won’t forget anything you learn.
Ben: So you always need to learn more, if only to solve a previous mess. Besides, it’s the only positive way to look at knowledge. This of what happens if you think of it any different way…
Sadro: I think you are right Ben.
Ben: Thank you.
Sadro: But Ben, let’s get back on track. We were talking about consciousness, and how someone’s previous comment to you is part of your current awareness. I can see how you have the memory, but how is it part of your current awareness.
Ben: Well Sadro, you know there is a back to basics movement, and I really don’t want to be associated with it. But to really understand consciousness, you have to get back to basics, or at least the building blocks of human experience. Sadro: Go on Ben. I’m a little into back to basics, you know, milk and Corn Flakes for breakfast. They’re really very good.
Ben: I know. But I want you to go back further than Corn Flakes, and maybe even milk.
Sadro: I’m ready.
Ben: I ask you. What is it you are really experiencing now? The feeling of the scissors in your hand, those silly round lights over the mirror, the chair, the view of the parking lot through the window, me? Now think if all of this, what you see, what you hear, smell, feel, the input of feelings from your skin, the natural awareness of your breathing and movement, was gone. Do you really think that you would be experiencing consciousness with all of this gone?
Sadro: Well of course! I would remember everything! I could visualize and imagine everything.
Ben: Really? Close your eyes, hold your ears shut tight, and imagine you couldn’t hear the rumbling sound as your fingers press against your ears.
Sadro: Ben, I’m busy.
Ben: Do it!
Sadro: My customers will think I’m crazy! (Sadro does it.)
Ben: Pretty scary, eh? You see, if you were really cut off from your environment, what would happen to your so called solid form of awareness that exists in your head?
Sadro: I see. While my customers were thinking I was crazy, I was really a little confused. Oh I see! You are saying that everything around me is part of my consciousness.
Ben: That’s right, but let me explain my reasoning further, since it goes beyond deprivation of sensory experience. As you grow up, you learn language, customs, scientific knowledge, and various other kinds of knowledge such a social, religious, etc. On a more basic level, you learn about your body, basic aspects of the environment, such as up and down, hard and soft, straight and curved. Now, let’s do a little thought experiment. Einstein used to love to do them.
Sadro: Yes Einstein…
Ben: You don’t know Chinese, do you?
Sadro: No. Ben: Imagine you are in a room with Chinese symbols with your little nephew. Actually, the Chinese symbols are from the red light district in Shanghai. You are talking to your little nephew, quite unaware of the meaning of the symbols. It would be quite embarassing to a Chinaman in the same situation, but you are unaffected.
Sadro: But Ben, it doesn’t affect my consciousness. I still know I am in the room with my nephew.
Ben: But doesn’t it affect your consciousness in many important ways? I mean, you are not aware of something that IS there! What is consciousness anyway?
Sadro: You’re supposed to be explaining that.
Ben: Think of it. On a basic level, it’s our ability to make out shapes and sounds, physical sensation and emotion. But once you get above that, isn’t it interpreting meanings? I mean of the written and spoken word, of peoples actions, of art and poetry. Our consciousness, our AWARENESS OF THESE MEANINGS, is the relation of these aspects to our past experience, and current situation, that our brain makes to form consciousness.
Sadro: So consciousness is in our brains.
Ben: No! The brain is the integrator, it is the center of your awareness. Not only of your physical and temporal location, but of your past. And your past and current situation define your conscious experience.
Sadro: Don’t get mad at me Ben.
Ben: Now let’s get into the awareness of your senses. I would contend that the integrating action of the brain, combines with the so called external world, to create this level of awareness too.
Ben: Look what happens as you grow up. You reach your hand out, to relate the position of your arm, the position of your eyes, the size of the image, the shape of a mobile toy, to derive these relationships so that they are consistent, and give your reward in some way. If you grow up, and your vision blurs, you might feel a sharp edge, and realize it is sharp. You know it is your vision that is fuzzy, and not the edge. Now, as you went through this sensory and motor learning stage, you certainly learned aspects of the environment, becoming tuned to them, in a way that affects your “physical awareness” as you currently experience them. To get even more basic, there was certainly much “hard wiring” of your brain, learned in an evolutionary sense, that you were born with, that contributes to this.
Sadro: But Ben, all I hear is brain, brain, brain. And you were saying that the importance of your message was based on the fact that it is NOT just the brain.
Ben: Indeed Sadro. I think you are becoming a convert.
Sadro: You will have to convince me more.
Ben: I did stress, when we started, that it is not just the brain. And I am glad you got me back to that. You must understand it is the
confluence of the environment, our memory, our current situation, and our internal thought process, that gives rise to consciousness. It is a crucial observation of people, that consciousness has a unity that defies the cellular structure of the brain. Where does a specific idea lay, a specific image, a feeling or emotion? The answer is that the unity of consciousness lies in the unity of the environment, our bodies, and our mental processes as they come together in the moment. We see shapes, words and pictures, feel sensations, and these elements are weaved together in the neural net of our brains, with thought processes which emerge as actions, to form consciousness, and our free will.
You must understand, consciousness includes all of these elements, and does not lie within the brain. It is merely centered there, and consists of your identity at the center, surrounded by the known, drifting in the sea of the unknown.
Sadro: That is beautiful Ben. So our environment is part of us. Like the Indians say, the land is sacred, and we are sacred. We must respect ourselves, which means both our body and the world we find ourselves in. One is healthy, only if the other is. And as we are alone, we are also with others.
Ben: Thank you Sadro. And Ahmen.
Ben Allweiss September 1994 Novi Michigan USA
Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem and Biological Computer Models.
Back in the 1970’s I studied and did research in Bacterial Ecology. I also did some coursework in Medicine which, of course, involves the memorization of a large amount of information on complex human biological systems.
For some reason, I don’t know why still to this day, I felt that these systems could be broken down into elementary understandable components, and put together into complex computer simulations thru programming. This would help in understanding how these systems worked, both by seeing how they were put together, and also by allowing the manipulation of the components to see how they affected the whole.
Even though I have programmed maybe one or two simple models, I never completed a complex model that really served the functions I originally envisaged over 30 years ago. Why?
Well, let’s cut very quickly to the chase, as I think I know why, and the reason has important implications.
Bring in Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem and a Biological System I thought of modeling over the years. I worked, 30 years ago, on swarms of bacteria called Vibrio Cholera. You don’t want to swallow them, as they may make you die! Now, they can do many things, these Vibrio’s, but let’s just think of them as swimming around, changing direction occasionally, and sometimes bumping into and sticking to things, and eachother. Now I have thought, many times, that to just model the swimming and bumping might be a good place to start the modeling process. But look what happened during my cogitation.
Imagine a few Vibrios swimming around. At any given time, a bacteria occupies a location x,y,z. Now, each bacteria is represented as an object in a computer program. The computer can process the actions of the swarm of bacteria, one bacteria at a time. So at time t1, the location of the Vibrio under scrutiny is x1,y1,z1 . By a formula that simulates the Vibrio’s motion (see my chemotaxis simulation), at time t2, the Vibrio is assigned the next location x2,y2,z2 . So simple so good. But what if we start looking at the other Vibrios?
Vibrio 2, (I like calling bacteria by numbers) has its motion simulated in the same way. But realize this is actually done in some order after the simulation of Vibrio 1, since the computer acts in a serial fashion ( I will deal with parallel computing in a minute). If the Vibrio’s don’t cross path, there is no problem. But what if they do!!
If they do, one of the bacteria will hit the collision point first (the first in order of simulation of motion), and the simulation will not know this is the case. The second Vibrio will know it hit the same spot, indicating a collision, and the computer simulation will “know” this. This is the result, even if the simulation of all the bacteria being modeled represent one “time slice”.
You can see that, in the computer model, the simulation of the collision is different, and more complex, than the actual collision. In the computer, at the point of the collision, the state of Vibrio 1 is different than that of Vibrio 2, even though in the real world, both hit at the same time, and resultant effects are generated between the two bacteria simultaneously.
The upshot is, to make the simulation be more true to life, you have to have it evaluate the collision using more logic. Now if you think about how many ways a collision can happen, the program has to step back, away from the simple swimming of individual
bacteria, and have a whole set of rules to describe and simulate, the system.
Now here is where Goedel comes in. Goedel said that any logical system, sufficiently complex, cannot be complete and proven, in and of itself. Now, Jacob Bronowski, in the Ascent of Man, describes why in a way that bears best relation to the computer model described above. The explanation of the Incompleteness Theorem goes this way. You have a library, and a book indexing every other book in the library. After indexing all the books, the librarian asks; ‘ Do we index the index book in itself’. The answer is no; you would have to introduce another index book to index the first. Thus, the library collection is not complete and provable in itself!!
In the same way, we can see that the computer program in our Vibrio simulation, has this same “leaping back” of logic, since for each interaction of the bacteria, we must introduce NEW RULES, to describe the system’s action. And after those rules are made, we must create more to describe THEIR interaction.
Thus Goedel explains why I have failed, in 30 years, to make an impressive computer model of the research I conducted back then, as well as a good model of some human systems (which would have been in collaboration of my MD friends).
Now I might add one thing to finish, which I just thought of tonight. It is often said that the brain is a computer, and that there is at least some logic to it. Well, if this is so, shouldn’t I have to envision my swarm of bacteria in the same way the computer model does, with the same limitations?
Well, to answer that question I actually laid back and envisioned, one, two and then a swarm of Vibrios in my mind. I was able to see them in my imagination just as if they were in front of my
eyes. Individual bacteria, swimming simultaneously, colliding together in the same way, in many different ways.
Now if my brain can to that, does it really work like a computer? What implications does this have on our understanding of the brain and consciousness?
Ben Allweiss Scottsdale, Arizona May 16, 2009
Spirituality – A View
Dedicated to Sarah Allweiss
Several weeks ago a child, only hours from birth, died. The child, a baby girl named Sarah (pronounced SAH-RAH), was to be the child of my sister in law and brother, Kat and Phil, and my niece. We all had great expectations, which were dashed at the last moment by the tragedy. The following services and Jewish Holidays took place in what seemed to me, to be a dark tunnel. What had really happened? What was the significance and meaning. How did my behavior regarding the pregnancy reflect on what had happened. How did my actions NOT regarding the pregnancy reflect on these events?
Naturally, questions of GOD, NATURE, SCIENCE and SPIRITUALITY came to the surface. All affected, including myself, went to religious services where the word GOD, and the Bible, were invoked in Sarah’s name. It was somewhat comforting, but did not end the questioning of my beliefs by myself.
I have considered myself a “spiritual” person for several years now, but am for all practical purposes “atheist.” This would seem a contradiction, and when I was asked where an atheist thinks Sarah’s soul went, I said “I think it is right here.” But I didn’t have time to explain, and I felt a loss in my lack of time to explain my meaning to that person. Now is the time to explain myself to that person, as well as to anyone else who is interested, and can read this essay.
GOD, NATURE, RELIGION, SCIENCE and SPIRIT. They are perhaps the most loaded words in the English language. Taken together, they are the subject of perhaps most of our literature, entertainment, and communication. Yet these subjects are often
considered “Personal”, not to be discussed with strangers, and only to be treaded upon as one would an eggshell even when talking with a friend. Many who know me consider me a Science Fiction buff, something of a Scientist, a Technologist, and Accounting Professional. These are all areas I have studied at one time in my life, and I keep up my interest in them. There is one aspect of my life that I think most I know really don’t know about. This is for the reason that it involves one of those topics mentioned in the first line of this paragraph, and is not easily discussed with everyone. I have been asked by the person most affected by Sarah’s death to discuss my “beliefs”, so I will do so. To her, and anyone else who reads this, I hope you find it interesting. It really answers no questions, except the one “what do I think?” Unfortunately, in matters like these, that is all I can offer.
For much of my adult life, I have been interested in the “BIG” questions. Where do we come from (and I DON’T mean momma and daddy)… how does the brain work?… what is consciousness?…is there some kind of continuation of life after death?…is there a GOD or Creator?…what is the nature of Religion? I don’t spend time at a desk really working on these questions. However I have read a good number of books, seen a good number of programs, listened to a good number of tapes, and attended some meetings, concerning these topics. I have also spent a LOT of time thinking about these topics, and quite seriously I must say. The result is a certain “feeling” that I have some understanding of these questions. The interesting thing is that part of that feeling, is that I probably will NEVER have an answer.
In the end, my feelings about Religion are most closely expressed by a Teacher and Writer named Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campell is author of The Power of Myth (a book, as well as
a Public Broadcasting System series), The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, as well as other texts on myth and religion. Campbell studied various myths, religions, and cultures around the world. He found them all to deal with, what one of the great psychologists have called “Archetypes of the Human Mind.” These are aspects of the human mind that are common to all cultures and civilizations. Why would such a thing exist? Because we are all human. We have many common threads running through our lives just because of that. Things such as family, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, success, failure, guilt, birth and death. Thus, Campbell believes, religion, as a way to serve MAN, explores, questions, and dictates aspects of human life that are applicable to us all, and specific to the society or culture that practices that religion. Is it any surprise then, that so many find the “truths’ of a religion, as proof that it’s word is that of “GOD”. The word of a religion is only the word of NATURE, and of HUMAN NATURE, that can teach us various aspects of behavior and understanding.
Of course you CAN say that the Bible IS the revealed word of GOD. There is nothing to disprove it. But what is this GOD? If it is taken to be “EVERYTHING” (such as the biblical words ‘god is all’) then I might even agree with you in a certain manner. Everything IS revealed to us in some manner, and this is written down in some ways in the bible. But we are getting very obtuse here, and I would not use GOD, but rather Nature or Universe, and the revealed word as the understanding by individuals of “Nature.”
So much for my feeling about Religion, I think it is quite clear. But what about GOD, or the concept of GOD? I already said I am an atheist, so what DO I believe in?? After you read this, you may think me less of an atheist than I actually am.
Belief in GOD is real, but the existence of a GOD, or even WHAT GOD IS, is arbitrary, and unprovable. I have heard of GOD be defined as a being (like a man), as the “unity” of things, as “all”, as that which is “unknowable”, among perhaps other things. I ask you to consider these definitions, and then my contention that you could only SPECULATE on a GOD, or whether a GOD really exists. First, consider GOD as an entity. The most obvious question is, how could you identify HIM as such? The most obvious criteria is that HE be proven as the CREATOR. This would always be subject to DOUBT, except for those who had FAITH in the proof. Taking this simple CREATOR criteria, GOD would be reduced to a PARENT (which may really not be such a bad thing), with all the attendant problems about parenthood attributable to HIM. He would also be a single parent (pardon the levity). I think we would have to include more than being the CREATOR in our criteria for proof, because of the above problem. At least if you want to stick to much of what is said about GOD in the bible. Then, I think, you really can see why it would be hard to prove a BEING is GOD. In fact, most would agree you CANNOT PROVE IT. Thus we would consider AGNOSTICISM the most reasonable alternative. But AGNOSTICISM ASSUMES a GOD. It just says we CANNOT KNOW HIM. Well, I would ask, WHY ASSUME A GOD? The answer would likely be, WE HAD TO COME FROM SOMETHING, or…LOOK AT THE ORDER OF THE WORLD… IT HAS TO COME FROM SOME INTELLLIGENCE!! This is a fine answer, and I can see why someone might have FAITH in it. But why, I ask, would you necessarily believe this something is NOT NATURE, or some NON PERSONAL physical force. This would bring us to the other definitions of GOD; those being ALL, or NATURE, or the UNKNOWABLE. I would clearly argue that using the term GOD, to refer to the UNITY of the WORLD, or the world in its WHOLE, or simply to NATURE, is just to apply a loaded biblical term to what we already know. So to say
you believe in GOD, because of the remarkable nature of nature, is really just a self definition of the term. I would like to add at this point, however, that I will comment on this topic more below. I will contradict myself, and perhaps state my own “self definition” of God. Now… I would like to offer my own “self definition” of the term, for those who insist on using it. Bear in mind, that I am an ATHIEST (don’t believe in the existence of GOD as a being). THIS… is my latest “scoop.” During the High Jewish Holidays, I attended a service where David Syme played some remarkable piano (Beethoven and the like). It was quite fantastic. I was thinking, if it was only that I lacked “faith” that I didn’t believe in GOD. I began to think of a theorem in science, that says that there can be no logical system which can be proven true and complete in itself. This is called Godel’s INCOMPLETENESS THEOREM. Stated another way, if you have an index to a library, do you contain the INDEX of the INDEX, in the index itself? This, you would think, would make the index more complete. Godel found out that you would NOT. Thus, the index to the library is correctly INCOMPLETE, and this is the way ALL LOGICAL SYSTEMS ARE. It is the theorem that halted mathematicians in their search for a completely proven, and self consistent system of MATHEMATICS (in the 1800’s I think). Many scientists DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE IMCOMPLETENESS THEOREM. It is one of the most important in SCIENCE, because it proves the limitations of logic, and of this kind of KNOWLEDGE. NOW, I asked, while listening to the beautiful music, on one of the holiest nights of the Jewish year. What if you consider the Universe to be a logical system. Just consider all of the atoms to represent logical states, and perhaps you can consider it such a system. THEN, it would seem according to the THEOREM, there must be something OUTSIDE OF IT, needed to make the SYSTEM COMPLETE!! GOD must exist then, I thought for a moment. I felt I really had to tell someone. I had
just LOGICALLY PROVEN the existence of GOD, with one of the most important theories in logic! Well, you can imagine how important I felt, having been the first to do so! I felt a little worried. Now I would have to believe in GOD, like everyone in the TEMPLE. So I began to think a little more… First, I thought, even though GODEL (notice what the first three letters spell?) might agree SOMETHING must exist outside the UNIVERSE to make it LOGICALLY COMPLETE, he would probably question just what it is, that this is. For example, it could be this NON PERSONAL FORCE, that I suggested above. Also, it may have just CREATED the UNIVERSE, and have little to do with the actions in it now, or with any biblical descriptions or definitions. Suddenly, I saw I was getting back into the old considerations I have about the subject, which I have described above. Well I thought, what I have found is that SOMETHING must be outside the universe. That was quite a conclusion in itself, I thought… proving something existed outside of the universe. Well, then I thought a little further (something I am prone to doing…). You see, SCIENCE is just science, or knowledge. Godel was talking about a logical system, and perhaps my extrapolation that the UNIVERSE could be abstracted as a logical system was going a little too far. Stating it simply, the UNIVERSE IS NOT JUST A LOGICAL SYSTEM. Get into QUANTUM PHYSICS, and you will see that. And furthermore, SCIENCE dictates that a THEORY is just that, and I had just created a THEORY about the existence of SOMETHING outside of the UNIVERSE. I would have to make some EMPRICAL OBSERVATION of GOD, or this other SOMETHING, to prove its existence. And I wouldn’t even know what to look for!! Well, I thought, I was back to square one. But it was fun while it lasted. And the music ended…
Most people think of soul as some ethereal aspect of an individual separate from the mass of the body. It is something that is separate from the body, and can even leave it, especially at death. It is not surprising that people think of their SOUL as a distinct entity. This is because we experience our CONSCIOUSNESS as something SEPARATE from our body. We speak of “my hand”, “my foot”, and even “my brain.” Just these statements refer to something separate from our SELFS. This is particularly strange in the case of the BRAIN, since that is the organ of consciousness itself. I would argue that this viewpoint is in error for several reasons. The easy ones are that a functioning brain is necessary for the self to exist. Secondly, when the brain is affected by a drug or disease, it’s basis for consciousness is readily apparent. On the first argument, one can see that a person with a seriously dysfunctional brain does not have the same behavior, and may not even have the same conscious experience, as one with a normal brain. It is compelling to think “someone is in there” (a soul trying to get out) when one is in a coma. But the person in a coma will probably rarely say such was his or her conscious experience when he was sick. (I have to admit I have never talked to a person who has been comatose.) Indeed, any problem with the brain usually spells out some difficulty or adjustment for the unfortunate who are affected. On the second topic, one can see that when affected by drugs or disease, consciousness, as well as the brain, are altered. This is a clear indication that CONSCIOUSNESS IS DIRECTLY DEPENDENT ON THE BRAIN. Hence I would argue, so is the SOUL, which I believe most think INCLUDES THE CONSCIOUS. Since I don’t think there is an ethereal entity of the SOUL, I would argue a NEW DEFINITION for the SOUL. I do this not just because I want to think there is something that survives of us after
death, but because I believe that WHEN ELEMENTS MAKE UP A SYSTEM, SOMETHING EMERGES THAT IS MORE THAT THE SUM OF THE SYSTEMS PARTS. I think it is a great failing of many scientists and people, that they try to reduce the world to elements, and then use the power of their knowledge to manipulate systems that they do not truly understand. For example, we understand much about a car as a transportation element, but do not fully study its effect on the entire transportation system, people’s lives, etc. You can do this kind of analysis on as small or grand a scale as you like. We say this drug is good for your body. But ignore the affect it has on the whole person, or that there may be a BETTER WAY to treat the SYSTEM that is the body. So I believe that the SOUL, is that which EMERGES, in a FUNCTIONAL sense, when the Neurons of the Brain, the BODY, and the Environment, act together to MAKE A PERSON. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, SO LET ME REPEAT IT. IT IS THE COMBINATION OF ELEMENTS THAT MAKE THE SOUL. You should NOT go looking for a separate element that IS the SOUL, or IS CONCIOUSNESS. You will not find it. It is NOT even the BRAIN ALONE. I hate to think of the possibility, but a brain alone, totally isolated, would not experience what I call CONSIOUSNESS. Certainly not normal consciousness. What, then, IS this SOUL I describe? Well, in contradiction to what most people think, the soul being SELF, the soul is all of us that is not SELF. This, in keeping that the soul CONTINUES after death. This means, the soul is all that affects us, what people think of us, our effect on the world. You have to understand the way the brain is structured. It has an internal life, and then a bridge in it, that is the world. It outputs into the world, and then receives feedback. That part of consciousness that relies on the internal world is SELF. The part of consciousness that relies on the bridge (symbolized in the brain by the gap in tissue between the motor and sensory cortex) is the SOUL, and the EXTERNAL WORLD.
This definition of soul is very esoteric I know. But is consistent with my belief that SOUL is NOT an element of the system that is us, but rather a RESULT of the system itself. I think it is why humankind has failed to form a commonly known sense of what CONSCIOUSNESS, and SOUL is. It is not surprising, since we always concentrate of finding a THING, a new ELEMENT, that will EXPLAIN everything. What we really need is to develop an understanding of systems, and even a FEELING of how they work.
Some would say that I try to base all of my beliefs on logic and science, but I would call much of what I have written as almost WILD deduction. Science starts with a HYPOTHESIS, TESTS IT, and then, based on EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE gathered from the tests, proves or disproves the hypothesis. Science is very POWERFUL. It lets us understand elements of systems and manipulate them. Did you ever think, that our whole western capitalist culture is based on science? It is no surprise. On NEW DIMENSIONS RADIO, a speaker once said that it is no wonder, since science concentrates on the measurable, that our whole culture is based on the production and ownership of tangible things. This, to the detriment of the spiritual, and that which is NOT seen. I am NOT criticizing science here. I am only saying that it usually neglects the BIGGER PICTURE. When you get into the BIGGER PICTURE, the SYSTEMS SCIENCE, you usually get people dubbed as NEW AGERS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS, and NON-WESTERN PRACTITIONERS. These terms are often used in a very DEROGATORY manner by the conservatives. I believe A LOT in science. I think it is one of the most powerful tools we have devised to help us survive, and thrive. I also think we have neglected the SYSTEMS SCIENCES. That is the science that would help us understand not just HOW things
work together, but what EMERGES when things work together, like consciousness and soul. Some great books on science, and its limitations, are The Ascent of Man, by Jacob Bronowski, The Emperors New Mind, by Penrose and A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking. I highly recommend you read them. One more thing regarding science. With knowledge, there is always UNCERTAINTY. Science played a role in Sarah’s life and death. It provided us with pictures of the Baby BEFORE she was to be born, and failed in preventing Her death. It found NO REASON for the Baby’s death. This clearly shows that science, KNOWLEDGE, is fallible. Maybe if we knew something, it could have been avoided. But even after it happened, science was unable to provide an answer. This is an interesting characteristic of knowledge, You can always keep on knowing more, but you can never know enough. We have to keep searching for answers, to keep trying. But we can never expect to have perfect knowledge, to have the knowledge of a GOD.
So what is BEN’s version of SPIRITUALITY? Well, it certainly isn’t that of the FAITHFUL, following the SCRIPTURE, going to SYNYGOG, believing in GOD as a being. But in the end, is it really that different from someone who “believes” in such a way? I wrote a short essay some time ago, that explained that there was little difference between a religious fanatic and a scientist. You see, this is true because in the end, both believe in systems of thought that are based on assumptions, and assertions. The scientist, perhaps, on the unfound PARTICLE, and the Fanatic on the unfound GOD ( and both will describe their belief in great detail!!) My belief is not in a GOD, or the BIBLE, but in explanations derived from what I have seen during my lifetime. I try to base the results on facts, theory, logic, deduction, and feelings. I think they work best for me, though they were certainly put to the test by the
untimely death of my niece Sarah. Why a death before even life? If things happen for a reason, why did this happen. Maybe my thoughts about religion are wrong. This kind of death was certainly one I had never dealt with before. It made me clarify my thoughts, after several weeks of confusion. You can’t help but think. Why one so young? Well, the truth is, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just a scientific reason, or maybe one beyond our comprehension. The fact is, we will probably never know. But there is one thing I do. Sara’s Soul lives on. Even though she was never alive where she could see us all, it lives on. Because no one can deny that she was part of us, if only in dreams and aspirations, and that our love took her as far as it did.
Ben Allweiss 11/3/1997 Farmington Michigan
The Chicken And The Egg
There is a paradox, it goes like this. ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ It is a paradox that strikes somewhat deeper into the soul than others, because it brings some deeper questions into mind; like the feeling that everything must come from something. Hence some kind of egg must have been made to give birth to the first chicken. Thus the concept of God is introduced, which to some is not a satisfactory answer. If course the paradox arises from the fact that, today at least, it takes a chicken to lay an egg. But you need an egg to get a chicken. So how did the cycle get started? I was 39, and I still didn’t know the answer to the problem. That’s a long time to wait to solve such an important problem, so I decided to spend some time figuring in out. Now I recalled that someone said in a book, or in a science documentary I had watched, that the answer to the problem was ‘parallel evolution.’ That seemed reasonably scientific, so I accepted it in the way that we accept most things. That is not to really understand it, but take comfort in the fact that someone had already figured it out, and in a way that was based in science, which I accepted. Still, I really didn’t have the answer to the problem. I just had an image in my head of an egg partially formed, and a chicken partially formed, and the process going on until the chicken and egg were both formed. Now this was certainly not a satisfactory visualization. It didn’t even fit the usual understanding of how evolution occurs. So I grabbed onto a picture in my mind of a fish on the beach, stuck in the sand, and decided to figure out just how the egg and chicken paradox might be solved.
Now let me first say why the fish on the beach popped up in my mind with respect to this problem. For some reason, it happens that the brain recovers information related to topic on which we are currently cogitating. The reason the fish came up in my mind, I suspect, is as follows. The fish I remembered is called a Grunion. It spawns on the beach at night, by digging its tail into the sand at high tide, and laying its eggs in the semi moist sand. Now here we are, an animal partway onto land, laying eggs almost out of the water. These guys are making pretty good progress toward the chicken and egg I thought. Sure the egg didn’t have a hard shell, but it was an egg. This picture acted as an anchor for my thoughts. How do you evolve to the Grunion, and then to the Chicken? Now I could get down to some honest evolutionary thought. Let me digress for a moment, and discuss why I would want to do so. You see there is evolutionary thought, religious thought, new age philosophy, and the like. Now it is my opinion, that for something to be correct, it should find some truth in all of these modes of thought. Unfortunately, when most people subscribe to a mode of thought, they reject the others. This is a mistake, because all modes of thought are based on some kind of human experience. So by rejecting another mode of thought, you are rejecting a real experience, upon which real conclusions were made. Now if you argue that all thought is metaphorical, even scientific thought, you must accept that all thought has at least some truth. So if you accept biblical creation, you reject evolutionary thought, which is certainly a mistake. Interestingly enough, however, you can think up creationist theories that do not deny evolution. Since this brings together religious and evolutionary thought, I would argue it as a better theory. Well, now you can see why this paradox is so interesting, so let’s solve it! To start out, we have to get to the point of some kind of sexual reproduction, and the egg. Bacteria are a good place to start. This is because we know they often divide by fission, physically
splitting, but they also exchange genetic material by something call ‘conjugation.’ So in very primitive organisms, we have some sort of sex occurring. Now it is not an unreasonable step, for these bacteria to develop into eukaryote, that is cells with nuclei, and for these single celled protists to evolve into microscopic multi celled animals. You might envisage the rotifer and hydra as representatives. Eventually, animals like these evolve into larger sea dwelling animals like the spiny sea anenome. Along the way, sexual reproduction evolved, where the animal was bi sexual, producing both the egg and the sperm. The egg was like that of the fish. Eventually, a distinction occurred where some animals became more male, and others more female. This was selected for (the animals reproduced more successfully), for one reason or the other. Also, the animals became fishlike. In stepwise fashion a grunion like creature was formed, which had a behavior that it spawned on the beach. Some of these grunion like creatures evolved a behavior to move further up the beach, maybe because they developed stronger front flippers. Now you must understand evolution. A random mutation of the genetic material occurs. This results in a new or different physical or behavioral feature. The environment the selects certain features, i.e. some survive better than others. Back to our creature. Some creatures mutate to get larger front flippers. Thus they crawl further up the beach. But most have eggs with no coverings. These creatures thus suffer. Some however do have eggs with coverings. These do quite well, and we have a population of fish, lizard like creatures with eggs that have coverings. Well, it is not harder to take this argument further. The fish becomes more lizard like, spawning further inland. Those with leathery shells, like the sea turtle, survive. So we end up with a population like sea turtles. We have answered the paradox, what came first, the sea turtle or the egg? Basically, our original paradox is solved. It is known that birds came from reptiles, and our turtle is like a reptile. So the bird
evolved while maintaining the reproductive style of it’s turtle like ancestor. So this is what was meant by parallel evolution. As the Grunion like creature developed features that helped it crawl further onto land, an already existing feature of leathery egg shells in some of the population allowed them to reproduce further up shore. The leathery shell might have developed at the same time as the flippers, or may have already existed (to fulfil their function at a later date!). So we have the answer to the question, which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is that they resulted both, from complementary evolutionary processes. But did they? For the true scientist, proof lies in the discovery of fossils that document the evolutionary hypothesis I have described. This is pure science, based on observation and proof. Otherwise, any cocamaime story someone dreams up would be considered true. But I know about evolution, and how fish and lizards and birds evolved. Well, at least a little. And I’m convinced that my ‘hypothesis’ has some truth in it. I’ll leave it to someone else to do the dirty work. For now, I’ll be satisfied that I have a reasonable explanation to the problem. And I can rest.
Ben Allweiss Farmington MI June 1996