Victor MacGill Chaos and Complexity
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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, Myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

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My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

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My first book..

When the Dragon Stirs

Healing our Wounded Lives through Fairy Stories, myths and Legends

When the Dragon Stirs Book Cover

The Dragon

Line

My next book...
Gonna Lay Down my Sword
and Shield

A Complexity Perspective on Human Evolution from our Violent Past to a Compassionate Future

Mandelbrot Set
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God: The Mother of all Strange Attractors

Ever since our cave dwelling ancestors looked into the mysterious night sky, we have tried to make sense of life. Ever since then we have asked what it is all about? We look for ways to understand why life is as it is. We seek ways to bring our environment under control, so it will be as we want. But, life is neither a random sequence of events where each event has nothing to do with the previous event, nor is it totally determined so that the movement of every blade of grass has been preordained.

Chaos Theory is a mathematical theory that may provide some answers to our perennial questions and help us make sense of this strange and mysterious life we have been given. Chaos Theory has only been developed over the past thirty years or so, when computers became available to undertake the complex calculations required. 

In the late 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton formulated mathematical formulas to describe the motion of the planets. If we know the mass of two planets and the distance between them, we can calculate the gravitational force between them and thus the orbit as one revolves around the other, such as the moon revolving around the earth.

If we add a third planet further out, however, we find the calculations become so complex, they just cannot be calculated. The gravitational effect of the third planet will attract the other two and alter their orbits. This changes their distance from one another, altering the gravitational effect between all the planets. This in turn alters the orbits, which alters the gravitational effect and so it goes on. Just imagine trying to calculate the interactions in our whole solar system with a sun, nine planets and many moons.

This complexity of interactions is seen all about us. Virtually every natural process is a complex interactive process where each event follows and is affected by the previous event. Even our lives are such that each new event in our lives emerges out of the previous event. The outcome of past choices has a strong bearing on the outcome of the following event. 

Choices that were made early in the sequence of events of our lives when we were young, can vastly affect the direction of our whole lives. Later choices usually have less effect, because the grand path of our lives is already set. It's a bit like a river starting in the mountains as a small stream. There, a small rock in the path of the river can alter its course, so it finally reaches the sea at a very different place than if the rock not been there. In order to change the course of the river near the mouth a mighty boulder would be required.

Scientist and mathematicians have studied such sequences of events and call them chaotic sequences. Chaotic sequences have many strange properties.  Fromthe midst of chaos we strangely find order spontaneously arising. Form within order, we inexplicably find chaos emerging to devour the order.

When we examine the giant red spot on Jupiter, we find it is not a solid object. Rather, it is an enormous stable field of gas moving at several metres per second and bounded  at the top and bottom by extremely turbulent and chaotic flows of gas travelling at hundreds of kilometres an hour. The gas in the spot is not the same gas. New gas is always entering, while other gas is leaving the spot. It just happens that the amount coming in equals the amount going out. If it were not so, the spot would break up in a very short while.

In spite of the immense turbulent chaotic behaviour of the gas fields around the spot, it has remained stable for at least the last few hundred of years at least. One day it will disappear and probably very rapidly. 
In life and in our environment, we find islands of order in seas of chaos. Whereas a random sequence will always be random and unpredictable, it is in the nature of chaotic sequences to produce order.

A small weight tied by string to the ceiling when suddenly struck will swing about wildly for a short while, but soon move towards a more or less stable, almost predictable trajectory moving to and fro. This is chaotic motion moving towards a more or less stable state. This  stable state  is called an attractor. It is as though the motion of the weight is attracted towards a stable motion. Our world is full of chaotic attractors.
If the weight is struck a second time, it reverts to its chaotic motion, which will again be pulled towards a new attractor, attracted to a different stable to and fro motion.

Human history is a bit like this. We began living in caves or on the open Savannah. We developed the ability of language. This was like the weight being struck. This new ability had an enormous impact on the life of our ancestors. Information moved far more rapidly than it had done before. Life changed and became chaotic. Eventually we learned to use this new ability effectively and  society once more settled into a stable rhythtm. It moved to a new attractor, a structure for society that suited our new languistic activities.

Just when we felt comfortable with that, whammy, we were hit with the invention of writing. Again life tumbled into turmoil as we grappled with the implications of being able to keep accurate records that could be read with perfect accuracy even generations later.

We coped with the chaos and eventually felt comfortable with writing, when whammy, along came the printing press. When we found an attractor for that, whammy, along came electronic data transfer and the internet. Right now we are struggling to come to terms with the turmoil caused by a sudden blow to the orderly attractor we had become acustomed to.

Underneath these cycles of moving backwards and forwards between order and chaos, there is a movement of growing consciousness. As we struggle through the cycles of chaos and order, we gradually become more aware of ourselves and move towards a better, more full understanding of who we are and what life is about. At each new cycle, we increase our consciousness and become open to experiencing more of what life has to offer. We become effective at meeting our deeper needs. We become more able to move from our violent past to a compassionate future. It is up to us to move forward towards comapssion rather than regressing back into violence.

It feels as though there is an attractor underlying all attractors, that there is a state of being towards which all life is attracted. Some peopIe might call this attractor the Great Spirit, the Lord or God. I believe the general flow and direction of our universe is being pulled towards this great attractor through cycles of chaos and order. Just how those cycles flow and the events in them occur is determined by aggregated effects of our individual free will choices. We can choose to move forward into new realms of consciousness, or resist the attractor and produce unnecessary pain and destruction.

This underlying attractor is not an attractor that makes everything all right. It is an attractor that is chaotic, that disturbs us and makes life other than we would prefer it to be. If our individual choices take us away from where our attractor needs us to be, it will draw us into where it needs us to be. The great attractor can be very brutal when it is needed.

The idea of an underlying attractor, the Mother of all chaotic attractors is not a part of Chaos Theory and we certainly cannot prove God through mathematics, but it does provide a framework that helps us make sense of a chaotic world that doesn't make sense.
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